Just as in any other country, sex crimes are not uncommon in Bhutan. But the recent stories of sexual abuse involving a health staff and a schoolteacher in Thimphu have shattered the entire nation. On the night of 5th April 2018, a health technician at JDW National Referral Hospital had allegedly raped a patient’s attendant after injecting her with an anesthetic drug in the pretext of testing her blood for transfusion. Then within the same week, another painful story of how nine young schoolgirls in a private school in Thimphu were sexually molested by their own vice-principal surfaced in the media and further shocked us even before we could recover from the trauma and shame caused by the earlier incident. It is very unfortunate that the very souls who are ethically bound to provide protection and care to their clients have themselves become a threat to the society. Although the crime committed by one health staff and one teacher should not be used as a yardstick to measure the professional conduct of thousands of teachers and health workers in the country, these stories certainly send out a clear message that our society is not always safe especially for women.
Sex offences like the recent incidents are a huge disgrace to the male gender. These stories sometimes make me feel ashamed to call myself a man. Women an girls should not be viewed as sex objects. They also have the right to live a life of equal dignity and respect. It is sad that with pedophiles and rapists lurking in the nook and corner of our society, the safety of our mothers, sisters, wives and daughters is becoming a great concern today. Some people have already begun to wonder where else they can be safe when they are not safe even in the hospital and the school. Of course, the madness of one or two crazy individuals does not represent the mentality of the entire society as highlighted earlier. It is understandable that as human beings, we have the tendency to make mistakes and that nobody is perfect in the world, but crimes of such a gravity cannot be committed by accident. At the end of the day, the victims should get the justice they deserve and the guilty should pay the price for his crimes.
In the wake of such a turbulent moment for Bhutan, the Education Minister, Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk has written an open letter to the principals and teachers on social media reminding them of their sacred role and responsibilities in creating a safe and secure learning environment for children in the schools. “Let us use this incident to strengthen our efforts, motivate our drives and inspire our dreams to make our schools a safe and happy places for learning for our children.” the letter reads. As the Minister has expressed, this incident has deeply touched all of us as a nation and we should definitely come together to make our society more safe and peaceful for our women and children.
(The writer blogs at amrithdiary.wordpress.com)