Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

The 16-year-old minor, who was working in a massage parlour in Deki Line, Phuentsholing, and allegedly offering sexual favours to clients is still under the police’s pre-trial detention centre.

The minor’s coworker, a 21-year-old woman, and the parlour owner, 27, are also in pre-trial detention.

The case emerged on September 20 evening when the girl was found in the town by a police official. The three have been under police custody since September 21.

Sources confirmed that the minor girl was with the parlour for one and half days.

According to sources, the massage therapists charged Nu 1,500 for a one-hour service, Nu 1,000 of which was given to the parlour owner and kept the remaining Nu 500 from each customer.

Medical examinations have confirmed the minor was sexually active.

A 22-year-old driver has also been arrested and is currently under police custody for allegedly having a physical relationship with the minor. The two got in touch through social media. The girl had come to meet the driver in Phuentsholing from Tsirang.

What now?

Since the girl is a minor, the driver will be charged for the alleged rape of a minor.

As per the Penal Code of Bhutan’s Section 183: “A defendant shall be guilty of the offence of rape of a child above the age of twelve years if the defendant has sexual intercourse with a child between the ages of twelve to eighteen years.” The offence is a third-degree felony.

The parlour owner, who had employed her, would be charged for the offence of promotion or patronising, whichever is higher, to the court.

Although her parents are in Tsirang, Kuensel learned that the family is from a village in Phuentsholing gewog. The parents are working in Tsirang. Police have also informed her parents but the parents are not in the position to help.

However, until the investigation is complete, the minor will be kept in the pre-trial centre.

Meanwhile, her case has been reported to the probation officer of the National Women and Children Commission (NCWC) based in Phuentsholing. Her case will be assessed at the thromde level for further care and counselling.

The police and the NCWC would collaborate.

The assessment will find if the child has conducted a crime because of not having parental care or if someone had exploited her. The findings will also be submitted to the police for a further criminal investigation to ascertain if the minor falls under a criminal case of a petty misdemeanour, misdemeanour or fourth-degree felony.

If the crime is a petty misdemeanour, the police can divert the criminal charges. Instead of imprisonment or punishment, the child may be given alternative options to community service.

If the minor’s case falls under the misdemeanour, the case will then be forwarded to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). The OAG may also involve NCWC depending on the case.

After the review of the case, the OAG may also divert the punishment and render community services as diversion punishment. However, if it is a fourth-degree felony criminal case, it will be forwarded to the court.

Should the minor be convicted at the court, the imprisonment time will be reduced to half compared to the adults. Further, the minor may also be sent to rehabilitation centres.