Awareness campaign against domestic voilence raises Nu 336,965 in a day

RENEW: In what could be the biggest awareness campaign to eliminate violence against women in Bhutan, over 600 women and men walked more than 13 kilometres yesterday in Thimphu to join the world in observing the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW.)

The walk themed ‘Orange your Neighbourhood’, which Her Royal Highness Princess Kezang Choden Wangchuck flagged off from Drolma Lhakhang in Pangrizampa raised Nu 336,965 as donation.

RENEW’s executive director Tandin Wangmo said the day is observed to remind every Bhutanese that homes are places that everyone must feel safe, secure and most importantly- loved and not a place for a continuous fight for dominance over one another.

“We must be concerned, because at RENEW, we see cases of violence against women and children from every corner of the country and we must not let that continue,” she said. “Ending domestic violence requires long-term commitment and strategy involving all sections of society. We  know that every individual  can set the tone for zero tolerance to violence.”

A recent study on the ‘situation of violence against women in Bhutan’ states that about two in 100 women, aged 15 to 49 years, are likely to be sexually abused before the age of 15. Globally, one in three women experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.

The study pointed out that women aged 15-49 years who had experienced violence were significantly more likely to have health problems, emotional distress and thoughts of suicide. Women of the same age category were also more likely to report miscarriages and induced abortions.

The study found the perpetrators of violence were both within the family and outside. The prevalence is, however, not as alarming as that in some neighboring countries.

Among the different forms of violence, emotional violence is seen to be the most prevalent and sexual violence the least prevalent in the country. “The prevalence of controlling behavior among intimate partners of women is alarming, but explainable by the traditional socio-cultural norms found in the country,” the study states.

Rural women were at higher risk of violence and knowing that poverty in the country is still a rural phenomenon, the study concluded that elimination of poverty would contribute to elimination of violence against women.

President of RENEW volunteers, Dolma Drukpa, said, although not rampant, violence against women Bhutan was visible in the form of battery, suicide and mental torture.

This violence directly or indirectly is attributed to alcoholism, substance abuse and extra marital affairs.

She said, the GNH survey 2015 also found that a majority of the 614 respondents who were found to be unhappy were women. The survey found 47.87 percent of the population being narrowly happy and 8.75 percent as unhappy.

As a teacher for the last 31 years, she said she could say that many children are exposed to violence at home and in the communities they grow up, which leave a permanent scar in their lives.

“Seeing and experiencing the scenes of father battering the mother and vice versa, they intend to perceive that it is the way of life and replicate the same when they become adults,” she said.

However, officials said the reality is that unless the issue received highest consideration of the political leaders and other organizations, the situation could explode.

The day was also observed with similar walks across the country. In Nganglam over 250 people walked around the town and raised Nu 92,000.

The walk that ended at the Clock Tower Square was dedicated to the Fourth Druk Gyalpo’s 60th Birth Anniversary.

By Nirmala Pokhrel