Although children experience the highest rate of physical and emotional violence, digital pornography is an emerging issue in the country, a study by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Bhutan and National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) revealed.

The report, which was presented during the ongoing early childhood care and development (ECCD) programme in Thimphu, stated that 20 percent of children aged from 13 to 17 reported exposures to pornography.

The report also stated that 41.7 percent of boys and 28.7 percent of girls are exposed to digital pornography of other people and showed minimum cases of self-involvement.

The report stated that about 10.3 percent of children were exposed to pornography at home and 11 percent at someone else’s home. The report also stated that 11.3 percent of boys and 4.1 percent of girls were exposed to pornography at school.

The report included minimum cases of exposure at monastery/ nunnery, work, public place and on their way and return from school.

NCWC’s programme officer, Ugyen Wangchuk, who made the presentation, said that apart from digital pornography, forced sexual intercourse, verbal sexual harassment and sexual touching fall under sexual violence. “The percentage of sexual violence is the maximum among peers and in schools.”

He also reported that 64 percent of children from 13 to 17 years have experienced physical violence and 44.8 percent have experienced physical violence before reaching teenage years.

“The most common form of physical violence experienced by children seem to be in the context of corporal punishment,” the report stated. It is stated that a large proportion of physical violence took place in rural areas and in school, followed by home.

Ugyen Wangchuk said that at least half of the children surveyed had experienced some sort of emotional violence in their life. He said that there are about 12 drivers of violence including divorced parents, poor background, and alcohol.

The discussion at the ECCD week programme also put forward recommendations to help curb violence against children.

A participant said that the report had little information on violence against children with special needs and focusing on them was important.

The recommendations included developing a strategic plan for child wellbeing, implementing a ban on corporal punishment and develop a strategy for understanding the impact and risks associated with the exposure to pornography, among others.

The recommendations will help strategise the National Plan of Action for Child Protection, which is being revised and is in the process of conceptualising the subsequent five-year strategy.

Phurpa Lhamo