The State of Bhutanese Women

Bhutanese women are Privileged

Pema Choejor & Tashi Wangmo/Thimphu

A question from the Prime Minister, Tshering Tobgay during the second national conference on women in politics, held here beginning March 8, 2017, bewildered most of the participants. “If you are reborn as a human being, will you prefer to be born as male or female,” the Prime Minister asked.

Bhutan’s first woman Gup, who was again re-elected in the last local government elections,  Namgay Peldon of Tashiding gewog, Dagana, told The Journalist that if she is lucky enough to be reborn, she would definitely prefer to be reborn as a women.

“Women in our country are fortunate that our husband move in with us and we feel secured and protected,” she said, adding that unlike some other counties, Bhutanese women do not have to change their names and move to their spouses homes, due to the cultures followed.

She added that in the past many women and girls were deprived of opportunities due to traditional beliefs and norms. “However, with changes in time, many women are now as literate as men and have the same opportunities,” she said. The Gup also referred to the emergence of civil society organizations (CSO) like as Bhutan network for empowering women (BNEW), national commission for women and children (NCWC) and other CSOs, which are ready to help women in all areas.

“Be it in politics, business, civil servants and school, women today are as equal as men and sometimes far better,” she said.

Similarly, Dema Yangzom, an entrepreneur based in Thimphu, expressed how blessed she is to be born as a woman where opportunities are equally provided without gender discrimination and the enactment of more and stronger laws.

The Journalist found out that although most of the men admitted that they want to be reborn as men only, there are also some men who would never mind to be born as women in their next generation.

Benu Prasad, a trainee at the Royal Institute of Management, said he is not sure if there is something called as next life, but if there is then he would love to be born as a woman.

“Why not, woman, they are by nature well civilized while men need to undergo  tough training to become civilized.” he added.

Like Benu, Kinley Penjor, a private employee also acknowledged that women are kind and soft by nature, which are “very important for survival.” “Men need to learn all these, but women do not,” he said. Kinley added that women are pro-active and can bring huge changes in the society. “In few years we will see a better Bhutan with more woman leaders,” he said.

However, a designer of a private firm said that the question is not about discrimination. “It is about changing some of the beliefs that our society has, such as the acceptance that women should look after the house”. She added that “today” women are provided equal if not better opportunities than men. “There are men who say that they also need CSOs. I think it is genuine,’ she said. On the PM’s question, she said that in Bhutan, “it is the same.” “Women here are fortunate. Things will improve and so the question of being born as a man or a woman is secondary to me,” she said.

Meanwhile, minister for works and human settlement, Dorji Choden said “if  we are in a time where women are crucial for sound and healthy economies, societies, communities and nations, then lets us also accept and demand that economies, societies, communities and nation to do more in creating a supportive environment where a young girl and women can grow to their full potential, be able to give their best performance and contribute to societies and nations as leaders and in fact to grow as a competent individual.”

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