If endorsed, it will nullify the Marriage Act 1980

Assembly: The National Assembly, to the surprise of many observers, decided to repeal the 16 clauses proposed by the women, children and youth committee (WCYC) for inclusion in the Marriage Amendment Act 2016, on November 21.

The decision was made when MPs were expected to deliberate the 16 clauses.

The House has, in fact, asked the WCYC to propose a new marriage bill for the next parliament session.

Bumthang’s Chumey-Ura MP, Tshewang Jurme, who is the chairperson of the WCYC said the clauses were put for amendment as it contradicted with the Penal Code and Child Care and Protection Act of Bhutan 2011.

He also said WCYC conducted extensive public consultations with over 35 participants from 18 stakeholders.

The committee had actually proposed to amend clauses on child support allowance, separation cost to be paid by the spouse who commits cruelty, and the responsibility in upbringing children born out of wedlock when the mother dies.

It was Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi who raised that it is time to frame a new Marriage Act reasoning that the Marriage Act 1980 is outdated.

He said interpreting the Marriage Act 1980 has become very difficult, as it has been amended four times. “It is time we frame a new Act for marriage and inheritance, as it is interlinked,” he said.

Foreign minister Damcho Dorji said it is important to frame a new Marriage Act, as even lawyers find it difficult to interpret it. “It will be better if we assign the national law review taskforce to review the laws.”

All MPs agreed that it is important to frame a new Marriage Act in view of changing times.

The committee’s chairperson, Tshewang Jurme, however, explained that the committee initially proposed to the House about framing a new Marriage Act but the Speaker directed them to amend the existing one.

He said the committee report and clauses proposed for amendment were submitted after thorough research of the Marriage Act, child protection Act and Penal Code.

He also said the committee is prepared to frame the new law in this session of Parliament as they have done all the groundwork. “It is a matter of two or three days.”

Tsirang’s Sergithang-Tsirangtoed MP Novin Darlami said works on the amendment of the Marriage Act began since the fifth session. “It looks like there is no support from the House on amending the Act, as every time we have submitted the report, it got postponed.”

However, Lamgong Wangchang MP Khandu Wangchuk said the Marriage Act is different from other Acts and it is important enough time is provided. “The committee worked so hard but it is important we conduct the third reading in the next session.”

He said the committee members should not lose hope if the third reading was postponed, as they are young and hardworking MPs and they should be committed. “We will consult with people during the constituency visits and provide feedback to the committee.”

The Opposition Leader (Dr) Pema Gyamtsho pointed out that the morning session of the House decided that it would direct the national law review taskforce to harmonise the law. “So discussing on the clauses does not make sense,” he said. “While I support  framing a new Act, it should be done in the next session of the Assembly.”

Bji-Katsho MP Kinley Wangmo said it is important the House supports the WCYC, as she has seen the effort and hard work the committee put in.

The House decided the WCYC would move a motion for the third reading in the ninth session with a proposal to amend the entire Act.

Tshewang Jurme said reporting about inconsistencies in Acts and difficulty in interpretation of the law does not make sense if it is not amended to help the common people. “The Marriage Act is one of the most used Acts besides the land and financial Acts. Amending this Act would help everyone.”

Meanwhile, 46 clauses of the Marriage Act were amended in the 74th session in 1996, 10 clauses were amended in 2009, six clauses were amended in the 83rd session of the Assembly in 2005 and one clause in the 85th session in 2006.

Tashi Dema