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Committee on the Rights of the Child examines report of Kyrgyzstan

28 May 2014

28 May 2014

The Committee on the Rights of the Child today considered the combined third and fourth periodic report of Kyrgyzstan on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Presenting the report, Kudaibergen Bazarbaev, Minister of Social Development of Kyrgyzstan, said as Kyrgyzstan celebrated the twentieth anniversary of its ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it had undergone considerable reform to adopt a parliamentary form of government, a new constitution and a revised Children’s Code which enshrined the rights of children. It had also signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and ratified the Hague Convention on International Adoptions. Reforms included measures to de-institutionalize children and improve conditions in residential facilities, to eradicate the worst forms of child labour and to strengthen social protections. Kyrgyzstan was on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, but the most acute challenge it faced was reducing the 38 per cent poverty level.

In the interactive dialogue Committee Experts commended Kyrgyzstan for adopting significant measures to improve the situation of children, but expressed concerns about various areas, such as the practice of bride kidnapping and child marriage which amounted to forced marriage, and the use of corporal punishment, widespread violence against children and even torture. The living conditions in residential institutions and the high number of children in them was deplorable, Experts said, asking what Kyrgyzstan was doing to provide alternative, family-based care for vulnerable or abandoned children. Accessibility for children with disabilities, sexual and reproductive health, and initiatives to prevent child prostitution and pornography were also discussed as was juvenile justice.

In concluding remarks Olga Khazova, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur, asked Kyrgyzstan to consider signing the third Optional Protocol to the Convention which allowed children to submit individual complaints directly to the Committee, which could be a good way for Kyrgyzstan to ensure ‘its house was in order’ in terms of serving the interests of its children.

Mr. Bazarbaev thanked the Committee and said Kyrgyzstan would consider the Committee’s recommendations carefully in order to improve the situation of children in the country.

The delegation of Kyrgyzstan included representatives from the Ministry of Social Development, Kyrgz Republic Parliament, Ministry of Education and Science, Ministry of Health, Human Rights Coordination Council and the Permanent Mission of Kyrgyzstan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The next public meeting of the Committee will take place at 10 a.m. on Friday, 30 May, when the Committee will consider the initial report of the United Kingdom under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography CRC/C/OPSC/GBR/1.


The Committee is reviewing the combined third and fourth periodic report of Kyrgyzstan: (CRC/C/KGZ/3-4).

Presentation of the Report

KUDAIBERGEN BAZARBAEV, Minister of Social Development of Kyrgyzstan, said this year Kyrgyzstan celebrated the twentieth anniversary of its ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Since the report was drafted Kyrgyzstan had undergone considerable changes, namely becoming in 2010 the first country in the region to adopt a parliamentary form of government which fully implemented the principles of democracy and mutual respect. The new constitution adopted that year upheld all human rights and prohibited all forms of discrimination on any grounds. It also held that every person had the right to life and that national and cultural traditions should be respected. The Children’s Code which was adopted in 2006 and revised in 2012 to include a new section on juvenile justice, enshrined the rights of children and ensured their full guarantees. Additionally, Kyrgyzstan in 2012 signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the same year ratified the Hague Convention on International Adoptions. It had expanded opportunities for civil society to work with State authorities.

Measures to de-institutionalize children and improve oversight and conditions in residential institutions were taking place. Those facilities often had extremely difficult conditions, but the system for placing a child in such a place could now only be made by a court. Alternatives such as fostering and family-style residential care homes were being promoted. Mr. Bazarbaev also spoke of efforts to tackle trafficking of children and support victims, to eradicate the worst forms of child labour, to eliminate the use of torture and to tackle violence in schools. The ‘New Generation’ programme established child protection agencies and a programme for State social support services was founded in 2008. Special measures to improve the health of children included a national strategy for reproductive, maternal and child health and a national centre for maternal and child health was founded in 2009.

