Phuentsholing’s story has to start from what goes on inside and outside its borders. It is in so many ways different from the rest of the country. Offering different strokes to different folks, the town has managed to build quite a reputation for itself. A reputation, that can often times leave one stirred and shaken.
To take a glimpse, the illicit supplies of pharmaceutical drugs into the country make its entry from there. So do pills that take care of unwanted pregnancies. And, if it is a little too late for the pill to work its effect, there are quacks that have set up seedy clinics offering discreet abortions to girls caught in a fix. The only problem is that what is supposed to be discreet turns into a messy affair with consequences that are dire not only for the unborn child but for the mother as well.
In the past three years, the city corporation has had to hire people to dispose of eight fetuses thrown near dustbins and secluded areas within the city premises. And those are just the cases that make it to the spotlight. So, first, let’s get past the obvious. This is a dangerous trend. This very issue was brought to light by this paper some years back when it ran a story on its cover page along with a photograph of the abandoned fetus. But, rather than doing something about it by the authorities concerned, like say introducing sex education in schools whereby educating children about the pitfalls of sex and pregnancies or about the adverse outcome of an abortion performed by someone other than a qualified medical practitioner, the media regulatory authority chose to slap a fine because it felt the paper had crossed the line. Indeed, the photograph on display was gruesome, but that is not the point.
The point is, that, if authorities can in fact take action so quickly based on the information they have in front of them, why has this issue been neglected and the mess left for a cash-strapped city corporation to clean up, year after year? How much more adverse can it be than the loss of lives because of a lack of proper education and advocacy?
Abortion is illegal in Bhutan. But, that doesn’t mean that the subject too has to be taboo. For fear of being ostracized by friends, by family, by society, young girls in need of help, with no one to turn to, decide to take matters into their own hands. The result is there for us all to see. It is this complexity, because Bhutanese society still feels today that sex and everything related to it is a personal matter and should remain that way, which has and will continue to compound the problem further.