Police requests people to file complaints and cooperate with them 

Pornography: Despite three arrests and a petition filed against locally made amateur pornographic movie clips, circulation of such clips in the public domain continue to increase.

Of late, a number of locally made amateur pornographic movie clips are being shared and circulated across the country using the popular phone application, WeChat.

Ranging from less than a minute to about four minutes, the clips usually show the faces of women. While some videos seem consensual, some appear involuntary and others were taken through hidden cameras.

Circulation of such clips has become more rampant and this time around, not many seem to make an issue out of it unlike last year when there was a public outrage especially on social media. In October last year about 2,300 people signed an online petition demanding specific and strict laws against the non-consensual distribution of sexual materials.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay accepted the petition during which he assured stricter penalties. Lyonchoen also said the government took the issue seriously and that the Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) Act would be amended.

However, law enforcement agencies continue to point out that for them to act, a complaint has to be filed first. No complaints have been received so far, according to police and BICMA.

On what BICMA was doing about the issue, media spokesperson Lakshuman Chettri said that the authority is not in a position to comment on it, as it did not receive any complaints to date.

Chief of police Brigadier Kipchu Namgyal said that for the police to act, a complaint is a must. “Our appeal to people is that if anyone knows who is distributing it, they should report to the police or contact me directly,” he said, assuring that identities of the complainant would be protected.

“The issue is that everyone including media makes a hue and cry about it but no one reports to police,” Brigadier Kipchu Namgyal said. “We want cooperation from the public.”

Brigadier Kipchu Namgyal said that distribution of amateur pornographic movie clips starts when one passes it on to another person telling the later not to share it with others.  He said that there were also cases where the subjects gained financially through such video clips.

The subjects either threaten that they would take the person to police if not paid a certain amount or even after filing a complaint, and that they tend to compromise if they are paid the demanded amount.

“Where we’ve had complaints, there were cases where the victims wanted to withdraw the cases after negotiations,” Brigadier Kipchu Namgyal said.

RBP have already taken up the case with WeChat headquarters in Singapore since last year, which according to the police chief is still under process as it involved huge financial investment.

Although making and sharing of pornography is illegal in Bhutan, the punishment is not severe. Section 476 of the penal code states that, if a person publishes and distributes an obscene photograph or picture on the computer or over the Internet, a crime of computer pornography has been committed.  This crime is a misdemeanor, carrying a sentence between one to three years.

An Internet service provider can also be charged with this crime if it is knowingly acting as a host or channel for the pornographic material to be transmitted. Section 381 of the penal code also deals with distribution of obscene material and prescribes a petty misdemeanor sentence of a month to one year.

May 2015 – The Gelephu dungkhag court sentenced a 31-year-old man to a year and a half in prison for making a video of him having sexual intercourse with a 24-year old woman in Gelephu in February this year.

July 2014 – Bumthang police arrested a 35-year-old man from Wangduephodrang for shooting a pornographic clip with a woman which went viral.

July 2014 – Paro police charged a man to court, after he installed a hidden camera in the bathroom to shoot his sister-in-law, who refused his sexual advances. The incident occurred in last June.

While some feel that stricter laws alone won’t make much of a difference in tackling the issue, others said that education and awareness is a must given the increased access to smart phones.

On the requirement for stringent laws as demanded in the online petition, BICMA officials said they are not aware of the online petition.

However, Brigadier Kipchu Namgyal feels that more than stringent laws, it is the respect for law. “Despite tough laws in place, if people are not responsible, they will continue to commit the same act,” he said. “Laws are implemented and interpreted by the court when people come in conflict with law.”

Some sections of the society expressed concerns over the issue condemning the making and circulation of private video clips. They said such acts are not to be tolerated.

“In a small society like ours, knowingly or maliciously humiliating someone is not right,” a parent said. “We shouldn’t tolerate such acts as it could have a huge implication on one’s family.”

Meanwhile, police also warned people about the sharing of video clips with voice recordings that make fun of people from eastern and western parts of the country.

“Such clips are communal in nature and much more severe than the circulation of pornographic materials,” Brigadier Kipchu Namgyal said. “We can book them under the National Security Act as its highly objectionable.”

Kinga Dema