How safe is our Women and Chil­dren?

Bhutan Times - - Front Page - Thuk­ten Zangpo

Shocked, feared, iso­lated, grieved with anx­i­ety and guilts, a child feels, when the safe heaven for them, their home is no longer a safer place to live.

This year, one child sex­ual abuse was re­ported ev­ery week with to­tal 35 cases till Novem­ber. Gele­phu saw the high­est, 17 cases of child mo­lesta­tion and rape. Last year, Re­spect, Ed­u­cate, Nur­ture, Em­power Women (RE­NEW) re­ceived nine cases of sex­ual abuse againgst chil­dren.

One out of three girls, and one out of five boys are vic­tim of sex­ual abuse be­fore the age of 18 years. There are 30 per­cent of male chil­dren and 40 per­cent of fe­male chil­dren who are vic­tim of sex­ual abuse. Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Comis­sion for Women and Chil­dren (NCWC) re­port, 2016, in Bhutan, 12.8 per­cent of chil­dren have ex­pe­ri­enced sex­ual abuse atleast once their life time of which 13.5 per­cent are girls and 11.9 are boys. How­ever, only one out of 10 chil­dren have re­ported.

Nearly one in four ever- mar­ried women aged 15 to 49 re­ported hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced some form of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in­volv­ing their hus­bands in Bhutan. The num­ber of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence cases in­creased to 385 in 2017 from 243 cases in 2009.

“We adults have the sole re­pon­si­bil­i­ties of cre­at­ing a bet­ter fu­ture for our chil­dren, we have the sole re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for en­sur­ing that the neigh­bour­hood and world is the safe, nur­tur­ing place,” Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of RE­NEW, Tandin Wangmo said dur­ing the In­ter­na­tional Day for Vi­o­lence againgst Women and Chil­dren on Novem­ber 25.

Shar­ing her con­cerns on the child sex­ual abuse, she said that chil­dren do not know how to ex­press what is hap­pen­ing and where to seek help and added that if the vic­tims are not treated prop­erly, they could re­main with post trau­matic stress dis­or­der for life­time.

She ad­dressed that chil­dren are three times likely to be vic­tims by fam­ily mem­bers or the trust­wor­thy adults how­ever, stranger abuse con­sti­tute the mi­nor­ity of cases.

“Those who have suf­fered sex­ual abuse, we stand with you and we will be your voice,” She said.“If we don­not hear this earnest pray for help to­day, you would be wait­ing un­til it hapens ot one of your own,”

Ly­onch­hen Dr Lo­tay Tsh­er­ing also shared his con­cerns that he had en­coun­tered painful sit­u­a­tions while treat­ing the vic­tim of the rape. “Our poli­cies are strong enough, how­ever, we lacked pos­i­tive com­mit­ments,” Ly­onch­hen said. “For many women, the home they live in are no more safe for them.”

The Res­i­dent co­or­di­na­tor of United Na­tions in Bhutan, Ger­ald Daly said that gen­der based vi­o­lence is at heart of hu­man rights.

“All around the world, women and girls still strug­gle to ex­er­cise their full hu­man rights, even to be seen as full hu­man be­ings. Vi­o­lence against women is the most ob­vi­ous man­i­fes­ta­tion of the deep im­bal­ances and in­equal­i­ties in power in our so­ci­ety,” he added.

He also ex­pressed that phys­i­cal abuse by Bhutanese women is of­ten con­sid­ered as their karma and be­cause of the deep cul­tural roots of men be­ing more su­pe­rior.

“Vi­o­lence against women and chil­dren is the an­tithe­sis of Gross Na­tional Hap­pi­ness. It de­stroys fam­i­lies, it de­stroys men­tal and phys­i­cal health, and it stunts pro­duc­tiv­ity and ed­u­ca­tional at­tain­ment. It per­pet­u­ates poverty, lingers across gen­er­a­tions, and drives de­pres­sion, al­co­hol and sub­stance abuse,” Ger­ald Daly said.

“The time is now to act for a fu­ture that is more equal. The time is now to trans­form what we have been do­ing at a pol­icy level into ac­tion to em­power women in all as­pects of life and to end vi­o­lence against women,” he added.

This year’s theme, “#HearMeToo” is a cam­paign for sur­vivors of sex­ual and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence to come for­ward and share their stories, and for ac­tivists to in­spire oth­ers to fight these is­sues.

Dur­ing the event, Babesa Pro­ject, first Bhutan Pi­lot pro­ject on ad­dress­ing vi­o­lence againgst women and chil­dren in col­lob­o­ra­tion with NCWC and the United Na­tions Devel­op­ment Pro­gramme (UNDP) in Bhutan was launched. The pro­ject will en­able a com­mu­nity to lead its own vi­o­lence pre­ven­tion pro­gram.

The pi­lot pro­ject will be car­ried out in Babesa, Thim­phu, where two groups of res­i­dents, ado­les­cents be­tween 13 to 15 years of age and care­givers of ado­les­cents (such as par­ents, rel­a­tives, and teach­ers) will take part. The pro­ject in­ter­ven­tions will start in April 2019 and end in 2020.

For the in­ter­ven­tions, the fa­cil­i­ta­tors, who are Babesa res­i­dent over the age of 21 years with a min­i­mum of high school diploma were also reg­is­tered.

RE­NEW also launched a comic book “Bum­chu Yeshey Dawa”, a film on Gen­der-Based Vi­o­lence in Bhutan made in col­lab­o­ra­tion with In­ter­na­tional Planned Par­ent­hood Fed­er­a­tion (IPPF) and a ref­er­ence pub­li­ca­tion on “In­te­grated So­cial Mes­sag­ing through Lo­cal Festivals” pub­lished in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Drat­shang Lhentshog. A play was also staged on the life of a women work­ing in drayang show­cas­ing their dig­ni­fied po­si­tion by tak­ing the righ path.

Her Majesty, Gya­lyum San­gay Cho­den Wangchuck graced the event in pres­ence of min­is­ters, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, par­lia­men­tar­i­ans, in­ter­na­tional part­ners, UN agen­cies, and civil so­ci­ety or­ga­ni­za­tions.

This event is hold in joint col­lab­o­ra­tion of RE­NEW with cru­cial part­ners on board such as NCWC, UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNW, IPPF-SARO and DFAT- Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Comis­sion for Women and Chil­dren (NCWC) re­port, 2016, in Bhutan, 12.8 per­cent of chil­dren have ex­pe­ri­enced sex­ual abuse atleast once their life time of which 13.5 per­cent are girls and 11.9 are boys

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