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Bhutan[1] [print]

Last edited: November 2005


Summary and Analysis


We were unable to find materials indicating the extent of Bhutan's implementation of Article 12 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

Bhutan ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child on May 23, 1990 and when it submitted its report in 1995 to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, it was the first time the state party appeared before a human rights treaty-body.  Since ratifying the convention, Bhutan has amended several statutes, including the Marriage Act (1980) and the Rape Act (1993), and drafted several statutes, including a draft Juvenile Justice Act, draft Civil and Criminal Codes, and a draft Immoral Trafficking Act, in order to better comply with the principles of the convention.  However, many articles of the convention remain unexpressed in Bhutan's legislation, and the country is lacking a strong infrastructure to provide social services to its most rural and mountainous regions.

Bhutan is a largely rural Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayas that has historically isolated itself from international politics and globalization.   Only in the 1960s did the country begin to build a basic infrastructure of roads, hospitals, electricity, schools, and a telecommunications system.  Since ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Bhutan has been cooperating with UNICEF and other international organizations to create a system providing needy children with health care, clean water, sanitation, and education.[2] 

Bhutan has not yet applied the principles of civil rights and freedoms of the convention to the Lhotshampas, a large ethnic group of Nepali origin residing in southern Bhutan.  The Lhotshampas were granted Bhutanese citizenship in 1958, but in 1985 the Citizenship Act converted their citizenship status to that of “non-nationals.”  Amnesty International reported that the Lhotshampas were forced to adopt the dress and customs of the northern Bhutanese, half of their schools were closed, and several thousand demonstrators were imprisoned many of whom were tortured.[3]  A mass exodus of the Lhotshampa people followed, with over 97,000, including at least 45,000 children, currently residing in refugee camps in Nepal.[4]

Though Bhutan actively works to incorporate children's rights in its legislation and infrastructure, several factors impede its progress.  Primarily, the highly mountainous and rugged terrain makes providing basic services to much of the country difficult.  Also, Bhutanese society is very concerned about maintaining their rich culture while entering a global world of communication and development. [5] 

Furthermore, the establishment of the Department of Legal Affairs and the 1998 decentralization of government may ultimately allow greater progress in the creation of legislation protecting children's rights. 


Related Sources of Law (In Order of Authority)

International Law

Convention on the Rights of the Child, [6] ratified May 23, 1990.

Article 12

1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.



Additional Resources and Links


Bhutan Women and Children Organization



UNICEF - Bhutan



Save the Children - Bhutan



Amnesty International – Bhutan




[1] This page is also available as a .pdf Document, and Word Document.

[2] Committed Partner in Progress, UNICEF Bhutan, available at http://www.unicef.org/bhutan/unicefbh.htm (Nov. 10, 2005).

[3] Amnesty International, BHUTAN: Human Rights Violations against the Nepali-speaking Population in the South AI Index: ASA 14/04/92 §2.2, 5, 7 (1992), available at http://www.geocities.com/bhutaneserefugees/ai_hrviolation.html.

[4] Bhutanese Refugee Support Group, NGO Response to Initial State Party Report: BHUTAN (CRC/C/3/Add.60) under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Nov. 21, 2000, available at http://www.crin.org./docs/resources/treaties/crc.27/Bhutan.pdf.

[5] Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: Bhutan. 09/07/2001., Committee on the Rights of the Child, 27th Sess., 721st mtg. ¶ 10, 11, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.157 (2001), available at http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf.

[6] United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child art. 12, Dec. 12, 1989, UN General Assembly Document A/RES/44/25, available at http://www.ohchr.org/english/law/crc.htm.


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