Growing up in the small village of Bjemina, south of Thimphu, I always dreamed of being a veterinarian. However, my father urged me to apply to law school. When I was accepted into JSW Law, I felt confused. How could I help animals as a lawyer? With the help of my high school counsellor, I realized: if you become a vet, you can help animals, but only one at a time, and only in your lifetime. But if you study law, you can protect entire species in Bhutan, not only in your lifetime but for all times to come. As a woman and aspiring agent of change in my country, this is my story.
Bjemina is a small village locked among the spurs of tiny hills: quiet, serene and secluded. There is green pasture everywhere with cows spread out, grazing lazily. One of the most common sights is fields filled with hard-working elderly ladies, as if to prove that age is not a barrier to anything. Children run around everywhere, filling the atmosphere with laughter and joy. In short, Bjemina is my nirvana.
I have always had a deep love and compassion for animals. Growing up, I had a hen, a rabbit, two cats, and ten dogs. Occasionally, I went to my neighbour next door and helped them groom their horses and feed their cows. The time I spent with all of those animals, day in and day out, made me the person I am today. Something about their innocence and their loyalty inspired a strong sense of compassion in my heart.
In Bhutan, although we call ourselves a happy country, we have many situations of casual and intentional cruelty to animals. Contradictory to our policy of Gross National Happiness, many of us treat these animals, who are after all humble sentient beings,in harsh, hurtful ways.
To stop animal cruelty and to treat them with just and as equals, we need laws. I strongly believe that we need animal protection laws, carefully crafted to protect animals from being mistreated, tortured, and killed. As of now, the only animal protection laws in Bhutan concern farm animals, and proceed from the assumption that animals are commodities whose value should be maximized. This is simply another form of cruelty. We should treat animals with just as much importance and respect as we treat people: like people, they are sentient beings whose life has intrinsic value. We have long ago abolished human slavery; why can’t we ban animal cruelty be banned?
I always wanted to be a doctor. Although my dad is a veterinary surgeon, heurged me to apply to law school.
I applied to JSW Law and appeared for the LSAT. When I saw more than over 600 applicants on the LSAT exam day, I lost all hope. Nonetheless, a couple of weeks after the examination, the phone rang: I was one among the fifty applicants who got shortlisted. Now I started to get excited, and prepared for the face-to-face interview that would decide my fate. On interview day, though, I was once again disappointed. I was so nervous during the interview that I couldn’t even speak well, let alone get my opinions and ideas to the panel. When I left the interview room I knew I would never get admitted.
But two days later, I received a call again from Professor Michael: I was one of the twenty lucky few! I couldn’t believe it — I got a scholarship to JSW Law! That night, when I was in bed staring at the ceiling, I began to think,“Yes, I got a scholarship to JSW Law, but do I really want to go there? Or do I want to go and become an animal doctor?”The next day, I went to meet my high school counsellor and told him all about my worries and how lost I felt. He asked me why I wanted to be a vet. I told him I loved animals and I want to help them in as many ways I can in my lifetime. He looked at me and said you can do just that, maybe even more if you took law. Instead of helping just one animal at a time, you can encourage laws that protect entire species. And then it hit me: He was right. I had a better chance of helping all animals and people if I took law. That cleared up my confusion and I decided to pursue law.
I strongly believe I made the right decision by coming here. My early studies here at JSW Law has made me realize that there is nothing above the law, that law is just and makes the world a better and a peaceful place to live in. I now believe I can change Bhutan for the better in my own small ways with my legal skills. Coming to JSW Law has made me think more broadly. I have started to question everything and am learning to skeptically analyse almost everything. I am starting to see the world in a different perspective. Law practically opened my eyes. I also believe that I am closer to achieving my dream of helping animals like never before and this makes me very happy.
In JSW School of Law, we have a total population of 63 students. Out of 63, 41 are women. In Bhutan as well as around the world, women and girls are rising and making our voices heard. And we have plenty of role models. Jane Goodall, the woman who gave a new meaning to the word “man,” fights for animal rights and tries to make our world a better and kinder place. Malala Yousafzafights for human rights and female education. Sabrina Paterski,often called the “new Einstein,” built her own one engine airplane when she was just 12 and was also able to fly as a test pilot by 16. These brilliant women are just a few examples of how women can shine, reach their true potential and eventually help change the world for the better.
As a woman, I believe that I can be an agent of change like them and contribute a lot to the betterment of Bhutan. When I complete my five-year course in JSW Law and go out in the real world, I will be prepared to take on the challenge of making animal protection law in Bhutan a reality. While law is instrumental in achieving a just and better Bhutan, nourishing the dreams of young Bhutanese is also crucial. JSW Law has nourished my dream of protection animals through the law. I will not rest until it is a reality.