The administration of the College of Language and Culture Studies (CLCS) in Taktse, Trongsa officially lodged a complaint to Trongsa police against the nine lecturers and one supporting staffs who were compulsorily retired earlier this week for sexual harassment. The case was registered yesterday on 17 May 2019.
Trongsa police have registered the case and the case has been booked under sexual harassment for now. Police will start the investigation and the charges accordingly might change during the course of investigation. “However, it is too early to make any comment on the case”, the police said.
The Vice Chancellor of Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) Nidup Dorji said that they have zero tolerance for this kind of behavior in any of the colleges and that this is inexcusable because they feel that colleges should be the safest place where young students are residing. “We condemn this kind of behavior”, he said.
“They immediately investigated the case and they took administrative action and they have dealt with the case very severely,” he said. The VC said as far as they are concerned they did not receive such cases in the past, adding that the CLCS case came into their notice on 5 May 2019.
He said that any form of sexual harassment is well defined in their code of conduct and they deal with it by summarily dismissing the people who are involved in it.
“So far, we have not found any evidences of illicit relationship or any sexual act as nobody came forward thought we tried our best. So we would like the law enforcement agencies to deal with that. On our part we went by our code of conduct and have taken administrative action,” the VC said.
The VC said the RBP will deal and find out if there is any criminality in the acts, but for that they will have to investigate. He also said that he has informed the Presidents of all the colleges that they have to very strictly deal with these kind of cases, if there is any.
Lungtaen Gyatso, CLCS College President said that the incident came to light when some of the students came to him with a rumor of illicit relationship between students and lecturers in the college. He said that he being the chief executive of the college, simply could not dismiss the faculty based on rumors. Therefore, they had to conduct first hand survey by gathering some groups of selected students, he said, adding that they gave some indicative evidences of having illicit relationships.
He said, “We then conducted a mass survey with a designed questionnaire involving all the students. The questions include if there are any illicit relationships in the college. Majority of the students claimed that there are illicit relationships in the college. Thereby we started investigating the case further.”
Upon investigation, he said that some victims came forward, but with a compliant of sexual harassment and not of having illicit relationship with the lecturers. “Sexual harassment would come in a different form and in this case, it was with regard to the inappropriate body touching and sending of unethical messages in social media (WeChat). Some even inviting the victims into an illicit relationship,” he added.
They could not conclusively establish illicit relationships as nobody came forward. However, they got enough evidences of sexual harassment that is directly in contravention of the teacher’s code of conduct.
19 girls had come forward and lodged a complaint against the 9 alleges lecturers and one supporting staff.
He said, “Teachers are supposed to be the epitome of value, knowledge, guidance and leadership. But here, on the contrary, some of the teachers were doing wrong by abusing the students. So this is not acceptable to the college by any state of imagination and not by any standard. Also it is not acceptable as students lost faith and respect in the teachers.”
“How can teachers go and still teach when they have lost faith and respect of the students,” he said, adding that they would rather bring in more damage than be doing any good. Therefore, on the grounds of sexual harassment they made 10 faculty members, including one suppor staff to compulsorily retire and leave the college.
Upon investigation, if any of the victims are found guilty of having any illicit relationship with any of the lecturers, the students will also be terminated without any exception.
The President said his actions was done in the larger interest of the country and to safeguard women and children from suffering in the future with a message that these kind of offences is not acceptable at all.
He said that they now take this as a ‘blessings in disguise’ because they will make sure that this kind of incident won’t happen in the future again. He said they will also make sure that this will not happen in any of the university colleges and schools in the country.
He said, “Sexual harassment happens in different forms and in every work place. This kind of thing does not get reported which is why the perpetrator does it with confidence.”
Regarding the ways to replace the dismissed lecturers, he said that the remaining lecturers in the college have come forward agreeing to take extra responsibility. He said, “Only 10 percent of module needs to be covered in this semester which ends this month. The next semester, we can take in few new lecturers on contract and we have enough time to do that.”
He also said that they had already decided not to renew the contract of the three lecturers who were on contract since they were not required in the next semester. “So we are comfortable in that sense”, he added.
Meanwhile, Kunzang Lhamu, Director of National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) said that they have not received the recent case of sexual harassment in CLCS. However, NCWC having the mandate to protect and promote the rights of women and children has received other cases related to sexual harassment.
She said, sexual harassment is a form of sexual abuse and it is criminal in nature. “No person should tolerate any form of harassment as it literally humiliates, degrades or violates the dignity of the victim,” she said.
She said that whenever the Commission receives a sexual harassment case the Commission drafts the preliminary findings and based on the nature and legality, either provides the necessary services needed or refers the case to the relevant agencies like MoLHR, RBP, and other Ministries and organizations for further course of action.
“Overall, sexual harassment causes a tense and unproductive working and learning environment. As such, it is crucial to raise awareness and enforce the organizational internal frameworks that exist and also enhance the support and services from the stakeholders concerned,” she said.
She said that sexual harassment continues to be trivialized and under-reported to a large extent in Bhutan, adding that culturally, there is high acceptance towards sexual harassment and in most cases victims are unaware and unwilling to report about their experiences.
The Penal Code of Bhutan states, “a defendant shall be guilty of sexual harassment, if the defendant makes unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal abuse of sexual nature.”
The Civil Service Act of Bhutan 2010 (Code of Conduct of a Civil Servant) clearly underlines that “a civil servant shall not engage in sexual harassment” and sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome verbal, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature that affects working conditions or creates a hostile work environment.”
The MoLHR is the custodian of the Labour and Employment Act 2007 and is the Competent Authority with regard to any form of harassment at workplace in the private sector and other organizations. To address the issue, they have developed, ‘The Working Conditions 2012’ specifying the sexual harassment policy and the internal and external complaint procedures.