NA withdraws Impeachment Procedure Bill

NA adopts marriage amendment bill

The National Assembly (NA) on Friday unanimously adopted the Marriage Amendment Bill of Bhutan after the Chairperson of the legislative committee, Kuenga moved the motion for the adoption of the Marriage (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2024. The National Assembly has amended only one section of the bill, which pertains to the marriage age for females. With it, the marriage age is raised from 16 to 18 years.

The amended section now states, “For a marriage of minors, a male and female who have not attained 18 years of age at the time of marriage shall not be granted marriage certificates.” This amendment aims to align with other relevant acts, including the Penal Code of Bhutan 2004, the Contract Act of Bhutan 2013, and the Child Care and Protection Act of Bhutan 2011.

The Chairperson of the legislative committee presented the Marriage (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2024 for the third reading on June 20. The amendment seeks to formalize the marriageable age at 18 years for both males and females, harmonizing with other relevant laws and international instruments. This initiative addresses inconsistencies found in the English translation of Bhutan’s Marriage Act of 1980, which was amended in 1996. The move underscores Bhutan’s commitment to global norms and human rights standards.

The Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2024 is anticipated to have far-reaching implications for Bhutanese society, particularly in terms of protecting the rights and interests of young people. The government’s commitment to aligning its laws with international standards is expected to enhance Bhutan’s reputation as a champion of human rights and democratic governance.

In the review, the Chairperson pointed out that Bhutan had been graded low in the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and Conventions on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Bhutan will now work according to the country’s law to address these issues. With the specified age, the chairperson said Bhutan could align with international conventions.

During the debate, members of the House supported the amendment but raised concerns about the need for further clarification on the marriageable age for both males and females. They emphasized the importance of provisions concerning marriages involving minors.

The proposed amendment is seen as a significant step towards promoting gender equality and protecting the rights of children in Bhutan. With all 45 members present voting in favor of the amendment, it is expected to become law soon, but not before it is transmitted to the National Council (NC) for further consideration.

By Dechen Tshomo, Thimphu