There are cases on record involving internal and cross-border trafficking in Bhutan such as bringing children from other districts or recruiting young women on false promises to be domestic workers (Bhutan Times 2009). Although official data regarding trafficking of women and young girls within or outside Bhutan are not available, there have been anecdotal reports of Bhutanese women and children exploited for sex work outside Bhutan, and fairly frequent reports of missing persons (Bhutan no date). Evidence of increasing commercial sex work in urban areas and border towns has also been reported, an outcome of migrant women from neighbouring countries, and internal migration as young girls from rural areas move to more affluent areas in search of better opportunities (Nedan Foundation 2009).
According to the Labour and Employment Act 2007, children between 13 and 17 years of age can be legally employed, albeit in certain areas.5 This is contrary to the country’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of a Child (CRC). Currently, no support systems for working children or measures to monitor their situation are in place.
Notably, in 2007, the National Commission for Women and Children filed the first case of child trafficking in the country, involving a child who had been trafficked for domestic work. It generated widespread media coverage and intense public discussion. The perpetrator received a three-year sentence. The case was seen as a signal for Bhutan to intensify mechanisms to prevent and address the trafficking of women and children (UNICEF 2008).
5 See www.molhr.gov.bt/publication/labouract.pdf.