Kyrgyzstan was one of the first countries in the region to adopt the WHO recommendations on the criteria for calculating still births and infant mortality, and as a result had seen the rate drop from 35.3 per 1,000 live births in 2007 to 23.5 in 2013. Kyrgyzstan was on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. The most acute challenge was reducing the poverty level in the country, which at 38 per cent remained too high, although the rate of people living in extreme poverty had been considerably decreased, to 4.4 per cent today. Kyrgyzstan would continue to tackle its problems, Mr. Bazarbaev said, adding that although it faced many challenges he hoped that an open and constructive dialogue with United Nations Experts would help it to fully implement the Convention.

Questions by the Experts

OLGA KHAZOVA, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur, said as the coordinator of the rapporteurs’ taskforce on Kyrgyzstan she welcomed the delegation and thanked them for the additional information they had provided to the Committee. Despite the serious political, economic and social difficulties Kyrgyzstan had faced throughout the period following the disintegration of the Soviet Union but especially in recent years, it had adopted significant measures to improve the situation of children and bring it into conformity with the requirements of the Convention. Kyrgyzstan was commended for taking the extremely important step of acceding to the Hague Convention on International Adoption. The adoption of the Children’s Code in 2006 and its revision in 2012 were also important steps forward. It was also exceedingly important to note that Kyrgyzstan had ratified the Convention and both Optional Protocols without any reservations or exemptions, she added.

However, the Committee had a number of concerns and hoped to discuss solutions to them today, said Ms. Khazova. First, did the Convention have the same status as domestic legislation? What happened when there was a conflict between the provisions of the Convention and domestic legislation? To what extent were judges and lawyers familiar with the Convention and the Committee’s General Comments, and able to properly apply them? Was the general public aware of the Convention, including children and teachers?

There were problems with birth registration; the birth certificate was key for many elements of life, from healthcare to registration at school and beyond. But if a woman who did not have documents herself gave birth in a hospital, the health staff would not register the birth of her baby. Secondly, if a woman gave birth at home it was reported that the birth could not be recorded and registered. And thirdly, almost half of the children belonging to the Luli minority group had no birth certificate. What was being done to correct those problems, she asked, as undocumented children presented fertile ground for many sorts of exploitation, violence and corruption.

Early marriage and bride kidnapping were a serious problem, as a significant proportion – up to 80 per cent – of marriages in certain areas were reported to follow the kidnapping of a bride and the payment of the ‘bride price’ or dowry known as kalym, said Ms. Khazova. It was not merely the observance of an ancient ritual but in fact often a forced marriage. The phenomenon appeared to be widespread. There were many reports of young girls committing suicide as a result of being abducted. The legal age for marriage in Kyrgyzstan was 18 years, which could be lowered to 16 with the decision of the competent authorities. However, early marriage could also affect girls aged under 15 years. It was clearly an unacceptable situation, Ms. Khazova said.

The Committee was greatly concerned about the 2009 court case of ‘Nookat’ in which defendants were subject to torture and other violations, an Expert said. Two children were detained, including one three year old. One detained women was pregnant, and as a result of her mistreatment miscarried her baby. Torture and other forms of ill treatment remained widespread. Child victims and witnesses of torture were unable to find protection. Allegations or complaints of torture and ill treatment were subject to delays and incidents of investigators losing criminal case materials, and there was no clear procedure for courts when faced with evidence obtained as a result of torture.

The Committee noted that corporal punishment was not explicitly prohibited by law, no matter how light. In a 2009 survey of 2,100 children, 72.7 per cent reported experiencing violence, abuse and neglect in their family. In May 2013 the President highlighted the “increasing number of children subject to violence and abuse”. What steps were being taken to tackle gender-based violence and violence against children?

Furthermore, increasing numbers of women were leaving their families to work abroad, and there were reports that many children left behind with their fathers suffered violence and abuse, or ended up in children’s home, an Expert commented.

Violence was reported to be widespread in schools, with the most common forms being bullying, psychological violence, extortion and sexual abuse. What was being done? Violence and sexual violence in public facilities, including schools and medical facilities, appeared to be increasing. The procedures for detecting, tackling and prosecuting cases of violence against children, domestic violence and sexual abuse of children appeared to be weak and inadequate, the Expert said.

