Working women

working women

Wonder women

A good 52% of the participants in our last poll said that we do not discriminate against our women. But 44% said that our women do face discrimination. And the rest, that’s hardly 4%, said that they couldn’t tell.

A majority of us feel that our women do not suffer discrimination. That’s good. And that must be so. After all, our society is, more or less, matriarchal; inheritance favours daughters; men move in with their wives; wives don’t take their husbands’ names; widows and divorcees can remarry; and our laws protect women.

For these reasons, and many more, we pride ourselves in having the least amount of discrimination against women among all the countries in South Asia. Some of us even boast that our women are better off than those of many advanced nations.

But wait. Let’s look at employment, an issue that is becoming increasingly important in all our lives. Let’s look at jobs. And let’s look at what we consider to be the most attractive jobs – the public service.

The civil service has 19,835 regular employees. Of them, only 6,166 are women. That is, women account for barely 31% of the civil service. Or, in other words, the civil service currently employs less than one woman for every two men. Suddenly, the situation does not appear too good, does it?

But it gets worse: of the 181 executive level civil servants – that’s directors and above – only 8 are women. Of the 50 specialists, only 6 are women. And only one of the secretaries to the government is a woman.

And worse: the heads of all, but one, of the government owned corporations are men.

And worse still: we have never had a woman as a dzongdag. We have never had a woman as an ambassador. And we have never had a woman cabinet minister.

Our first Parliament is dominated by men. Of the 72 members, only 10 are women. And all its leaders – Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the National Council, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, leader of the ruling party, and leader of the opposition party – are men. The secretaries general of both the houses are men.

Only one of our 205 gups is a woman.

Now ask yourself again: do we discriminate against our women?

Our next poll is straightforward. I want to know how often we go to our villages.


Facebook Comments:


  1. I think the answer is straight forward too – our women folk are the most chivalrous in the world. They are more than happy to allow their menfolk to supersede them – wherever and whenever the men so desire.

    Hail! be to the Bhutanese women!

  2. Well, that may not be because discrimination persists. It may not be wise we give some responsible post to dogs because we have no dogs at all holding any important posts. But not to be misunderstood or misconstrued as my blatant attmept to comparison our lovely womenfolks to the dogs I am just hinting that perhaps it is not because of discrimination but because there are no women who are capable of taking such posts, or for that matter, naming them more capable than those men already taking such posts. In doing so (removing capable men and placing women instead)then men could be said to face severe discrimation. Moreover, we do not see many (I could have missed considering I am dangling in the lower rung myself) women at the higher rung of the ladder lamenting job unsatisfaction nor are they deprived of chances. Dasho Aum Neten Zangmo could be one great example of exemplery recognition in the recent Bhutanese history.

    Fathoming the depths of discrimination at the upper rung may not say it all again. We could also see that women are coming up and daring to drive taxis in thimphu. They may not have earned worldwide acclaim but they have not be unwelcomed either. We are now getting equal number of women doctors, engineers and other degree holders or even more. We may not have anyone in the cabinet ministry now, but it could be different in the next few years.

    Our culture may also have a hand in this. Women were supposed to stay under the roof and carry out the house chores while men took care of the fields. With time, paddy fields turned into offices whilst women still partook the same duty as the houses needed caring still. With time yet again they started oozing out of the cocoon and venturing out. This has been accepted without outrage as we all know, and it’s just that there has been a delay in their starting.

    I sincerely believe it is not discrimination, but just a slight delay in time, that is keeping the women folks of Bhutan behind. At any instance of time they could come up with a bang and ‘discrimination’ may be just a word inscribed in a dictionary, unknown and unused.

  3. Well, i personally don’t see direct discrimination against our women. Opportunities are given equally and selected/recruited based on their merit and capability. However, i agree that we have very less women at top bureaucracy, politics and judiciary. That may not necessarily construe as discrimination against woman. Maybe because our development programs started just 4 decades back and at the initial stage it was very difficult to enrol woman in schools considering our terrain and very few schools were there in far flung areas. Even in 2008, women were given equal opportunities to come forward and join politics but very few turn up. But today, if you see in most of the schools, there are more girls than boys. So, in my view, there is no discrimination against woman and it will be a matter of few years that we will see more women participation in politic, judiciary, private/public sectors and bureaucracy.

