Marriage in Bhutan is short lived. Court receive number of divorce cases, society see several single parents, children stay with less-caring relatives, and several single mothers are forced to enjoy dancing in the Drayangs. I question myself, why breakdown of marriage is so common in modern Bhutan? Is it because human conflicts are inevitable? Is it due to lack of adequate social education? Or are we simply not responsible?
On 12 June 2015, I was sitting in the Office of the Institute of Excellence and Development (i-ED) with a very good friend of mine, Mr. Tshering Dorji. He work as a Principal of Rinchen Higher Secondary School. Whenever we meet, we talk of diverse issues – social, economic, cultural, religion and politics. However, our discussion largely centers on the Bhutanese education system, good and bad, excellence and mediocrity, and strength and weaknesses. Talking on these large scale of issues is not waste of time. I get to know more, reflect myself and then get time to act upon.
On that particular day, as we talk on, I suddenly picked a topic on marriage and divorce in Bhutan, particularly about a very good friend of mine who desperately wanted to get divorce. I narrated a whole story – of how my friend is being suffered for last couple of months (probably because of his ignorance?), how he doesn’t get along with his wife, how he spend his sleepless nights at the security gate-house, and how he wish to get divorce very soon. Mr. Principal Sir said – “Marriage in Bhutan is very short lived. Many get divorced now and then. May be our society, parents, couple, and children need to have adequate information and education on this front.”
He also told me that what we learn in school is just a plain literature- reading, writing, completing the syllabus, and then testing. Learning about marriage, relationship, sex, communication, conflict, etc. are more important than teaching the prescribed text books, because everyone encounter these series of phenomenal behavior in one’s life.
“Marriage in Bhutan is short lived. What we learn at school is nothing more than a literature – reading and writing”. These exceptional words has become my food for thought. Upon my clear reflections, I perceive that Education should be more than text books. No matter how good you are at text books, you will forget in your later part of your life. For instance, I did my commerce and accountancy at grade 11 and 12. My accountancy scores used to be incredible. I used to score full marks in every test, and the subject teacher would applause me for my great performance. But what is the use? Today don’t remember the basic rules of accountancy, and I have never applied single accountancy knowledge in my workplace. If whatever taught in the schools are to be forgotten, then what is the use of teaching? Are we teaching to forget? Where are we failing? I feel it is time wasted to teach something that has no utility in life.
In this writing, I modestly write about the importance of education on marriage, leaving other issues untold. At the outset, I say that, one of the major problems that we face regarding the breakdown of marriage is lack of adequate information. How many of us, we the Bhutanese, get married under strict guidance of information? How many of us get married after acquiring the precise knowledge of marriage? Do our children have any idea about institution of marriage? I think the number must be very less, must be less than 5%.
How does marriage happens in Bhutan? A desperate boy would see a girl, they start talking to each other, and next few days they turn-out to be a very probable young couple in the world. In such situation, do they know each other’s character adequately? Do they understand each other? I am not sure. After they get married, and producing child after child, a minor disagreement or may be conflicting interest would lead to a family dispute, domestic violence, and eventually irrevocable breakdown of marriage. This simply attribute to ignorance of social responsibilities and inadequate information.
Marriage is a big discourse that no one teach us. No school text books outline this important subject. No teacher would give talk, no principal would invite guest speaker to speak this topic at school. Perhaps, we are inviting our own problem.
Marriage is not taught at home as well. How many of our parents talk about sex and marriage in our dinner time? May be 5%? Or may be less! My father would feel nervous and discomfort to talk about marriage and sex, and neither do I feel comfortable to ask about it. We rather feel ashamed to pee together as well. Under such father-son relationship, what would I learn about marriage, sex, and the life? Nothing.
