A few local leaders have suggested changing the legal age for consensual sexual relations and marriage from 18 years to 15 or 16 years.
Local leaders say that in the villages it’s common for consensual relationships to occur much before the legal age and when legal provisions of statutory rape is applied most of the males end up on the wrong side of the law.
“If it going to be this way, then lives of many boys or young men will be ruined while the life of the girl or the child will be destroyed,” Wangduephodrang’s Aathang gup, Khandu Dorji. “I think the law should be amended.”
Punakha’s Toedpaisa gup Namgyel Tenzin said that boys or the men suffer in the end despite relations being consensual. He also said that law must also consider that there are some cases where girls and their families have used the law for vindictive reasons or revenge.
“However, I think that the law is silent when it comes to boys aged 16 years and below having consensual sex with adult women,” he added.
One victim of statutory rape is Kinley Wangdi who is now 27 years years old. He went behind bars when he was 22 for having a consensual relation with a 17-year-old student, who is now 22 years old.
Kinley was contract teacher when he got into relation with a 17-year-old student in 2010. “Our relation was known to every family member and they agreed to our relation,” Kinley said. “I resigned with a plan for further studies and she came to stay with my family. However, in a week time her parents lodged a complaint against me stating that I have taken her without their permission.”
Kinley was put behind the bar from March 2011 until August 2015 because the girl was under 18 years. “When I was got out I was broken and hurt as I heard she had married and has a child,” Kinley said. Kinley Wangdi is now a monk in Mysore, India.
An official from RENEW said that have some cases where RENEW helps the left behind families with skill training programs and micro finance facilities. They also have few young girls who are victims of sexual offences where perpetrators are legally charged and put behind bars.
The official said that a “ Romeo and Juliet” clause could be added to the legal provisions so that consensual relationships between 18 years do not become a victim of the law.
Colonel Dorji Wangchuk of RBP said that once a case is registered with the office there is no way that they can give any consideration nor do they have a right to compromise the case. “Even when the family is ready to compromise, there is no way that the court will give any consideration,” he said. “Parents should know the law well and keep their child informed about the law and its consequences.”
In 2016, RBP has registered 29 cases of a rape between age of 12 and 18, one case for criminal attempt to statutory rape and 5 cases for statutory rape.