Protecting her must go beyond the ballot boxes

MP Tshering Choden
Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji
MP Dorjee Wangmo

LHAKPA TSHERING

Thimphu

The ongoing National Assembly session has deliberated on a fundamental issue – women and child rights – once again.

Female Members of Parliament (MP) from both the ruling opposition parties questioned the foreign minister Dr. Tandi Dorji, who is also the Chairperson of the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC), steps to prevent and deal with sexual harassment in the workplace and against children.

Responding to having harsher punishment in place does not make the harassment less serious, Lyonpo said, it is “very important” for everyone to be more responsible to report to the relevant agencies if anyone experiences or comes across such incidents.

“The acts are very clear under the Labour and Employment Act, 2007 and Penal Code of Bhutan, 2004. Also, the labor ministry has been advocating addressing such issue and the procedures and systems are in place to report if employees experience sexual harassment,” Lyonpo said.

“Such incidents have occurred in the past, but they went unreported because of lack of awareness and advocacy,” he added. “Now, with more advocacies underway to make workplaces more hospitable, the incidents are even expected to increase. It will help more people to report.”

In addition, he said, the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) also has a dedicated “Go To Person” platform where individuals can report such incidents.

On the soaring number of such incidents being exposed, Lyonpo said he thinks it is a good sign. “This means people are more aware and coming forward to report the incidents,” he said, adding it has feared and alerted the people so that can help to reduce and prohibit sexual harassment at the workplace in the future.

Recognizing the need to suppress such conduct, Lyonpo Dr. Tandi Dorji said, the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) in collaboration with the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BCCI) also conducted training and advocacy for private firms to prevent such misfortunate.

He also informed the House that a committee has been formed in every thromde and dzongkhag to deal with such incidents. “The commission also advocated through postal advocacy and short video clips through television,” he said.

Meanwhile, highlighting sexual harassment in the workplace, Khar-Yurung constituency MP Tshering Choden said, such trends have been increasing every year. “It is worrying that research shows such incidents mostly occurred to females and has caused mental health problems forcing them to leave their jobs,” she added.

Besides, on a woman and a child being sexually assaulted, Sangbaykha constituency MP Dorjee Wangmo said despite passing strict laws from the Parliament, it is a concern to witness the increase of such cases in the country. “As we often come across such disturbing incidents, I feel it should be eliminated.”

Informing the House that 70 percent of the 530 reported cases is the rape of children that were taken places either at work, schools, or at home, she questioned how offices, schools, and parents are failing to protect the women and children against such misfortunes.