The Moenlam Chenmo in Punakha ended today. The prayer ceremony was presided over by His Holiness the Je Khenpo.
It was held at the Thangzona and was attended by thousands of devotees, including monks and nuns, from all over the country.
The prayer ceremony was Punakha’s third moenlam chenmo. The first one was first held in 2016.
The moenlam chenmo this year was preceded by several other prayer ceremonies.
40-year old Tashi (name changed for privacy) suffered for 11 long years in an abusive marriage to an alcoholic husband. He wouldn’t come home until late into night and then beat her up, scaring their children.
“He was like that since we had our first child. I wanted to get a divorce. But he didn’t want that. He kept saying he will not repeat and we would make agreements but he would abide by it just for a month,” she said.
Things changed for better only after Tashi took him to court.
Tashi is among the hundreds, or perhaps, thousands other people, who survived abusive relationships or are enduring one.
More than 500 women reported experiencing some form of domestic violence this year till November, according to the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) and Respect Educate Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW).
Of over 500 reported cases, 409 women, up from 395 cases last year, reported to RENEW.
The NCWC’s Women and Child Helpline, launched in July, recorded the remaining 126 cases.
The Executive Director of RENEW, Tandin Wangmo, thinks the increasing cases could be an indication of people becoming more aware of the legal provisions and protection and support systems available in the country.
“Therefore, people are now being less tolerant towards domestic violence and reporting it,” she said.
It is feared that a lot of cases go unreported, which means the actual number of women facing domestic violence could be much higher.
“As we compiled all the research studies and statistics that were available until 2013, we found out that only about one per cent of the survivors reported to an NGO and as of now we know that RENEW is the only service provider for domestic violence,” RENEW’s Tandin Wangmo said.
“Even if it was one per cent that has reported to us, a minimum of 3000 cases should be registered with us but like I mentioned until 2017 our numbers didn’t even reach 500. Only this year, by June, it crossed 500. So, there are a lot of unreported cases in the country.”
RENEW says a lot of women chose to endure domestic violence instead of reporting it because of stigma around it. Some fear losing their husbands who are the family’s sole breadwinner.
“There is shame around it. People start talking about you not doing well in the family, your family being abusive and breaking up. People don’t want to make these problems public. They want to resolve it among themselves as far as possible,” Tandin Wangmo said.
Yeshey Lham is a Senior Counsellor with the NCWC. She says some tolerate for the sake of their children.
“They say they have children, or that their husband is the breadwinner and that reporting would mean their husband being taken by the police or facing court.”
RENEW and NCWC say women come seek help from them only when all other options have exhausted. They say Tashi’s case mirrors those of other domestic violence victims.
“When they come here, they always come with an agreement that they previously made involving community elders, which looks very risky for the mediator as well,” NCWC’s Yeshey Lham said.
“There are severe violence cases and the mediators would have brought both parties to a consensus through an agreement, but the violence doesn’t stop there. It happens once, twice and many more and the agreement doesn’t seem to work and that is when the women come to us.”
While there are a host of other factors, power imbalance is seen as a major cause of domestic violence in Bhutanese homes.
“The man is seen as the breadwinner, therefore, the decision maker and he decides what can be done in the family and the family members have to abide by his decisions. The moment he feels his power or decision is being challenged, his displeasure with it manifests in one or the other form of violence,” Tandin Wangmo said.
While observing the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women and Children couple of weeks ago, Prime Minister Lotay Tshering said it’s the men who are to be blamed for the increasing cases of domestic violence.
He added the country’s laws and policies on such matters are stringent enough. What is lacking is personal commitment from men to end domestic violence.
The Bhutanese under-19 cricket team lost their third match of the ongoing world cup qualifier Asia division 2 to Thailand today.
The defeat means Bhutan has no hopes of reaching the semifinals.
Bhutanese bowlers managed to restrict Thailand to just 60 runs but batting faltered again.
Bhutan was bowled out for just 40 runs. Bhutan will play its penultimate group match against Qatar on Friday.
Thailand is hosting the event with ten teams divided into two groups. The top two teams from each pool will advance to the semi-finals.
