Separate postings of married civil servant couples also discussed

Assembly: Deeming rape, suicide and abortion a growing national concern, the National Assembly (NA) recommended that the government initiate a comprehensive research pertaining to these social ills.

“The committee submitted that a thorough research be conducted on suicide, abortion and rape to come up with concrete prevention measures,” women, children and youth committee chairperson Tshewang Jurmi said while presenting the report on implementation of resolutions of the NA passed during the 7th session of the second Parliament on women and children.

Rape, suicide and abortion caught the attention of most of the NA members after the committee presented figures of such cases to the House. As per the report, 149 rapes were reported in the last five years.

The committee also reported that most of the rape victims were children aged 18 years and below. “The committee deems it important to highlight the issue to the House to find ways to address the problem,” the report stated.

A concern over the increasing number of suicides, which stands at 412 in the last five years was also raised. Abortion, as per the committee has also become an alarmingly serious issue with 1,566 cases reported in 2015 up from 1,399 in 2011 according to the statistics the report presented from the public heath department.

Upon learning the numbers, the works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden said that rape, abortion and suicide merits comprehensive research. “The nation should also be concerned with an increasing number of rape of minors,” she said, adding  that those accused of rape of a minor don’t even deserve a trial in court.

“Even in past meetings of women and children issues, concerns were raised whether even the laws weren’t lenient,” Lyonpo said, adding that sexual and reproductive education to girls must be strengthened to reduce teenage pregnancies.

However, health minister Tandin Wangchuk quickly clarified that abortion alone doesn’t make up the 1,566 figure. The number of abortion isn’t as alarming since most of 1,566 were miscarriages and some pre-mature deaths.

The nation, he said, should rather be concerned about those unreported illegal abortions carried out across the border since many are coming to hospitals with post-abortion complications.  “In absence of lack of proper rules there is nothing the hospitals can do even when people come with post-abortion complications,” he said.

On suicide, Lyonpo said that the ministry has started working on suicide prevention guidelines and awareness programmes.

The committee also put forward that the Royal Civil Service Commission should effectively implement simultaneous transfer of civil servants spouses to the same location. Clause 14.4.10 under chapter 14 of the Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations states that if both the husband and wife are civil servants, their simultaneous transfer to the same location, shall be facilitated, as far as possible.

The report states that of the 5,813 registered under the civil service welfare scheme, 710 married to spouses within the civil service are found to be working from different places. As a result they undergo double expenditure, difficulty in raising children, adultery, family separation and social disharmony among other problems.

“In order to promote a just and harmonious society it is important to consider and facilitate transfer of spouses in the same place,” Tshewang Jurmi said.

Education minister Norbu Wangchuk said the issue concerns his ministry gravely. “While its been easy to give simultaneous transfer if both husband and wife were teachers but the problem has been when a teacher is married to someone outside the teaching,” he said.

But simultaneous transfer however could be resolved as the ministry is working on the “one teacher, one subject” model.

The committee also recommended that the government come up with measures to reduce and address rising youth crime. “Since there is not much budget to improve sporting facilities, it led to doubt if this is not the reason why children are going haywire,” Tshewang Jurmi said.

The other recommendations included the high-level task force continuing to work towards expediting the rectification of the United Nations Conventions of Persons with Disabilities and effective implementation of the existing alcohol reduction policy.

The report also recommended that entertainment issues pertaining to drayangs be included in the new information communication and media Bill 2016. “The committee’s recommendation comes after feedback from the communities reported drayangs as an eye sore and disturbance while girls working there are stigmatised,” Tshewang Jurmi said.

Tempa Wangdi