Bhutan

Population Size:

763,092.[1] 53% are male, 47% are female.

Number of People Experiencing Domestic Abuse Each Year:

2019-2020: 61% of women, roughly 218,778.5 women, reported having experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner.[2]

"More than 4 in 10 children (43.6%) recalled physical violence at home, usually meted out by parents, relatives or siblings. In the home, sexual abuse was more prevalent against girls than for boys, usually committed by fathers, stepfathers, brothers-in-law or family friends”.[3]

2017: “There were 25 men who were the victims of domestic violence and have come forward … usually men do not come forward due to gender issues and ego”.[4]

No research on male victims or other gender identities.

Cost of Domestic Abuse to the Economy Each Year:

No research.

Estimated % Change due to COVID-19:

"The National Commission for Women and Children is seeing an increase in domestic violence cases in Bhutan in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Commission received 47 cases between January and April from Thimphu alone regarding women who needed immediate support like counselling, shelter and legal advice. Only 77 such cases were reported to the Commission in the whole of 2019”.[5]

2020: "Royal Bhutan Police recorded 13 cases of domestic violence in March. The victims are 11 females and 2 males between 20 to 40 years of age”.[6]

Current Law and Policy:

Bhutan is committed to eliminating domestic violence but, since 2013, the country has not passed any legislation on the matter. Bhutan is a country in transition, only becoming a constitutional democracy in 2009. This has led to serious obstacles in enforcing gender equality in the country because the police and judiciary lack education on women’s human rights. Gender mainstreaming in policies and budgets is yet to translate into concrete actions.

The constitution provides a framework for the promotion and protection of equal rights of women. For instance, it requires every Bhutanese person not to tolerate the abuse of women and recognises international treaties, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, as Bhutanese law. Moreover, a National Commission for Women and Children has been established and all policies made by the government are screened using a Gross National Happiness screening tool, which includes gender equality as one of its key parameters. 

The Domestic Violence Prevention Act was drafted in response to findings that intimate partner violence was the most common form of violence against women in Bhutan. In 2013, the Act was passed. It focuses on preventing domestic violence, mainly through mediation, but also provides responses and support services for already abused victims. Although domestic violence legislation that suggests mediation is often criticised, Bhutan maintains that cases that are settled via mediation are less likely to recur. Moreover, the police also have measures in place to monitor perpetrators who agree to attend mediations and ensure they do not reoffend. 


Although there has been little mention of further legislative reform, Bhutan has sought to address domestic violence in other ways. A specialist domestic violence court is being established on a pilot basis in the capital and nearly all judges have been trained on the country’s domestic violence legislation. In 2016, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women commended Bhutan for their strong commitment to implement the Convention and for the “remarkable progress” made since 2009. 

Proof of the level of political commitment to the cause, the Queen Mother, Sangay Chidden Wangchuck, has become heavily involved in raising awareness of domestic violence in the country. She is the founder and patron of RENEW, an NGO, which aims to “Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women” and is also an ambassador of the UN Population Fund (‘UNFPA’). At an International Women’s Day event in 2016, Wangchuck told an audience that “it is your duty to show and tell your sons that women deserve respect and love and should never be abused”. More recently, in May 2020, she made a telecast address on the increased risk of domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Frontline Services:

 

Sources


[1] The World Bank, (1).

[2] UN Women, “Global Database on Violence Against Women – Bhutan”, (evaw-global-database.unwomen.org).

[3] UNICEF, “Bhutan”, (unicef.org).

[4] D. Pem, “Understanding and Fighting Domestic Violence in the Bhutanese Setting”, (thebhutanese.bt, 26 May 2018).

[5] South Asia Monitor, “Domestic Violence on the Rise in Bhutan”, (southasiamonitor.org, 11 May 2020).

[6] The Bhutanese, “Domestic Violence Likely to Increase if the COVID-19 Situation Prolongs”, (thebhutanese.bt, 25 April 2020).


Further Reading


[1] UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, “Bhutan Harmonises Spectrum of Domestic Laws with Women’s Anti-Discrimination Convention, Creates First Ever Scheme for Gender Equality, Expert Body Hears”, (un.org, 23 July 2009).

[2] UN OHCHR, “Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Reviews the Situation of Women in Bhutan”, (ohchr.org, 27 October 2016).