The Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC) management has suspended a Director on 24 September for allegedly sexually harassing another BPC employee on 15 September 2021. Though the initial incident took place on early morning 15 September, the official complaint was lodged to the management on 21 September.
The Director will be suspended until the case is resolved and if he is found guilty of sexual harassment as claimed by the victim, he will then be dealt as per the BPC Service Rules and Regulations July 2016.
Since sexual harassment is considered as a major violation of the code of conduct, anybody will be liable for termination if proven guilty. For now, they are investigating the case.
The complainant alleged that on the morning of 15 September she was sexually harassed by the Director when doing her night duty. She was held from behind by the Director who had come in a drunken state and he even pursued her to the bathroom and stayed there for close to an hour banging on the bathroom door.
Sonam Tobjey, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of BPC said that they have instituted an inquiry committee consisting of five members, who are three senior female officers, one legal officer and one HR officer.
“I have explained to the committee about the urgency of the case. Though they can submit the findings in 10 days from now, I have asked them to submit the report before that. This is the first case I have received officially in four years, after taking over as CEO,” he added.
He added that there might be cases of sexual harassment internally, but it was never reported to the management officially. However, it is not that the environment is not safe to work just because a case has now been reported officially, he said.
Their mandate is to ensure employee’s safety in the work place, be it from sexual harassment or be it from any other grievances faced by the employees, he said, adding that if such cases are reported to the management then they would deal with it as per the service rules and ensure fair justice and decision.
He said, “Our service rules points to zero tolerance to sexual harassment in work place. Irrespective of gender, a person will be held liable for any offences in order to ensure a conducive working environment. We will ensure safety to employees who are vulnerable to such acts.”
Everyone should have the courage to come forward and report such crime, at least to their management as it may help reduce such practices in work place, he said, adding that unless reported, such practices cannot be addressed as sexual harassment usually takes place behind the door when no one is around.
The CEO further added the importance of having service rules and regulations in every work place, be it government, private or corporate offices. If safety is ensured backed up with service rules then everything can be sorted out, he said.
“If a victim wants to then she or he can lodge a complaint to other relevant agencies other then the management. In addition, the BPC service rules and regulations states that if the victim is not satisfied with the outcome of the internal complaint procedure, the victim may lodge a complaint to the Chief Labour Administrator, Ministry of Labor and Human Resources,” the CEO said.
People do not report sexual harassment case with a fear of losing their jobs, however, the CEO said that it will be the suspect who will lose the job and not the victim. The victim was asked to stay home with pay as she cannot be subjected to any other stress.
As per section 205 of the Penal Code of Bhutan 2004, a defendant shall be guilty of sexual harassment, if the defendant makes unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal abuse of sexual nature and the offence of sexual harassment shall be a petty misdemeanor as per section 206 of the same act.
Thimphu police have just received 2 cases of sexual harassment in 2021 so far and 2 cases in 2020.
However, the above figures are misleading as surveys in the past have shown that the majority of working women have experienced some form of sexual harassment.