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Human Rights Training Programme



Bhutan is a closed society, where the Government of Bhutan virtually controls everything. Politics and discussion about country's politics is banned. Even viewing of television was prohibited until 1999. There is no newspaper except one weekly bulletin owned by the government and the transparency on the government action is non-existent. The radio, Bhutan Broadcasting Service and newly established Television station are owned by the government. These agencies are used for propaganda of the government. They publish and broadcast only what the government wants the people to read, hear and know. The government does not allow the Non-government Organizations (NGOs) to function inside the country and formation of unions, associations, organisations and political parties are strictly prohibited. Publication of newspaper, magazines, journals and newsletter by private sector is not allowed. People do not have the right to freedom of speech, expression and the right to freedom of press, publication and printing. They are denied even the right to peaceful assembly and union. Bhutanese human rights organisations and activists are required to work under exceptionally difficult situation. They function in three countries: in Nepal their host country, India, the transit country, and Bhutan their home.


On December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, "as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction". The Declaration of the World Conference on Human rights held in Vienna in June 1993 requires ' all states and institutions to include human rights, humanitarian law, democracy and rule of law as subjects in the curricula of all learning institutions in formal and non-formal settings.' It further prescribes, 'human rights education should include peace, democracy, development and social justice, as set forth in international and regional human rights instruments, in order to achieve common understanding and awareness with a view to strengthening universal commitment to human rights.' So far the Government of Bhutan has not paid any heed to the Declaration.


If there is anything of which one could be proud of the international community, it is its unequivocal support and one voice concerning protection and promotion of human rights. This is well reflected in the charter of the United Nation's various declarations, covenants, conventions and resolutions. The Universal Declaration on Human Rights in its preamble reads, 'Whereas the peoples of the United Nation have in the charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights in the dignity and worth of the human person and in equal rights of man and woman and have determined to promote social progress and better standards in larger freedom'. This was further stressed at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, Austria in June 1993. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action promulgates 'the World Conference on Human Rights reaffirms the solemn commitment of all states to fulfil their obligation to promote universal respect for, and observance and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all in accordance with the charter of the United Nations, other instruments relating to human rights and international law. The universal nature of these rights and freedoms is beyond question.


Equality is the cornerstone of every society which aspires to social justice and human rights. In all sphere of activity of society women are subject to inequalities. This is caused and exacerbated by the existence of discrimination in the family, in the community and in the workplace. It is perpetuated by the survival of traditional cultural, religious practices and beliefs detrimental to women. The concept of equality means much more than treating all persons in the same way. Equal treatment of persons in unequal situations will operate to perpetuate rather than eradicate injustice. True equality can only emerge from efforts directed towards addressing and correcting these situational imbalances. It is this broader view of equality which has become the underlying principle in the struggle for recognition and acceptance of the human rights of women.


The UN Decade for Women (1975-1985) stressed on equality, development and peace, providing important forum to review the situation and position of women. This helped to highlight the marginalisation of women in the development process. The Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, 1995 declared the Platform of Action, aiming at removing the most serious obstacles in the enjoyment of gender-equality and gender justice. There is now increased awareness of existing gender inequalities in development. Efforts are also being made at different levels to remove these inequalities.


Despite this, there is still a gap between the "good intention" and the reality of the situation of women. In order to reduce this gap, there is the need of incorporating gender perspective in all governmental policies and programmes to bring about the social restructuring and re-engineering. Women's issue must be recognised as the core issue in all areas of development. Women's empowerment does not merely refer to the change in their status, it means the power to change the whole social, political and economic structure that support gender discrimination. Gender-equitable development ( GED ) is a strategy for transformation of development process to a more balanced society.


In its Preamble the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women explicitly acknowledges that "extensive discrimination against women continues to exist", and emphasizes that such discrimination, "violates the principles of equality of rights and respect for human dignity". It further explains that despite the existence of other instruments, women still do not have equal rights with men. Discrimination against women continue to exists in every society. CEDAW pursues a wide range of political, civil, economic and social rights and addresses critical issues which are of direct relevance to women's lives. The Convention includes protection against discrimination within marriage, health care and against trafficking of women. It identifies many specific areas where there has been discrimination against women, for example in regard to political rights, marriage and the family, and employment. To combat gender-based discrimination, the Convention requires State parties to recognize the important economic and social contribution of women to the family and to society as a whole. It emphasizes that discrimination will hamper economic growth and prosperity. Another important feature of the Convention is its explicit recognition of the goal of actual equality in addition to legal equality.


