Amidst controversies of the Tsirang child molestation case, those innocent children involved, supposedly victims, are getting further victimization, and the state does nothing.  Except for a short notification from the National Commission of Women and Children (NCWC), there is no state protection for those children involved in the case. The state in this case seems to fail to fulfil the basic constitutional duties to protect these children their right to privacy and right to live freely. The state has failed to take the cognizance of the importance of protection of these children more than convicting the culprit.

The Child Care and Protection Act 2011  (CCPA) envisions that the state must ensure that children are provided “care, protection, guidance, counselling, treatment, development, rehabilitation in the most favourable manner and the best interest of the child.” The law further sets that “the child justice system is essential to uphold the rights of children keeping them safe and promoting their physical and mental well-being.” And the “prevention of child offences is an essential part of crime prevention in the society and requires efforts on the part of the entire society to ensure the harmonious development of the child with respect for and promotion of their personality from early childhood.”

 CCPA further mandates that the “Central and Local Government through concerned agencies or institutions shall provide community-based services responding to special needs, problems, interests and concerns of children including appropriate counselling and guidance to the children, guardians and families.” It is unfortunate to know that even after the video was widely circulated and days have passed, “no agencies or officials approached the children or the parents about how they are coping with the issue.” It is even more disheartening to learn that while NCWC initiated this case, the “NCWC’s focal in Tsirang was not even aware of the case” when the entire nation has been talking about this case.

 The CCPA also mandates that their school as an educational institution must take care of and protect the child through, among others, rehabilitating children in difficult circumstances. In the name of justice, these children are losing justice and are made scapegoats.  The issue came to light right after the Supreme Court upheld the High Court judgment and weeks have passed. The possibilities of their vulnerabilities have been foreseen yet no agency has made any preparations in such anticipation.

 The UN Human Rights Report revealed that “threats to children’s privacy, both in the digital space and out of it, are increasing at alarming rates … Parents have a role to play in protecting their children’s right to privacy, but the state must safeguard children’s rights by establishing appropriate practices and laws.” What we lack is not laws but appropriate practices and mechanisms to protect them.

The Information and Communication Act 2018 also mandates that Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority protect the children from undesirable exposure on online platforms and ensure their privacy. However, relevant agencies like BICMA have also failed to come up with any technologies to take down such images or videos online and have established channels to inform tech platforms like Facebook to delete such videos or images.

This type of incident must activate our state agencies to come up with solutions to protect our children from undesirable consequences. The time has come that we need actual strategies and mechanisms and not just laws.  

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.