Kyrgyzstan at a crossroads: “Immense opportunity to harness potential of women” – UN experts

Bishkek, 15 April 2022.- Kyrgyzstan has taken notable strides towards women’s rights and gender equality since gaining independence in 1991, but serious challenges remain in areas such as socio-economic disparities, deep-rooted patriarchal attitudes and rising religious fundamentalism, UN human rights experts said today.

“Kyrgyzstan stands at a crossroads with an immense opportunity to harness the potential of women,” the UN Working Group on discrimination against women and girls said in a statement at the end of their 12-day visit to the country.

The experts acknowledged new laws and institutional measures focusing on gender equality, as well as targeted programmes and initiatives aimed at combatting patriarchal attitudes and harmful stereotypes. They were however concerned at the narrow conceptual framing of key legal concepts such as discrimination and the gaps in implementation of the laws.

“While formal commitments have been made to advance women’s rights and gender equality, the leading root causes and drivers of gender-based discrimination and violence, which in the Kyrgyz context include harmful gender stereotyping, lack of economic opportunity and security for women and girls, are not being systematically addressed by duty-bearers.

“Addressing gender stereotypes is at the core of ensuring women and girls can enjoy their rights equally with men and boys”, the experts said.

“Despite Kyrgyzstan being a secular State, rising religious extremism is limiting women and girl’s progress whilst reinforcing attitudes about women’s role as procreators and child-bearers and impeding important conversations challenging traditional norms.

“There are also gaps in the legal framework with regard to violence against women, including in the definition of rape and in relation to sexual violence within marriage” the experts said. “The prevalence of gender-based violence further limits women’s capacity to build assets and participate in all aspects of national development and undermines the benefits that women in Kyrgyzstan could gain from the new progressive laws.

“We are concerned at the limited enforcement of the temporary protection orders, the lack of victim support and the barriers to women’s and girls’ access to justice in cases of gender-based violence. When the system fails women, the outcome can be catastrophic, including early deaths, killings, injuries and disabilities.

“Furthermore, we call on the authorities to ensure a safe and enabling environment for all women’s and girls’ organizations who play a central role in ensuring a healthy democracy and the fulfilment of human rights.”

The Working Group issued a series of recommendations, including calling for the collection of gender-disaggregated data and ensuring gender responsive budgeting for all programmes and implementation of laws and decrees. “Proper data collection and its analysis would positively influence policy development,” the experts said.

They met national and local authorities, women and girls, civil society organisations, academics, journalists, elected women leaders, UN entities and other international stakeholders in Bishkek city, and Issyk Kul and Osh regions.

The Working Group will present its final report to the Human Rights Council in June 2023.

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