Business Bhutan - - Editoria -

Me­dia re­cently re­ported on the var­i­ous chal­lenges that drayang work­ers face. Every­one is aware that when one thinks of drayangs, the im­age that comes to mind is of dingy, smoky rooms where women are either be­ing pimped or the women them­selves act in ques­tion­able and sex­u­ally bla­tant man­ners, by choice or oth­er­wise.

The drayang work­ers re­ported be­ing ha­rassed by cus­tomers and their wives. They also re­ported be­ing vul­ner­a­ble to taxi driv­ers with lit­tle or no in­ter­ven­tion from the po­lice.

Now the shocker: Re­spect Ed­u­cate and Empower Women (RE­NEW), a NGO that is sup­posed to be the torch­bearer of women’s rights and pro­tec­tion in the coun­try says that drayangs “should be treated like any other form of em­ploy­ment.” Have we stooped so low? Can­not we do bet­ter? Records with the Depart­ment of In­dus­try of the Min­istry of Eco­nomic Af­fairs re­veal that, as of De­cem­ber 31, 2015, eight dis­cothe­ques, 14 drayangs, 32 karaoke bars, 29 snooker rooms and 666 bars were op­er­a­tional in Thim­phu alone. The rest of the dzongkhags have 12 dis­cothe­ques, 31 drayangs, 112 karaoke bars and 111 snooker rooms.

What mes­sage are we send­ing our so­ci­ety? That drink­ing (when al­co­holism is a ma­jor vice), and sex­ual per­mis­sive­ness es­pe­cially when you have a fam­ily back home (and di­vorce rate is shoot­ing up), is okay?

We un­der­stand that the ma­jor­ity of women who work in drayangs come from ru­ral, eco­nom­i­cally chal­lenged back­grounds and they claim to love singing and danc­ing. How­ever, if we do a cost-ben­e­fit anal­y­sis, im­pli­ca­tions would be huge.

We are teach­ing vul­ner­a­ble women that it is okay to set­tle for “jobs” where they could be sex­u­ally ex­ploited and harmed. Should we in­stead not try to al­le­vi­ate their con­di­tion by pro­vid­ing al­ter­na­tives like bet­ter ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion and fa­cil­i­ties? Pro­vide them jobs which not only so­ci­ety will re­spect but through which they will learn to re­spect them­selves?

Can­not we groom them into the self-re­liant, proud, em­pow­ered women they were meant to be in­stead of shov­el­ing them into drayangs through faulty poli­cies, de­ci­sions and ad­vo­cacy, and then try to do dam­age con­trol when the ills could have been pre­vented in the first place?

More em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties that re­spect women and their sex­u­al­ity should be made read­ily avail­able, and aware­ness cre­ated on the ills of drop­ping off school and join­ing such work­places which of­fer them lit­tle dig­nity or pro­tec­tion.

While our men have a duty to act hon­or­ably even in places like drayangs, it is for a given that drayangs are thriv­ing ground for temp­ta­tions ga­lore es­pe­cially when one is un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol, rau­cous crowds and giddy mu­sic.

How­ever, what we can do is ed­u­cate women, es­pe­cially from marginal­ized back­grounds, to ex­cel in ar­eas, which would re­quire that in­nate strengths like emo­tional and in­tel­lec­tual quo­tient or man­ual skills are put to op­ti­mal use.

How about we open more train­ing and ed­u­ca­tional cen­ters to equip our women with prac­ti­cal skills and knowl­edge than more drayangs and bars? This might seem like a te­dious process, but ev­ery­thing wor­thy most of­ten starts small and starts slow. The reward would be an en­tire par­a­digm shift, the so­cioe­co­nomic chain not­with­stand­ing.

The govern­ment is well aware that drink­ing is a prob­lem in the coun­try: Liver com­pli­ca­tions take the top spot among killer non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases but we per­sist is­su­ing bar li­censes.

We are also aware that snooker rooms and dis­cothe­ques are breed­ing ground for many so­cial evils that af­fect youth such as sub­stance abuse, gang fights and wastage of re­sources in­clud­ing time and money. But there again seems to be lit­tle or no cur­tail­ing and mon­i­tor­ing of the same.

Drayangs can cause women to be sus­cep­ti­ble not only to ha­rass­ment but also trig­ger a rip­ple of dam­age ef­fects like ero­sion of trust in fam­ily re­la­tions, ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fairs, sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­eases, and tainted rep­u­ta­tions among oth­ers: all these while the so­ci­ety and au­thor­i­ties watch on mer­rily: of course, this is an “ac­cept­able” means of em­ploy­ment!

We know drayang work­ers are also work­ing: they are sup­port­ing them­selves and fam­i­lies back home, but the is­sue is not that.

The is­sue is: why would we want women to work in a place where they are ob­jec­ti­fied when we can empower them to be em­ployed in al­ter­na­tive oc­cu­pa­tions that would not vic­tim­ize or shame them; where they would have the av­enue to earn and live, dig­nity in­tact.

Women are one of the strong­est species on earth and given time and proper in­vest­ment, they can over­come and move moun­tains.

Just give them re­quired chan­nels for their en­ergy, drive and de­ter­mi­na­tion. They will prove that they de­serve more than drayangs!

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