  4. Womenfolk in olden days were tamed to suit male dominance. Girls need to help mothers at home, so they cannot go to school.

    Girls also cannot enter Goenkhangs.

    Direct discrimination is not evident though. But you cannot deny that somewhere at the background, women are not treated as equals. Women who sleep with their bosses and powerful women, are the ones who dare climb into the laps of power. THis is just a general case though and it happens just the same anywhere else in the world.

    If you enter the many male dominant homes in Bhutan, you will see that wives are generally treated as nothing better than slaves. Menfolk’s belief that money can buy and sell women is beyond repair.

    Typical Bhutanese movies unconsciously portray men’s feudalism over women; they are seen punching the woman’s face, pulling their hair, raping them at gun point and trampling over them.

    Women have everything at stake; men do not believe they have anything to lose. So, the struggle begins..the struggle for a woman to find a place without scratches or burns of a man’s sexual wrath.

    Discrimination is not evident or obvious in Bhutan. It’s busy crooning in the background. However, rating discrimination entirely by the posts holding women in Bhutan is invalid. There are other factors associated with that. 🙂

  5. Bhutan has one of the most qualified house wives coz they choose their family over career. Its not discrimination its a matter of choice…

  6. discrimination against women and gender inequality is there a difference ? women may not be discriminated against in Bhutan but what about gender inequality ?

  7. Linda Wangmo says

    I wake up at around 6am in the morning. I prepare breakfast for my family. I quietly take my three kids out of the bed and let the get dressed up for school. I have to make sure that I don’t disturb my Husband because he feels he needs enough sleep. After breakfast I drive the kids to the bus stop and send them off to school. I than come back home and I myself gets dressed up and after a quick bite of burnt bread, I set off to my school. At school I get a good warning from my head teacher for not being in time. In the class as soon as I start of with the roll call of the students, I get a call from my husband, yelling at me for not washing his socks. I say sorry and get back to my work, minutes later I am disturbed with another call, this time, its a warning for me for making that ema datsi, too hot. This is followed by another call accusing me of whacking his money which is kept for buying arrows. During lunch while all the teachers are busy with their lunch, I quietly stay in my class doing corrections and of course hungry. I bunk from school at 3pm to pick up my kids and drop them home. To make sure my kids are safe I lock them up and get back at school. After school as soon as I reach home, I help the kids with their home work and prepare dinner. My husband returns home at around 7pm with four of his friend and I am to go for another round to prepare dinner for them. My husband with his pretty messed up shoes and gho seems he has had a good archery match but his story is he had to prepare speech for LYnpo. I cannot question him anymore because he says he would leave me and go.
    Is all these discrimination or is it common everywhere.

    • A classic definition of discrimination in our part of the world. Unfortunately, it gets swept under the carpet in the name of culture and values. More so, because we are not economically advanced to tag a value to housecare.

      Because it is a norm, we unfortunately derive our normality from that. It is too risky to be abnormal, however right.

      And then, we get confused. Is it discrimination? It all seems so right? How can it be that messy word ‘discrimination’?

      We wonder, we wonder with all our might. But we forget. We forget the platform from which we are making an analysis. A cozy platform. A ‘normal’ platform.

      I wonder what else is discrimination.

  8. Dear Linda

    So you do recognize it as discrimination? And what are you doing about it? Washing his dirty socks and putting them out in the sun to dry?

    That is valiant of you Linda. Keep it up!!!!

  9. Lily Wangchhuk says

    Many do not believe that we discriminate against women in Bhutan because we do not have discriminatory policies against women.Infact, the country has always been committed towards ensuring equal opportunities and participation of women. But on the other hand, it is a fact that women having been facing and still face religious, social and cultural discrimination in the country. This has shaped the mentality of women and created gender gaps in many areas such as governance, higher education,economy amongst others.

