Every month, at least 22 domestic violence cases are reported to the forensic medicine department with the national referral hospital in Thimphu.

The department registered 271 domestic violence cases in 2016.

A forensic staff nurse Chencho Dorji, said that of the reported cases, 158 women who experienced domestic violence are between 21 and 30 years while 77 are between 31 and 40 years.

The cases include 10 men who experienced domestic violence. They are between 21 and 40 years while one is above 40 years.

For 172 cases, alcohol use was reported as the cause of the violence, followed by jealousy for 39 cases.

About 142 women and four men listed alcohol use by their spouse as the cause of the domestic violence.

Extramarital affairs, drug use, argument over children, money, property and preparation of meals are other causes reported for violence.

Occupation wise, 143 women are housewives, 79 work in the private sector and 31 in the civil service. Seven men who experienced domestic violence work in the private sector while four are civil servants.

Chencho Dorji said some of the domestic violence cases go unreported because the victims fear consequences and some are unaware that such cases have to be reported to police.

“Most of the unemployed women who experience domestic violence fear that if they report to police, the husband who, most of the time is the sole bread earner will be detained,” he said. “Domestic abuse or violence is a crime and it should be reported to police. It could be life-threatening.”

Forensic specialist, Dr Norbu, said the victims of domestic violence can call 112 for emergency medical services. “If there is a security problem then they can contact police at a toll-free number 113 for help.”

They can also report to RENEW (Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women) and the National Commission for Women and Children for support.

Another forensic health official said that some of the victims of domestic violence come directly to the hospital for treatment. “If the injury is minor, the health officials treat them and it is up to them to report to police. We cannot insist that the case be reported to police if the client doesn’t want to.”

However, if the injury is life threatening then the Emergency Department informs the police.

In the last five years, the department recorded the highest number of domestic violence cases in 2013 with 342 cases. In 2014, it saw 336 while in 2015 it saw 325.

Besides clinical forensic medicine and forensic pathology services, the forensic medicine department provides medico-legal services for interpersonal violence, sexual violence, child abuse and domestic violence.

The department provided medico-legal services to 1,337 cases in 2016.

Dechen Tshomo