Minor in Punakha accused step father of rape a month ago but RBP yet to charge sheet case

The police in the first week of September registered a case after a 17-year-old student in one of the schools in Punakha  accused her step-father of raping her. She lost her mother in 2019 to liver cancer and since then she was living with her step-father and her 4-year-old half brother.

The victim had lived with her deceased mother who ran a handicrafts shop near Chimi Lhakhang. They had a one-bedroom apartment with the small shop.

The case

The matter came to light when the girl ran away from home to her school where she begged the school to take her into the hostel. The girl was in a highly traumatized state and she talked to the school counselor. This was when the entire matter came to light and the police was informed and the police in turn registered a case.

The two aunties of the victim alleged that the step-father is liable for what had happened to her as he took the responsibility to take care of her. The step-father who is the main suspect has denied committing the crime.

The 31-year-old Aunty of the victim who works as a sweeper in a hydro project in Wangdue said she visited her niece in the school and said that her niece was in a highly disturbed state and was even unable to talk properly. She said that when she brought up her step father the girl reacted very nervously and her eyes filled up with tears.

She said that she asked if the step father had done anything ‘dirty’ with her and the girl nodded her head and said he had done so. They aunty pressed her further and asked her from when he did so and she replied saying right after her mother had died (in 2019).

The Aunty said she heard from the school that her niece had confessed to her friends that she had even attempted to kill herself earlier.

She said the school managed to get a voice recording of her account and also a statement which was given to the police.

The paper was told by the Aunties that the alleged suspect did not allow the victim’s relatives to visit her ever since her mother died.

The 31-year-old Aunty said that though they have heard about such things in the past they did not take it seriously and thought it was a rumor, however, later they came to know that a case has been registered against the suspect for raping her.

She said, “By the time we came to know, the suspect was sent on bail already. We went to RENEW but they said the case has to go to police as it contains criminal offence. We also went to police for follow-up but could not meet the OC.”

Another 32-year-old aunty of the victim who is a housewife based in Thimphu shared that they are not sure on how he got a bail when the case is still with the police. She said, “We inquired with a legal expert and we were told that normally one should not get bail in a rape case until and unless the case is charge sheeted in the court.”

However, when they followed-up with the police they were told that he was sent on bail since there was no ‘concrete evidence’ against the suspect to prove him guilty of rape and because he had a four-year-old son to take care of.

 “Though the suspect claims to have not done anything to her, either he would have done it or else, he should know who has done it as he took the responsibility to look after her,” she said. 

The Wangdue Aunty said the step father told the police that a boy whom the girl knows and whose number she has could be the culprit. She said she and her sisters know the boy well and they are just friends and nothing more. The boy also denied having any relationship with her.

The aunties questioned how the girl could have a relationship when her movements were so tightly controlled.

“We were told by her friends that the step father always comes to drop and pick her from the school. When she is guarded 24/7 by him, he should know why the medical report says she was sexually active. Justice should be given to her,” she said.

She also said that even if it was a mutual or consensual sex she is still a minor and he should be held responsible.

They said that the suspect blocked their numbers and did not give them the right to meet her stating that they are creating problems between the two of them which is why they did not know what was happening with her, she added.

She said, “Now that we came to know about it, it is our responsibility to support her and give her a justice.  We were told by the school counselor that she is traumatized.”

Step father denies

Meanwhile, when the paper talked to the alleged suspect, he denied having any sexual relationship with his step daughter.

“A month ago she said that she wanted to go as a boarding student but after explaining to her about her need for staying home due to her 4-year-old brother at home, she agreed to stay back. I told her that she can go to boarding school starting next year as I was to enroll my 4-year-old son in Paro with my parents,” he said.

However, he said again after a few days she kept insisting to join as a boarder which is why he asked her to do whatever she wants to do, he said, adding that she left in anger and the next day he went to school to reach her things.

He claimed that everything went well, but all out of a sudden he was asked to report to police. He didn’t know the reasons behind it, but upon reaching police station, he said the reason was quite shocking whereby he went numb at once.

“Before that, a rumor of rape was all over the place whereby I had to lodge a defamation complaint against the community. However, the case was withdrawn with given reasons. In the meantime, I was called to police station in connection to this,” he claimed.

He said that he was told that the victim was sexually active which he had no idea about.

After the demise of his late wife there was an argument in between the two families he said. Nevertheless, he claimed that he never stopped her from meeting her relatives.

He said, “I insisted on her to be in touch with them. The entire allegation against me is not true.”

Report to Police

A source said the incident was reported to police sometime in first week of September 2021 whereby the alleged suspect was sent on bail a night after his arrest.

It was learnt that victim in her statement to the police said she was raped by the step father. The step father strongly denied the charges.

The source said that the victim had signs of sexual activity and penetration, but there was no sign of physical bruises or force used.

The source said that the RBP is not getting evidence of more recent sexual activity and said therefore the evidence so far is weak. The source said the problem could be that the OAG could send the case back to the RBP if the evidence is not adequate.

The source said that though no suspect will be given bail unless the case has reached to the court, the courts have the rights to give bail under certain circumstances.

After the suspect got bail he promptly resigned from his work in a hydropower project. The aunties suspect that it is because if he resigns he can collect his benefits, but if he is terminated then he won’t get them.

The suspect, however, denied this instead saying that bail condition asked him not to leave the Dzongkhag and so he cannot not travel to Wangdue for his work which is why he resigned.

The aunties said that one sister of the step father is a RENEW volunteer in nearby Wangdue and his brother is a traffic police in Punakha itself.

The aunties said that the step father who is from Paro is from a well connected family with even powerful relatives, but in their case they are from Lhuentse and all from humble backgrounds holding only blue collar jobs like cleaner, driver, cooks etc.

Here the suspect said, “Nothing works when it comes to law, no matter if my brother is a cop or if my sister is a volunteer with RENEW.”

The Aunties had talked to a RBP official who informed them that the evidence and the case is weak.

Judicial expert weighs in

In the meantime, the paper talked to a judicial expert about the case. The Judicial expert who is a former Judge said that if  there is already evidence that the underage girl is no longer a virgin and she has said she was raped by her father, then it is enough evidence to charge sheet the case to court.

“The girl is the victim and the RBP cannot doubt the veracity of the victim’s statement unless they can prove otherwise,” said the expert.

He said that no girl will want to confess to her school and teachers that she is raped just like that as it is very embarrassing.

The judicial expert said that the fact that the community was talking about it is another circumstantial evidence.

He also pointed to the fact that the girl was staying with the step father and the four-year-old boy only and not with anyone else.

The judicial expert said that the if the police is saying that all of the above is still not enough to take the case to court then it points to a shoddy investigation.

The husband of the Wangdue Aunty asked why the police did not contact the Aunties when this case came to them. He said the police should have known that the biological father in whose care the girl has been put in the school had separated from the girl’s mother after the age of two and the aunties have been more involved with her.

Additional reporting by Tenzing Lamsang

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One comment

  1. Justice should be served…..her step father should be in prison…

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