NA members question governmentโ€™s policies and measures to tackle sexual harassment at workplace

As the Chairperson of the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC), Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Tandi Doji was asked about the policies and measures in place to prevent increasing sexual harassment cases at workplace during the question-answer session of the National Assembly.

The Member of Parliament (MP) from Khar โ€“Yurung constituency, Tshering Chhoden shared with the house that sexual harassment at workplace has been increasing every year with a majority of 40 to 60% being women and young girls.

According to the MP, it was very astonishing and such ill-behaviors make the victims (women) go through different mental illnesses or depression, thus making them resign from work.

The MP then questioned about the policies and measures in place to prevent such incidents.

Responding to the question, Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Tandi Dorji responded that the current increase in sexual harassment cases was possible because of the proper spread of information and communication.

According to the minister, sexual harassment cases were there even during the olden days, but not much was heard about. Now because of the media, there are lots of platforms for people to spread awareness and seek help, and so there is an increase in such cases.

โ€œThere will and should be more cases reported in the future as well, which is good as it shows that victims are coming forward,โ€ the minister said, adding that if people (victims) have access to such platforms and communicate with others, the number of harassers will also decrease.

On reporting harassment cases, the minister disclosed that there are many platforms through which a victim can report harassment issue โ€“ through a helpline, โ€œGo to personโ€ (introduced in 2008 for women to report sexual harassment cases through phone), toll free number 1098, and mobile app.

Further, the minister said it is everyoneโ€™s responsibility to report if they see incidents of sexual harassment.

โ€œIf not reported, there is always a high chance that the harasser will repeat it again. So it is everyoneโ€™s responsibility. Thus, there can be decrease in sexual harassment cases,โ€ the minister said.

Similarly, the MP from Sombaykha constituency, Dorjee Wangmo said there are still cases of harassment despite there being strict laws against assailants, NCWC spreading awareness on the issue and lots of other campaigns being held on sexual harassment.

โ€œHow and why is the government failing to protect women and children? Where is the loophole?โ€ she questioned.

As a father of two daughters and having been a doctor of children, the minister said he has seen how such incidents occur.

โ€œI assume that we fail because it is a responsibility of every individual, be it in a family or office. It is everyoneโ€™s responsibility,โ€ Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji said.

One reason for the occurrence of sexual harassment, according to the minister, is that most victims keep it a secret because of embarrassment issue. 

According to the minister, the NCWC also spreads awareness in all the 20 Dzongkhags and has appointed representatives from the Gewog to the Dzongkhag, who will report and assist the victims immediately. Children in schools are also made aware about good touch and bad touch through videos.

The minister also urged parents and teachers to teach their children to respect women. โ€œIf the children grow up with the lesson to respect women, later it will become a habit and they will always respect women,โ€ Lyonpo added.

Kuenzang Choden from Thimphu