  10. Hi Lily,

    Nice to see you here too –

    Coming to the issue under discussion, I think we are getting it all wrong. I think what has come to be called “discrimination against women” is not really true in the sense it is now understood. What I think is that it was a social order developed and fine tuned over the centuries which were in tune with the environment prevailing then. I think the attitudes & behavioral cultures developed by necessity – primarily to protect the women lot and also to clearly define the roles of the sexes. I do not think that it was meant to subjugate the women folks. I think the roles and responsibilities were defined based on the physical capabilities of the sexes. As crude and discriminatory as it seems in the modern times, you will agree that the very social fiber was kept intact and vibrant – solely based on those beliefs and cultures. Although they may seem a little decadent now, please bear in mind that the progress of humanity to the 21st century was because that kind of beliefs and cultures worked very well. One has to also accept that there are certain compulsions imposed on the women folks given your physical limitations.

    Ofcourse the realities have now changed. Therefore, what we need to do is bring in a shift in the way we think. Thanks to technology and education, woman can now do things they weren’t able to do in the past. May be now I can say that women are – 90% men! Haha.

    Lily, I hope this does not put your nose completely out of joint 🙂

    • Lily Wangchhuk says

      Hi Guest,

      I wish you had written your name after that long comment so that one can learn how this CONSERVATIVE person is. I wouldn’t argue with you for the sake of arguing as that is not going to change your mentality. But all I can say is that one has to be a WOMAN to understand the realities. I have been fortunate and I have never faced discrimination in life so it isn’t a problem for me but this isn’t true for some less fortunate women and I will not try to explain either as YOU will never understand this…

  11. Hi Lily

    So your nose was indeed put out of joint – as expected. Sorry about that but I meant what I said. Sadly though, predictably, you misunderstood the implications of what I wrote. Please re-read what I wrote and see if you can offer me something worthwhile to engage you or be engaged in – a debate over the issue.

    • Lily Wangchhuk says

      Sorry readers for posting comments meant for one individual. Since the person is signed as anonymous, I couldn’t avoid this…but I promise this will be my last comment!

      Hi Guest,I couldn’t read your entire comment after reading a sentence or two as it is one of those typical stereotype comment one hears all the time and I seriously didn’t want to waste my time. The Opposition Leader has sought our comments on ISSUES so that some of the pertinent issues can be taken up productively. The blog has been created for such purpose and it is not meant for debates for people like us. So even though I could really debate with you on this issue, I do not wish to misuse the blog for such purpose. I recommend that you read the National Plan of Action on Gender to understand the situation of women in Bhutan and MEA’s Gender Assessment Report – Such documents could help you change your stereotype thinking on gender and gender roles and widen your horizon. Good Luck!

  12. Lily,

    Fair – no further debate on this – this will be my last post on the matter too. But as a woman, let me tell you that the issue can only gain usefulness once you begin to accept the realities for what they are. Stereotype or not, burning the bra does not rid you of the breast. Chew on that for starters. Trust me, there is huge, huge wisdom in what I just said.

    • Lily Wangchhuk says

      Guest, See! Thats why I said you are a typical gender stereotype and thats what your comments states as well. When we talk about gender the issue is not about women wanting equal rights as men or trying to do the same things as men. Gender means social relations between men and women and not women alone! The issue is about addressing challenges faced by women due to social, cultural, religious barriers thus enabling them to make full use of their potential.For e.g. in a financially challenged family – a girl child maybe sent as a baby sitter so that her earnings can help the family with supplementary income while her brother may go to school. This is not intentional discrimination but because parents want to be protective over the daughters and think that daughters will be supported by their husbands and need not complete their education while the sons will have to be bread earners – this is cultural discrimination! Similarly, some of our dzongkha school text books states that women are nine lives inferior to men and this could affect women into thinking that they are far less capable than men and therefore lack the motivation etc – this is religious discrimination. Women may want to participate in governance but is challenged with her family responsibilities and priorities – All these are barriers which prevents women from active participation and gender gaps. When we talk about gender most people like you think its about women competing with men and trying to do the same things as men and this is a typical stereotype thought! Here the issue is not about competing with men but about addressing barriers faced by our womenfolk which prevents them from making use of their potential thereby limiting their ability to contribute to society at large. I am not a feminist nor am I a strong advocate for women. But as a women, I understand the realities and barriers faced by other women better! I can go on and on elaborating with many examples but want to avoid too much discussion on OL’s blog but we can always chat about it!

