Leadership Public Service Women

Gender-Based Violence Prevention: Continuing the QUT Legacy in Bhutan

By Sampa Choden, Bhutan

Brief Background

I am Captain Sampa Choden. I joined the Royal Bhutan Police in the year 2010 after graduation from Sherubtse College, Bhutan with BA Economics and Geography. I started my career as an Officer Commanding at Woman and Child Protection Unit (WCPU) in Paro, Bhutan. I was fortunate to have got an opportunity to go under training on Gender Based Violence (GBV) Prevention and Response Program at QUT (Queensland University of Technology), Australia with my other officer colleagues in 2016.

I am grateful to QUT for awarding me the QUT Impact Stories 2018 Award in July, 2018. It encouraged me to work harder to further address, prevent, intervene and investigate domestic violence, gender-based violence and violence against children. QUT is an inspiration to me. The impact from the GBV and response training in QUT has led to a lasting change.

The Activities Carried Out

Since 2020, I have been serving as a trainer and Adjutant at Royal Bhutan Police Training Institute in Jigmeling, Sarpang, Bhutan after one year of UN Peacekeeping Mission in Darfur, Sudan, 2019. As an adjutant of the Institute, apart from performing a variety of police duties, I serve as Gender Focal Officer, Child Focal Officer and Focal Officer for Early Child Care and Development Centre (ECCD).

The Institute has a large family that includes Officer Cadets and Recruits, the strength of 140 NCOs and ORs (Non-Commissioned Officers and Other Ranks), supporting staff, more than 100 lady spouses, their children of various age and other dependents.

As a trainer, I conduct the classes for Officer Cadets and Recruits on the subject Domestic Violence Prevention Act and Child Care and Prevention Act of Bhutan among many others. It has been easy for me to teach these subjects because of the knowledge I had on GBV gained through my QUT training. Apart from the regular classes, I trained the Officer Cadets (male and female) and Recruits (male and female) on gender-based violence.  I trained them the very basic understanding of sex and gender and how social and cultural gender perceptions lead to gender-based violence. They are further trained on women- and child-friendly policing procedures, the interviewing techniques related to women and children, coordinating with relevant agencies or stakeholders as a law enforcement agency, prevention measures, the first responder actions and the monitoring and reporting mechanism in GBV. They are also trained in understanding the gender equality and how gender equality promotes human rights and ensures equal access to all life chances especially for women.

I have trained the NCO instructors for Officer Cadets and Recruits on women- and child-friendly policing procedures and sexual harassment because it is very important for them as a trainer to know on the subject since we also have female trainees.

I have conducted the awareness and sensitization programs to the police personnel of this Institute together with their spouse and children and the dependents. They are sensitized on DV and GBV, sexual harassment, extra-marital affairs, good parenting, family planning and maintaining a good neighborhood in preventing and reporting the family violence, child offences and GBV cases.

Besides above, the police personnel are strictly reminded that they shall observe the highest standard of conduct, avoid using abusive language, be polite and tolerant in dealing with family or public, limit in consuming alcohol, not indulge in gambling or commit any corrupt practices which would bring disgrace or otherwise violates the dignity of the family. On the other hand, the wives are advised to support their husbands to perform office duties well. At the same time, they are advised to know of the financial income of husbands (salary) and have access to accounts so that they don’t face unreasonable deprivation of financial resources resulting in emotional distress or hardship.

I ensure that the female police constables are protected from sexual harassment while at work place especially while they do perform their duties at late evening. They are exempted from night duties.  During pregnancy, they are provided to work in a conducive atmosphere. The breast-feeding mothers are taken care with flexible timing to feed the baby.

I facilitate the pregnant women for their timely antenatal and postnatal checkup. Moreover, I also facilitate for medical checkup of the women suffering from period irregularity.

The children are sensitized on DV and GBV, their rights and violations, “good touch” and “bad touch”, teenage pregnancy, cyber bullying, etc. Further, I initiated the survey of children and taking out the statistics of children in age for pre-school. Therefore, it helped in establishment of the  ECCD center in this Institute in 2021. I was actively involved in designing the center development and hence, successfully enrolled 28 children in the center.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, I have also been serving as Quarantine Facility Management Focal Officer of this Institute. We were restricted from movement out of the camp due to the pandemic. Therefore, I initiated an Aerobic Dance Session of one hour in every evening for the wives of the police personnel and female police constable in order to ease their mind thereby preventing DV cases.

Impact

The culture in the Armed Forces is that we control through discipline. As police we abide by the police code of conduct. We have service offences for breaching any sort of discipline. Of this Institute, majority of the wives of police personnel are housewives or dependent to the husband. Also, we have few couples both working as police personnel. If a case of domestic violence is reported by the wife, the husband undergoes physical punishment or other consequences and that affects their service record and promotions. Therefore, due to this stigma the wives and children fear to come forward and report DV cases against their husbands or father.

However, through the QUT training, I have been able to break this chain and culture. With regard to DV cases, I dealt out of the shell of discipline. I provide them counselling and facilitate mediation in them like any other case from general public and make sure that the wife or children is medically examined in case of physical abuse. After adopting this practice, the wives and children started reporting the cases of DV against their husband or father. On the other hand, the husbands (police) also started to realize, believe and accept this new process of addressing their family problem through the office by their officers. This practice has built openness and comfortability in them in dealing of the matter. Therefore, for the years 2020 and 2021, during my tenure as an Adjutant, I have maintained Zero Divorce Rate in this Institute.

I have come up with flexibility in duty adjustment even for the male police persons who are single fathers, thereby making them comfortable at home in taking care of or safeguarding their children.  They also had duty adjustments while the wife is under recovery of delivery pain, to make them help the wife with household works and baby-sitting. The female police constables especially those who are married became more emotionally strong in managing office work stress and responsibility at home.

Through the sensitization program, a sense of closeness, care and confidence in the family and children has been built. No teenage pregnancy case has occurred. No case has been reported from the school administration against this Institute on children involved in disciplinary cases.

After the establishment of ECCD center, 28 children of above two and a half years old were able to enroll in the center. The intellectual capacity of children have been enhanced through play, activities and participation at the center. The families facing baby-sitting difficulties is also been solved. On the other hand, it reduced the workload for parents and it further contributed in reducing the DV cases.

As of now, the two batches of officer cadets and recruits were well-trained and informed on DV, GBV, women- and child-friendly policing procedures and the interviewing techniques related to women and children. During their training, it was ensured that their needs, concerns, and expectations are made especially some of the particular issues related to female trainees that cannot be disclosed to men. They ensured that female trainees do not fall through the gaps due to gender bias. The female trainees are also sensitized and taken care of the disposal of sanitary pads hygienically.

Conclusion

I would like to thank QUT from the bottom of my heart for imparting the training. I would say that without your training, I wouldn’t have been able to make a difference. The above successes have all been through my QUT training. QUT is an inspiration to me. The GBV and response training  that I had at QUT has made a lasting difference to the lives of women and children in Bhutan.

 

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