Chencho Dema

Punakha – “I wanted to become a doctor after graduation, but that dream will forever remain unfulfilled,” lamented a 16-year-old girl Yangchen (name changed). She endured a harrowing ordeal of sexual abuse, and she is currently in her first trimester of pregnancy.

The appalling incident took place when Yangchen was on summer vacation at her home in Punakha, and she was raped by a man in his 50s, who happened to be her neighbour.

She was attending the sixth grade at a school in Wangdue during the time of the incident.

During her summer holiday that year, she was visiting her mother in her village in Punakha when one of her neighbours visited her sick sister one day before the incident.

The following day, the suspect came to her house again.

She was alone at home as her mother and grandmother had gone to work in the fields, while her younger sister had gone to visit a friend nearby.

The incident occurred in the afternoon. As the suspect entered the house, Yangchen found herself alone and vulnerable. He covered her mouth and forced her to the ground, subjecting her to sexual abuse. He warned her not to discuss the incident with anyone.

The suspect frequently visited her after the incident, bringing chips and juice but not repeating the sexual abuse.

She kept this horrifying secret to herself and eventually returned to school.

In a conversation with Kuensel, Yangchen said, “My matron noticed changes in my body and took me to the hospital for a check-up, which is when we received the shocking news that I was three months pregnant.”

Eventually, Yangchen disclosed the truth, and the case was reported to the Wangdue police station, but it was later transferred to the Punakha police station since the incident occurred in Punakha.

The suspect was subsequently arrested and detained. The suspect is a married man.

Yangchen said that she knew him well, and he had never mistreated her in the past. She added, “I was shocked when he sexually assaulted me, and I didn’t know what to do.”

“After giving birth, I won’t be able to continue my studies, but I am planning to work,” she said.

The day of the rape marked the turning point in her life. “People talk about my experience, which is embarrassing and something I will have to live with for the rest of my life,” she continued.

While girls her age are enjoying their lives and pursuing their studies to shape their futures, Yangchen finds herself lost and uncertain about what the future holds for her and her unborn child.

She expressed her frustration, stating, “Despite being a victim and having been raped against my will, people talk about me and look down on me. It’s so sad.”

“However, I am fortunate to have a supportive family member who assured me that they would help me raise the child,” she added.

A few weeks ago, she was called to the police station, where she came face to face with the suspect. “I was so angry seeing him. While he is detained and will eventually pay the price for his crime, I will be the one suffering,” she said.

She urged more victims, particularly young children, to come forward and speak out about their experiences instead of suffering in silence.

One of her relatives, who has been providing moral support, said, “If only she had confided in someone about the incident, her pregnancy could have been prevented. We discovered her pregnancy much later, and by then, it was too late.”

She mentioned that some people suggested abortion, but that was the last thing the family had in mind.

“We have to move forward and think about how we can make her life better. We must support her because it wasn’t her fault,” she said.

Despite her shattered life, Yangchen is determined to rebuild it and hold onto hope for her child. She concluded, “I have to let go of this painful memory. I will leave the past where it belongs – in the past.”

In another tragic incident, a 14-year-old girl studying in one of the schools in Punakha was raped by one of her cousins under the influence of alcohol last year, resulting in her pregnancy. She recently gave birth to a healthy baby.

Alarming statistics reveal a total of 78 cases of sexual offenses against children below the age of 18 reported across the country in 2021, followed by 52 cases in 2022 and 38 cases as of July this year.