However, much of the international principles, norms, standards and values promoting women's rights, gender equality and gender justice have remained in theory and treatises only. The government of Bhutan has done nothing to translate these ideals into reality. Instead, the government of Bhutan has been constantly violating human rights of its citizens and denying them of their fundamental freedoms with impunity.



In Bhutan, the section of society most notably excluded from the process of development - in terms of both the beneficiaries and the contributors - is women. Women population, which comprises almost half of the total population in Bhutan, has been so far discriminated and exploited, both as contributors and beneficiaries. They have been deprived of most of the opportunities including access to business and industry, gainful employment, skill development training, education, health etc. They do not have access to education, gainful employment, economic resources, political process and decision-making institutions. Their representation at the policy and decision making bodies is negligible. In total, the status of women is very low in Bhutan.


The social attitudes, traditional practices and outlook against women have contributed to the exploitation of women. This has made Bhutanese women lacking in confidence in handling the issues generally affecting themselves even in their day-to-day life. The situation in Bhutan is such that majority of women are not even aware of their basic rights.


An essential goal for the empowerment of women is their equal share in all spheres of production and reproduction, resource control, knowledge, and decision making. However, inequality still prevails in our society because of women's diverse activities, including their responsibilities for the home and children, stereotyped ways of thinking, restrict living, working and learning conditions of women. As a result gender-specific education like gender-sensitive teaching and learning methods have to be developed and imparted.


Government has made no efforts at all to protect and promote women's rights. Many Bhutanese women are not aware of the concepts such as human rights, women's rights, rule of law, gender, gender justice, gender equality as social justice. As a result, true realisation of women's rights and freedoms, gender justice and gender equality has still remained a distant dream for Bhutanese women. True realisation of women's rights, gender equality, gender justice and social justice is possible only in a society where women are knowledgeable and conscious about their rights and freedoms. Women must be made conscious and aware of their rights enshrined in various international human rights instruments - especially through NGO's efforts. They must have the knowledge and information about the existence of the international standards for the protection and defence of their rights. Therefore, concrete actions are required to promote and pursue women's rights education and concepts such as women's rights, gender equality and gender justice through training, seminar, dissemination and publications for the benefit of Bhutanese women.


Education is key to development and the foundation of social progress. Human Rights education is key to the promotion and advancement of peace, women's rights, non-discrimination, social justice, gender equality and rule of law. Hence, imparting knowledge through organised training programme on women's rights, gender justice, gender equality would be the best method for reaching the grassroots women of Bhutan. An Arabic proverb reads thus, " If you lend me a fish, I will not be hungry for today, but if you train me to fish, I will not be hungry for ever".


Strong motivation prompts swift actions for durable solution of challenging problems related to human rights. Training will help in motivating women in the defence, protection and promotion of their rights. Training is an important apparatus of imparting skills and expertise which also serves as a tool for capacity building of a person. Training, in other words, equips oneself with proper understandings and abilities for further dissemination of knowledge to larger masses. Training has been considered as one of the most important strategies for rising awareness and developing knowledge and skills to deal with women's equal rights. Regular training is extremely vital for human rights defenders.


In a country like Bhutan where human rights education, campaign and organisations are banned, these aspects assume special significance. The government does not allow the NGOs to conduct human rights education in the country. The main reasons why BWCO intends to organise workshop and training seminar on human rights for the Bhutanese people are that while inside the country have had no access to such information and knowledge on human rights, women's rights, child rights, rule of law, gender equality, gender justice and social justice. That is all the more reason why the Bhutanese people require continuous updating about the values, ideals and principles of and human rights.


The need of the hour therefore, is that BWCO must take lead role to impart women's rights education through training, seminar, discussions, dissemination of principles of International Instruments on Human Rights. Bhutanese women need to be educated about the rights of women so as to reduce and abolish inequalities and discrimination against them. It is also found that women sometimes are indirectly responsible for violation of their rights due to lack of adequate awareness, information and knowledge of their human rights.


BWCO feels that the grassroots movement is necessary for the effective realisation of human rights of all Bhutanese people. It could be possible only if people are made aware of their human rights through organised training.

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