Bhutan scores high on the World Happiness index, however, taken as a whole, any Bhutanese, mostly women, are dealing with mental health issues. The separate mental health unit was set up at the hospital.
– Reeta Rani Nayak
Bhutan is a typical matrilineal country like most of the neighboring Himalayan states of Nepal, Tibet and parts of India’s Northeast where women have a much bigger role in the home and society. But like all other matrilineal societies women folk have a much less role in politics which has by now become the most deciding factor in socio- economic life. Women manage multiple tasks at home, while also holding office jobs, and are the decision-makers in the family. Bur, leadership roles in society for women remain minimal.
In the first parliamentary elections held in Bhutan in 2008, just ten of the 72 seats went to women. Of those, 8 had been elected, while two had been appointed by Bhutan’s King. Incidentally, like all other progressive ideas, both the King Mother and Queen are backing the women to the hilt. The number had dropped at the next parliamentary election, with the total percentage of seats held by women going from 14 to 8. But at the 2018 elections, there had been a small improvement, with the percentage of women rising to 15.3 percent. The current Cabinet of 10, has just one woman, the health minister. At the Local Government level, the 2011 election saw just 98 women elected for the 1,454 seats. One woman had been elected a chairperson of a Local Government authority. That number doubled in 2016, with two women appointed as chairpersons. In the civil service too, there are fewer women in leadership roles.
The exception to the rule seems to be in the constitutional bodies, where two of the four commissions are chaired by women. Bhutan’s Monarchy has opened the door for women to be in decision- making positions, appointing them to head Constitutional Commissions and to the National Assembly. Even in the media industry the role of women is bleaker. While at least a few women are in parliament, so far there have only been two women in leadership positions in the media; a managing director appointed to the national broadcasting service in 2008, and the appointment of a woman editor in chief of the national newspaper Keunsel in 2018. Male journalists, she said, far outnumber their female counterparts, and according to data collected by JAB, the ratio is 92 to 30. Tashiring Dolkar explained that both the Queen Mother and the Queen of Bhutan take a special interest in spearheading programmes to empower women.
The Queen, who is the patron of the organisation Dolkar, uses the 2013 Domestic Violence Act to address societal challenges and to promote gender equality and equity. Women have endured domestic violence, mental health and trauma issues for years, she stated. Bhutan scores high on the World Happiness index, however, taken as a whole, any Bhutanese, mostly women, are dealing with mental health issues. The separate mental health unit was set up at the hospital.
Bhutan measures its development through five- year plans, and, as, there has been a concerted effort by the government to include gender sensitivity in mainstream activities. Interestingly, India’s Panchayat system has given much hope to Bhutanese women, several of whom have been exposed to the workings of that system.
Source: Himalayan News Chronicle