Certain that laws can be the solution to the increasing problem of rape in the country, our parliamentarians have been amending clauses in the Penal Code of Bhutan to make harsher punishments for rapists.
The last amendment was done on December 10, 2020 when the joint sitting of the Parliament condemned the act of rape and amended eight clauses on rape in the Penal Code of Bhutan.
Rape, rape of a married person or a pregnant woman was made a third-degree felony, according to the amended Penal Code. The Penal Code of Bhutan 2004 earlier graded these acts as fourth-degree crimes with a sentence of three to five years in prison.
Despite the amendment, what is startling is that we continue to witness such cases time and again. It won’t be wrong per se to say that the harsher penalties have not deterred people from committing such crimes.
Reportedly between 2009 and 2020, there were 372 rape of children cases excluding 30 attempt-to-rape cases. Further, we had 158 cases of rape of women and 59 attempted rapes in the country. The figures again may not be the actual depiction of the real scenario. This is because many cases go unreported for fear of trauma and social stigmatization.
A recent case involves an eight-year-old girl, who was raped on June 10 in Samtse. Police in Samtse maintained that they are still investigating that case. Apart from that, there has reportedly been no development in the case.
Similarly, agitated and frustrated followers are still waiting for the police in Paro about the results of their investigation concerning an eight-year-old girl, whose dead body was found meters above the Satsam Chorten in Paro on September 18, 2019 after she was sexually assaulted and murdered. There has reportedly been no development in this case too though the police maintained that they are investigating the case.
These gruesome tragedies that have been inflicted on our children is, therefore, a wakeup call for our law enforcement officials especially those in the police force that such perpetrators are arrested and given the penalties that they deserve. The police must be held accountable if they are not able to carry out the task as expected of them.
It could also be because the perpetrators are walking free instead of being arrested by the police, because of the latter failing to do their task, that is perhaps also encouraging such violence against our young children. The police must, therefore, ensure that every perpetrator of such gruesome violence against our young children is arrested and that the victim and their families get justice. More than anything for now, we want results rather than the same old rhetoric.