Bhutan Peoples' Party
The time has come for all Bhutanese women to put their hands together and struggle for the right to live as human being. The slogan, “Men and Women are equal” has to be translated by providing opportunity to women. The government should set up special laws to protect women from Gender based violence and promote women’s right. The state should take up the responsibility to empower women, providing space in the political and social Institution of the Nation. Majority of the people live in rural areas. The women living in rural areas have pathetic condition. The women who comprise 49 percent of the population are still engulfed by the “vicious circle of ignorance” such as Child Marriage (regarded as boon), Husband as Lord, Women are obliged to perform domestic task, no space in decision-making that affects women life etc. Many women are forced to provide difficult physical labour beyond their esteem and accomplishment. The Psychological traumas of inferiority still exist in the midst of the Bhutanese women. The lack of awareness on family planning education has lead to high birth rate and the poverty engulfed their lives.
The BPP had also realised the importance of the organized support of the women and youths in bringing about social changes. The Bhutanese women organized themselves under the aegis of Bhutan Women Organization (BWO) under the leadership of Mrs. Devika Gajmere on August 21, 1990 in exile. As this organization became passive over a period and these was an urgent need for a umbrella body of the women members of the Bhutanese population and “Women Organization of Bhutan” (WOB) was reformed on December 26, 2003 under the president-ship of Mrs. Jamuna Chhetri.
The WOB is active in fulfilling its duties to its community and nation building for the rights and justice of the Bhutanese women. The WOB upholds the “Democratic Socialism” and would take up the women issues socially and politically. The peaceful expression of the Bhutanese people in 1990 demanding Human Rights and Democracy in Bhutan was termed as Anti-national and seditious activities by the Royal Government of Bhutan.
The WOB is the initiation of the women to seek political support around the world and look forward for a political change in Bhutan with equal participation of women in leadership and development of the country. WOB’s initiatives have now gradually making women to overcome some of the extreme violation of women rights. The awareness on importance of education has now opened the door of education to women. However, many girls drop out of the school due to early marriage (often on consent by the parents), parents’ stronger opinion on educating sons since the daughter would be married and would settle down in the in-laws house. The girls do not possess the liberty like that of boys to travel and to live away from the family.
The Bhutanese women have now realized the importance of education and would like educating their children irrespective of the gender. The process of awareness needs to be strengthened and must be a continuous process until the women are able to participate equally as men in all the political and social decision making discourse.
In 1988, sixteen years after joining the United Nations, the Royal Government of Bhutan deliberately began a calculated violation of Human Rights in Bhutan. Since then, the Bhutanese citizens have been suffering continuously under the repressive regime. The section of society most notably excluded from the process of all-round development of Bhutan in terms of both the beneficiaries and the contributors is women. Women population, which comprises almost half of the total population in Bhutan, has been so far been neglected, discriminated and exploited. They have been deprived of most of the opportunities including access to business and industry, gainful employment, skill development training, education, health etc. They do not have access to education, gainful employment, economic resources, political process and decision-making institutions. Their representation at the policy and decision making bodies is negligible. In total, the status of women is very low in Bhutan.
The social attitudes, traditional practices and outlook against women have contributed to the exploitation of women. This has made Bhutanese women lacking in confidence in handling the issues generally affecting themselves even in their day-to-day life. The situation in Bhutan is such that majority of women are not even aware of their basic rights.
The practice of discrimination, gender-inequality and exploitation of women are not sudden emergence in the Asian societies. These are the legacy of the past feudal societies. Bhutan is still a feudal and autocratic society. Therefore, the presence of discrimination, gender in-equality and exploitation of women in one or other form is the main characteristics of feudal society of Bhutan. Bhutanese patriarchal system reflects male supremacy making women subservient to men.
Government has made no efforts to protect and promote women’s rights even though it has ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Participation by women in national life is almost nil. Women have least access to higher post in the government. They have never been appointed as Ministers, Judges, Chief District Officers, and Ambassadors or to other senior important posts.
Bhutanese women comprising around 49 % of the population have least access to gainful employment. They do not have economic autonomy. More than 90 % women are illiterate and are engaged in traditional agricultural farming. The government has done nothing to improve their lot. Less than 0.5% women are employed in the civil service (bureaucracy). They are mostly employed in lower level jobs like, telephone operators, typists, clerks etc. Less than 0.5% women are engaged in business. Around 0.2% is engaged in other occupation and 3.5% of women have no identifiable occupation. The plight of rural women is worse. They are the most neglected lot. Sexual exploitation, illiteracy, superstition, disease, child mortality and ignorance are rampant in the rural villages.
The real condition of Bhutanese women does not come to the light of the foreigners. Bhutan does not have independent media, its only weekly bulletin is owned by the government. The external media is not allowed to enter in Bhutan, whereas, the government churns out glossy picture of the economic indicators in the international forums. They are only meant for the consumption of international community to sustain the status-quo.
Bhutan tops the list on women’s sexual exploitation among Asian countries. But hardly any information reaches the world outside. They have no dignity and are continuously humiliated by the males. Behind the government, rhetoric of good governance, wide spread incidents of female abuses and their sexual exploitation are always hidden.
Bhutan Before 1991
Bhutan After 1991