Let me substantiate my argument by narrating my own story. My marriage was simple, no engagement, no wedding ring, no celebration, and nothing in real sense. My wife and I met somehow by destiny, talked to each other, stayed together, and then became a couple. Ours was a pure Bhutanese ways of executing marriage. At times I feel funny. However, almost all Bhutanese marriage happens this way. A boy would find a girl in one particular place, happens to be one of the most beautiful girls in that locality, talk to her, dine together, and she would eventually ask “what are we?” and obvious reply is “you are my girlfriend”. This is a very informal proposition, yet they end up staying together as a husband and wife. Although we don’t know much about each other’s character and personality traits, however for those of us whose marriage life works successfully is solely because we develop understanding each other in later part of our life. We tend to know more day by day, focus on future, update knowledge, feel for children, manage conflicts, and thus relationship does not breakdown. But for many, this is not the case. They don’t understand each other, conflicts are not managed, they feel reluctant to talk, don’t communicate and so eventual outcome is DIVORCE.
What can we do? Different agency can contribute to make our marriage a success. Through guidance, education, knowledge and information, our married couple can unite together throughout their lives. In the following line, I outline few propositions:
First, we consider school as abode of learning, and learning therefore does not exhaust without preparing for a stable life. Therefore, we need to build a strong education policy incorporating this important social discourse in to school text books. I say this because if we look at school text books, other than biology text books which inadequately talk about reproductive organ and health, I can’t locate any information regarding marriage and sex. It is high time that the Ministry of Education move beyond the confined syllabus, and revisit what is important for our children. Akim Longchari rightly put that “In examining any educational process, we need to consider: a) the taught curriculum b) the hidden curriculum c) the missing curriculum.” We cannot punish our young children for our absolute ignorance. For instance, in Bhutanese legal context, marriage with minor is interpreted as rape of a child above twelve years, and that we label husband of a minor girl as a criminal not knowing the fact that we failed in our duty to sensitize and provide adequate information. Had our children known the consequences of early marriage, teen age pregnancy, unsafe sexual activities, legal provisions, and clear information on marriage, then I am certain that sex and marital associated problems will not popped in. Certainly our children need to make informed decision.
Second, our schools need to be more proactive in teaching social fronts. As a teacher, their role I suppose is not to confine within the four walls of prescribed syllabus but to go beyond what is not taught in the class rooms that benefit the children in their life. Education is not about teaching what to forget in the future but to remember throughout one’s life. Moa ZeDong once said “The role of the educator is to present to the community in a challenging way the issues they are already discussing in a confused way.” Therefore, it is the responsibility of the teacher to present to the community that they have best taught the children that will have societal impact in the future.
Third, I believe that many things can be taught at home as well. Home is a place where children stay with their parents, enjoy learning as they grow up, and educating in many fronts. However, many aspects are missing in Bhutanese home. Today, home is just a place where children live themselves. Parental care and protection is almost absent. Father will be seen at Changlimithang with bow and arrow, Mother will be busy in the gambling houses, and innocent children will be engaged watching Dorimon at home. In a branded mac book, children are busy networking, some busy watching pornography clips, and some busy making appointment in the social networks. In this nuclear world, parenting is a total mess. Perhaps, educating parents about parenting skills would help minimizing this issue. For instance, in different parts of the world, parents are taught to raise their children, to care, to educate and protect their children until they attain the age of eighteen. Perhaps, Bhutan could borrow this idea and teach our parents on parenting skills. With parenting education, parents become more responsible to educate children on different aspects that is more important for one’s life.
Fourth, we need to change our attitude towards boy-girl relationship. For instance, almost all Bhutanese schools have a law that deters students for their involvement into a boy-girl relationship. Conservative parents would not want their school going girl to be into relationship with a boy. It is substantially correct for parents to worry because without adequate information on sex education, children would engage in unsafe sexual behavour thus resulting into unwanted pregnancy. With adequate information, there is no reason to worry about. If we look at the developed countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia etc., a girl and a boy would stay together (commonly known as living together) for several years. During the span of their togetherness, they would know each other very well, understand more, and study the rule of their partner. If the rule is favorable to both of them, they will decide to marry. This eventually lead to a successful married life. In this context, our thinking attitude needs to be changed.