TW: Sexual harassment

“There were about thirty-five of us, all 12 and 13-year-old girls who were harassed by our class teacher. He was a young Dzongkha lopen. He’d always tell us stories about being a ladies’ man and how he would go to parties and dance with women. Sometimes, he’d touch us inappropriately. We didn’t think anything of it at the time. But now, we realize it was sexual harassment. One incident, however, stands out. He was angry at us for something we don’t remember. There were 3 sections in our grade, one was mixed while other two were segregated based on gender. Our classroom had only girls. As punishment, he asked us all to remove our underwear. One of the girls was on her period and was the only one exempted. The rest of us had to stand in a line with our underwear held up in our hands. He then felt our thighs over our kira to make sure we didn’t have anything else underneath. We were then made to go outside like that, make a round and come back. A group of young class 7 girls, walking around the school, underwear in hand, that is also on the command of our teacher. We thought it was an easy punishment. He hadn’t hit us or made us do anything remotely difficult. Everyone else at the school thought the same. This was in 1998.

Years after the incident, we wrote to a newspaper to raise the issue but it wasn’t published. Perhaps they thought the punishment was not too bad. As far as anyone was concerned, it was the lopen’s right to punish us. Besides, we had not been harmed. We understand now that it was because of a general lack of awareness of sexual harassment. The school faculty may have been literate, but no one was educated on this matter.

Stories like these, unfortunately, aren’t just old tales. Such things continue to happen even today. When we were in that place, we had neither the education nor the platform to identify and report the incident. The situation has improved now with sexuality education in schools, but we need to do more. Young girls and boys need a platform to report harassment cases. We need to educate everyone on this. And we all must take responsibility to ensure that schools are a place of safety and learning. We want to tell everyone not to be afraid of telling their stories. Exposing social evil is a service to society, and will help us grow.”

Disclaimer: the story is shared with the pure intention to create awareness. The victims have no intention whatsoever to defame or cause the character assassination of the alleged person or the school.

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