At the Consensus Building Programme workshop in Thimphu yesterday, participants deliberated on what might be discouraging victims of domestic violence from availing the services of the formal justice system.

Jigme Singye Wangchuck School of Law’s clinical legal expert, Stephan Sonnenberg, said that the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) has the full autonomy on whether or not a case should be resolved mutually if the victim so desires.“It is important that we start generating data, knowing that the data is important in the long term viability of this programme.” 

RENEW committed to recording data in a MoU signed between the RBP and RENEW on February 7, he said.

A National Commission for Women and Children’s (NCWC) survey found that respondents who have experienced domestic violence in a lifetime revealed that about 38 percent of them did not tell anyone. Only about three percent told police, three percent told village health workers, four percent told local leaders. Only a percent told a non-government organisation. The rest told their either their friends or family.

However, in 2013 RENEW handled about 375 cases.

Stephan Sonnenberg said that this indicated that there were a lot of cases that were not reported. “There is a huge ‘dark figure’, but as institutions we need to come up with relevant referral pathways.”

Some of the causes drawn from the group work revealed that victims did not report to RBP as they didn’t want to break families or relationships. Among other reasons are lengthy court proceedings and social stigma.

Pema Choki, a CBSS volunteer, said that only when victims felt threatened they went to police. “If they had a visible physical injury they went to RBP. It is usually perceived as the last resort.” 

Stephan Sonnenberg, said that if people don’t understand domestic violence as a crime then people would not report it. “As local leaders continue to enjoy prestige, they could use the opportunity to use their help in providing services. If victims feel more comfortable going to local leaders and healthcare officials, new entry points must be created for these survivors.” 

Some of the objectives of the Consensus Building Programme (CBP) are to create awareness on domestic violence and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), to provide support to survivors of gender-based violence (GBV), gather information and centralise it, to strategise long term action plans, to promote and advocate communal responsibility to prevent DV and SGBV.

It was learnt that CBSS volunteers were first created between 2005 and 2011. Only about 677 members are active across the 20 dzongkhags, today.  

Rinchen Zangmo