While a lot of public anger has been directed at the Sherubtse management and the President for being insensitive and not taking strong enough action against the assistant lecturer, the real problem is much deeper.
When the 10 female college students in Sherubtse came forward at great personal risk to file a complaint against their lecturer, one expected their fellow students, parents and other faculty to support them.
However, despite strong public support, the 10 girls are under pressure from fellow students on why they complained at all. There are students making light of their issues and even casting unfair aspersions on them.
The assistant lecturer got away lightly in the first place due to a faceless committee made up of many senior faculty members, and that action more than anything shows their view on the issue or support for students they are supposed to protect.
But the most disappointing role in all of this has been some parents calling up the girls and asking them why they complained or raised this issue in the media.
There is a lot of victim blaming going on by some, while others are worried about the image of the college, and so the real issue at hand is not being addressed.
All of the above go to show why sexual harassment and even assault is common place in our society, and why victims are not willing to come forward.
Even in a premier institution like Sherubtse where the best minds of the country go and are formed, there seems to be a culture of accepting or not taking sexual harassment seriously.
It may not be a matter of surprise to know that before this case two lecturers had been terminated from Sherubtse for sexual harassment of students.
It must be understood that what is happening in Sherubtse is not an isolated case as this is also the culture in several other institutions and agencies.
Before Bhutan can tackle sexual harassment and sex crimes we first need to acknowledge that we have a societal problem in our acceptance and tolerance of it; we need to ensure justice and then treat the survivors or those who have come forward with due respect.
“Women who accuse men, particularly powerful men, of harassment are often confronted with the reality of the men’s sense that they are more important than women, as a group.”