Yangyel Lhaden

A man phones Respect, Educate, Nurture, and Empower Women (RENEW) and inquires, “Does RENEW support men as well? And if it does, please talk to my wife to stop emotionally harassing me,” he requested.

There had been a significant number of men who were victims of gender-based violence (GBV) coming forward to seek help from RENEW. Last year, out of the 788 cases of GBV, 69 were male. In 2022 and 2021, it was 70 and 61 males respectively who sought help from RENEW.

According to records with RENEW, 58 men were emotionally abused, six were economically abused, and five were physically abused, last year. Those who sought help from RENEW received counselling, livelihood training, legal and medical aid, shelter services, and psycho-social support, among other services.

The Executive Director of RENEW, Tshering Dolkar, said that GBV affected all and since it was mostly women who were affected, it so happens that the services were more aligned towards women. “Men usually don’t come forward, but when they do, we provide the same services to them as we provide to females.”

Most men phoned RENEW for help, while some walked into RENEW offices.

A 27-year-old man said men usually don’t come forward because males tend to have higher resilience to violence, especially when it comes to intimate partner relationships; men tend to tolerate more if they have a toxic wife. “I am married, and because I am not doing well economically, I do get emotionally abused sometimes by my wife.”

He said that he understood his wife’s nagging and concerns, but if things got out of control, he would surely seek help from his family and service providers. “I love my wife, and I am trying my best to provide her with whatever I can.”

Tshering Dolkar said that according to RENEW’s records, men were more emotionally abused by their intimate partners, and when a husband couldn’t provide for their partner, they were economically abused as well.  “We encourage men to come forward, and they could choose a male or female service provider from us they want to talk with.”

A bus driver said that he divorced his wife because he couldn’t tolerate emotional abuse anymore. “Whenever I am done with work, I would worry about going back home to an alcoholic wife,” he said. “On my way back home, what she would do to me bothered me so much in my head that I would never be at peace.”

The bus driver said he tolerated his wife because they had children. Despite enduring the abuse for the sake of their children, he eventually left his wife, admitting to resorting to violence in an attempt to stop her drinking.

He said that he did not talk with anybody about what was happening at his home since he feared that society would gossip about his family. “It is not easy for men to go seek help.”

Pasang Deki, the Case Manager at RENEW Tsirang Community Service Centre, said that in intimate partner violence, in most cases, the perpetrator and victim were both husband and wife.

“Lack of communication, understanding, and family interference accelerates domestic violence in relationships,” she said.

There have been cases with RENEW where, during case assessment, it was found out that men were the victims even when women registered cases against them.

“There is a misconception that RENEW only supports women, which is not true, and our services are the same for all genders,” Tshering Dolkar said. “We provide service to families which include wife, husband, and children.”

RENEW also received a phone call from a man fearing that his wife would report him to RENEW and that he would be taken to jail. Tshering Dolkar said that we are service providers and not legal entities, and men fear that we will support women in court. “We treat all genders equally, and I encourage both men, women, LGBTIQA+ and children to come forward to seek help.”

Tshering Dolkar emphasised that GBV was one of the opponents that act as a challenge in development, and productive citizens, have to be free of all their issues. “How can a person be productive if they are facing GBV, which is why I encourage everyone to come forward to seek our services.”