The government’s recent and many pronouncements on the Drayang issue has lead to a feeling among Drayang owners and workers that they are being unfairly defamed and belittled.
In an earlier interview the Druk Drayang Association President Kelzang Phuntsho said that a lot of work had been put in to give dignity to the work of Drayangs and he had even made a film on it, but the governments many recent accusations and pronouncements have undone all of that.
He said, “Now our image is so bad that I even feel ashamed to say I am the President of the Drayang Association.”
He acknowledged that there are issues and problems but he said it is not fair to paint everybody with the same brush.
Kelzang also pointed out that despite the many announcements by the Prime Minister in the media they have not got any official communication.
The crusade against Drayangs has been led by the Prime Minister Dasho (Dr) Lotay Tshering himself who in the recent past has talked of his efforts to create a morally clean society and also alluded to Drayangs being one of the entry points into the sex trade.
However, two studies on Bhutanese Drayangs published in international publications showing that only a small portion of Drayang girls engage in transactional sex with very low HIV rate comparable to the normal population and that most Drayang girls like their profession and find it safe.
The PMO has been looking after the Drayang issue and has not been budging despite representations from the sector so far.
However, there now seems to have a slight change in stance as the Prime Minister during the 44th Meet the Press claimed that he had not said anything adverse on Drayangs or the people working there and instead said the media must have created that perception.
The PM said that Drayangs were allowed to come into existence in the first place as a means of preserving Bhutanese culture. He said that the government has not made any new rules but is only asking them to comply with existing regulations if they want to open again.
He gave examples of maintaining distance between the stage and audience, separate male and female bathrooms, separate changing rooms etc.
Lyonchhen said that the Drayangs who cannot meet these changes will be given help if they want to close.
He said one thing additional that he has said is that the request system of asking for songs has to go.
He said currently girls stand close to the knees of men and request them for songs for Nu 1,000 or Nu 2,000 and this needs to be done away with.
The PM said that instead he is amenable to a menu system where songs are given in advance with rates and people can order the songs without the girls having to approach them.
Lyonchhen said that he wants to formalize the Drayang system so that people can listen to Boedra and Zhungdra and along with cultural viability people go for the music and performance and can take others along.
The PM said that Drayang workers have also been offered an exit strategy because they cannot continue working there once they turn 40 or 50 so that they have something beyond that.
He said the government is willing to offer trainings on dancing and singing and in other aspects.