Protection … For every child
Every 6 out of 10 children in Bhutan have experienced some form of physical violence. Hence, UNICEF works with the Royal Government of Bhutan and partners to prevent and respond to violence against children.
Children in Bhutan are growing up in a complex world because of economic development, rapid modernization and increased urbanization. They face new challenges as the traditional layers of protection offered by families and communities are weakened, in some cases because of separation, divorce, stress or violence. At the same time, traditional practices such as child marriage and corporal punishment continue to place children at risk.
About every 6 out of 10 children in Bhutan have experienced some form of physical violence. Parents, teachers, adult caregivers and peers are among common perpetrators of violence. About 12 per cent of children experience sexual violence and nearly 50 per cent of children report experiencing emotional violence.
Children rarely report violence faced by them and don’t seek help due to embarrassment, fear of retaliation, and the lack of knowledge about how to report and seek help.
Verbal sexual harassment is commonly experienced by girls as well as boys. Children's exposure to pornography and access to the internet also make them vulnerable to online abuse. Girls continue to enter early unions before they turn adults.
Child labour, albeit seasonal in most cases, is known to be prevalent. Substance abuse among children and adolescents remains a critical concern in the country.
Child protection is a relatively new area of work in Bhutan, but the work on strengthening the protective environment for children is a priority ongoing effort. This is done by supporting the Royal Government and CSOs to strengthen the policy and legislative framework for child protection and the child protection systems in the country. Additionally, the programme focuses on enhancing capacities of social service workforce, children and adults to prevent and respond to violence against children.
The National Plan of Action for Child Protection (2013-2018) focusing on a protective environment for children is being implemented. Child Protection Programme Strategy and Action Plan for Monastic Institutions (2017-2022) and SOPs for protection of children in monastic institutions and nunneries were developed.
The country has a progressive child protection policy and legislative environment. Legislative measures include the Child Care and Protection Act, the Child Adoption Act, and the Domestic Violence Prevention Act. The Standard Operating Procedures for implementation of laws exist to ensure protection of all children in their best interests.
The National Plan of Action for Child Protection focusing on creating a protective environment for children is being implemented. A host of social service workforce, including caregivers, counsellors, judiciary, police, NGO staff and others are trained on child protection, as well as on implementing legal provisions to protect children.
Children and adolescents have some knowledge and skills to prevent and respond to violence. We have engaged and empowered more than 5,000 children, including monks and nuns, on knowledge and skills for adolescents, focusing on prevention and response to Violence Against Children since 2017. There is also an ongoing social work programme with the Royal University of Bhutan.