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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.