UN expert on violence against women ends visit to Kyrgyz republic

17 November 2009
BISHKEK -- The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, at the end of a mission to the Kyrgyz Republic, said that despite the Government's encouraging commitments to address the many challenges relating to violence against women, much still needs to be done to combat various forms of violence directed against Kyrgyz women, some of which appear to be increasing rather than diminishing.

The Special Rapporteur, who completed her visit on Monday, commended the Kyrgyz Government for the adoption of numerous international instruments, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the adoption of a set of legislative and policy frameworks which have the potential to provide a fairly comprehensive human rights protection system to women and girls.

She welcomed in particular the adoption of the Law on State Guarantees for Equal Rights and Equal Opportunities; the corresponding National Action Plan for Achieving Gender Equality; the positive provisions in the Election Code which aim 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.

The Special Rapporteur, however, noted that “since the independence of the Kyrgyz Republic, 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”.

Ms. Manjoo said the most prevalent forms of violence against women -- two thirds of whom live in rural areas -- 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.

She noted that the causes of such violence include “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.” As a result, she said, “there is an increase in 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.”

“Law reform efforts by themselves are insufficient to address the root causes and to remedy the consequences of violence against women”, Ms. Manjoo continued. “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.”

“Equality and equal protection doctrines demand that we address violence against women as discrimination against women, and as a serious human rights violation," she said. "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.”

During her visit, which included the cities of Bishkek and Osh, Rashida Manjoo met with a wide range of representatives of various ministries and government officials, 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. She also visited a crisis centre for women, a shelter for children, a women’s prison, and a pre-trial detention centre.