The drayangs have been closed since March 2020

Yangyel Lhaden 

The government decided to cease the operation of drayangs in the country, according to an executive order from the Prime Minister yesterday.

There are 60 drayangs in the country that have been closed since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. Most drayangs are operating as bars today because the government did not allow drayangs to open without a reform.

The executive order stated that the decision was made after research, meetings, and intense consultations with multiple stakeholders validated that the business is hinged on compromising norms and values.

The government developed a set of standard operating systems for drayang operations last year and mandated drayangs to reform if they want to operate.

The new reforms mandated a separate team of waiters and waitresses to serve customers. 

It also said that artists would not perform the dual functions of an artist and a server. It also mandated a dress code for different employees, in which artists would have to wear proper national dress and perform only Bhutanese songs and dances.

When drayangs operated, dancers asked clients to sponsor dances or songs, being paid a certain amount and sharing the earnings with the owners.

Kuensel learnt that although drayang owners agreed to the new reforms, the government decided to stop drayang operations, as monitoring them would be difficult.

“It is time we acknowledge that our women working in drayangs are the most vulnerable. They are sexually objectified and disparaged in communities due to the nature of their job,” the executive order stated.

It stated that many skilling and entrepreneurship programmes have been initiated during the Covid-19 and post-pandemic transformation and drayang owners and employees should seize these opportunities.

“I hope everyone will understand that the intention is not to rob you all of a livelihood, but to consider it as an opportunity for a sustainable and meaningful income generation engagement,” the Prime Minister said.

He directed the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, and Ministry of Labour and Human Resources to collaborate and render necessary support to drayang operators and workers as they explore new avenues.

A drayang operator said that he was looking forward to approaching agencies in the coming days to inquire about services available. “Verbally so many promises were made to us about benefits and support we would receive after closing drayangs to switch our businesses.”

He said every drayang would employ about 15 people, which would be about 900 employees.

A drayang employee said that she was happy with the news of the closure of drayangs, as she was hesitant to request that her employer relieve her. “I joined a drayang without any choice, but today I already have a plan to open a restaurant.”