CRC REPORT-BHUTAN: BWCO
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CRC REPORT

BHUTAN  RECOMMENDATIONS OF CRC

 

CRC/C/15/Add.157

8 June 2001

 

UNEDITED VERSION

 

COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD  27th Session

CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES

UNDER ARTICLE 44 OF THE CONVENTION

 

CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS OF THE COMMITTEE ON THE  RIGHTS OF THE CHILD: BHUTAN

 

At its 715th and 716th  meetings (see CRC/C/SR. 715-716), held on 5 June 2001, the Committee on the Rights of the Child considered the initial report of Bhutan (CRC/C/3/Add.60), which was received on 20 April 1999, and adopted the following concluding observations.

 

INTRODUCTION


The Committee notes that the initial State party report was prepared according to the Committee's guidelines for reporting. It notes the timely submission of the informative written answers.  The Committee further notes with appreciation the presence of a high-level and cross-sectoral delegation, which contributed to a frank and open dialogue.

 

POSITIVE ASPECTS

  • The Committee notes that the consideration of the initial report of Bhutan marked the first occasion that the State party had appeared before a human rights treaty-body. 

  • The Committee welcomes the progress made at the Joint Verification Talks and the commencement of the verification process of the refugees in Nepal. It further welcomes the undertaking made by the head of the State party's delegation to convey to the Government the Committee's concerns on the need to accelerate the process. 

  • The Committee welcomes the incorporation in the State's development plans of the goals contained in the World Declaration and Plan of Action from the 1990 World Summit for Children. 

  • The Committee welcomes the establishment of the Department of Legal Affairs, which is an important step in consolidating the rule of law in the State party. 

  • The Committee welcomes the establishment the Youth Development Fund and the Health Trust Fund. 

  • The Committee appreciates the cooperation of the State party with UN agencies and other international organizations, such as the formulation and signing of a Master Plan of Operations in cooperation  with UNICEF. 

  • The Committee welcomes the holistic approach undertaken by the State party in formulating policies and programmes relating to aspects of the Convention (e.g. multi-sectoral strategies, such as the Comprehensive School Health Programme, involving the education and health sectors), and their child-focused approach.

FACTORS AND DIFFICULTIES IMPEDING THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE CONVENTION

 

  • The Committee acknowledges that difficult topography (i.e. difficult mountainous terrain); the relative recency of socio-economic development; the pressures posed by high population growth on the provision of social services; and the shortage of human and economic resources, are factors impeding the implementation of some provisions of the Convention.

  • The Committee notes the challenges posed by the State's aspirations to maintain its unique culture and identity amidst increasing development and openness, and within the regional context

PRINCIPAL SUBJECTS OF CONCERN AND COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS GENERAL MEASURES OF IMPLEMENTATION

 

 

Legislation

  • While noting various legislative measures already taken or proposed with respect to child rights (e.g. amendments to the 1980 Marriage Act, the 1993 Rape Act, the draft Juvenile Justice Act, draft Civil and Criminal Codes, and the draft Immoral Trafficking Act), the Committee is concerned that they do not reflect a comprehensive rights-based approach to the implementation of the Convention. 

  • The Committee recommends the State party to:

  • ensure the speedy promulgation of legislation relating to child rights;

  • undertake a comprehensive review of existing legislation, from a rights-based approach, to ensure its conformity with the principles and provisions of the Convention; and

  • consider adoption of a comprehensive children's code, which incorporates the principles and provisions of the Convention. 

Coordination 

  • The Committee welcomes information that the government is planning to review the implementation  structure for the Convention, particularly strengthening the role of the CRC Task Force. However, it is concerned that the CRC Task Force is not yet operational. 

  • In consideration of its review, the Committee recommends the State party to:

  • pursue the preparation and development of a comprehensive national plan of action to implement its obligations under the Convention, through an open, consultative, and participatory process;

  • ensure that the CRC Task Force is responsible for intersectoral coordination and cooperation (at and between national and local levels of government), dissemination and training of the Convention, coordination of NGO activities in the implementation of the Convention, as well as coordination in the preparation of State party reports; and ensure that the CRC Task Force is adequately resourced (e.g. financially and professionally). 

