Bhutan must seize an historic opportunity to secure equal rights for LGBTI people in the country, Amnesty International said today, calling on the upper house of parliament to pass a bill decriminalizing same-sex relationships. Following the lower house’s vote in favour of repealing discriminatory sections of the penal code last June, the bill proposing amendments will be presented to the National Council, the upper house of parliament, this month. “If the amendment bill is passed by the upper house, this will be an important step in recognizing that Bhutan supports the equality of all citizens regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. For a country that prides itself on the happiness of its people, Bhutan must without any delay rid itself of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relationships,” said Babu Ram Pant, South Asia Campaigner at Amnesty International. Although no one is believed to have been convicted or prosecuted under these provisions until now, the mere existence of such discriminatory laws creates a chilling effect, and exacerbates discrimination and stigma against LGBTI people – subjecting them to harassment, blackmail and violence.