22 cases were reported among women below 18 years while 25 cases involved men
With at least four women experiencing domestic violence each month or one each week, Trashigang tops the list of violence against women cases, according to records with Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW).
Of the 385 cases reported until November 22 this year, 45 cases were from Trashigang. Punakha is next with 33 cases followed by Samtse and Dagana reporting 29 cases each. Of the 385, 42 cases were non-domestic violence cases.
RENEW’s Director with Community Outreach Department, Dr Meenakshi Rai, said that cases related to property distribution, children census and abuse by strangers are non-domestic violence cases. “There are four types of violence – physical, sexual, psychological or emotional and economic.”
Psychological or emotional violence is referred to feeling insulted, humiliated, scared or intimidated due to yelling or smashing things.
Among the 385 cases, RENEW identified 151 as victims to emotional abuse.
Dr Meenakshi Rai said that 97 cases of economic abuse and 82 cases of psychical abuse were recorded until November 22 this year. “Economic violence is defined as denial of access to basic economic needs to an individual.”
With 99 cases, the highest case of violence was reported among those between 19 to 25 years. There were 22 cases reported among those below 18 years.
Last year 364 cases including six percent of men victim were reported. This year 25 men reported to RENEW.
These records were shared at a conference on November 23 in Thimphu, which was held to mark the international day for the elimination of violence against women, which is observed today. About 40 volunteers of Community Based Support System (CBSS) from 20 dzongkhags attended the conference.
Following a recycled handicraft exhibition on November 23, the volunteers discussed on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), sexually transmitted infections and their risk factors.
SRHR is a concept of human rights applied to sexuality and reproduction.
Gynaecologist with Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH), Dr Ugyen Tshomo, said that all individuals have the right to information and right to services. However, the CBSS volunteers raised concerns on abortion rights.
Abortion is allowed if a pregnancy can cause severe disability, develop disease or if a baby has deformities, Dr Ugyen Tshomo said. “In rape cases, if a victim can prove it, abortion is legalised.”
However, a staff at JDWNRH and CBSS volunteer, Jigme Choden, said that proving rape cases take time and a baby is fully developed when the cases get proven.
In countries with advanced facilities, an individual can receive abortion until four months of pregnancy. However, in Bhutan the minimum time period if legalised is three months.
Jigme Choden said the rules are stringent and lack of information is also a concern. She added that in a survey she conducted few years ago, one in five women have unplanned pregnancy. “Fifty percent of the respondents said that they knew someone who had abortion. And most of them had it across the border.”
The issue of pregnancy within women with disability and mental sickness were also discussed at the conference.
Dr Ugyen Tshomo said that in some cases in Bhutan, anatomy is performed to avoid pregnancy in women with disability.
She added that women and young adolescents should be aware of reproductive health and learn self-protection. “Sexuality education is important for children. In Bhutan we don’t have it.”
Health officials recommended using contraceptives to prevent unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Head of Health Information Service Centre, Ngawang Choida, said that men having sex with men, is the main risk factor for STIs. He said that although oral sex may not be popular in the country, oral sex can cause infections, which if not treated can cause diseases.
The emerging issue of cervical and breast cancer among women was also highlighted.
Dr Ugyen Tshomo said that about 50 cervical cancer patients are treated and about 20 individuals die every year due to cancer – which is preventable and treatable. “For health officials to diagnose cervical cancer, it is important for women to have Pap smear test.”
Women who were and are sexually active are vulnerable to cervical cancer. In Bhutan, to avoid cervical cancer, girls aged 12 were provided Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines in the past.
Dr Ugyen Tshomo said that cervical cancer is caused by 13 types of virus. “The vaccine protects against two types of virus, which cause 70 percent of cervical cancer.”