ICPD: Members of parliament yesterday took up the challenge to sustain the progress Bhutan has made in the last 20 years in achieving the goals of the international convention on population and development (ICPD).

The MPs were sensitised on the challenges of changing population dynamics, a rapidly ageing population, and on the need for resources to sustain the progress made, especially on gender equity and women empowerment.

Director for community outreach department with Respect, Educate, Nurture & Empower Women (RENEW), (Dr) Meenakshi Rai shared with the MPs that to promote, respect, protect and fulfil human rights, Bhutan has to accept that violence in one or the other form does exist in the community. 

Citing cases RENEW has handled in the last 11 years since it was established and statistics on the prevalence of violence against women and children, (Dr) Meenakshi Rai called on the parliamentarians to actively engage in reaching the unreached population.

“With increased awareness among the people on the issues and the support services in place, the need to have more resources in terms of technical and financial is being strongly felt,” she said.

(Dr) Meenakshi Rai said that, while domestic violence is a serious problem, it was still not taken seriously.  Last year, RENEW saw 382 clients.

She said that acts, such as wilful negligence, physical/emotional/ psychological abuse and incest are facts that occur in the country.

For RENEW to continue with its work, it needs the political commitment to implement the acts in place to protect women and children, to provide comprehensive sexuality education, to amend the marriage act and resource support from the government.

“But RENEW isn’t for women,” (Dr) Meenakshi Rai said. “It’s for victims of domestic violence, and victims can be women, men and children.”

The parliamentarians commended RENEW’s efforts and committed to support its work through education, advocacy and by reviewing the laws. 

Economic affairs minister Norbu Wangchuk said such acts were not acceptable and, while abusive relationships were not spoken off aloud, he said there was a need to educate, update laws and to work together.

Since alcohol was pointed out as one of the causes for domestic violence, health minister Tandin Wangchuk called on parliamentarians from both houses to take the issue of alcohol seriously.

Lamgong-Wangchang MP Khandu Wangchuk said that the Companies Act, which the NA recently endorsed, had a provision for corporate social responsibility, which RENEW could internally source for funding.

The National Assembly speaker, Jigme Zangpo, said such acts were happening in a GNH country and that it was possible to rise up to this challenge and address it together, given the good social and political conditions.

“Let’s walk out through this door with challenges to be solved,” he said. “Let’s walk out of this hall with parliamentarians meaning business – business in education, dissemination and commitment.”

RENEW’s president and UNFPA’s goodwill ambassador, Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck presided over the sensitisation program yesterday.

By Sonam Pelden