Working during odd hours, inadequate monitoring from stakeholders, unfavourable internal legal provisions and improper pay scale are some of the challenges facing those working in drayangs.

This was shared during a recent workshop held for drayang employees, managers and proprietors. The workshop, organised by a non-governmental organisation, Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW), was a follow-up on the awareness and advocacy program conducted in the past by other stakeholders.

The two-day training and workshop, which started on July 20, was aimed at empowerment, facilitation of change, misconceptions of drayangs and developing networks.

Drayang employees participated on the first day and they said that the most vulnerable moment for women working during odd hours is when they go home after work. They said that the earliest they leave for home is 11pm.

The employees shared that many drayangs in capital operate beyond the permitted time of 11PM from Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday and until midnight on Friday and Saturday.

It was pointed out that drayangs in the capital remain open for almost 24 hours. Many said that although the music is put off after 11pm, drayangs continue to serve as a bar for the remaining hours. Such practices mean additional work for the employees.

Employees also shared that the owners and managers deduct their payment if they leave before the drayangs close and if they come few minutes late. They also said that they do not get paid for working extra hours.

It was suggested that strict monitoring of closing time of entertainment hubs would reduce the risk of them being exposed to vulnerable situation like sexual abuse, ill treatment by the customers.

The participants cited an incident of their friends being sexually harassed when they leave home late. It was also pointed out that travelling home in late hours is expensive as taxis charge more during odd hours.

They said that arranging taxis or buses to reach them home would make it safe and less vulnerable to them.

Most participants also claimed that the owners and managers remained reluctant to support them in circumstances that required their interventions. They shared incidences of their customers’ wives accusing them of robbing their husband’s money and deception. “We were left on our own to defend,” a participant said.

Participants also said that during brawls in the drayangs, they wished there is an immediate response from police. “Police always arrived late, even when we call and request them,” a participant said.

A representative from the Royal Bhutan Police, who did not want to be named, said they have always been supportive. “The situation would be improved if other concerned stakeholders like Department of Trade (DoT), National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) and Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) would take the initiative to intervene in such situations.”

He also said that police as law enforcer has less role to intervene in such incidents as they do not have the authority to impose penalty on late night operation of drayangs and unlicensed bars. “The collective response from stakeholders, owners and employees would result in a better solution.”

The participants also highlighted that in some drayangs, the employees were not given a copy of the agreement they sign with the proprietor when they start working. “Such unfavourable internal legal provisions make out working environment binding and restricted, as we cannot leave work unless the owners allow,” a participant said. Employees are allowed to leave if they inform the proprietor a month in advance.

Participants shared incidences where they were made to pay a fine of Nu 30, 000 when they change drayangs with the consent of the owner.

However, drayang owners said that the penalty was imposed on the owners in such incidences as per the legal understanding they have signed among themselves.

Drayangs remain a destination for young girls from rural areas to seek employment. RENEW conducted the training workshop with employees and employers of drayangs located in Thimphu to expand community-based support system, which is aimed to facilitate co-ordination between the drayangs and various service providers.

A three-member committee from the employees of the drayangs was selected to present their issues and grievances for collective discussion with the owners and concerned stakeholders like BICMA, RBP, RENEW and trade and customs.

RENEW’s counsellors conducted a session on the importance of interpersonal communication skills. A demonstration on the need of communication skills and conveying the right message to the customers were held during the training.