Prevention first!

Time and again, we come across stories of atrocities against children and women that question whether we are going wrong somewhere. Stories that question the humanity in us.

The latest unfortunate incident is that of the alleged rape of an eight-year-old girl in Wangdue, where a 22-year-old man was arrested in connection to the case on July 20.

The incident occurred when the child was returning home alone from school in the afternoon. It was the villagers working in the fields who saw the girl in pain and informed her parents. The police were accordingly alerted by the school after the parents informed the school about the incident.

One thing for certain is that not only rape cases across the country, but we are also seeing more statutory rape cases despite the Penal Code of Bhutan clearly spelling out that the rape of a child below 12 years is a statutory rape with a minimum prison term of 15 years to life.

According to the Penal Code, statutory rape is when the defendant engages in sexual intercourse with a child below 12 years, or an incompetent person, either with or without knowledge of the other person being a child or incompetent person.

In 2021, there were eight statutory rape cases. In 2020, there was a total of 53 reported cases of rape in the country. The number increased to 75 cases in 2021; an increase of almost 22 cases.

Itโ€™s timely, therefore, that we treat these epidemics of violence against women and young girls as a primary issue. Itโ€™s an urgent issue that demands urgent action. One thing for certain is that we have strong enough policies and laws to protect our children and prevent such cases of abuse. However, what is becoming more apparent now is that the stringent laws and punishments alone will not be enough to deter people from committing such heinous acts.

So how do we stop this evil of rape, sexual assault, and child abuse? Or should it be accepted that this is a world in which such things are normal?

As in the case of Wangdue, the police urging all the schools and parents to coordinate in sending and picking their children to and from schools is a sensible solution that can help avert such mishaps. This would at least ensure that children are not alone when they come to their schools and go back to their homes.

Instead of creating a climate where victims feel they can come forward instead of keeping their suffering to themselves and seek justice, and seriously condemning any act of rape, sexual assault, and child abuse, the efforts and focus must be on averting such cases from happening in the first place. It is the responsibility of every individual.