The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) charged a 36-year-old man from Kuengarabten in Trongsa for child abuse earlier this month after police forwarded them the case of a drayang owner employing a minor.

The case surfaced in June this year after the drayang owner lodged a complaint against the kidu officer in Trongsa for an alleged rape of the minor.

While Trongsa police forwarded the alleged rape case and alleged employment of the minor to OAG, OAG is still waiting for the forensic report on the alleged rape case.

According to the charges, the drayang owner claimed that another drayang owner in Thimphu sent girls working in his drayang to Trongsa to work for him.

It also stated that the man said that while one girl produced citizenship identity card to confirm her age, the minor said she is 18 years old and her citizenship identity card is under process. Since she appeared above 18 years from her physical looks, he said that he believed her.

It was also found that the two girls have worked in the drayang in Thimphu for more than seven months.

However, OAG charged the man for violating section 221 of the Penal Code of Bhutan 2004, which states, “A defendant shall be guilty of the offence of a child abuse if the defendant subjects a child to an economic exploitation or any job that is likely to be hazardous.”

The crime is graded a misdemeanour.

OAG, in the charges, submitted that section 9 of the Labour and Employment Act of Bhutan 2007 also prohibits worse forms of child abuse and section 9 (n) of the Regulations on Working Conditions framed by labour ministry prohibits children between 13 -17 years of age to work in drayangs.

It stated that the drayang owner was charged for violating Penal Code only because the doctrine of lenity mandates that if the crime is mentioned in two Acts, the benefit shall be given to the accused  and shall be charged under the act that prescribes a lower sentencing.

OAG also submitted that although the Labour and Employment Act of Bhutan 2007 is a special Act, it does not specify drayang in particular. “So the defendant could not be charged for violating the Act.”

It also stated that although the labour ministry’s Regulations on Working Conditions specified that children between 13-17 years should not be employed in drayang, according to the principles of interpretation of statutes, if the offence is not included in any main act but in regulations, the offence will be considered null and void.

OAG also requested the court to order the drayang owner to compensate the girl according to section 36 of the Penal Code.

Staff reporter