Collective action to tackle social issues

Choki Wangmo

Changing mindset of people is a sustainable solution to address the increasing cases of sexual harassment, molestation, and rape cases in the country, according to Home Minister, Sherub Gyeltshen.

At ‘meet the press’ in Thimphu yesterday, Lyonpo said that although it was difficult to change mindsets, it could be achieved if it was inculcated from the child’s formative years. “The problem requires collective effort from parents and from our education system too.”

Lyonpo said that the ministry is working with the education ministry to check how the current curriculum would help solve these problems. “If need be, we need to change our curriculum in schools.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that although the country had strict laws in place to curb such crimes, the perpetrators kept committing the offence. “The change in mindset should generate from individuals so that we can solve these problems collectively.”

“Parents and caregivers should be responsible,” Lyonchhen added.

In recent years, despite laws, acts, guidelines and services, there were several cases of the aforementioned crimes in the country, excluding unreported cases.

In most of the cases, the victims were children. Last year, 35 cases of child molestation were reported to RENEW between January and November. Gelephu drungkhag reported 17 cases, the highest in the country.

Home Minister said that it was through studying the underlying causes of such problems that the issues in the country could be addressed.

Lyonpo said that as new developments emerged in the country, mostly influenced by globalisation, there were visible changes in the way people think, inducing socially-dangerous actions. “Access to social media, television, newspapers, and increased rate of unemployed youth among others exacerbated the problems.”

The minister said that the problem of rape, molestation and harassment were government’s concern and was deploying available resources to create awareness and tackle these challenges.

A research by Royal Institute of Management reported that the common causes of rape in Bhutan were alcoholism, substance abuse, sexual desire, reading and watching pornography, indecent dressing, unequal power relations (male domination), revenge and punishment, and jealousy.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises that women and children are more at risk of sexual violence if they are economically disadvantaged, and younger women are more vulnerable to rape. Records maintained with NCWC show a similar pattern in Bhutan too.

Police recorded 302 cases of violence against women until October this year. Wife battery was the most common violence cases reported across the police stations in the country.

However, only one percent of the survivors reported to the social services due to related social stigma and tolerance.

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