  13. Well Done! Lily for that appropriate response and comment you have made to stereotypical comments from men. We need more women like you to help the disadvantaged women! Keep up your good work and spirit!

  14. Tashi P. Ganzin says

    hi Linda
    i think what you are facing is really discrimination against women. you are struck with one jerk of a husband. why do you do additional work when you are a working woman yourself? if you happened to be house wife then it’s understandable.
    maybe you should talk with your husband about taking a house maid.

    seeing marriages like yours is a big discouragement to the single women like me. I don’t wish to get married for the fear of meeting a cruel monster husband like yours.
    I’d seek divorce if i were you.

  15. Dear Lily

    So you have decided that you want to discuss the matter further – even after you said your above post would be your last. I made the same assertion – but having seen your response, I couldn’t keep away either – so here goes.

    But first, please don’t loose sleep over posting your views on the OL’s blog – it was precisely for the reason that he wanted views that he posted the article – to invite discussion. If he does not like what we are saying, he always has the right to delete the posts.

    Coming to the issue of discrimination against women in Bhutan, are you certain that you are not mixing up personal abuse with discrimination? You know that the two things are totally different. I still say that there is no discrimination in Bhutan. I do accept that there are “misconceptions” – both religious and social. But times are changing and we will need to make readjustments in our way of thinking.

    The concept of “discrimination” was propagated by the technology driven western world where they have moved away from the traditional roles to modern ones. It is too vast a subject to discuss on this blog – but let me tell you that the movement of women’s liberation and the act of bra-burning during the ’60 was a misconception to begin with.

    However, technology had empowered women so much so that the roles of the genders began to overlap. Through education and adoption of technology, women became more capable and, independent – financially as well as intellectually. Basically, what it means is that there should be certain level of “empowerment”. If it isn’t there, then the discrimination is none-existent. So to me it seems like we have to “arrive” at a certain level of advancement – to really begin to talk of discrimination. Until then it will not make no sense.

    You should also remember that the western world’s idea that child labor is evil is not acceptable to our Asian societies simply because our value systems are different. The Western societies have moved away from traditional way of thinking while we still value and take pride in family participation to the collective kitty. Kids in the western societies do not have the safety or freedom or opportunities or environment in which they can safely work and earn. Their environment has become so dangerous that they can no longer send out their kids to work. Therefore, they do not have the scope and, arising out of that incapacitation, the western culture term our Asian culture of children contributing to the family endeavor as – Child Labor. Why should we blindly buy their theory? It works in the environment in which we work and live – so we follow what is ideal for us – and not be cowed down by the western concept. When we arrive at the point where they are now – we may then need to readjust our thinking – which is fine.

  16. Sonam Wangmo says

    I agree with Lily Wangchuck’s statement on challenges and barriers faced by Bhutanese women. The men have be there too long for them to understand our challenges and reality facing women. I was involved in a gender study and visited some remote parts of the country and it is in these remote areas where gender discrimination is very apparent and a issue that needs to be addressed. We need more men who are gender sensitized to help women in the issue as women alone cannot tackle this and if educated Bhutanese men think we dont have a problem than I think it is a sad state of affairs.

  17. Hi Sonam Wangmo,

    OK, so you have first hand knowledge on incidences of discremination against women. Tell me of few examples – perhaps I am not understanding “discrimination” in the context it is referred to.

    But surely you are not confusing “challenges and barriers” with “discrimination”? What are the barriers and what are the challenges that women in Bhutan face that you think we men are responsible. I can understand challenges and barriers caused by discrimination – but on their own, they do not constitute discrimination.

  18. Sonam Wangmo says

    If you are that same guy who has been responding to Lily’s comments earlier than I think you really have a complex problem. Nobody is blaming men here for discrimination against women. When I talk about gender discrimination it means both men and women so who is talking about discrimination against women. Please educate yourself on gender first before attacking on people like that.

  19. Sonam Wangmo,

    I suspect you are a little confused.