An Expert asked about independent monitoring and the Ombudsman, and about the right of the child to be heard, including in school environments and in judicial processes.

Response by the Delegation

When the new Children’s Code was adopted in 2012 the Government sought to implement the Convention in it, for example in measures to help at-risk children and to improve children’s institutions, explained a delegate. Consequently local authorities had opened support units for children, and legislation enshrined cooperation between all stakeholders to identify and assist an at-risk child. The best interests of the child were based on international standards, coordinated in all legislative drafting.

Regarding the placing of children in institutions or residential facilities, a delegate said the nationwide Departments for Family and Child Support examined the situation of the child and adopted the best possible measures for it. If it found that a child would most benefit from being placed in a residential institution, then the department sent a letter of recommendation to the local court or relevant administrative body, which would make the decision. If there was an emergency situation – such as an urgent case of family violence - the child could be removed from the family quickly, although the parents were able to make a complaint.

Regarding birth registration, a delegate agreed that there were problems registering the birth of a baby to a woman who did not herself have documents, when a woman gave birth at home, or if she did not have a residence permit. The system was changing and now a woman who gave birth at home could go to a General Practitioner’s office to register the birth. However an undocumented mother could not register her child until she herself got documents. Despite that, it was decreed by law that any child could receive healthcare and attend school without documentation. The situation of the Luli children was difficult, the delegate said, as many Luli children were unregistered because their parents had no interest in obtaining birth certificates for them.

It was possible that the figure of up to 80 per cent of marriages in certain areas being underage and involving bride kidnapping was correct, a delegate said, agreeing that some cases were not disclosed as it was a taboo practice. She added that there were cases of parents marrying off their young, underage daughter for socio-economic reasons, despite it being illegal if the girl was under 16 years of age. However, whenever such a case was reported, criminal proceedings or other sanctions were applied.

Reducing the marriage age from 18 to 16 years was only possible by decree from the competent local authority. If a girl younger than 18 was married without authority, or younger than 16 was married, that could be a criminal act. However, there were sometimes cases where a girl consented to marry before she was 18 years.

Regarding the right of the child to be heard, a child could bring a case to a court from the age of 14. Institutions including schools and medical facilities must take into consideration the opinion of a child. When the status of residency or guardianship of a child was being decided, the opinion of the child was always taken into consideration.

Domestic violence was an international phenomenon and to the extent of their abilities the authorities in Kyrgyzstan fought it. A draft anti-domestic violence law was currently being considered by the parliament; it would take into account cases of domestic violence where the father was the perpetrator and invoke the expulsion of the father from the home. It also included legal protection for families. Domestic violence was a latent crime that victims tended to remain silent about, as women and children often felt that they could not discuss violence within the family.

Social protection of children subject to violence provided the possibility of removing a child from their family if they had been subject to or at risk of violence or torture, and placing them in an institution. Some school teachers were trained in social work and could immediately respond when children turned up with signs of violence on their bodies, which could again lead to children being removed from their family. The first centre to support children who had been subject to violence was opened in 2011, and offered psychological, counselling and legal help. There were preparations to open another centre in the Karakuri region. There were no shelters as of yet, but plans were in place to establish them.

Regarding children’s ability to make a complaint, a delegate said it was true that children were afraid to complain about violence inflicted upon them, whether it was physical, psychological, emotional or sexual. They were afraid of reprisals, and that fear was an obstacle against finding a solution to the problem, a delegate explained. The Ministry of Justice was closely investigating the issue and seeking to educate children about their rights. The authorities sought to make access as broad as possible to ensure that perpetrators did not go unpunished.

Corporal punishment was prohibited in Kyrgyzstan legislation, including in the Law on the Status of Teachers, a delegate confirmed. Any kind of physical or psychological punishment or violence was prohibited – either in the home or elsewhere. The use of corporal punishment in the home was an indication of the weakness of the parents. In the past, in correctional facilities for minors, there were cases of corporal punishment, but today it was strictly prohibited and the staff working in those facilities were informed.

