Rapists can face up to life imprisonment

The joint sitting adopted the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2019 on Thursday

The joint sitting of the Parliament increased the grading of rape from fourth-degree felony to third-degree felony.

The Chairperson of the joint committee on the Penal Code of Bhutan, Member of Parliament from Haa, Ugyen Namgay presented to the joint sitting the 24 disputed clauses of the Penal Code of Bhutan (Amendment Bill) 2019, which included eight additional new clauses.

The grading of statutory rape or rape of a child below 12 years will be a felony of the first degree punishable by life imprisonment if the defendant is in a position of trust or authority towards a child, or if the defendant is a person with whom the child is in a relationship of dependency and if defendant is in a relationship with a child that is exploitative of the child.

Similarly, the grading of rape of a married person and a pregnant woman has also been increased to third-degree felony while rape of a pregnant woman can also be second-degree felony, if the fetus is harmed or destroyed as direct result of rape.

The offence of gang rape will be a felony of the second-degree and for the gang rape of pregnant woman the offence is increased to second-degree or a first-degree felony if the fetus is harmed or destroyed as direct result of rape.

The parliament decided through Section 213 that homosexual relations between adults should be decriminalized. However, a defendant will be guilty of the offence of unnatural sex if the defendant engages in sexual conduct that is against the order of nature.

On the grading of unnatural sex the committee has retained it as per the original Penal Code-the offence will be a petty misdemeanor.

The Chairperson of the committee, MP Ugyen Namgay said that from 2009 to 2020 more than 370 child rape cases and more than 150 women rape cases were reported and 30 attempts to rape of child plus 59 attempts to rape of women were reported.

“It is important to increase the grading. The Committee has looked into various trends in legislation in the region and abroad,” said the committee chairperson.

Similarly, Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said that the offence of burglary and rape is same in the country and one needs to think about it. “If we increase the punishment, it can end rape cases, but let’s try now.”

However, MP from Gangzur Minjey, Kinga Penjor said that rape should be graded as fourth-degree felony only and it is not necessary to increase the punishment.

He added that whether the prison term is four or five years, if the person is repeating the offence, the punishment term should be increased.

The committee has also recommended value-based sentencing. Offences graded as value-based will be a felony of the second-degree if the value or the amount involved is the minimum wage rate at the time of the crime for a period of 60 years or more.

It will be a felony of the third-degree, if the value or the amount involved in the crime exceeds the total amount of the minimum wage at the time of the crime for a period of less than 60 years and for a period of 30 years.

The value-based offence will be a felony of fourth-degree, if the value of the amount involved in the crime exceeds the total minimum wage at the time of the crime multiplied by less than thirty years and for a period of fifteen years or more.

The joint sitting adopted the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2019 on Thursday with 63 “yes” and “six” abstain votes of the 69 members present in the House.

Dechen Dolker from Thimphu