Night hunting in Bhutan
A social nightmare hit me last night here. The distasteful Bhutanese custom of "night hunting" reared its ugly head. My driver pounded on my door at 11 pm and again at 1 am, saying, "night hunting! night hunting!" I talked to him through the safety latch-lock. "Are you kidding me? Go away. There'll be no night hunting with me -- get lost." He finally laughed although he tried to push on the door and force himself in. I quickly slammed the door shut and spent the rest of the night, awake and angry. There is no formal marriage or divorce in Bhutan. Women are impregnated by men who roam the countryside, pounding on doors, and inviting themselves in for a bit of "romance," as some of them say, which is really nothing more than unwelcomed sex or rape.Defenders of the tradition say the men sometimes stick around and raise the children, working the woman's farm, and are generally recognized as fathers and husbands. But they have no formal obligation and are free to night hunt all they want from village to village. It's a good thing that the farms remain in the matrilineal property rights, or the women would be pregnant and without a means to support themselves.
Instead, you can find women--babies strapped to them, children playing near their feet--working the rocky soil in valleys from one end of this mountainous kingdom to the other. The men can farm but they often gravitate to the cities seeking employment. The last two or three kings have declared an end to night hunting, and modern Bhutanese like to dismiss it as all but vanished in the cities, yet still lingering in the rural areas. But I was in the capitol city of Thimphu when the vulgar knock came at my door. Not all customs deserve preservation. This custom manages to keep sex in the dark ages of no-accountability. Toiling Bhutanese women deserve mates who hold them with respect and step up to their responsibilities.