…𝑰𝒏 2023, 𝑩𝒉𝒖𝒕𝒂𝒏 𝒘𝒊𝒕𝒏𝒆𝒔𝒔𝒆𝒅 𝒂 𝒅𝒊𝒔𝒕𝒖𝒓𝒃𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒔𝒖𝒓𝒈𝒆 𝒊𝒏 𝒔𝒆𝒙𝒖𝒂𝒍 𝒗𝒊𝒐𝒍𝒆𝒏𝒄𝒆, 𝒘𝒊𝒕𝒉 137 𝒓𝒆𝒑𝒐𝒓𝒕𝒆𝒅 𝒊𝒏𝒄𝒊𝒅𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒔, 𝒊𝒏𝒄𝒍𝒖𝒅𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒂 𝒔𝒉𝒐𝒄𝒌𝒊𝒏𝒈 77 𝒄𝒂𝒔𝒆𝒔 𝒐𝒇 𝒄𝒉𝒊𝒍𝒅 𝒈𝒂𝒏𝒈 𝒓𝒂𝒑𝒆
The year 2023 witnessed an alarming surge in sexual violence cases in Bhutan, with 137 reported incidents, a substantial increase from the 112 cases in 2022. Thimphu led the list with 25 reported incidents, followed closely by Samtse with 14 cases.
One of the most disturbing trends was the increase in gang rape cases involving children below 12 years, totaling 77 reported instances, with child molestation accounting for 19 cases in 2023. The breakdown of victims by age reveals a distressing pattern: 118 reported victims below 17 years old, 11 victims aged 18-24, and 13 victims aged 25 and above. This stark distribution signals a concerning shift from 52 cases in 2022 to 118 cases in 2023, emphasizing the urgent need for attention and intervention for this vulnerable age group.
Gender-specific statistics paint a troubling picture, with 139 female victims compared to only 3 male victims, underscoring the disproportionate impact on females.
In terms of law enforcement response, the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) reported a significant increase in arrests, totaling 142 individuals in 2023, up from 114 in the previous year. This indicates growing efforts to apprehend perpetrators and address the rising issue of sexual violence.
Examining the age-wise distribution of those arrested further elucidates the demographics involved. Eight were below 17 years old, 24 were aged 18-24, and the majority, comprising 97 individuals, were aged 25 and above.
In response to the surge, RBP officials emphasized the complexity of understanding and predicting such incidents. They stated, “The surge and decrease in such incidents don’t have specific answers. What happens today may not happen tomorrow. What happens this year may not happen next year. The incidences and cases that take place, we can’t predict. To monitor, supervise, and check, there is no foolproof method. It is the duty of females to take responsibility for their own lives and bodies. It is the duty of males to be considerate and humane. This is a societal issue and an individual responsibility.”
The officials stressed the importance of awareness, stating, “In such cases and situations, all we can do is create awareness. That’s what we have been doing, visiting schools, colleges, and talking to people. Girls need to be responsible, and boys need to be responsible. Boys shouldn’t take advantage of girls’ situations. It is the individual’s responsibility, and it is very important.”
Amid the rise in sexual violence cases, there was a notable decrease in other sexual offence. Criminal attempts to rape decreased from 5 incidents in 2022 to 3 in 2023, and instances of sexual harassment dropped from 20 cases to 14. This contrasting trend emphasizes the complexity of criminal behavior patterns, requiring a comprehensive understanding to effectively address and mitigate various forms of offenses.
Remarkably, some offenses recorded zero incidents in 2023, indicating a positive shift. Rape of a child above 12 years, which had 41 incidents in 2022, recorded none in 2023. Additionally, bestiality and incest showed a significant decrease, both registering zero incidents.
As Bhutan grapples with these distressing statistics, there is an urgent call for collective responsibility. The surge in sexual violence cases demands a multifaceted approach, from stringent law enforcement to comprehensive awareness campaigns. While the decline in certain offenses signals progress, it underscores the ongoing need for societal introspection and individual accountability