Members Of Rainbow Bhutan – A LGBT Community Observes IDAHOT
On May 17, the members of Rainbow Bhutan gathered to share touching stories.
By Dechen Tshomo | Kuensel
LGBT community in Bhutan observes IDAHOT on 17 May
During the observation of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) on May 17, the members of Rainbow Bhutan, a LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community in Bhutan gathered to share touching stories.
The day is observed around the world every year to bring attention to the discrimination and violence that LGBT people face. It also serves to recognise advancements in LGBT equality. Bhutan first observed IDAHOT in the year 2016.
Penjor shares her plight as a transgender living in Thimphu
Penjor, a 44-year-old transgender has been selling thukpa (rice porridge) on the streets of Thimphu to support her family. Although she faces all kinds of discrimination on a daily basis, she could not care less.
She revealed that name-calling, abuse and discrimination were some of the difficult things that she frequently faced but her outlook towards life has always been positive.
“While there are people who are generous to me, there are also some who discriminate against me for being what I am and refuse to eat my rice porridge saying it’s been cursed,” she said.
IDAHOT 2018 attended by various organisations
Health officials, representatives from civil society organisations, the media, Lhak-Sam, UNFPA, RENEW and individual supporters observed IDAHOT 2018 which was themed ‘alliances for solidarity’ at Hotel Migmar in Thimphu.
The outreach coordinator with Lhak-Sam (BNP+), Tenzin Gyeltshen said that while the community has achieved a lot over the years, the LGBT community members still continue to face discrimination.
“A large number of gay and bisexual men refuse to seek services provided due to self-stigmatisation and the fear of being treated as an outcast,” he said.
The community members said that building alliances was important in achieving equality and opportunity for all.
Besides outreach, networking and advocacy activities, Tenzin Gyeltshen said that the community recently started peer counselling. It is also involved in the documentation of human rights violation with cases such as rape and domestic violence inflicted on the LGBT community members.
Some pressing issues faced by the LGBT community in Bhutan
Tenzin Gyeltshen divulged that some of the pressing issues facing the community include the high prevalence of STIs (sexually transmitted infections), especially amongst gay and bisexual men.
Moreover, drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues such as depression and anxiety as well as sexual and physical abuse are also on the rise. He noted that there is also a high suicidal rate in the community.
The executive director of the Bhutan Cancer Society, Dechen Wangmo said that the network has increased since the inception of the community.
The LGBT community in Bhutan was formed in 2014 with only five members under the guidance of Lhak-Sam. Today, the community has 118 registered members.
“As supporters, we also have the responsibility to create some enabling environment for them to get meaningful employment and to give them an opportunity to thrive just like any of us because if you look at it they have more barriers to overcome than we do,” she said.