In the ongoing Parliament Session, the Chairperson of the Social and Cultural Affairs Committee, in the National Council, Tshering Tshomo, shared the findings of the committee’s work on the Convention and its purpose on 6th October.
Specifically, the Convention aims to promote and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of human rights for individuals with disabilities, which includes accessibility, participation, equality, employment, education, social protection, and health. The Chairperson also noted that 186 state parties have adopted the Convention.
Although the Members expressed their support for the Convention, they also sought clarifications on the Reservations and Articles as well as the intent behind the Convention. However, the House ultimately accepted all of the Articles and 4 Reservations passed by the National Assembly.
The minister of foreign affairs and external trade, Dr Tandi Dorji introduced the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in the National Council on 4th October. The minister is the charge of the Convention.
Initially, the Gross National Happiness Center spearheaded the Convention. The minister said that the ratification of the Convention was delayed due to a lack of manpower. The minister shared that most of the concerns about conversion are reservations. Of the five reservations recommended by the experts, the present government, after deliberating in the last National Assembly Session, has kept four reservations.
The objectives of ratifying CRPD are to support people with disabilities (PWDs) in education, health, politics, and equal opportunities. It is for their safety and security and to respect PWDs. The NA had ratified the Convention with four reservations on Article 18, Liberty of movement and nationality, Article 23, Respect for home and family, Article 27, Work and Employment, and Article 29, Participation in political and public life.
Reservation for Article 18 states, “The Royal Government of Bhutan shall not be bound by paragraph 1(a) and paragraph 2 of Article 18 of the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Royal Government of Bhutan shall deposit the Convention in the depository with the reservation.”
The reservation is made because there is no clarity on liberty of movement, whether it is national or non-national, according to the minister. The minister said Bhutanese PWDs will be supported in every possible way, not implicating that non-Bhutanese will be neglected.
Reservation on Article 23 states that the Royal Government of Bhutan shall not be bound by paragraphs 1 (b) and (c) of Article 23 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Royal Government of Bhutan shall deposit the Convention in the depository with the reservation.
The minister said all PWDs will have the right to have families and give birth. However, upon detection of a critical hereditary disease during pregnancy that risk for life and difficult to raise, the foetus can be aborted as per the Health Act and Policy of Bhutan. Otherwise, this would pose difficulties for the family and incur expenses for the government.
Reservation on Article 27 states that the Royal Government of Bhutan shall not be bound by paragraph 1(c) of Article 27 of the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Royal Government of Bhutan shall deposit the Convention in the depository with the reservation.
The foreign affairs and external minister said that all PWDs will have equal job opportunities but cannot be members of labour union or commerce. “This reservation is made until the Act of the country changes,” the minister added.
“The Royal Government of Bhutan shall not be bound by Section (a)(ii) of Article 27 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Royal Government of Bhutan shall deposit the Convention in the depository with the reservation,” is the reservation made by the government on Article 29.
The minister clarified that all PWDs will have equal political rights to vote and participate in politics unless declared unsound by the judiciary. The reservation for this section is made as per the Election Act of Bhutan, 2008, Chapter 6. Section 102, Disqualifications for Voters, states, “A person shall be disqualified for registration in the Electoral Roll of a constituency if such a person is: (a) Not a citizen of Bhutan; (b) Of unsound mind and stands so declared by a competent Court.”
The Member of Parliament for Zhemgang, Tshering Tshomo, chairperson of the social and cultural affairs committee, was questioned about not considering the optional protocols.
The incharge of the Convention from the NA responded that optional protocols are not necessary to discuss now as it can be adopted at any time. Responding to other concerns raised by the MPs in NC, the minister said that teachers for SEN will be trained and the curriculum will be taken care of. In all, the minister responded that all aspects are considered, including men, LGBTQ+, and others.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) is an international human rights treaty, which exists to promote, protect, and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all disabled persons. It was adopted on 13 December 2006 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, and opened for signature on 30 March 2007.
Bhutan is one of the 14 countries selected as the third round of UNPRPD countries and signed the convention in September 2010.
Sangay Rabten from Thimphu