Cooperation 

  • Noting good government cooperation in development and welfare sectors with national associations, bilateral aid agencies, international organizations and NGOs,  the Committee is concerned that insufficient efforts have been made to involve civil society, particularly in the area of civil rights and freedoms, in the implementation of the Convention.

     The Committee recommends the State party to

  • consider a systematic approach to involve civil society, especially children's associations, throughout all stages of the implementation of the Convention, including with respect to civil rights and freedoms; and

  • ensure that legislation regulating NGOs conform to international standards on freedom of association, as a step in facilitating and strengthening their participation.

Monitoring structures 

  • The Committee is concerned at the absence of an independent mechanism with the mandate of regularly monitoring and evaluating progress in the implementation of the Convention, and empowered to received and address complaints.

The Committee encourages the State party to

  • consider the establishment of an independent national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles relating to the status of national institutions (A/RES/48/134), to monitor and evaluate progress in the implementation of the Convention at the national and at the local levels.  This institution should be accessible for children, empowered to receive and investigate complaints of violations of child rights in a child-sensitive manner, and effectively address them; and

  • seek technical assistance from, inter alia, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UNICEF, and the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children.

Budgetary allocation 

  • While noting significant investments and increased budgetary allocation in the social sector, the Committee is still concerned that insufficient attention has been paid to article 4 of the Convention regarding the implementation to the "maximum extent of...available resources" of economic, social and cultural rights of children.

The Committee recommends the State party to:

  • develop ways to establish a systematic assessment of the impact of budgetary allocations on the implementation of child rights;

  • ensure multi-sectoral programmes are adequately funded;

  • ensure the distribution to the maximum extent of available resources at the national and local levels, and where needed, within the framework of international cooperation; and

  • consider obligations under the Convention in all aspects of its negotiations with international financial institutions and other donors, to ensure that economic, social and cultural rights  of children, particularly children belonging to the most vulnerable groups, are well observed.

Data collection 

  • The Committee is concerned that disaggregated data of persons under 18 years relating to the rights contained in the Convention, is not systematically collected and used effectively  to assess progress and design policies to implement the Convention.

The Committee recommends the State party to:

  • establish a mechanism to systematically collect and analyze disaggregated data of all persons under 18 years for all areas covered by the Convention,  including the most vulnerable groups (i.e. children of different ethnicity, living in remote areas, children with disabilities, children of economically disadvantaged households, etc.); and

  • seek technical assistance from, inter alia, UNICEF, in this regard.

Training/Dissemination of the Convention 

  • Noting some state efforts (e.g. radio programmes), the Committee is concerned that awareness of the Convention amongst professionals working with and for children, and the general public, including children remains low. The Committee is concerned that the State party is not undertaking adequate dissemination and awareness-raising activities in a systematic and targeted manner.  

The Committee recommends the State party to:

  • develop an ongoing programme for the dissemination of information on the Convention and its implementation among children and parents, civil society and all sectors and levels of government, including initiatives to reach those vulnerable groups who are illiterate or without formal education;

  • develop systematic and ongoing human rights training programmes for all professional groups working for and with children (e.g. judges, lawyers, law enforcement officials, civil servants, local government officials, personnel working in institutions and places of detention for children, teachers, health personnel); and

  • seek assistance from, inter alia, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and UNICEF.

DEFINITION OF THE CHILD 

  • The Committee notes that the 1996 amendment to the Marriage Act of 1980 raised the age of marriage of girls to 18. It further notes information from the delegation that courts, generally, interpret the law to include persons under 18 as children for all purposes.  

  • The Committee recommends the State party to review its legislation so that the definition of the child, and minimum-age requirements conform to the principles and provisions of the Convention, are gender neutral, are explicit, and ensure that they are enforced by law.

GENERAL PRINCIPLES 

The right to non-discrimination 

  • The Committee is concerned at the disparities in the enjoyment of rights experienced by children belonging to the most vulnerable groups (e.g. children living in remote areas, belonging to other ethnic groups, children with disabilities, and children from economically disadvantaged households, etc.).

