Bhutan - Social development

There is no national social welfare system, although the government implemented a modest maternal and child welfare program in the early 1980s, including family planning. The sick, indigent, and aged are cared for within the traditional family structure.

Bhutan's culture does not isolate or disenfranchise women. Dowry is not practiced, and land is divided equally between sons and daughters. Girls receive nearly equal educational opportunities, and, while accorded a lower status than boys, they are cherished because they are the ones who care for parents in old age. Polygamy is legal, but only with the consent of the first wife. The law clarifies the definition of sexual assault and imposes harsh penalties. There is no societal pattern of spousal or child abuse.

A pattern of discrimination against the minority Hindus of Nepalese origin exists. Thousands of Nepalese were deported from Bhutan in the late 1980s, and many others fled to refugee camps in Nepal. The government launched an effort to promote the cultural assimilation of the remaining Nepalese. Nepali was no longer taught in schools, and national dress was required for official occasions. While this policy has lead to the cultural repression of Hindus, it has also contributed to a growing number of Nepalese obtaining employment in the public sector and in government. Repatriation of the exiled Nepalese remains an unresolved issue, one that the government formed in 1999 has promised to address.

Human rights are restricted by the government. Abuses include violence against Nepalese refugees and arbitrary arrest and detention. The king exercises control over the government, security forces, and the judiciary.

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