Chapter 6 WOMEN, CHILDREN AND GENDER The status of women and children Bhutanese women enjoy a relatively high status compared with women in the South Asian region. Instances of female infanticide or malnutrition, dowry deaths, and other discriminatory social malpractices are virtually unknown and unheard of. There is no significant preference for male child over the female among most sections of the population and sexbased abortions are unknown in Bhutan. In the field of education, the enrolment of girls in primary schools is among the highest in the SAARC region as well as in the developing countries. Maternal and child health has been accorded high priority by the government. Effective service delivery and aggressive advocacy campaigns in areas of safe motherhood, concept of small family, women empowerment, adolescent reproductive health and prevention of STD/HIV diseases have also contributed to the health of women and children.
The â€˜head of householdâ€™ concept is a relative one. Household decisionmaking depends on the capability of individuals and there are no fixed gender-based roles. In the case of divorce, laws provide for fair sharing of property for spouse and child support. Love marriages are common in urban areas today while the tradition of arranged marriages is prevalent in some rural areas.
Bhutan has committed to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms and in various areas such as education, employment, health, political and public life, marriage and family life. The National Plan of Action on Gender (NPAG) is expected to provide the guidelines in sectoral gender mainstreaming during the Tenth Five Year Plan (2008-2013).
Bhutanese women do not face any institutionalized form of discrimination - politically, socially, economically or legally. Law treats women and men equally and many of its provisions protect the rights and interests of women and children. Nevertheless, despite equal opportunities enjoyed by women and men alike, there are gender gaps particularly in governance and decision making positions due to cultural, social, religious and economic barriers faced by women as elsewhere in the developing countries. To address the gender gap, the government is now moving from a gender neutral position to a gendered approach in the formulation and implementation of its plans, policies and programmes.
Bhutan was also one of the first countries to show its support by ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) without any reservations on 23rd May 1990. Bhutan is also party to the Stockholm Agenda and Yokohama Congress on commercial sexual exploitation of children. The country remains committed to provide the best opportunities for each and every Bhutanese child.
Bhutan is party to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action. Bhutan is also signatory to all SAARC Conventions and is an active member of the formulation of the SAARC Gender Database (SGDB) which will have a larger implication in developing policy and programme in gender equality and womenâ€™s empowerment. A Layap girl
132 X FACTS ABOUT BHUTAN
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WOMEN, CHILDREN AND GENDER 8