Bomena or Night hunting is the traditional culture of courtship and romance stealthily at night, prevailing in some parts of Bhutan. Though the term is mentioned as night hunting in English, there is neither the word “night” nor the word “hunting” in the original terms. The original words can better be rendered as “Prowling for girls”. It is an establishment through which a young man enters a girl’s house in the night for courtship with or without prior consultation. The prowling can be solo or in groups depending on whether or not the man has a fixed date. It is the rural equivalent of an urban date. Although they set out as a group, they disperse gradually as they find a partner.
The traditional two story buildings are difficult for prowling, but the uniform design of the Bhutanese houses with the same type of doors and sliding windows, make the task easier for the young lovers. Even after successful infiltration into the house, there remains the chance of rejection from the side of the girl. The attempt of prowling may be hampered due to wrong footing, which may wake up the whole family. The intruder may get chased away or be thrown out of the window. However, some parents pretend to be asleep even if they know the prowler is around, especially if they know the prowler and like him.
With the spread of modern education and the consequent socio-economic changes, the old traditions and customs like night prowling are fading away. Moreover, in the traditional setting bustards and single motherhood was less of a problem, since the extended families and the grandparents always used to take care of the child affectionately. However, the growing culture of nuclear families, the need for marriage certificates, the necessity of having the name of a father to register the birth of the child, have changed the outlook of life. Even the girls in the rural areas have become cautious and practical. This subsequently is leading to the fall in the practices of traditions like prowling for girls.