Bhutan, a tiny Himalayan kingdom, has eased restrictions on same-sex relationships Credit: File image

Bhutan’s parliament on Thursday passed a bill to legalize gay sex, making the tiny Himalayan kingdom the latest Asian country to take steps towards easing restrictions on same-sex relationships. The changes will now need the approval of the King of Bhutan to become law.

Sections 213 and 214 of the Bhutanese penal code had criminalized “unnatural sex”, widely interpreted as homosexuality. According to reports, 63 of the total 69 members of both houses of the Bhutanese parliament voted in favour of amending the code to scrap the provision. Six members were absent.

The move by the majority-Buddhist kingdom of 800,000 people comes after other Asian countries relaxed restrictions on the rights of the LGBTQ+ people.

India removed a centuries-old colonial prohibition on gay sex in 2018, triggering celebration across the country. Nepal will count LGBTQ+ people for the first time in the national census next year to help sexual minorities gain better access to education and healthcare.

Bhutan is famous for its “gross national happiness” index as an alternative to gross domestic product to indicate real economic progress or development.

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