National Council unanimously supports UNCRPD with four reservations, calls for inclusive employment and financial aid

In the recent National Council session on 4 October, Members of Parliament (MPs) engaged in a thorough discussion on measures aimed at ensuring equal employment opportunities and addressing concerns of inclusivity, equity, and financial support for people living with disabilities.

The conversation was sparked by the introduction of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for ratification by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Dasho Dr Tandi Dorji.

The adoption of the Convention was not without reservations. Four specific reservations were made concerning certain sections within different articles: 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).

One of the primary concerns raised during the Questions and Answer session revolved around employment opportunities for people with disabilities. MPs pointed out that these individuals often face challenges in securing employment due to physical fitness criteria that they may not meet. MP from Bumthang, Kencho Tshering, emphasized this issue, highlighting the obstacles faced by persons with disabilities when seeking employment.

MP from Zhemgang, Tshering Tshomo in the National Council questioned why optional protocols were not considered, as many other countries have done.

Dagana’s MP, Berindra Chimoria, echoed concerns about the lack of equal opportunities for persons with disabilities. He pointed out that many individuals with disabilities excel in sports, artisan crafts, and various other fields, which are areas where they could contribute significantly to both sports and employment. However, opportunities in these areas remain limited for them.

The discussion then shifted to the inclusivity of policies related to employment and access to interest-free loans for people with disabilities. Members stressed the need for policies that do not discriminate against individuals with disabilities based on physical fitness requirements.

MP from Wangduephodrang, Phub Dorji, shared a statistic revealing that 84.5 percent of people with disabilities in the country have not received an education. He highlighted that there are approximately 15,500 persons with disabilities in Bhutan, constituting around two percent of the total population.

In response to these concerns and suggestions, the Minister acknowledged the issue of physical fitness checks for employment and expressed willingness to address this matter. Regarding financial assistance, the government is reportedly exploring the possibility of providing loans at reduced interest rates to persons with disabilities.

Additionally, Lyonpo assured that the Special Educational Needs (SEN) teachers will receive training, and the curriculum for students with disabilities will be reviewed and improved.

Before the National Councils session, the National Assembly had ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities during its summer session, with 41 members voting in favor.

Bhutan had initially signed the convention in September 2010 but had not introduced it to Parliament for deliberation due to concerns about the required investments for developing expertise and infrastructure.

During the National Council’s session on the deliberation of the UNCRPD, Chairperson of the Social and Cultural Affairs Committee, Tshering Tshomo, presented comprehensive findings and insights regarding the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Convention’s aim is to ensure the full and equal enjoyment of human rights for individuals with disabilities, covering essential aspects such as accessibility, participation, equality, employment, education, social protection, and health.

Chairperson Tshering Tshomo emphasized the Convention’s objectives and purpose during the presentation, underscoring the critical need to promote inclusivity and rights for all individuals with disabilities. The ultimate objective is to ensure and promote the full and equal enjoyment of human rights for individuals with disabilities, encompassing crucial aspects like accessibility, participation, equality, employment, education, social protection, and health.

She also informed the members that there are currently 186 state parties to the Convention.

Following the detailed presentation, members expressed their unanimous support for the Convention, and the National Council accepted all the Articles and the four Reservations previously passed by the National Assembly.

However, in a past interview with this paper, various disability organization expressed unhappiness with the reservations. They emphasized the importance of viewing individuals with disabilities as humans first, rather than focusing solely on their disabilities.

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