Another Violent Reality for Bhutanese Women
This morning, I received an email from Ode Magazine with a link to an article about the small Himalayan nation of Bhutan. The piece focuses on the country's efforts to modernize without tourism and development. "The King believes that gross national happiness (GNH) is more important than the widely used measure of economic well-being, gross national product (GNP)," writes Stephan Herrera.
In addition to this blog, I run an email newsletter with links to undercovered articles. Subscribers tell me they often feel like unsubscribing because the news is always negative and depressing. So I decided I would seek out and post uplifting stories and information every now and then.
A few hours after posting the Ode article, a reader sent me a link to a Human Rights Watch News piece about Bhutanese refugee women in Nepal who encounter gender-based violence and systematic discrimination in access to aid:
Nepal's system of refugee registration discriminates against women by distributing rations through male heads of household. This policy denies women equal and independent access to food, shelter and supplies, and imposes particular hardship on women trying to escape abusive marriages. Either these women must stay in violent relationships, leave their relationships (and thus relinquish their full share of aid packages), or marry another man, in which case they lose legal custody of their children.
UNHCR and donors should also increase pressure on Nepal and Bhutan to resolve their longstanding refugee situation in a manner that is timely and meets international standards. Over 100,000 Bhutanese refugees have been living in seven camps in southeastern Nepal ever since they were arbitrarily stripped of their citizenship and forced to flee Bhutan in the early 1990s. Bhutan and Nepal meet this week in New York to discuss a recent refugee screening that deemed only 2.5% of those considered eligible for repatriation to Bhutan with full citizenship, leaving the rest to an uncertain and potentially stateless future. The process failed to meet international standards, and excluded women from meaningful participation.
Cases of Bhutanese refugee women featured in the report:
(Pseudonyms are used to protect privacy)
Geeta M. told Human Rights Watch that her husband frequently beat her and threatened to deny her food and other rations. "Sometimes I was beaten so badly I bled. My husband took a second wife. I didn't agree. He said, 'If you don't allow me to take a second wife, then the ration card is in my name, and I'll take everything.' I have asked my husband for the health card and ration card and they don't give it to me. I have not gotten approval to get a separate ration card."
One refugee woman, Durga S., told Human Rights Watch, "My husband is suspicious whenever I talk to anybody else. Since he brought a second wife, I am beaten frequently. On my thighs, there were blue marks. He had beaten me with a belt and with his hands. He has already hit me, why should I show everyone? People will talk badly about us. My husband threatens to kill me and throw me away. He beats me if he thinks I'm reporting it to someone."