The Committee recommends the State party to:

  • make greater efforts to ensure that all children within its jurisdiction enjoy all the rights set out in the Convention without discrimination, in accordance with article 2; and

  • prioritize and target social services for children belonging to the most vulnerable groups. 

  • The Committee is concerned about the impact on children of reports of discrimination of individuals belonging to the Lhotshampas. In particular:

  • reports that these children face de facto discrimination in access to education and other services; and

  • alleged discriminatory practices of children on the basis of status, activities, or opinions of their parents, or relatives.

The Committee recommends the State party to:

  • take effective measures, including  enacting or rescinding legislation where necessary, to prevent and eliminate discrimination in accordance with article 2 of the Convention, in all fields of civil, economic, political, social and cultural life;

  • establish accessible, prompt, adequate and effective mechanisms to monitor, receive and address complaints of discrimination (e.g. prompt appeal in circumstances of denial of school enrolment); and

  • take all appropriate measures, such as comprehensive public education campaigns, to prevent and combat negative societal attitudes towards different ethnic groups.

         Respect for the views of the child

  • The Committee notes the State party's efforts to respect the views of children in schools (e.g. 1997 school code of conduct). Nevertheless it is concerned that traditional attitudes towards children in society-at-large may limit the exercise of this right, especially within the family.  

The Committee encourages the State party to:

  • continue to promote and facilitate within the family, the school, the courts, and administrative bodies respect for the views of children, and their participation in all matters affecting them in accordance with article 12 of the Convention;

  • develop skills-training programmes in community settings for teachers, social workers, and local officials at the village-block level to assist children to express their informed views and opinions, and to have them taken into consideration; and

  • seek assistance from, inter alia, UNICEF.

CIVIL RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS

 

       Birth registration 

  • Noting the difficulties imposed by terrain and settlement patterns, the Committee is nevertheless concerned that the failure of timely birth registration can have negative consequences on the full enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms by children. 

The Committee recommends the State party to:

  • make greater efforts to ensure the timely registration of all births, and issue birth certificates;

  • carry out awareness-raising of registration in rural areas; and

  • consider the establishment of mobile registration offices, and registration units in schools.

Nationality 

  • The Committee is concerned that under citizenship laws, a child of a Bhutanese mother and non-national father must face a burdensome naturalization process, whereas this is not required if the father is Bhutanese. 

  • The Committee recommends the State party to ensure the right of a child to a nationality without discrimination of his or her parent's sex, in accordance with article 2 and 7 of the Convention.

FAMILY ENVIRONMENT AND ALTERNATIVE CARE 

Family reunification 

  • The Committee is concerned that as a result of events following the census operation in the late 1980s, there may be children in southern Bhutan who are separated from their parents, and whose parents are residing abroad as refugees. 

  • The Committee recommends the State party to ensure that family reunification is dealt with in a positive, humane and expeditious manner, in accordance with article 10 of the Convention.  

  • Violence/abuse/neglect/maltreatment 

  • Noting the respect for children in Bhutan, the Committee is concerned that there is insufficient information and awareness of the ill-treatment of children in schools and within the family. 

The Committee recommends the State party to:

  • conduct a study to assess the nature and extent of ill-treatment of children, and design policies and programmes to address it;

  • take legislative measures to prohibit all forms of physical and mental violence, including corporal punishment and sexual abuse against children in the family, schools, and institutions;

  • carry out public education campaigns about the negative consequences of ill-treatment of children, and the promotion of positive, non-violent forms of discipline as an alternative to corporal punishment;

  • establish adequate and effective procedures and mechanisms to: receive complaints; monitor, investigate, intervene where necessary, and prosecute instances of ill-treatment; and ensure that the abused child is not victimised in legal proceedings;

  • train teachers, law enforcement officials, care workers, judges and health professionals in identification, reporting and management of cases of ill-treatment; and

  • seek assistance from, inter alia, UNICEF and WHO.

BASIC HEALTH AND WELFARE 

  • Right to health and healthcare 

  • The Committee notes significant improvements in health indicators, investments in the health sector, the establishment of basic health units, outreach clinics and health volunteer programmes, and inclusion of health education in the curricula. However, it is concerned about problems in  access to services, and the shortage of trained health workers. 

