September 23, 2008
President Kurmanbek Bakiev
Dear President Bakiev:
I am writing to express our concerns about a noticeable downgrading of women's rights by the Kyrgyz authorities and ask you to make domestic violence and the abduction of women for forced marriage (bride-kidnapping) a priority policy concern of your government.
The adoption of the Law on Social-Legal Protection from Domestic Violence in March 2003 was a significant step demonstrating there was political will to address domestic violence as a serious human rights violation. The government received praise at home and from its international partners when it adopted the law. But the intentions associated with the adoption of the law were not followed by adequate concrete measures to ensure it is effectively implemented. As a result women are not protected by from domestic violence and bride kidnapping and thousands of women continue to be locked in their homes and isolated; humiliated and demeaned; beaten, kicked, raped and sometimes killed.
The Kyrgyz government has yet to acknowledge the scope of the scale of violence against women in Kyrgyzstan and the failure by the police, local authorities, and the courts to effectively intervene and prevent domestic violence.
Your leadership is needed to reverse these trends, and there is the opportunity to do so in connection with the upcoming review of Kyrgyzstan in the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in autumn 2008 and the visit of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, its causes and consequences in spring 2009.
We call on you and your government to issue a clear statement at the highest political level that prevention of domestic violence is a priority policy issue and to develop a more effective state response to domestic violence and bride kidnapping. To counter public myths about the acceptability of domestic violence the government should publicly reaffirm that domestic violence is a crime that endangers the stability of the whole society and has negative consequences for all parts of political, economic and social life.
We urge you to personally and publicly encourage law enforcement officials and judges to investigate cases of domestic violence and abduction for forced marriage and allocate sufficient funds from the state budget for such measures.
Adequately addressing domestic violence requires resources and stronger institutions. We urge you and your government to assure all civil servants dealing with domestic violence that they have the full and unreserved support of the government. Furthermore, we urge you to reinstate the Secretariat of the National Council on Women, Family, and Gender Development or set up another governmental coordination body or agency dealing with gender issues including domestic violence and giving it adequate authority, mandate and resources to ensure the enforcement of relevant laws.
The attached memorandum details the institutional problems preventing an effective state response to violence against women in Kyrgyzstan. These include the weak implementation of the 2003 Law on Social-Legal Protection from Domestic Violence, the absence of national gender mechanisms, insufficient resources to implement the law, insufficient and inconsistent statistics, poor knowledge and training of law enforcement bodies on domestic violence, and the fact that protective orders are not enforced.
We believe the government can begin to address these problems by taking the steps described above. Thank you for your attention to this letter and we remain, as ever, ready for a productive dialogue with your government on this matter.
Europe and Central Asia Division