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A directive from the home ministry asking all gewog offices to relieve the existing Gyadrungs or Gewog Clerks has the local leaders in Lhuentse worried.
The ministry issued the notification in October following the Royal Civil Service Commission’s (RCSC) Organizational Development (OD) exercise.
It wants the current batch of Gyadrungs to be relieved by March 6 next year.
A new batch of Gyadrungs is to be recruited. They will have to be class 12 graduates and trained in computer application for three months. They would be appointed as administrative assistants on a two-year contract.
The Gups in Lhuentse want the current batch of Gyadrungs to be retained until the new appointments come through. Their proposal has been endorsed by the recent Dzongkhag Tshogdu.
The Chairperson of Lhuentse Dzongkhag Tshogdue, Kuenzang Minjur, said to ensure decentralization of power at the grassroots level, they need more people in the gewog.
“So, Dzongkhag Tshogdue has decided to retain the Gyadrungs until the new recruitment is done. The resolution will be submitted to the ministry for review,” he said.
At the Dzongkhag Tshogdu, Tsaenkhar Gup Tsheten Wangdi said relieving Gyadrungs would cause a lot of manpower related problems in the gewog offices.
“Gups and Mangmis do not get much time to stay in office. They are on the move constantly, carrying out official works. So, there won’t be anyone to provide service to the people if the Gyadrungs are not there as well,” he said.
Maedtsho Gewog Gyadrung resigned two months ago. Gup Gembo said the gewog office faced numerous problems since.
“For instance, we have to close the office when we come to attend Dzongkhag Tshogdue since there is no one to man it,” he said.
Khoma Gup Sithar Tshering said the Khoma Gewog Tshogde has decided the existing Gyadrungs with a class 12 pass qualification should be retained.
The ministry’s decision has also left the Gydrungs worried.
Choni Wangmo, the Tsaenkhar Gyadrung, said it would not only affect the gewog offices but also their lives. This is her seventh year as Gyadrung. “The villagers would be affected the most,” she said.
“Gups and Mangmi are away most of the time attending meetings and trainings. We will also lose our livelihood.”
Khoma Gyadrung Pema Wangchuk shared the same concern. “While we will lose our jobs, the gewog office will face manpower shortage,” he said.
Currently, there are over 200 gaydrungs in the country and their main duties include tax collection and drafting of letters.
Twenty-seven students from various schools in Bumthang attended a 10-day coaching on traditional Bhutanese musical instruments at Tang Central School recently.
The students were taught the basic music notations, several traditional Bhutanese songs like Boedras and Bhutan’s National Song. They presented the skills they have acquired over the last 10 days at the closing event on Monday.
“I had interest in learning traditional music even before this coaching but I didn’t get an opportunity like this. With the help of our music instructor, we were able to learn notations and traditional songs as well,” Tshering Jamtsho, one of the participants, said.
“I didn’t have any idea that there are so many genres of music and that the musical instruments need to be played in accordance with notations. After attending the coaching, I have learnt all these, ” Tshering Choden, another participant, said.
At the closing event, the Bumthang Dzongda offered the participants a chance to play the music for Jakar Tshechu’s cultural programmes next year if they can perform exceptionally well.
“I think we can perform at the Tshechu next year if we get some more coaching classes. Once we get used to the musical notations, playing music is very easy,” Tshering Jamtsho said.
The coaching was conducted by the Dzongkhag Education Sector to familiarize the students with the essence and skills of traditional Bhutanese music.
“Our general perception is that the youth are not much interested in taking part in Zhungdra and Boedra dances in the schools. So we thought if we provide them with some skills in playing traditional music, they ultimately draw the interest of students in taking part in our traditional songs and dances,” Kinley, the Chief Dzongkhag Education Officer, said.
“Youths today don’t understand the essence and values of traditional music. They are also not aware of the fundamentals of music such as codes and notations and the origins of our traditional Bhutanese music. I think a lot needs to be done to make our younger generation take interest in traditional music,” Sangay Tala, the Music Instructor, said.
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