  • The Committee recommends the State party to

  • make greater efforts to ensure access to health services; and

  • continue to allocate the required resources to address the shortage of trained health workers. 

  • Noting the State party's efforts to address adolescent health, such as the publication of pamphlets on reproductive and mental health, and drugs, the Committee is concerned at the effectiveness of these efforts.

  • The Committee recommends the State party to:

  • ensure adolescents have access to and are provided with education on reproductive health and other adolescent health issues, as well as with child-sensitive, and confidential counselling services;

  • strengthen efforts of adolescent health education within the educational system; and

  • seek assistance from, inter alia, UNICEF, and WHO.

Children with disabilities 

  • Noting some efforts by the State party concerning children with disabilities (i.e. the pilot school for inclusive education and formation of a parents support group in Thimpu; and a school for visually impaired children), the Committee is concerned that children with disabilities, in general, have inadequate access to specialised services and education, and insufficient support for families. 

  • The Committee recommends the State party to:

  • conduct a survey to assess the causes and extent of disability of children;

  • review existing policies and practice in relation to children with disabilities, taking due regard of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (General Assembly resolution 48/96) and of the Committee's recommendations adopted on its General Discussion Day on "Children with Disabilities" (CRC/C/69);

  • involve children with disabilities and their families in the development of surveys and policy review;

  • undertake greater efforts to make available the necessary resources (e.g. professional and financial, including professional and financial support to families);

  • undertake greater efforts to promote and expand community-based rehabilitation programmes, including parent support groups, and inclusive education of children with all forms of disability; and

  • seek assistance from, inter alia, UNICEF, and WHO.

EDUCATION, LEISURE AND CULTURAL ACTIVITIES 

Education 

  • Noting significant achievements in education indicators, the Committee is concerned:  that primary education is not compulsory; there is still a significant gender gap in enrolment; and with deficiencies in access to education and the quality of teacher training. 

  • The Committee recommends the State party to:

  • ensure primary education is free and made compulsory;

  • make greater efforts to close the gender gap; and

  • allocate the required resources to address access to education, as well as the quality of teacher training. 

  • Noting with appreciating that the aims of education, are generally in conformity with article 29 of the Convention, the Committee is concerned that human rights education, including the Convention, is not included in the school curricula. 

  • Taking due regard of General Comment 1 on the aims of education, the Committee recommends the State party to:

  • include human rights education in the curricula, in particular the development and respect for human rights, tolerance and equality of the sexes and religious and ethnic minorities; and

  • seek assistance from UNICEF and UNESCO.

SPECIAL MEASURES OF PROTECTION 

Refugees 

  • While noting that the verification process of refugees in Nepal has commenced, the Committee is nevertheless concerned at the slow rate of this process, and the serious and negative impact this has on the rights of children residing in these camps, particularly given that repatriation will begin only once all refugees have been verified. 

  • In accordance with the best interests of children residing in the camps, their right to a nationality, and preservation of identity (articles 3, 7 and 8 of the Convention), and with a view to reaching a just and durable solution, the Committee recommends the State party to:

  • make greater efforts to expedite the verification process, and consider the possibility of repatriating individuals within  a reasonable time following individual verification;

  • consider a mechanism to allow individuals to appeal against decisions;

  • ensure that repatriation and resettlement of returnees are carried out in safety and dignity, to their place of origin or choice;

  • consider acceding to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, its 1967 Protocol, and the Conventions on statelessness; and

  • in the best interests of the children, consider seeking assistance from UNHCR.

Armed conflict 

  • The Committee is concerned at the low age of 15 as the age of voluntary recruitment into the armed forces. 

  • The Committee recommends the State party  to consider raising this to 18. 

  • The Committee expresses its concern at the negative impact on children of reported armed insurgency in the south-central and south-eastern parts of the country. 

  • In light of article 38 and other relevant articles of the Convention, the Committee recommends the State party at all times to ensure respect for human rights and humanitarian law aimed at the protection and care of children affected by armed conflict, and to provide care and physical rehabilitation and psychological recovery measures for these children. 

