- - -

Media center

IPPF Director General Calls for Prioritization and Partnerships for Addressing Sexual and Gender-based Violence in Bhutan

Dr Alvaro Bermejo, Director-General of IPPF, visits RENEW, IPPF SARO's Associate Partner in Bhutan

Thimpu, March 8: Dr. Alvaro Bermejo, Director-General of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), graced the International Women's Day event hosted by Respect, Educate, Nurture, Empower Women (RENEW) on 8 March in Thimpu. The event, observed in the esteemed presence of Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, Queen Mother of Bhutan, served as a platform to raise awareness and address the pressing issue of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in Bhutan, and the larger South Asian subcontinent.

In South Asia, the prevalence of sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) remains alarmingly high, with lifetime intimate partner violence rates being 35% higher than the global average. This pervasive issue is compounded by societal factors such as the socio-economic structure, power imbalances within households, and institutionalized patriarchy.

Countries like Bangladesh and Nepal continue to grapple with gender-based violence, ranking as the top countries where gender-based violence is the first or second leading cause of intentional homicide. Gross human rights violations, including female feticide, honor killings, trafficking, forced sex work, and acid attacks, persist unchecked in South Asia. Additionally, everyday forms of gendered violence within the private sphere often go unnoticed, perpetuating its societal acceptance.

Dr. Alvaro Bermejo, in his capacity as Director-General of IPPF, recognizes the urgent need for action to address SGBV in South Asia. “The IPPF's new strategy, "Come Together," underscores the importance of challenging social norms, providing support to marginalized communities, and advocating for policy changes to combat SGBV effectively “, he said.

In Bhutan, a study by the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) in 2017 on violence against women and girls (VAWG) in the country found that more than 40% of the 298 surveyed women who had experienced physical or sexual violence from a partner – never shared their experience with anyone.

RENEW, IPPF's Associate Partner in Bhutan, stands as a champion in the fight against SGBV. Despite significant progress in enacting laws and policies related to sexual and reproductive health and gender equality, Bhutan faces challenges in implementing these measures. RENEW provides comprehensive services to survivors of domestic and gender-based violence, including counseling, legal aid, shelter, advocacy, and awareness campaigns.

"During the last 16 years, RENEW has made numerous attempts to understand the nature and causes of GBV and has introduced a stellar community-led intervention to address these issues. However, SGBV remains a critical issue in Bhutan. We urge the government to prioritize Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and efforts to combat SGBV down to the local government bodies and officials," stated Dr. Alvaro Bermejo, Director-General of IPPF. "We also seek greater interagency collaboration and coordination to effectively address this issue."

As part of the effort towards destigmatising and preventing SGBV in South Asia and to directly work with the most vulnerable communities, IPPF South Asia Region’s #GotToBreakFree Awards aim to shed light on often-invisible survivors from key intersections, including those facing caste-based gender violence, the LGBTI+ community, women in sex work, women with disabilities, and undocumented migrants. By recognizing their contributions, the initiative seeks to build a cadre of community champions and encourage a culture of speaking out against SGBV.

During the International Women's Day Celebrations, Dr. Alvaro announced the names of six #GotToBreakFree champions selected from Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Iran, Nepal and Sri Lanka. “These champions will receive support from IPPF to advance their work in preventing SGBV within their communities and countries. Additionally, they will mentor youth volunteers from the South Asia Regional Youth Network to address harmful narratives and destigmatise SGBV in the region effectively”, said Dr. Bermejo. 

For further information, please contact Kuenga lhaden at [email protected] and Madhurima Mallik at [email protected] 

About the International Planned Parenthood Federation

The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) is a global healthcare provider and a leading advocate of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) for all. We are a movement of 150 Member Associations and Collaborative Partners with a presence in over 146 countries.

Building on a proud history of 70 years of achievement, we commit to lead a locally owned, globally connected civil society movement that provides and enables services and champions sexual and reproductive health and rights for all, especially the under-served.

We advocate for a world where people are provided with the information they need to make informed decisions about their sexual health and bodies. We stand up and fight for sexual and reproductive rights, and against those who seek to deny people their human right to bodily autonomy and freedom. We deliver care that is rooted in rights, respect, and dignity - no matter what.





South Asia

Related Member Association

Respect Educate Nurture Empower Women - Bhutan