Regarding the Luli children who did not have birth certificates or identification, a delegate said that the lack of papers did not prevent children from going to school. However, parents would be obliged to show their identification documents during the school year. Some 300 Luli children did not attend school because their parents did not want them to. The local authorities were working on the problem. More generally, the delegate noted that general education went up to the tenth grade: there were no administrative or legal restrictions to prevent children leaving education after that stage.

Early marriage was prohibited by the law on education and other normative acts, a delegate confirmed. The punishment for marriage of persons aged 17 and under carried a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment. Bride kidnapping, or forced marriage, was also illegal and carried a custodial penalty of up to seven years. The Government was very grateful to the members of civil society who had been working to tackle the phenomenon. The delegate recalled that in 2012 there were 10 cases of bride kidnapping and in 2013 there were nine cases, and that in all cases protection orders were given.

The Head of Delegation introduced the Ombudsperson of Kyrgyzstan who explained to the delegation that her office was a parliamentary one that could take on any complaint by a Kyrgyz citizen – including children – of a violation of their human rights. Additionally, each district also had an Ombudsperson, all of whom submitted annual reports to the parliament. The parliament appointed the Ombudsperson, and the Law on the Ombudsperson regulated the office, although the Children’s Code had expanded its mandate. The Ombudsperson also had a monitoring role, for example in visiting children detained in penitentiary and correctional facilities, who were usually minors who had committed exceptionally grave crimes.

The Ombudsperson worked closely with civil society and non-governmental organizations.
Unfortunately no complaints had been received from children directly, but over the last four years some 25 complaints had been received on behalf of children. To remedy that the office carried out awareness-raising and monitoring and hoped to soon set up a hotline with the number ‘111’. Its work also included combating early child marriage, bride kidnapping and abductions, and it had launched an awareness-raising campaign in the media – on the television and in the newspapers – to make it very clear that any case of bride kidnapping would be prosecuted and that the girls should be returned to their family. The phenomenon of bride kidnapping was known to have decreased as a result.

Questions from the Experts

Kyrgyzstan was commended for adopting a plan to provide support to families in a crisis situation, and for improvements in the procedure on the placement of children. However, the Committee remained concerned about the extremely high number of children placed in institutions. The facilities and resources of those institutions were not commensurate with the scope of their task and the number of children they needed to care for. Were there any plans to improve their resources? Were the staff sufficiently trained? The Committee had been informed that there were only three specially-trained staff for 100,000 people. Children represented 30 per cent of the Kyrgyz Republic, and according to the Committee’s data less than 0.5 per cent were living in institutions. How many children were in institutions, and how many children had been placed with foster families, she asked.

The living conditions in institutions were deplorable; there was no heating and little clean water. How were they monitored? Did the Government have any data on the number of deaths in those facilities? It was noted that there had been a small increase in the budget to help provide better nutrition, but it appeared that children in institutions were still going hungry. Furthermore, a great number of children leaving the institutions had no information on vocational training or any other options open to them.

Children in crisis situations, such as poverty, often suffered from diseases such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and neurological diseases. Did they receive regular check-ups and medical treatment, and did their health coverage include dental care, an Expert asked.

The Committee was pleased that education was provided free of charge, but found a contradiction in that families had to pay quite high additional taxes which were said to be for the renovation of schools. Were impoverished families given exemption from those taxes, which often prevented them from sending their children to school? The shortage of teachers in Kyrgyzstan was a serious problem, she added, asking how new teachers were being attracted into the profession.

Children with disabilities faced discrimination from the day they were born, an Expert said. They had problems accessing free schools which often refused to enrol them. There was an acute shortage of Government-run free day-care facilities for children with disabilities. Accessing higher education was almost impossible. Many public services, such as libraries and public buildings, were inaccessible. There was no sign language in the public sphere or the media, or text books for visually impaired children. When a child with disabilities was placed into residential or institutional care – often in a remote area - it seemed the authorities did not take care to maintain the children’s links with their families. Mortality rates in such institutions were high – some places did not have First Aid kits or medical equipment. The institutions were located in rural areas from where it was difficult to access hospitals. Increasing numbers of families placed their child with disabilities into care, where there was no effort to provide the children with intellectual or social stimulation.

