The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) in a period of around a week has got two cases where the husbands in marriages are being charged with rape of child above 12 due to their wife being underage.
The first case is where a father and mother in Paro had a domestic problem as they had a verbal fight with each other and so they went to the village Tshogpa.
The Tshogpa found that the couple had a three-year-old child and the mother’s age is only around 16 or 17. However, given the age of the wife the matter was legally handled and sent to the OAG to be charged for rape of a child above 12.
The father is the only bread winner in the family.
Given the circumstances of the case the OAG was planning to drop the case, but then it was forced to prosecute it as two more cases came and the OAG did not want to send any wrong signal socially and also allow the dropping of the case to be used a defense in the future cases of young girls.
In the second case in Dagana it was found that a wife was 16 years old and the husband was around 26 years old. The wife was also four months pregnant.
It was found that the couple had been recently married by the families.
The case would never have come to light but the 16-year-old wife got sick since she was pregnant and she had been taken to the hospital. The doctor found the wife’s age and informed the police.
The police except for the girl charged the husband and the entire family.
The girl lives with the husband’s family and now due to the case she may not be allowed back into the home.
The girl and the man had been dating and had got married after a ceremony.
A source said that the OAG is forced to prosecute these cases like a factory even when the relationship is consensual and even in the case of married couples.
The source said the victims are the children and wife left behind as often it is the only bread winner that is prosecuted and imprisoned.
The OAG also a got third case from Dagana which is more complicated where the man is around 21 to 22 years and the girl is 14 years and pregnant by 4 months.
The relationship between the two started when the girl was 11 years old.
In the past, there was a case from Trongsa where a boy and girl were married and the girl was even pregnant, but when the boy and the father in law had problems the father in law reported to the police and got the boy arrested.
Also in the past, there was a case in Samtse where a couple got married with a wedding party and both families were on board, but a neighbor complained to the police and the boy was arrested.
In Bhutan protection can be given in certain circumstances. One is the Romeo and Juliet clause where it can be proven that the boy was a minor when the relationship started.
Another that can be used in Bhutan is ‘mistake of fact’ where if a person sleeps with a girl mistakenly assuming the girl is an adult. This can be applied in settings like bars etc.
In America in certain states the defense of marriage saves such unions from being prosecuted. The USA also has the age of proximity defense where if a 15 and 18-year-old in the same class have a relationship and it is established there is no domination then that is also a defense.