Some men in Balengdra village of Kazhi gewog filmed two boys, a five- and a six-year-old, fighting and circulated the video on social media. In Kunzaling village of Nyisho gewog, two men and a woman forced minors, four- and six-year-olds to drink alcohol.
The two incidents in Wangduephodrang are reported in the media but the issue is not isolated to Wangduephodrang. It is common in the country, especially in the rural pockets.
With alcohol entrenched in our culture, and the clichéd understanding that ‘boys will be boys,’ we refuse to recognise problems of encouraging young boys to drink. Related issues like broken families, alcoholic parents and lack of guidance aggravate the issue.
We have more alcohol outlets than necessary in towns and cities. Imported and locally brewed alcohol are aplenty in villages. Even as we highlight the social problem, we see new brands of locally produced alcohol hit the market, perhaps not cognisant of our national policies.
We are already fighting a losing battle against alcohol and its impacts. Alcohol is the biggest killer. Hospitals are overburdened with alcohol-related diseases. The direct cost of treating one alcoholic patient is estimated at Nu 122,000. It is the leading cause of vehicle accidents, deaths, injuries and domestic violence.
There have been attempts and measures to address the issue. Many discussions have happened in the parliament too but without much to show. With elders or relatives encouraging or forcing children as young as four to drink alcohol, the question is where are we heading in our fight against this social ill. The incident could pass as a rustic incident, but it speaks volumes. Many say they abuse alcohol because they were exposed to it at a young age.
It has also become a trend for everyone in the country to take pictures and film everything happening around. Mobile phones, internet and social media facilitate the circulation. No one is concerned about the legality of taking such photos or filming someone. Consent and privacy are not considered an issue.
The acts are not only morally wrong but contravene existing laws of the country, the provisions of Penal Code and Child Protection Act.
It is also a rude awakening that people are not aware of the laws in place. Questions arise on whose responsibility it is to create awareness – local government, the National Commission for Women and Children, or parliament representatives?
Our wisdom has it that takes a village to raise a child. It has become more relevant now. Parents, teachers and adults in society play an important role to educate children on alcohol-related problems.
Just arresting the offenders and releasing them later will not solve the problem. Offenders should realise the consequences of their action. Others in society should learn from their experience.
All investments on youth will be wasted if we do not raise good children.