Judicial Support

In the last few years the nation has been outraged by one horrible crime after another, especially against children.

At the same time there was growing awareness of rampant sexual harassment in our educational institutions, offices and other places as cases came out.

However, the reality for the longest time has been that it has been notoriously difficult to convict cases of sexual crime, especially against children.

In many cases, the children out of fear and threats issued to them only report the matter days and even weeks after it happened to them which means no medical evidence.

Such crimes also do not have an eye witness as the only eye witness is the victim.

To add to this courts generally regard the statement of children as not being reliable.

A further problem is that in criminal cases the standard of proof required is very high and in many cases that standard could not be met.

However, the High Court overturning the verdict of the Punakha rape case and convicting the step father based on the consistent statement of the child coupled with a letter of the step father where he partly admits guilt is a step in the right direction.

The girl who was a minor and dependent of her step father after the death of her mother took great courage to come out and share her ordeal. The police dragged its feet saying it did not get medical evidence. It took this paper to highlight her harrowing case (without revealing her identity) that pressure built up to prosecute the case.

The Punakha district court citing the lack of direct evidence dismissed the case and the victim attempted suicide in despair. The High Court must be commended for doing justice to the case.

The Supreme Court itself must be commended for its two recent verdicts in the Taktse and STCBL cases where it gave more importance to the crime of sexual harassment than procedural issues which had been used to dismiss the cases in lower courts.

Not to be left out, the Trashigang District Court and the Phuentsholing Dungkhag court must also be commended for their convictions of sexual harassment cases in Sherubtse and CST respectively.

The above verdicts all show that the judiciary is in touch with the growing outrage over the large numbers of sexual crimes most of which are not even reported, and is responding to it.

The courts at the same time are applying due process and the relevant legal principles.

Here both the brave victims and a more responsive judiciary must be commended. It is through joint efforts like these that we can tackle and reduce such crimes against the body and soul.

I think the first duty of society is justice.
Alexander Hamilton

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