How safe is our Women and Children?
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