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LGBTQ+ community faces discrimination and lack of support

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer plus community in the country is still facing discrimination and lack of support from the society. Despite various advocacy efforts, members of the LGBTQ+ community say they continue to face harassment and bullying from parts of the society.

The country decriminalized homosexuality two years ago, a major achievement as described by members of the LGBTQ+ community or the Queer Voices of Bhutan (QVoB) as they are called.

And although things have improved, the community says they are still facing challenges. They say parts of society have yet to accept them.

“The first big challenge is in the mindset of the majority. There is a lot of stereotype and prejudice around what queerness means and who the LGBT community is. The trans community, for instance, there is a lot of bullying and harassment in all of these places and that is very detrimental not only to the health but in terms of education, opportunities even their financial economic status as well,” said Regita Gurung, Vice President of QVoB.

“We are doing better, but in terms of authentic representation and understanding about the true Bhutanese queer community experience, it is lacking right now because, despite the repeal of Sections 213 and 214, we still feel that, especially for the general population and the rest of the country, we need to continue with our awareness programme where we celebrate the queer community as a human being,” said Pema Dorji, Coordinator of QVoB.

As part of their advocacy, QVoB has been publishing guidebooks to educate both the advocates of the community and the general public. The group recently launched a toolkit to help people understand the various gender identities.

“It is not just for the queer community; this is for Bhutan as a whole. There was a lack of information and education around SOGIESC, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Expression, and Sexual Characteristics because we work so much for the community, and in that, we have learned so much about all this knowledge and education, and we have realized we should share it too,” said Regita Gurung.

“SOGIESC 101, is especially dedicated to our allies, be they educators or someone who wants to facilitate, let’s say an LGBT especially. But they always tend to reach out to us, saying they don’t know how to go about it. So we want to be as much as sensitive and provide them with information,” said Pema Dorji.

QVoB says there is also a shortage of safe places or sanctuaries for members of the community.

For now, the group says advocating for the community is still their priority. They also want to work towards creating a more inclusive policy in the future for all the LGBTQ+ people in Bhutan.

Singye Dema

Edited by Yeshi Gyaltshen