Police recorded 302 cases of violence against women until October this year. This means almost everyday a woman was abused either physically or mentally.
“These reported cases, where the victims are women, don’t only include wife battery but also includes cases of emotional violence,” said Women and Child Protection Unit’s Additional Superintendent of Police, Major Karma Rigzin.
Wife battery is the most common violence cases reported across the police stations in the country.
National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) receives an average of five cases of women and children abuse everyday including toll free helpline 1098 and walk in clients.
Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW) received 400 cases of domestic violence so far this year.
Head of Forensics and One Stop Crisis Center with JigmeDorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH), Dr Norbu said that the cases are steadily increasing over the years. “In 2005, when documentation initially started, there were just about 100 cases of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and around three cases of sexual violence.”
But in the recent times, about 400 cases of IPV and about 80 cases of sexual violence were reported every year at JDWNRH.
Despite efforts made by the concerned agencies, violence against women still remains a hidden problem where several cases continue to go unreported according to police and NGOs working for the well-being of women and children.
“Only one percent of survivors reports to social services,” a RENEW official said.
Social stigma, embarrassment, threats to more violence and tolerance are some of the reasons why women and girls choose not to report, officials said.
A NCWC’s 2017 study on violence against women and girls in the country found that more than 40 percent of 298 women who experienced physical or sexual partner violence have never told anyone. Only 4.5 percent sought help from women’s organisation.
Controlling behaviours are the most commonly reported form of violence followed by emotional, physical, economic and then sexual violence, according to the study.
Gender-based violence (GBV) against women and girls is one of the most significant social issues in the country today with widespread impacts on health and well-being, productivity and on national development, officials said.
Officials said that most of the cases of violence occur after the perpetrators abuse alcohol.
Difficulty in changing the mindset and behavior of perpetrators, lack of technical capacity and underreporting of cases were some of the major challenges confronting service providers such as RENEW, NCWC, and police, among others today.
A retired psychiatrists, Dr Chencho Dorji said that there was a huge disconnect between domestic violence law and the ground reality. “The laws have to be easy to implement.”
A RENEW official said that the organisation today are exploring opportunities to work closely with policy makers, community and monastic body to advocate about gender-based violence and to change the behaviour of perpetrators.
Major Karma Rigzin said Police have recently initiated a junior-level training course at Jigmeling, Sarpang which includes briefing on the relevant acts.
NCWC Director Kunzang Lhamo pointed out the need for specialised and qualified individuals to improve services to women and children.
They were speaking at a panel discussion hosted by RENEW and Chevening Alumni on November 23. The event was a part of pre-programme of the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Men are abused too
Besides women and children, the service providers also cater counseling services to men facing violence from their intimate partners.
“Of 415 cases reported to Police Stations till October this year, 17 cases were of men abused by their wives,” said Major Karma Rigzin.
Major Karma Rigzin said that the units provide men the same treatment it gives to women; however, they choose to mediate within the station.
“While domestic and economic violence is common among men from their partners, many men don’t come forward because of social stigma,” a RENEW official said.
Until today, RENEW had dealt with 12 men abuse cases.