… detain two women involved

Lhakpa Quendren

Gelephu –  Thirty Gelephu police personnel patrol the streets at night to curb the growing issue of prostitution in the town.

With residents raising concerns about the prevalence of prostitution, the men in blue including some in civilian dress, have been on round-the-clock duty inspecting hotels and entertainment establishments.

On September 20 evening, police arrested two women from a hotel in the town who were engaged in illicit sexual activities. The 40-year-old woman who owns the hotel was found to be running a prostitution racket, while the 30-year-old woman was employed as an alleged prostitute.

They are currently in police custody and are likely to face charges.

Reliable sources said that the hotel owner, who provides rooms and shares the profits with the alleged prostitutes, has been involved in this business for the past few months. “She has photos of the prostitutes on her phone and promotes them to Indian men in the neighbouring towns through WhatsApp.”

Another source said that prostitutes are known to provide services round the clock. “They sometimes take two or even more clients at a time. The hotel owner earns ‌Nu 300,000 a month, including her income from hotel services.”

The hotel is among the four hotels in the town that have been under close police surveillance. However, the lack of substantial evidence makes it a challenging task for the police to make arrests.

The Penal Code of Bhutan contains several provisions on prostitution. It criminalises engaging in prostitution, prohibits soliciting for the purpose of prostitution, and prohibits procuring a person for prostitution.


The prostitutes

A tall thin woman donning a red skirt and in her late 30s, is seen talking on the phone at the hotel that many refer to as a hotspot for sexual activities in Gelephu town.

“Sir, Where are you? You can remain there. I will be coming there shortly. We can sit together and negotiate what you expect from me,” she said in a conversation that lasted about four minutes.

During the call, she repeatedly enquired about the man’s location, drawing the attention of the surrounding people.

The woman was settling the bill at the counter for the drinks she had purchased, and she also covered the expenses for her female colleague and two other men. People claim that these men are her business associates who help bring customers to her.

She was not alone. There were four other women with her, including an employee of that hotel. Most of them in their 40s.

An argument erupted between two elders while they were drinking, with both accusing each other of being prostitutes. The hotel owner intervened and mediated between them.

One of the elder women carries a small rubber card with two phone numbers written on it. She promotes these contact numbers to the men they meet, often insisting that they dial the number. They are among the women engaged in illegal sexual business in Gelephu.

Concerned residents and parents attribute this issue to irresponsible parenting and lack of guidance from parents. Teenagers, including students, are also being accused of visiting party halls and engaging in sexual business to earn money on weekends and during vacations.

Sources say that police have compiled lists of about 25 suspects alleged to be involved in such activities, and they are under surveillance.


The clients

Kuensel learnt that a majority of the clients come from neighbouring towns across the border. They say that many of these nighttime visitors are coming mainly for sexual activities.

A resident, who is familiar with the situation, alleges that many of the women, including students, maintain sexual relationships with clients from neighbouring towns. “The visitors bring huge amounts and some even give new expensive phones. Some young women even receive as much as 50,000 rupees.”

Some local drivers, including taxi operators, are also being accused of engaging in sexual activities.

Residents said that allowing the operation of entertainment establishments into the early morning hours has led to an increase in such activities in Gelephu. They say that while this decision has benefited the entertainment business, it has also created spaces for illegal sexual activities.

Meanwhile, Gelephu police also conducted awareness and advocacy programmes in schools across Sarpang to discourage students and teenagers from engaging in illegal activities under any circumstances.

Police also met with hoteliers and proprietors of entertainment establishments, and urged them to refrain from engaging in illegal activities. They were also warned against allowing teenagers to enter the entertainment venues.