Netizens are demanding an reinvestigation into the sexual harassment case in Tsirang after allegations of botched investigation surfaced online.
With the investigating authority, the Royal Bhutan Police, not explaining how the case was handled, netizens have already jumped to conclusions based on allegations and assumptions.
The online discussions are nothing, but ugly and dangerous. Anonymous and half-informed netizens are blaming law enforcers, prosecuting agency and the judiciary for failing their moral and professional duty.
What is sad in the whole discussion is that no one is raising questions about the safety of the children involved and their interests.
A judicial investigation by the Tsirang dzongkhag court more than a year and a half after the incident was reported revealed fear amongst the children involved. They had also told court officials how the defendant had kissed and pinched them.
Child abuse is a serious issue.
Existing data shows every six out of 10 children in the country are abused physically. About 12 percent of our children also experience sexual violence. In most of the cases, the abusers are caregivers, including teachers.
Studies have also shown that children do not report violence and do not seek help because of embarrassment, fear of retaliation and lack of knowledge about how to report and seek help.
While we want to believe that the teacher is innocent and he was wrongfully convicted, we have to ensure that the children involved are also safe. Bhutanese parents are gullible and take such issues lightly. We already have a case where a mother sent her 13-year-old child to a teacher’s house against the daughter’s wishes even when she knew the teacher sexually molested the child claiming the teacher might fail her in her exams deliberately. The case was also not reported by the parents.
Researches have also shown that sexual and physical abuses in children have a serious impact on their physical and mental health. Children who suffered traumas and have had little parental support may develop post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.
So, if there has to be a reinvestigation into the case, it should be done in the interest of the children involved as much as to exonerate the teacher. It should ensure the parents are not influenced.
As a nodal agency for child protection, the National Commission for Women and Children cannot close its eyes or ears. If officials were involved in the case since the beginning, it is their professional responsibility to safeguard the children involved.
The police cannot afford to stay silent. It is not about an official or two, but about public trust and faith in the system. They have to convince the public that the defendant was not coerced to confess the crime.
The innocent should not suffer. The guilty should be punished.