Bhutanese pornography gains popularity in WeChat groups

It’s no secret that porn is everywhere, and now with it dominating WeChat app in particular, porn seems to be shooting up in popularity. However, there are no reported hard numbers to be found on the amount of Bhutanese porn clips being circulated especially in WeChat app.

Computer pornography is a distribution of an obscene photograph or picture on the computer or over the Internet, according to the Penal Code of Bhutan.

The Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) registered 17 cases of computer pornography from 2007 to May 2019.

The figures, a police official said, can be more than the reported cases. From the reported cases, 13 were convicted while two have been forwarded to Office of Attorney General (OAG) and one was withdrawn.

Filming and sharing of pornography is illegal in Bhutan and section 476 of the penal code states that if a person publishes and distributes an obscene photograph or picture on the computer or over the Internet, a crime of computer pornography has been committed. It is a misdemeanor nature and the defendant is liable for a sentence of one to three years in prison. The offence is compoundable. A thrimthue (compensation) can be paid in lieu of imprisonment term.

Business Bhutan found out from various sources that people create closed groups on Wechat under various names to share and circulate Bhutanese porn clips, such as ‘God of sex’ which has around 30 to 40 all male members and circulates all kinds of short clips of pornography.

The group members are known to each other while another group named ‘Triple X’ which also has about 40 members including women share porn clips especially Bhutanese amateur porn clips. In this group the members do not know each other except for few.

Another Wechat group name ‘Kaktus’ currently has more than nine members and the members are known to each other.

Most of the people Business Bhutan casually spoke to as to why people share Bhutanese porn clips after they receive from their friends said the reason is to identify and know the people involved in the clip.

A hiccup for police to investigate the case is that victims are not forthcoming and also no formal complaints are lodged most of the time.

A 28-year-old private employee said that he is not surprised to receive and see Bhutanese porn clips being circulated especially in Wechat app. “I have seen such clips long time back during my college days but I was not aware of groups being created to circulate particularly such clips,” he said.

“I was added to such groups by my friends but I left after few months. Those days in college I was young and excited to watch but not anymore,” he added.

A private employee who also happened to be in such a group said that in a day he used to receive almost four to five short clips of Bhutanese porn.

Circulation and sharing of several locally made amateur pornographic clips via Wechat back in 2014 had caused outrage among neitizens. Voices were raised on social media and authorities called to attention. A few arrests were made. An online petition signed by over 2,000 people demanding strict laws on such sexual materials was submitted to former Prime Minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay.

Namgay Zaman activist, a journalist and currently the Executive Director (ED) of Journalist Association of Bhutan (JAB) was involved with the online petition. Two clauses (421 and 424) have been added to the Information, Communication and Media Act 2018 because of the petition. She followed up and received an email from MoIC in 2017 that these two clauses had been added but that the Act (then a Bill) was being discussed at the National Council.

The clauses are under Chapter 22 of the Act (Offences and Penalties).

Section 421 states that a person, who knowingly publishes, distributes or transmits or causes to be published, distributed or transmitted, by means of an ICT apparatus, facility, service or system, any obscene communication or material shall be liable for offence of misdemeanor, and be liable to pay compensation to the victim for the damage caused, as determined by the court.

While the section 424 states that a person shall be liable for offence of felony of fourth degree, if he or she publishes, distributes or transmits or cause to be published, distributed or transmitted any obscene communication or material which depicts children engaged in sexually explicit act or conduct; creates text or digital images, collects, seeks, browses, downloads, advertises, promotes, exchanges or distributes material in any form depicting children in obscene or indecent or sexually explicit manner; or records in any form, own abuse, or that of others pertaining to sexually explicit act with children.

Chencho Dema from Thimphu