    If you did not hold men responsible, what did you mean by; “We need more men who are gender sensitized to help women in the issue as women alone cannot tackle this….”. You supposedly were “involved in a gender study and visited some remote parts of the country and it is in these remote areas where gender discrimination …..”. Obviously, you have some facts and figures to substantiate your claim? Fine, let us hear it.

    When we talk of gender “discrimination”, we generally refer to unequal treatment of the female gender by men. I defy you to tell me that it is the collective mind set of the Bhutanese men. I am aware that some women suffer life long abuses at the hands of their husbands but that is also true of men suffering at the hands of women. However, that is not discrimination. Discrimination is a premeditated and deliberate act or belief that undermines the capabilities of women – one where women is considered less than equal to men – one where women’s inherent capabilities are suppressed through discriminatory social or religious dictates – where it is supposed that women are less capable than men.

    By necessity, the separation of roles was based on biological lines. However, that is not discrimination. Women cannot hold men responsible for your physical short comings and peculiarities. Nature has not failed you in the way it designed you. But it has designed men and women in such a way that each is better at something than the other. Thus, by segregating roles, we merely adhere to the natural order of things. That is not discrimination.

    Truth is, in the modern times, physical prowess is no longer an issue. We modern men recognize that and accept it. However, Sonam Wangmo, you cannot refute the validity of its truth in the bygone era. You admit that the so called “discrimination” is more apparent in the rural areas. That, I hope you know, is because the rural folks still live in a condition that is distinct from those of us who dwell in the urban areas. In the cities, physical strength is of little use. Here, our vile, cunning, street smartness, craftiness, wiliness rule supreme. And I am glad to admit that the ladies are much better at them 🙂

  20. Tashi Penjor says

    Wai! Totsha….What is wrong with you by arguing with the two ladies here on this public forum. Please don’t disgrace Bhutanese men by getting so petty and going to the extent of trying to prove a point here. You maybe right in your way and these ladies maybe right in their own way so why on and on…

    Try to relax man!

  21. Namaste, Good post indeed, although women may not have it so bad in Bhutan, but one could say that the quality of life and opportunity for some women is also not so good.

    As you can see by this link, you girls are not alone.

    by Jessica Neuwirth

    Around the world, real discrimination against women persists — much of it in blatant, tolerated, legal form. Why?

    It makes no sense. The right to equality has been affirmed repeatedly, in international law, national constitutions and various treaties. Name them: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) — all provide for equality before the law and equal protection. The Beijing Platform for Action, adopted at the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, states the need to “ensure equality and non-discrimination under the law and in practice” and to “revoke any remaining laws that discriminate on the basis of sex.”

    It sounds good. But the reality on the ground, in cities and villages, homes and schools, and even in the courts, is quite different.

  22. well discrimination still exists… i have seen lots of women going thru the same situation as Linda Wangmo mention, wake up early n come home early… though the law has given equal rights, bt eventually its upto the individual to follow or not.. so most beleives n expect women to be lower than men…
    i always get a reason saying “because he is a man……………” this happens, its exceptional etc… this particular reason covers up all reason for him doing things that are not acceptable to us… even some of my female frens has accepted this reason n beleives in it n leaves their doubts and question once this reason comes up. But i say this is not enough reason for him to make mistake.. we are all humans basically with the same emotions and desires…. there you have a reason of discrimination against women still existing……..

  23. Dr. Madhu rajput says

    The environment is the biggest influence on once personality, although theremay not be any laws which discriminate between men and women, unsaid laws act as a basis how our society functions socially. A girl who sees all her life her mother struggle at home and at work outside can not suddenly transform herself when she grows up. Ability is not created overnight so we need to have an environment for a child which gives her an opportunity to develop, educate herself, then we will not be talking about numbers at higher level because a fully qualified person will get her desired place. It is not the fault of women but of the system which needs to care about the firm foundation it should lay for a strong building to emerge on it.

  24. Lily Wangchhuk says

    Bhutanese women are faced with economic, social and cultural barriers which is the main cause for the wide gender gap in all areas


  1. […] against women among all the countries in South Asia. Considering that Tshering Tobgay wonders why Bhutanese women are not usually seen in the executive role or in any top position. […]

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