The Government adopted a new law in 2009 on breastfeeding, which also limited the advertisement of substitutes such as formula. However, mothers still did not receive adequate information on breastfeeding and still received free samples of formula. Only 30 per cent of infants aged between zero and five months of age were exclusively breastfed.

Adolescents were deprived in terms of healthcare, they were not entitled to free care, there was no definition of them, and there was no access to quality sexual and reproductive health services. Similarly there was very little sexual and reproductive health education, which was a large contribution to the high abortion rate among adolescents.

Since the 2006 and 2007 outbreaks in the Osh province, where some 200 children were infected with HIV in Osh health facilities, the HIV rate had increased. Women and children living with HIV faced stigma and discrimination in their communities, including from health workers.

How many women were in correctional facilities, how many women were accompanied by their children in correctional facilities, and did those children have adequate facilities, the Expert asked. What support was given to children whose parents were sentenced to life imprisonment?

An Expert asked for more information on fostering services as an alternative to placing children in institutions, and asked how the Government supported families to keep their children at home. She also asked about national and international adoption systems, which were an area of extreme corruption and a very bureaucratic process.

Special protection measures, especially for children who were internally migrating with their families, children applying for asylum or refuge and children of migrant workers, were raised. An Expert also asked what measures had been taken to reduce the worst forms of child labour, and to regulate children’s labour in general?

On the issue of juvenile justice, an Expert asked about correctional facilities for juveniles, and reported many cases of children being held in closed institutions – which were not called prisons but nevertheless were closed – who had not committed any crime. How many children were detained in pre-trial detention, with or without adults, and for how long?

What initiatives were in place to prevent child prostitution and pornography, especially on the internet? Could the delegation say more about its work to prevent trafficking?

Response from the Delegation

A delegate spoke about the lack of resources for residential facilities or boarding school-type institutions, saying there was contradiction as some authorities were trying to increase resources and others were trying to ‘optimize’ and cut budgets. The children taken in by the facilities were ‘social orphans’. A survey was recently carried out asking how the institutions sought to optimize over the coming years. The conclusion was that the old and large Soviet-era institutions would be closed down in favour of smaller residential homes that housed up to 20 children. Kyrgyzstan was receiving assistance from Russia in that endeavour. Today there were 117 residential facilities in Kyrgyzstan, of which three – for children with psychological or neurological problems – were run by the national Government. Most of the others were run by local administrations. There were also private children’s homes which might be run by religious organizations.

Social orphans were children who had been abandoned by their parents either for reasons of poverty or for other reasons, a delegate clarified. The conditions that had to be met to send a child to a residential facility were that a child was fully deprived of guardianship or tutorship, that the child did not receive any social benefits nor attend school, if there was documented confirmation that the parents had been deprived of their rights, for example they were in penitentiary establishments, or if they were an ‘a-social’ family and were negligent, for example were alcoholics.

The Government was working to keep children with their families but it could not just close all of the institutions overnight. The cost of keeping a child in a residential facility was 1,000 Som per month, whereas keeping a child with a family cost much less than that. So for financial reasons alone it was preferred to keep children in a domestic setting.

There were approximately 150,000 persons with disabilities living in Kyrgyzstan, 20,000 of whom were children under the age of 18. Children received 3,000 Som per month in allowances, and were entitled to different types of assistance depending upon the category of their disability. The system was established under the Soviet Union and many persons with disabilities were institutionalized and disappeared from society. So the Government was working to de-institutionalize and normalize disability and change social attitudes. For example it was working to make sure that the public and private sector integrated accessibility into the design of new buildings, with access ramps and so on. Today hospitals, pharmacies, clinics, cafeterias, and most of the cinemas had been adapted to make them accessible. Of course there was a large backlog of buildings that needed to be refitted.

On educational infrastructure a delegate confirmed that the Government recently allocated extra resources to build 17 new schools, and to refurbish and renovate many more. Further funding had been allocated to pay for free schools meals, there was a project to improve nutritional standards, and there was a special programme aimed at rural schools in mountainous areas where children were in danger of malnutrition.

