The International Women’s Day is observed to celebrate women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements. The day also marks a call for accelerating gender parity.
The findings of the study, the National Commission for Women and Children conducted, released on the Day, have nothing to celebrate. It says that at least two or more in every five women experienced one or more forms of partner violence. Violence here is sexual, physical, psychological or economic.
This is a huge number. Perhaps the report could draw attention to this stark reality our women are going through.
Domestic violence is not a new trend. If it is becoming a widely discussed issue with more women becoming aware of the problem, studies like the NCWC’s confirms the prevalence of such a societal ill.
There is an accepted belief that because of our tradition our women are far better when it comes to gender equality or domination. This stems from claiming to be a tolerant society. The tolerance is with women that are abused or harassed. For many reasons, any form of violence, subtle it may be, is not reported or talked about.
The tolerance is imposed upon by cultural or traditional beliefs. Add to this the social pressure. Women will gossip and even laugh sharing stories, but not necessarily make an issue out of it unless it is severe and late.
This has to change. We have bemoaned the lack of in-depth researches or studies, of lack of appropriate institutions and capacities to handle the problem. As we witness drastic changes in every aspect of socio-economic and political life, the problem is becoming more visible.
How we handle these problems is the new issue. We may have legislations and institutions, but domestic violence is a complex issue in the Bhutanese context. If women feel it is justifiable for a man to hit them for not taking care of the children or questioning them on their morality, it is a bigger problem.
Marital rape or forced sexual intercourse as an issue is new to many, both women and men. Reporting it as sexual violence will take time. Awareness and strictly implementing legislation like the Domestic Violence Prevention Act might help, but not when victims or perpetrators cannot distinguish between psychological abuse or a casual remark. Bhutanese men and women love making fun of their spouses.
The problem is when not knowing where to draw the line.
Domestic violence doesn’t happen on its own. There are other factors like lack of education, alcohol or men’s attitude. The man’s role is the most important.
There are double standards when it comes to sexualities. Men boast about their sexual adventures and get congratulated but women are shamed and abused for their sexuality. If a man picks up a woman from a bar, he is congratulated. If a woman does the same, she is immoral.
The fight against domestic violence should be a collective effort. There is the need of awareness and education. It should start with men.