The time couldn’t be more befitting. As the ‘One Billion Rising’ coalition mobilized men and women across the globe to demand an end to violence against women and children on February 14, the National Council in its ongoing session adopted the Domestic Violence Prevention Bill 2012 on February 18.
Such initiatives would certainly go a long way in combating violence in almost all its forms that has always pervaded women’s lives, not only globally but also in our society as well.
Detailed or accurate information on violence against women in Bhutan may be hard to get, but to say it doesn’t exists is a sheer understatement. The reported cases in the media are just the tip of an iceberg. Most of the cases go unreported or are withdrawn.
It’s perhaps because of the privacy of the matter, for fear of stigmatization or trepidation in cases where a woman is a dependant. And even if they want to, most of the women are oblivious of the laws and organizations that stand up for them.
A research carried out by RENEW on violence against women in Thimphu in 2007 has revealed some alarming facts. A survey conducted on 867 women (ages ranging between 15 years and 69 years) from urban areas and 102 women from rural areas, 165 men and 118 children shows that violence is prevalent in a woman’s life, whether single or married.
While 144 women (77%) reported case of physical abuse, 101 women (54%) reported undergoing emotional torment while 44 women (23%) reported forced sex.
Violence against women has been considered morally wrong in Bhutan but despite this consideration, it continues to prevail. Many unfortunate women have become victims to physically abusive husbands, sometimes suffering battery and forceful sex. And instances of working women facing some form of harassment at their workplaces are also sprouting up.
Alcohol consumption, financial problem and extra-marital affairs are often outlined as reasons for domestic violence in the country. But what is little known is that these are just triggering factors.
Solution to these factors just won’t suffice if we are serious about addressing this issue. We need to change the rooted discrimination against women which continues to be emboldened by socio-cultural belief, gender concepts, inequalities and hierarchies. More is found wanting than a policy alone. An Act on domestic violence, as some put in, does legalize the issue, but it doesn’t solve the problem per se.
What is found wanting for now is attitude and behavioral changes against women that stems from the inherited psyche of society; and for a start, we can begin with effective public education and rigorous campaign.