THIMPHU (Kuensel/ANN) — The National Assembly of Bhutan (NA) is reconsidering its earlier decision that legalised “unnatural sex” and is charting out a middle path.
The House in its summer session of 2019 had done away with Sections 213 and 214 of the Penal Code that criminalise homosexuality and grades the offence as a petty misdemeanor.
The National Council (NC) has retained the sections with changes.
NA members met on November 3 in the National Assembly conference hall to reconsider the issue after recommendations from the NC not to do away with the provisions totally.
The existing provisions in the Penal Code define unnatural sex as engagement of the defendant in sodomy or any other sexual conduct that is against the order of nature.
The Penal Code (Amendment) Bill 2019 is a disputed Bill and will be deliberated in the forthcoming winter session that will start from November 26.
Dramedtse-Ngatshang MP and vice chairperson of the joint committee on the amendment Bill, Ugyen Wangdi, said that the NC’s recommendations were not acceptable in total but that NA would also propose certain changes.
“We will have that particular section but with liberal interpretations that will give rights to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community,” he said.
He reasoned that unforeseen issues could arise in the future should unnatural sex be legalized in totality. But changes that were being proposed by NA would be “good enough” for the LGBT community, he said.
The NC is of the view that the total removal of the Sections would not be wise.
The changes proposed by the NC states that a defendant shall be guilty of the offence of unnatural sex, if the defendant commits any sexual conduct that is against the order of nature.
But it adds that any consensual sexual conduct that is against the order of nature committed in private between any adult human beings shall not be considered unnatural sex.
MP Ugyen Wangdi said that the disputed section will be discussed by the joint committee formed to iron out the differences between the two Houses.
Members also held discussions on the grading of statutory rape.
He said that he NC had proposed that statutory rape such as the rape of a child, rape under custody, rape of a dependent and statutory rape of a student by teacher among others be given life sentence.
But he said that a majority of the NA members were of the view that the proposed amendment may not be required because the existing provision already prescribes a minimum of 15 years and a maximum of a life term for such crimes.
The Penal Code states that the offence of gang rape of a child above the age of twelve years and below sixteen years shall be a felony of the first degree.
Offence of gang rape of a child above the age of sixteen and below eighteen years shall be a felony of second degree.