Sexual Harassment

The STCBL letting go of its CEO based on the official complaints of sexual harassment by three female employees is not only an important landmark case in Bhutan, but it is also a big win in the fight against sexual harassment at the work place.

The three girls must first be commended for having the courage to make an official complaint against their top boss.

Then the management and board of STCBL must also be commended for ensuring that due process was followed and action was carried out based on the investigation.

The ‘Me Too’ movement has taken off in many parts of the world where women and even men have come forward with tales of sexual harassment and even more serious allegations against people who have abused their positions of power and trust.

However, it is yet to even start in Bhutan in a still largely traditional and patriarchal society that would prefer to keep such issues under the carpet, despite how it encourages perpetrators and the terrible injustice and pain caused to the victims.

Before getting into the legalities and other issues, the issue at hand is very simple.

We all have mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, children, friends and family members, and we all want them to be safe.

The simple question is do we tolerate any culture or system at work places, schools, homes, public places etc. that not only fails to prevent such behavior, but also allows it to go unpunished and hence ends up encouraging more of it. The answer will be pretty obvious for most people.

In Bhutanese society, quite often, misplaced compassion affords protection to the perpetrator to the extent of even hiding the identity of convicted rapists.

However, there is not as much thought given to the victims who have to carry a lifetime scar that will affect not only the victim but also those around the victim.

It is high time that we build a culture in workplaces and other areas where sexual harassment is not only discouraged, but also pointed out and punished.

Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim.
H. Fierstein

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