Ending gender-based violence
Elimination of all forms of discrimination and exploitation against women including trafficking, prostitution, abuse, violence, harassment and intimidation at work in both public and private spheres is enshrined in the Constitution of Bhutan, Article 9 (17). Towards this end, the government of Bhutan has been consistently working towards a nation free of violence.
Further, ending all forms of violence against women is enshrined as the stand-alone Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. Ending gender-based violence is seen as critical to achieve gender equality and as an important component to help accelerate the effective achievements of many other goals.
Despite these considerations, every day at least one Bhutanese woman is said to experience domestic violence in Bhutan.
Violence in the forms of physical, sexual, psychosocial and economic is becoming more and more prevalent in the country. According to records with the Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW), the number of domestic violence cases is on the rise. The number of reported cases increased to 385 cases in 2017 from 243 in 2009. This means every day at least one Bhutanese woman is experiencing violence in the country.
Evidences elsewhere in the region suggest that gender-based violence and its related costs to governments, communities and individuals far outweigh the current resources and tools dedicated to eliminating violence. Bhutan is no exception in this regard.
To overcome the imbalance between the number and magnitude of the problem and the resources dedicated for its solutions, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Republic of Korea have launched a global initiative focused on the integration of actions to address gender based violence of all forms. There are 7 pilot countries where the global project, ‘Ending Gender-based Violence to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals’, aims to take violence prevention to scale by bringing new partners, strategies and sources of financing to the table.
In Bhutan, the pilot project “Bhutan Pilot: Addressing Gender Based Violence” will provide the resources to test a new approach to preventing gender-based violence by focusing on community engagement. The project will focus to put in place a well-coordinated way to effectively deliver results at the community level through active involvement of caregivers and adolescents. It will show what effective interventions to address violence against women and children look like in practice and demonstrate the effects of multiplepartners working together. It will localize adaptations of evidence- based primary prevention and response approaches and will be documented, costed and rigorously evaluated so these approaches can be further refined and scaledup across Bhutan.
Babesa has been chosen as a pilot project site for Bhutan considering reported cases of violence against women and children and the fact it is a growing urban area with people of diverse background. Another reason is for easy monitoring and engagement of project management team during the pilot phase interventions. In principle there are no hard criteria for selection of the site as violence doesn’t have boundaries and selection of sites.
The area-based pilot project is reportedly expected to dig deep into the root causes of gender-based violence and violence against women and children to create a sustainable preventive community-based mechanism to address the issue.
Addressing genderbased violence is an area that the Royal Government of Bhutan is providing its highest priority and the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) as the nodal agency of the government has been working towards addressing the issue from reforming legislations and policies to providing platform for reporting and services to the survivors.
The Resident Coordinator of the
UN in Bhutan, Gerald Daly said development is changing, and development practitioners need to evolve, adapt and upgrade. He said the UN is fortunate that gender-based violence is a key aspect of the work that the UN is doing. And that, he said is the UN’s commitment to leaving no one behind. “UN agencies are working together because we know that what is best for Bhutan is the key reason for our work,” said Gerald Daly. “And the UN is committed to work together to end genderbased violence.”
Meanwhile, he added that UN Women, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) are partnering with NCWC on genderbased violence prevention and response programmes, including UNFPA’s health response to gender-based violence and advocacy on gender-based violence prevention. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is integrating gender-based violence in the awareness programs as gender-based violence and gender inequalities are one of the main causes for women falling victims to trafficking. UNODC is also supporting the infrastructural development of a house to assist victims of domestic violence (may be trafficking).
This new project will build on the existing government initiative through UNDP’s global and regional expertise in addressing genderbased violence and will bring in experience in incorporating innovation in development interventions. The proposed primary prevention model through community mobilization has already been tested and proven to effective in other UNDP programming countries like Cambodia and Indonesia.
“With strong knowledge and extensive experience of Bhutan, and with the leadership of NCWC, I am confident that the project will deliver desirable transformation in perceptions and behavior of men and women in the participating community,” said Juergen Nagler, the Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP in Bhutan.
He added that the project follows the commitment of UNDP country Programme for Bhutan with clear linkages to the 12th FYP.