Child rights still in its infancy

Published on Nov 18 2011 // Human Rights Monitor

Despite numerous achievements in the area of child rights, there seems to be a lack of a formal and streamlined child protection system in the country.

The recent Bhutan Multiple Indicator Survey shows that 30 percent of girls are married before the age of 18 years, while 18 percent of children are engaged in child labor.

A report states that ‘such findings are an indication that not all children in Bhutan are enjoying a safe and positive childhood, which contravenes the noble initiative of Gross National Happiness.’

In lieu of the above factors, Bhutan is preparing to undertake a mapping and assessment of its child protection system, utilizing a toolkit developed by UNICEF headquarters in New York.

The National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) in collaboration with its partners in the government and non government sectors are planning to undertake numerous programs to protect the rights of the children in Bhutan.

It was also understood that NCWC, as the coordinating agency, will form a steering committee to oversee the mapping and assessment exercise.

The steering committee will comprise of representative of the government, development partner and civil society and will be chaired by the Executive Director of the NCWC.

Al though child care and protection is relative new in Bhutan, significant progress has already been made in preventing and responding to violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect against children in the country.

The report states that ‘it is important for Bhutan to formalize and strengthen a national child protection system to ensure that all children are given the opportunity to enjoy their rights to protection as provided by the Constitution of Bhutan, the Child Care and Protection Act (CCPA) 2011 and UN convention on children rights.

Child protection systems comprise of the set of laws, policies, regulation, and services needed across all sectors, especially social welfare, education, health, security and justice, to support prevention and response to protection related issues.

“For a small country like Bhutan it is important to develop a strong child protection system that can protect children efficiently and holistically, given the fact that the majority of Bhutanese populace comprises of youths,” the report states.

A core working group will also be established to support the steering committee to help implement the mapping and assessment exercise, so that it is completed in an effective and timely fashion.

The report states that the core working group will require high level analytical and reporting skills to compile information, and to prepare reports that are suitable for presentation to the highest levels of the government, its developing partners and other stake holders.

“It will help all stakeholders involved to understand how best the initiativeve integrated child protection into their core business and contribute to children’s protection.

Importantly, the mapping and assessment will help to assess the cost requirements to ensure a strong child protection system in our kingdom.

This assessment will also provide a baseline for child protection in country and will facilitate monitoring of the quality of implementation of CCPA 2011 which will in turn promote accountability, efficiency, and real results for children

To build the capacity of the government and its partners to conduct that mapping and assessment utilizing the mapping and assessment toolkit, an international children protection system expert has been engage by UNICEF to help the core working group.

A detail implementation schedule for the mapping and assessment will also be developed by the end of November to ensure the timely completion of the mapping and assessment by April 2012.

By Sangay Rinchen in Bhutan Today biweekly