KP Sharma

Despite the government’s attempts to address the issues, vulnerable populations such as persons with disabilities, youth recovering from addiction, women, and the LGBTIQ community continue to face challenges in getting social protection.

The issue was raised by the representatives during the advocacy event hosted by Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy and UNICEF Bhutan in Thimphu yesterday.

Representatives from the marginalised groups advocated for their own issues, aiming to engage with policy and decision-makers directly.

According to the representatives, despite the parliament’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the physical and social obstacles have restricted their access to public facilities and services, resulting in increased marginalisation and societal isolation.

One of the representatives said that certain children with disabilities face limitations in accessing quality education.

“Children with neurological disabilities conclude their education at 16 upon leaving SEN school, and our policy denies them access to further education and training,” one said. 

A mother with a physically-challenged son, voiced her concern about the insufficient facilities and lack of caregivers in schools attended by children with disabilities.

The need to introduce Bhutanese sign language and introduce a course was also stressed on by the representatives, as deaf children face difficulties in communicating with those who can hear.

Most of the participants expressed the need for a policy for special people, such as subsidised housing, shelter, and financial assistance from the government.

It was observed that mothers of disabled children often sacrifice to leave their jobs to become full-time caregivers.

This decision results in the loss of financial independence, leading to subsequent mental stress and marital conflicts.

The unemployment of women and their vulnerabilities were also raised as rising concerns by the participants.

During the event, the participants also said that the problem of youth unemployment due to the mismatch between educational qualifications and market demands is increasing too.

The lack of coordination among government agencies and the insufficient emphasis and information on counselling and career education programmes, the participants said lead to youth unemployment.

 “It is unjust for young individuals to be denied a ,no objection certificate, even after serving the required prison term for the committed offenses,” a youth representative said.

Members of the LGBTIQ community said that discrimination and stigma linked to their identities have been on the rise.

They further highlighted the issue of school-bullying towards individuals with the identity forcing them to drop school at a young age.

The unequal job opportunities and other challenges faced by the community were also discussed during the event.

Foreign minister Dr Tandin Dorji acknowledged these concerns and said that the government has been actively working to address them.

He added that these matters would be addressed once the current plans and policies have successfully achieved their targets.