School fees did sometimes represent a barrier to education, but the constitution declared that education must be free and accessible and the authorities were working hard to realize that. In Bishkek there were cases of parents being forced to give financial contributions to schools, but by Presidential Decree such a ‘contribution’ system was being outlawed. An anti-corruption council had further established that school fees were a major source of corruption and was fighting to eradicate the practice.

There was indeed a shortage of teachers in Kyrgyzstan, and part of the problem had been low salaries, a delegate said. As an incentive to recruit more teachers into the profession the salary levels of newly-qualified, young teachers had been increased to be closer to the pay of more experienced teachers. Furthermore, as said earlier, work was ongoing to reduce corruption in the field of education, and more than 300 teachers had been prosecuted for collecting illegal school fees from parents.

A delegate said the eradication of the worst forms of child labour was a major priority for the Government, and a State Programme from 2008 to 2011 saw some success. Kyrgyzstan this year ratified International Labour Organization Conventions 138 on the Minimum Age for Work and Convention 182 on the Eradication of the Worst Forms of Child Labour. Child labour was prohibited under the constitution.

Concerning the rights of child refugees, a delegate said the majority of refugees who came to Kyrgyzstan, approximately 80 per cent, came from Afghanistan with the remainder coming from Syria. Many of them applied for citizenship. Refugee children could attend schools and were treated just the same as the children of Kyrgyzstan – there were neither administrative nor financial barriers to their receiving public services.

In 2008 a law on promoting breastfeeding and regulating the marketing of baby formula was passed, a delegate said. He said the Committee’s perception that formula was marketed and promoted was incorrect, and on the contrary campaigns to promote breastfeeding were going very well. In 2010 an independent demographic medical survey carried out on a large section of the population by international experts found that 56 per cent of infants were exclusively breastfed until the age of six months.

Speaking about juvenile justice, a delegate said that juveniles were liable before the law, but unfortunately there were too few rehabilitation programmes for juveniles, especially upon their release from serving a penitentiary sentence. There was a pilot project to prevent juveniles being given prison sentences and to find alternative sentences for them, but it was currently only in operation in Bishkek.

On the rights of children with non-traditional sexual orientation (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) a delegation said they had no information or statistics on whether they encountered discrimination on the basis of their sexuality. Regarding the recent law passed in Russia, the delegate said she could confirm there was no such law in Kyrgyzstan.

The Criminal Code provided criminal liability for persons who involved children in pornography or prostitution – Kyrgyzstan had the law, but it did not have any statistics to accompany it. It was possible that there were such cases and violations, and any person who availed themselves of the sexual services of a child or who involved a child in prostitution or pornography would very strongly be held criminally liable.

On ethnic minorities and minority languages, a delegate gave an example from the Osh region in the south of Kyrgyzstan, where a city contained eight schools, seven of which taught exclusively in the Uzbek language. In fact the Uzbek language was widely heard – on the radio and television, in other forms of mass media, and there was even an Uzbek university. Regions that had large proportion of Uzbeks, however, often watched media from Uzbekistan and that had led to problems of children in Kyrgyzstan schools being confused even about who their President was. However, the State policy was absolutely not to restrict or discriminate on the basis of ethnicity or language, including in recruitment to public office.

Concluding Remarks

OLGA KHAZOVA, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur, thanked the delegation for their answers and constructive attitude to the dialogue. She spoke about the third Optional Protocol to the Convention which allowed children to submit individual complaints directly to the Committee, and was a very effective way to uphold children’s rights both domestically and internationally. Ms. Khazova said she thought the Optional Protocol would be a very good way for Kyrgyzstan to ensure ‘its house was in order’ in terms of serving the interests of children in Kyrgyzstan, and would help coordination between Government institutions.

KUDAIBERGEN BAZARBAEV, Minister of Social Development, thanked the Committee and said although different countries may have different views, in Kyrgyzstan they always respected the opinions of other parties and took them into consideration. Kyrgyzstan would draw the necessary conclusions from the Committee’s work and would consider its recommendations carefully in order to improve the situation of children in the country.


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