Yangyel Lhaden

Iron Female Ox Year-Women and children: With the year starting with the second nationwide lockdown, confining people at homes, gender-based violence (GBV) increased by 53.5 percent last year compared to 36.6 percent in 2020, according to records maintained by Respect, Educate, Nurture, and Empower Women (RENEW).

The organization recorded 751 GBV cases as of November last year.

The year also saw various crimes perpetrated against children, where minors were raped, adults made minors fight, and many college students and working women reported of sexual harassment.

The nation was shocked when a 12-year-old child gave birth in Samdrupjongkhar. No one in the family or school knew about her pregnancy.

In Tsirang, a 16-year-old boy was raped. A 56-year-old teacher was convicted for sexually molesting 10 students, aged eight to 10.

In Punakha, a minor student pleaded to the matron in the school not to send her home when the stepfather came to take her home. The student confided to the teacher that the stepfather sexually assaults her in front of the mother.

In Sherubtse, 10 students filed a complaint against a lecturer for sexual harassment. In Phuentsholing, nine students of the College of Science and Technology alleged an assistant professor of alleged sexual assault.

In Thimphu, an employee of the Royal Tutorial Project and an employee of Bhutan Power Corporation alleged of sexual harassment in workplace. The cases have been forwarded to the court.

In Wangduephodrang, two men and a woman in Nyisho were convicted of making two children, aged six and four, drink. Some men were also detained and later convicted for making two boys fight and uploaded the video on social media.

However, women were not only victims of GBV, but also became perpetrators.

During the second lockdown, 36 men also came forward to seek help from RENEW and National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC).

A woman abused her husband emotionally after he couldn’t provide for the family as he lost his job due to the pandemic. In another case, a woman registered a case against her husband but during counselling by RENEW officials, it was found out that man was the victim.

Meanwhile, on the brighter side, emergency shelter homes were established in dzongkhags under the Royal Command of Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen during the second lockdown and about 30 women sought emergency shelter along with their children.

During the third local government election, seven women gups, 22 women mangmis, and 149 women tshogpas were elected last year, increasing the overall women leadership in local governance.