Phub Dem | Paro

The Human Right’s Committee of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recommended parliamentarians to amend the Child Care and Protection Act 2011 to include all rights enshrined in the Convention of the Rights of a Child  (CRC).

The recommendation was discussed during a high-level sensitisation workshop on the human right treaty mechanism with a focus on CRC conducted in Paro last week. 

Bhutan was one of the first countries to sign and ratify the CRC in 1990 and the two optional protocols to the CRC on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and children’s involvement in armed conflict in 2009.

After signing and ratifying the CRC and the optional protocols without any reservation, challenges remained in implementing the laws.

Without proper legal guidance, lawmakers found difficulty in amending Acts and discuss issues related to CRC provisions.

The workshop was conducted to prepare Bhutan’s reporting to the Human Right’s Committee in partnership with UNICEF and the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC). 

As a state party to the CRC, Bhutan must report to the committee on the Rights of the Child, OHCHR, every four years on the status of implementing the convention.

The government has to submit its combined sixth and seventh report by September next year. 

NCWC’s programme officer of the children division, Ugyen Wangchuk, said that periodic reporting was an opportunity to review and reflect on the challenges of implementing the convention.

He said that NCWC, as government machinery, does not have the power to enforce the committee’s concluding observation, which mainly comprises reforms in coordination, policies, and legislation.

He said that parliamentarian’s involvement was essential in helping NCWC implement the recommendations. “We want parliamentarians to consider child protection and wellbeing issues while framing legislation.”

The Human Right’s Committee  also recommended establishing an independent human right institution to monitor child’s right and investigate and address complaints to promote and protect the child’s rights.

It also recommended reviewing the Citizenship Act of 1985 to dissociate birth registration from citizenship and simplify the birth registration procedure and suggested registration of children born to a Bhutanese mother or father, including children’s whose father cannot be ascertained for Bhutanese citizenship. 

Other recommendations included establishing a government entity to coordinate all activities to implement the Convention, allocate resources, increase the budget allocation, decriminalize abortion, develop a national policy on child mental health, and many more. 

NCWC’s officiating director, Ugyen Tshomo, said it was time to amend some laws, as some biased laws hamper child welfare. 

She cited the example of how if a single mother cannot bring up the child and wants to send them for adoption, the mother cannot give the child without a citizenship identity card.

Former chairperson of the National Assembly’s Human Right Committee, Drujeyang-Tseza MP Jurmey Wangchuk, said that the workshop was an eye-opener for most parliamentarians. 

He said while many people still think human rights are a western concept, but we have our concept in the constitution.

Going forward, he said it was time for the country to establish a full-time human right commission to advocate and educate so that people are aware of their fundamental rights. “National Assembly and Council committees such as human rights, women, children and youth can function under the commission.”