Sexual Harassment

For centuries, Bhutanese society has been known to be a sexually liberal one with no major hang ups about the issue to the point that a man and woman living together are considered married even without a formal ceremony.

This is a healthy trait for any society, however, the other side of the coin is that under the guise of the larger traditionally liberal culture -a dominant patriarchal tendency has also flourished, and so harassment has not only been tolerated, but it was even accepted -mainly in rural areas.

To this day, in rural areas, men tease women or sometimes vice versa, and some men even touch women inappropriately without their consent.

This is also where elements like night hunting was practiced in rural areas leading to effective rape, many cases of teenage pregnancy and even child marriage.

Thankfully, the existence of practices like night hunting is coming down with awareness and laws.

Likewise, the acceptance of casual sexual harassment is now coming down as men and women realize this is not okay.

The women of today do not want to accept sexual harassment, be it verbal, emotional or physical.

The biggest defense of sexual harassment by some is that it is somehow a part of ‘Bhutanese Culture,’ but this is neither accurate nor is it desirable.

While Bhutanese are not sexual prudes unlike more conservative societies, that does not mean that Bhutanese welcome deviant sexual behavior.

In a patriarchal society, which Bhutan still is, the woman becomes the other that can be abused and is valued less. The power equation is also not the same. So it is very clear that sexual harassment is an abuse of power and against the rights of an individual to their own body.

Sexual harassment can occur against both girls and boys and other genders and so it is important that everyone must be protected.

We must have zero tolerance for sexual harassment, even if the perpetrator is somebody we like and admire.
Ana Navarro

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