English | Dzongkha Thursday, September 20, 2018

More women subjected to emotional abuse in intimate relationships

Phub Gyem, Thimphu
Mar 7, 2018

Despite robust policy and acts in place to tackle violence against women, Bhutanese women continue to face violence and discrimination. Of all forms, it is the emotional abuse that many women fell victim to last year.

In 2017, 165 women were reported to have suffered emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is a form of abuse where a person subjects or exposes another person to behavior that may result in psychological trauma, including anxiety and chronic depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Women also continue to be vulnerable to other forms of abuse such as physical, sexual, economic and emotional.

Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW) received 420 domestic violence cases last year alone. Of that, 395 involved women victims with most of them having suffered emotional and economic abuses.

Dr. Meenakshi Rai is the director of RENEW’s Community Outreach Department. She says physical, sexual and economic abuses disturb one’s state of mind and cause emotional abuse.

Unlike other forms, emotional abuse is a lot harder to identify, which makes preventing or addressing it a daunting challenging.  “In the case of emotional violence, it is so difficult to prove,” Dr. Meenakshi Rai said.

“There are no bruises. There is just nothing. But now because there is awareness, an increasing number of people are coming to share their problems like extra marital affairs. When they are not happy at home, they come and share their problems with us. So, from there we come to know that it is emotional violence.”

Even for the police, it is easier to handle physical and sexual violence than emotional violence. “Physical and sexual violence are easy to identify and forward to court as it is evident from physical injuries,” RPB’s Investigating Officer Palden said.

“But when it comes to emotional abuse, we cannot help even if we want to as we have to forward the case to court based on evidence. So, it is very challenging for us to help when victims of emotional abuse come to us.”

A bigger challenge, perhaps, is women not even being aware that they are being abused emotionally. “ Bhutanese are not aware of what is emotional abuse,” Tenzin Wangmo a student with the Khesar Gyalpo Univesrity of Medical Sciences said.

“We don’t understand emotions. People do not talk about it or reach out for help.”

She thinks part of the problem lies with the women and their attitude towards such abuses.  She says Bhutanese women are generally resilient and endures emotional abuse.

“Best way to address is to talk out emotions and feelings. We Bhutanese women are so resilient. We try to take everything in and to live with it. We try to tolerate whatever bad things happen to us. We do not try to address it,” Tenzin Wangmo said.

Doctor Meenakshi said that the increase in the number of emotional abuse cases could be because more people now are aware of it today.

RENEW attends to cases of emotional abuse by giving counseling and creating awareness.

“We try to talk to the clients and tell them to take decisions, and what we do at the end is, of course, we ask her and try to call in the husband or call anybody at home with whom she feels like she can or she wants us to talk to,” Doctor Menakshi Rai said.

“So, we try to do family counseling and individual counseling. We also have couple counseling.”

To heighten awareness on emotional abuse, RENEW is carrying out a workshop in collaboration with the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC), RBP and volunteers.

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