The section of society most notably excluded from the process of all-round development of Bhutan in terms of both the beneficiaries and the contributors - is women. Women population, which comprises almost half of the total population in Bhutan, has been so far neglected, discriminated and exploited. They have been deprived of most of the opportunities including access to business and industry, gainful employment, skill development training, education, health etc. They do not have access to education, gainful employment, economic resources, political process and decision-making institutions. Their representation at the policy and decision making bodies is negligible. In total, the status of women is very low in Bhutan.
The social attitudes, traditional practices and outlook against women have contributed to the exploitation of women. This has made Bhutanese women lacking in confidence in handling the issues generally affecting themselves even in their day-to-day life. The situation in Bhutan is such that majority of women are not even aware of their basic rights.
The practice of discrimination, gender-inequality and exploitation of women are not sudden emergence in the Asian societies. These are the legacy of the past feudal societies. Bhutan is still a feudal and autocratic society. Therefore, the presence of discrimination, gender in-equality and exploitation of women in one or other form is the main characteristics of feudal society of Bhutan. Bhutanese patriarchal system reflects male supremacy making women subservient to men.
Government has made no efforts to protect and promote women’s rights even though it has ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Participation by women in national life is almost nil. Women have least access to higher post in the government. They have never been appointed as Ministers, Judges, Chief District Officers, and Ambassadors or to other senior important posts.
Women comprising around 49 % of the population have least access to gainful employment. They do not have economic autonomy. More than 95 % women are illiterate and are engaged in traditional agricultural farming. The government has done nothing to improve their lot. Less than 0.5% women are employed in the civil service (bureaucracy). They are mostly employed in lower level jobs like, telephone operators, typists, clerks etc. Less than 0.5% women are engaged in business. Around 0.2% are engaged in other occupation and 3.5% of women have no identifiable occupation. The plight of rural women is worse. They are most neglected lot. Sexual exploitation, illiteracy, superstition, disease, child mortality and ignorance are rampant in the rural villages.
Bhutan tops the list on women’s sexual exploitation among Asian countries. But hardly any information reaches the world outside. Women are treatrd as an object of consumer goods. They have no dignity and continuously humiliated by the males. Behind the government rhetoric of good governance, wide spread incidents of female abuses and their sexual exploitation are hidden.
Women representation in Parliament is a dismal low of 13.9% as of 2012.