Bhutan joins the global community in observing the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (IDEVAW) on 25 November 2022. Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchcuck, the Royal Patron for RENEW and UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador graced the event at the Royal Textile Academy. While the global theme for this year is “UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls, ” the commemoration in Bhutan focused on the importance of partnering with men and boys to end violence against women and girls; Economic empowerment of Women and girls to end VAW.
Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) including domestic violence (DV) among women remains a public health and social issue in Bhutan. A study on violence against women conducted in 2017 by National Commission for women and children reported the prevalence of physical, sexual, and psychological violence by an intimate partner to be 32.9%, 10.5% and 23.2%, respectively. As per the study done by RENEW on Gender Norms on Sexual and Gender based Violence among men in Bhutan suggests there is limited evidence on men’s perception around issues of SGBV and how they could be engaged in prevention efforts.
At the commemoration, Her Majesty the Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck’s initiative which emphasizes the empowerment of the Lunap community in particular women and girls was launched. The initiative conceived following Her Majesty the Gyalyum’s recent visit to Lunana aims to address the key challenges faced by the Lunaps. The initiative will kick start with a sensitization program for the highlanders who will in Punakha during winter. Among others, the Lunaps will receive a holistic package of services that include health, education and social well-being and the partnership between key service providers.
A movie titled “Gencha-The Soulful Gem” which depicts the importance of women’s economic empowerment was launched along with A Gender Assessment report to understand the nature and extent of gender-specific issues and challenges faced by women working in the hydropower, road, and construction sites.
The commemoration marks the start of 16 days of activism during which a series of programmes across the country with the engagement of the MSTF-CBSS network and Taxi Association in collaboration with Bhutan Telecom to advocate for a collective responsibility in eliminating violence of all forms against women and girls was carried out.
RENEW, in partnership with the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) with support from UNFPA and UNDP organized a series of social media campaigns and messaging during the 16 Days of Activism. Awareness messaging on City Buses and Taxis was carried out across the 20 Dzongkhags to prevent violence against women and encourage all citizens to stand in solidarity with women and their rights.
Gender-based violence against women and girls is a significant social issue in Bhutan as anywhere else in the world impacting communities, nations and societies, posing threat to public well-being, health and safety, and affecting adolescents’ education and their productivity and overall human development. A rape survivor must have access to emergency medical care, a woman facing domestic violence must have a place to go with her children for safety, a survivor of violence must have access to justice and the perpetrator must be held accountable. This collective effort for responsibility needs to be taken forward at all times. It is time for action!