Guidelines: In an effort to standardise care for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, the national referral hospital in Thimphu is working on formulating national guidelines for management of domestic and sexual violence survivors in the health sector.

The forensic medicine department with the national referral hospital and the Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan (KGUMSB) drafted the guidelines last year.

Consultative workshops with the officials from the health ministry, National Commission for Women and Children, dzongkhag health care workers and other relevant stakeholders were also held.

In the same year, the department in collaboration with KGUMSB trained six health workers from six dzongkhag hospitals in management of survivors of sexual violence and domestic violence.

Forensic specialist, Dr Norbu said that currently there is no standard on management of domestic and sexual violence victims in the dzongkhag hospitals because of which the victims do not get comprehensive care.

In addition to meeting health care needs, there are also legal aspects associated with the occurrence of a sexual assault or domestic violence that may have to be addressed.

Lack of standards on management of survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence in the dzongkhag hospitals contribute to inadequate information and evidence that could lead to miscarriage of justice, he said.

The guidelines will focus on the importance of evidentiary examinations, during which, health care providers assess the medical needs of survivors while collecting evidence for law enforcement purposes.

The guidelines will also include methods to handle the survivors and to follow-up on the patient, among others.

Dr Norbu said that with these guidelines in place, it is hoped that the survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence have access to timely support and  comprehensive care to address their individual health and forensic needs.

Currently the department is carrying out a desk review on domestic and sexual violence to assess the health sectors’ response to the domestic and sexual violence survivors in the country.

To disseminate the guidelines to other health care centres in the country, an approval from the health ministry is required, Dr Norbu said. The department will discuss with the ministry and see if the ministry can offer the facilities in the guidelines to district health centres.

The final draft guidelines will be submitted to the health ministry for consideration as national guidelines.

The forensic department in the referral hospital registered 325 domestic violence and 35 sexual assault cases last year.

The United Nations Population Fund provided financial support for the project.

Dechen Tshomo