After the public of Paro made a hullabaloo to the National Assembly about drayangs causing social problems, a few MPs suggested an outright ban on drayangs. The discussion even rose to the length where Layog Lyonpo promised to guarantee jobs for all the girls working in drayangs if the industry closes down. Following are the selected opinions I pulled out from various online forums regarding the ban of drayangs in Bhutan:
Photo: Business Bhutan
1. Cause of all Evils
A socially concerned writer asserted that drayang is the “major source of all our social problems”. The author declared that drayangs are the place where “sexual harassment” and “exploiting…young girls” are rampant despite “strict rules and regulations for the operation of the business.” In drayangs “customers lack the moral conduct” and sexually abuse young girls. The author affirmed that “This place is cause of all evils,” a place where many “married people get divorced.”
2. Drayangs: another form of Prostitution
Several writers online say that the drayangs are the hub for “commercial sex” affirming that “drayangs are perceived as the only business in Bhutan in which prostitution and brothel are legalized.” One of them warned, “Drayangs…is one step closer to becoming a brothel in future, therefore, it should be banned.”
3. Immoral conducts
Here is a man who visited a drayang and was stunned. He wrote, “I have visited a drayang once and was surprised see the girls dancing drunk and sitting on the thighs of [male] customers.” He also wrote, “I have seen many of my friends going there to see gals [only].”
4. Against Buddhism and GNH
There is a group of religious-minded people who felt that the establishment of drayangs in Bhutan is against our religion, Buddhism. One of them wrote, “….we all being Buddhist I feel that it’s not good to have such an entertaining place where alcohols, smoking, immoral conducts is propagated.”
5. Drayangs benefit small section of the society
Some wrote that drayang industry benefits only a small section of our society but earns humiliation for our country. “It is becoming a kind of livelihood for thickheaded people on selling somebody’s flesh….the proprietors are misusing their employees…a sinful act,” wrote one.
6. Why rules cannot stop drayang disharmony
Few believe that no operating regulations can uproot the misbehaviors of the drayangs. “No laws; however, stringent can be applied effectively on the ground that foremost motive of this organization is money,” wrote one. He added, “drayang owners who are to be directly accountable for the safety of their employees cannot guarantee 100 % safety to their employees.”
7. Prevention is better than cure
A larger chunk of the online users suggested that prevention is better than cure regarding the ban of the drayang. “Right now Bhutan doesn’t have much drayangs and it is right time to stop such thing in a country,” wrote one of them.
Don’t ban drayangs:
1. NA discussion lacked understanding of the issue
Most people are against the idea of outright closing down of drayangs as discussed in the last NA session. A writer wrote, “The discussion lacked depth, sensitivity and understanding of the issue and was driven more with… indignation rather than pragmatic logic.”
The writer further explained, “To expect Bhutan to open up to the outside world, to modernize, to increase the number of tourists, to meet the ever increasing costs of living, and still remain pure and untouched is both impractical and unrealistic.”
2. Sign of economical development
Many feel and see that drayang as a sign of economical development and have been benefiting our society. One of them wrote, “….the drayang as package of development” and “Give jobs to those jobless.” It also makes “….contribution to the economy as well helping to generate the revenue and income distribution,” wrote another.
A male writer sees drayangs as one of the platforms for young girls to “show their talents.”
3. Discouraging private sector
Some felt that the government is going against the policy of private sector development while uprooting drayang industry. “To close down drayang is that our government was discouraging private sector in the country.”
4. Closing down is more problem than solution
Majority felt that closing down of the drayangs is only a short-term solution, not the right remedy. “Closing down is more problem than solution,” one of them wrote adding, “Banning is not a solution because it will manifest on one or other form. It is an entertainment industry that comes with development so there is no way we can stop it from growing.”
Some practical measures to curb social disharmony caused by drayangs:
1. Provide jobs to unemployed out-of-school youth
A regular blogger recommended that “…the women working in drayangs already have jobs. So they don’t need his [the labour minister] bold assurances. Unemployed youth, on the other hand, would welcome his guarantees. After all, they are the ones who are desperate for work.” Then he proposed to “provide out-of-school youth gainful employment. Then they themselves would choose not to work in drayangs.”
2. Empower the employees of the drayangs
A writer suggested empowering drayang employees through “proper education, control health risks and legal protection.” All those working in drayangs should be educated and sensitized on existing rules and their rights, according to the writer. The writer also felt that closing down of drayangs will only drive the activities into the dark alleys and shady bars where drugs are a common place.
3. Ensure safe environment
An architect felt that ensuring safe environment for those working in drayangs is imperative. “These drayangs should not be in the bars, or drayangs should not sell alcohols and other stuffs. This industry should remain clean and should have bouncers and guards to avoid fights and other problems,” marked him.
4. Develop strong rules and regulation
However, many suggested the most pragmatic solution for us to safeguard our society from the defamations caused by drayangs is to ensure strict licensing and operating rules and regulations that should be strictly complied with.
One of them wrote, “If the drayangs are not functioning the way they are supposed to…and…if the girls performing. …are being mistreated by the customers and the owners, then to me this speaks of two things. One, are the current rules and regulations governing the…functioning of these drayangs are not adequate and enough. Two…the existing rules and regulations…not being enforced properly.”
Drayangs are the place of entertainment where young boys and girls work for their livelihoods. Poverty and destitution forced them into this profession. They are vulnerable to money, sex, drugs and other crimes. We have a moral obligation to protect this young group of people and empower them of their rights. Prohibition cannot put end to the social problems caused by this industry. We have to accept this drayang culture (an inevitable social development) and deal it with most learned manner.