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UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women concludes visit to the Kyrgyz Republic

Bishkek, 16 November

From 09 to 16 November 2009, I conducted an official visit to the Kyrgyz Republic. I would like to begin by expressing my appreciation to the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic for extending an invitation to me in my capacity as the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women. I am grateful for the assistance and cooperation of all my interlocutors, including senior State officials, representatives of civil society and international organisations, and especially the victims of violence with whom I spoke.
 
During the course of my visit, which included the cities of Bishkek and Osh, I met with representatives of various ministries and Government institutions, the Office of the Ombudsman, members of the Parliament, human rights and women’s organizations, victims of violence, as well as representatives of the donor community and United Nations agencies. I also visited a crisis centre for women, a shelter for children, a women’s prison, and a pre-trial detention centre. In due course, I will submit a full report with my findings and recommendations to the Government and the United Nations Human Rights Council. My report will include recommendations on measures, ways and means to eliminate violence against women and its causes, and to remedy its consequences. Such recommendations will be addressed to the Kyrgyz Government, civil society and international organizations, and also the donor community.
 
The preliminary observations emanating from the mission reveal certain trends as regards the current forms of violence against women that exist in the country, including the possible causes and the consequences of such trends. My mandate includes seeking information on violence in the family, the community, at the transnational level and also violence committed and/or condoned by agents of the state. The prevalent forms of violence identified during my visit include: domestic violence, bride-kidnapping, under-age marriages, unregistered marriages, trafficking, polygamy, violence and discrimination against women based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, and violence committed by law enforcement agents. The causes identified include amongst others: the lack of effective implementation of legislative and policy measures, poverty, unemployment, traditional and religious practices, internal and external migration, and the lack of accountability in relation to state agents who violate the human rights of citizens. The consequences of such trends include amongst others an increase in the following areas: the prevalence levels of violence against women and girl-children, homelessness, migration, the numbers of women being incarcerated for drug-related offences and also for the killing of family members, rates of HIV/AIDS infections, maternal mortality rates, levels and forms of corruption, and impunity for acts of violence against women by both state and non-state actors.
 
The Kyrgyz Government has ratified numerous international instruments, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. In this regard, three reports have been submitted to the treaty body and recommendations have been addressed. In particular since 2002, the Government has taken steps to integrate these international standards into the national legal system by adopting a set of legislative and policy/strategic frameworks which have the potential to provide a fairly comprehensive human rights protection system to women and girls, albeit with some gaps. In addition to the guarantee of equal rights, freedoms and opportunities between men and women embedded in the Kyrgyz Constitution, the Government has adopted laws and respective action plans. These include: the Law on State Guarantees for Equal Rights and Equal Opportunities; and the corresponding National Action Plan for Achieving Gender Equality; positive provisions in the Election Code aiming to ensure a minimum level of representation of women in the political life of the country; a national reproductive health care strategy which amongst other things, aims to reduce maternal and infant mortality; and the Law on Social and Legal Protection against Domestic Violence, which has been described as one of the most progressive in the region.
 
I welcome the efforts aimed at promoting and protecting the human rights of women, which have been undertaken to date by the Kyrgyz Government. These are indeed important achievements at the legal and policy level. However, these formal commitments have to a large extent, not been translated into concrete actions and improvements on the ground and in the lives of ordinary women, two thirds of whom live in rural areas. Since the independence of the Kyrgyz Republic in 1991, formal legislative and policy efforts have been accompanied by widespread poverty on the ground, insufficient investments and reforms in social services, and a resurfacing and reinterpretation of traditions and values which have strengthened patriarchal systems of control over women, gender stereotypes and de facto discrimination. In this context, women and girls’ vulnerability to violence, exploitation and destitution has increased.
 
As I conclude this mission, I am encouraged by the commitments expressed by the Government to address the many challenges relating to the issue of violence against women, particularly with regard to coercion into marriage, to current exceptions in the law with regard to the marriageable age, to the issue of unregistered marriages, and also to the follow-up legal reform necessary as regards the law on domestic violence. However, law reform efforts by themselves are insufficient to address the root causes and to remedy the consequences of violence against women. To effectively work towards the elimination of all forms of violence against women, a commitment is also needed for the allocation of adequate human and financial resources (both at the state and non-state levels), the setting up of national gender machinery (as per the Beijing Platform for Action), the addressing of the lack of accountability for acts of corruption and violence perpetrated by state actors, and also for awareness-raising and training at all levels of society.
 
In conclusion, the Government’s initiatives, as well as the notable efforts of non-governmental organizations and the international community, for the promotion and protection of women’s human rights, are to be commended. Equality and equal protection doctrines demand that we address violence against women as discrimination against women, and as a serious human rights violation. The rights to dignity, equality, bodily integrity, non-discrimination and freedom from all forms of violence – both public and private- are fundamental rights. Elimination of violence against women requires political will, legal measures, human and financial resources, and also civil society action. In this respect, I call on the Government and the donor community to prioritize women’s rights and increase support for initiatives aimed at empowering women and ending all forms of violence against them.
 
Ms. Rashida Manjoo (South Africa) was appointed Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences by the United Nations Human Rights Council for an initial period of three years at the 11th session of the Human Rights Council in June 2009. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. For additional information on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, please visit the website: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/women/rapporteur/index.htm