Although drayangs are vulnerable to social mistreatments, sexual abuse and harassment, it has provided opportunity to many girls and women wanting to live an independent life, a two-day training workshop for drayangs employees and owners found.

Employees claimed that they understand how the society perceives them but said that they are helpless.

In the workshop organised by a non-governmental organisation RENEW last week, it was found that most employees are from divorced families, single mothers and school drop outs.

A RENEW official said that looking down on those independent women is a misconception that the society has constructed. “Working in a drayang is same as any other employment and the only difference is the working hours.”

RENEW’s director of the Community Outreach Department, Meenakshi Rai (Phd), urged drayang owners to work actively with stakeholders to build a safe working place. “Let us work together to make generations beyond proud of what we are doing today. Let us learn from the mistakes of the world and let’s not repeat it,” she said.

RENEW’s executive director, Tandin Wangmo, said that drayangs have the potential to promote the national dress and preserve traditional music and dances. “Let us come together to make drayangs a respected place. Let’s turn it into the place where a family can come together for a good time.”

She urged drayang owners to collaborate with stakeholders to make life easier for the employees.

Drayang owners said they always wanted to improve the working place and even initiated it. They, however, claim that they are confused with regulations imposed on them by different stakeholders.

Citing an example of placing contraceptives, drayang owners claim that the health ministry has been emphasising on the need to have it in place while Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) has been advising them otherwise.

They said that differences in the payment system and internal services of drayangs have created a gap among drayangs in the case of working environment and the reputations. While some drayangs pay on monthly basis, some base it on song requests they manage to get from customers.

They also claimed that it has been a challenge for them to clear people’s misconception of drayangs.

Meanwhile, drayang employees shared the incident of how girls are abused by customers, physically assaulted by wives of customers, sexually harassed and inappropriately touched by strangers often in their working place. They claim that they tolerate it, as they need the work.