Child labour 

  • The Committee is concerned at the absence of legislation on the minimum age for admission to employment, as well as insufficient information on children working, including in the informal sector, such as agriculture. It is concerned that an increasing number of children are dropping out of the school and taking up work in urban areas (e.g. as waiters, bus attendants, in vehicle workshops, or as domestic workers). 

  • The Committee recommends the State party to:

  • undertake a national survey on the causes and extent of child labour;

  • establish a minimum age of admission for employment in accordance with the principles and provisions of the Convention, that is in conformity with the age of completion of education, and ensure that it is enforced. Employers should be required to have and produce on demand proof of age of all children working on their premises.

  • establish mechanism to monitor the implementation of standards, and empowered to receive and address complaints of violations;

  • carry out campaigns to inform and sensitise the general public, especially parents and children, of work hazards;

  • consider membership in the ILO.

Sexual exploitation 

  • Noting the 1993 Rape Act and the draft Immoral Trafficking Act, the Committee is concerned at the insufficient data and awareness of the phenomena of sexual exploitation of children in Bhutan. 

  • The Committee recommends the State party to:

  • undertake a national study on the nature and extent of sexual exploitation of children (i.e. sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography) and that disaggregated data be compiled and kept up to date to serve as a basis for designing measures, and evaluating progress;

  • review its legislation and ensure that it criminalizes the sexual exploitation of children, and penalises all those offenders involved, whether local or foreign, while ensuring that the child victims of this practice are not penalised;

  • ensure that laws concerning the sexual exploitation of children be gender neutral; provide remedies in the event of violations; ensure that procedures are simplified so that responses are appropriate, timely, and sensitive to victims; include provisions to protect from discrimination and reprisals those who expose violations; and vigorously pursue enforcement;

  • establish rehabilitation and social reintegration programmes for child victims of sexual abuse and exploitation;

  • train personnel working with child victims; and

  • carry out awareness-raising campaigns to sensitise and mobilise the general public on the child's right to physical and mental integrity and safety from sexual exploitation.

Administration of juvenile justice

  • While noting the establishment of the Youth Development and Rehabilitation Centre, the Committee is nevertheless concerned with the administration of juvenile justice. In particular it notes the absence of information on the minimum age of criminal responsibility. The Committee is also concerned that insufficient efforts have been made to ensure the speedy adoption of the draft juvenile justice, and civil and criminal procedure legislation.

  • The Committee recommends the State party to:

  • to establish a minimum age of criminal responsibility in accordance with the principles and provisions of the Convention;

  • expedite the promulgation of the draft juvenile justice and procedure laws;

  • ensure that a system of juvenile justice fully integrates into its legislation and practice the provisions of the Convention, in particular articles 37, 40 and 39, as well as other relevant international standards in this area, such as the Beijing Rules, the Riyadh Guidelines, the United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty, and the Vienna Guidelines for Action on Children in the Criminal Justice System;

  • ensure that the deprivation of liberty is only used as a measure of last resort, for the shortest possible time, and is authorised by the court; children have access to legal aid and independent and effective complaints mechanisms; and that persons under 18 are not detained with adults;

  • consider alternative measures to deprivation of liberty, such as probation, community service, or suspended sentences;

  • train professionals in the area of rehabilitation and integration of children within and out of the system;

  • seek assistance from, inter alia, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Centre for International Crime Prevention, the International Network on Juvenile Justice, and UNICEF through the Coordination Panel on Juvenile Justice.

OPTIONAL PROTOCOLS TO THE CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD 

  • The Committee encourages the State party to ratify the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

DISSEMINATION OF THE CONVENTION 

  • Finally, the Committee recommends that in accordance with article 44, paragraph 6, of the Convention, the initial report presented by the State party be made widely available to the public at large and that consideration be given to the publication of the report along with the written answers to the list of issues raised by the Committee, the relevant summary records of the discussion, and the concluding observations adopted thereon by the Committee following its consideration of the report. Such a document should be widely distributed in order to generate debate and awareness of the Convention and its implementation and monitoring within the Government, the Parliament and the general public, including concerned non-governmental organisations.

 
 
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