BHUTAN: Realisation of child rights remains a distance dream
24 October 2008 3:45 am
The 49th session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child which met in Geneva on 22 September to review the Bhutan report has expressed their desire for more efforts by the government to ensure that the rights of every child are upheld in the country.
The Committee raised concerns that Bhutan continues to allow gender discrimination, lack of consideration for children with disabilities, rural and urban poverty nd disparities in children of Nepalese ethnic origin “particularly in relation to their right to a nationality, to education and to health services”.
The Committee in its concluding observation (CRC/C/BTN/CO/2) expressed its concern that the Constitution only allows those with Bhutanese parents to obtain citizenship, and said it might deprive some children to acquire the certificate. The committee also regretted the lack of any data on children of Nepalese origin.
Despite the government’s effort to open schools in the south of Bhutan for children of Nepalese ethnic groups, the schools were closed following a protest against the 1980s’ Reform of Citizenship Regulations which rendered many nationals of Nepalese origin as illegal inhabitants.
Expressing concern that the lack of birth registration certificates may prevent the child’s access to education, the Committee has recommended Bhutan to ensure that the lack of registration do not impede on school attendance while creating a central authority to ensure birth registration of all children.
The Committee has also recommended Bhutan to establish a National Human Rights Commission as per the Paris Principles which would ensure rights of the people including children.
The state has promulgated a new Constitution in 18 July 2008, established a National Commission for Women and Children, Penal Code and the Civil and Criminal Procedure Code which all include child rights related provisions.
Rights based civil society is near to non-existent inside Bhutan though National Commission on Women and Children includes civil society representatives. However, most of the associations are engaged in religious, social or economic activities. The government has already enacted the Civil Society Act of 2007 which does not include a rights-based approach and bars any non-government organisation from participating in election-related activities.
Committee has expressed concerns that these provisions may result in restrictions on civil society organizations and recommended that Bhutan promote “without undue restrictions, the establishment of civil society organizations and involve rights-based non-governmental organizations working with and for children more systematically throughout all stages of the implementation of the Convention”.
Meanwhile, the Committee welcomed the inclusion of fundamental rights in the Constitution, but expressed concerns that some provisions may be used to unduly restrict these rights by the adoption of new legislations.
Practice of corporal punishment also remains a main problem that hinders the realisation of child rights in Bhutan. It is not prohibited in schools, at home and in alternative care settings, including monasteries. It has asked for laws on prohibition of corporal punishment and awareness campaign against the practice.
Bhutan has so far ratified only two core treaties- Conventions on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on 1 August 1990 and Convention against the Elimination of All Kinds of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on 31 August 1981.