Foreign minister calls for increasing legal age for marriage

Eminent Member Kesang Chuki Dorjee

Sonam Penjor

In order to prevent teenage pregnancies and to support those affected, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Tandi Dorji, who is also the Chairperson of National Commission for Women and Children regarding the issue of teenage pregnancy in Bhutan, said that the need to increase the legal age for marriage in Bhutan for the larger benefit of women has become imperial.

This was said in response to the questions raised by National Council’s Eminent Member Kesang Chuki Dorjee who highlighted the issue of increasing cases of teenage pregnancies in the country during the questions hour session at the National Council on 11 June.

Eminent Member Kesang Chuki Dorjee reported that 330 cases of teenage pregnancies were recorded in 2020 and another 226 cases from 2009 – 2016. She emphasized that this leads to risks during delivery, sacrifices of studies as well as social and mental stress and stigma.

Subsequently, on behalf of the House, the Eminent Member questioned the Minister of Foreign Affairs to confirm the total number of teenage pregnancies recorded for 2020 and also requested to share the number of cases reported to the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP), and the mechanisms put in place to reduce the incidences of teenage pregnancy and support mechanism to the victims.

Lyonpo Tandi Dorji responded that the cases of pregnancies between the ages of 18-19 are not recorded with the RBP as the age lies within the legal age for marriage, but pregnancies below the age of 19 are considered medically risky.

Lyonpo confirmed the recorded cases of teenage pregnancies in 2020 was 330, of which only 24 cases were reported to the RBP out of 163 cases which involved children under the age of 18 years.

Further, Lyonpo said that the health sector had put in place mechanisms such as dedicated hospitals for women and children, protection officers for victims, adolescent friendly health program, school health program, youth centers besides legalizing the sale of birth control pills.

He said that Non-Governmental Organizations and Civil Society Organizations especially RENEW had dedicatedly worked towards the cause. Moreover, awareness campaigns on the issue are also disseminated through video clips and posters.

Meanwhile, National Council members also followed-up with issues on the scarcity of human and financial resources, responsible media reporting, and also important legal provisions and responsibility the society bears in reporting these cases.