Abused by Relatives, Ignored by the State

Domestic Violence Against and Neglect of Women and Girls with Disabilities in Kyrgyzstan

Aisha (not her real name), a woman with an acquired disability, sitting at the Center for Independent Living, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. © 2022 Cabar.Asia


I grew up as an orphan. Both my parents died when I was young. My older brother left me with our [maternal] grandparents when he was a teenager. My relatives abused me all the time. Maybe even dogs were treated better than I was….
Both my uncle and grandfather raped me. My uncle started it when I turned 16. He would take me to the shed and rape me there. Once he almost got caught by his own little daughter – she came upon us and asked what he was doing. He closed his hand around my neck and whispered: “Laugh!” I started laughing. And he said to his daughter he was just tickling me.
Later my grandfather started doing that, too. He would take me to “bathe” and then leave me in the shed to sleep. He would tell everyone to leave me alone, said that I was resting there. My grandmother maybe knew something was happening, but she hated me, she blamed me. She would always yell at me, abuse me with her words, beat me.[1]

This is the story of Jazgul A., a 27-year-old woman from a village in the south of Kyrgyzstan, who was living in the country’s only safehouse for women and girls with disabilities when Human Rights Watch first spoke with her in November 2021. She has an intellectual disability and limited mobility that had not been assessed or supported before she came to live at the safehouse. It is difficult for her to speak because of a light speech impairment coupled with how traumatic her experience was, but she insisted on telling her story.

The violence she experienced at the hands of her closest relatives could have continued indefinitely had her brother not decided to visit her after many years away. He found out how her relatives were mistreating her: she had not accessed any education, was kept at home and socially excluded, and severely beaten, often raped, and verbally abused by all those living in the house.

When Jazgul was able to reach the safehouse in February 2021with the help of her brother and “Ravenstvo” – an organization of people with disabilities (OPD) – she had no understanding of personal and menstrual hygiene, could not speak in long sentences, could not write, or do math, and resisted any attempt to help her, disability rights activists told Human Rights Watch.[2]

It took her about a year to start feeling safe enough to open up and socialize.

Jazgul’s experiences of severe abuse at the hands of family members are sadly not isolated or unique. The problem of domestic violence against women and girls with disabilities in Kyrgyzstan is serious and widespread. Urgent action is needed by authorities to address these acute concerns and support survivors of such abuse.

Disability rights advocates and experts told Human Rights Watch[3] that while people with disabilities in general are not aware of their rights and obligations, which contributes to their social exclusion and inadequate social integration, women and girls with disabilities face disproportionately more discrimination. Although there are no official statistics, these experts noted that women and girls with disabilities have less access to education, work, and socialization in their daily life, compared to boys and men with disabilities, and are more often subjected to psychological and sexual abuse both inside and outside the home.[4]

In Kyrgyzstan, gender-based violence against all women both in the home and outside is widespread, and its underreporting and normalization in society are a serious concern.[5]

While the authorities do collect data on domestic violence, it is not disaggregated by specific populations, including women and girls with disabilities. Official statistics on victims and survivors of sexual violence, domestic violence, and forced and child marriage practice do not include any information about disability, nor are there any official or non-governmental studies that accurately measure the prevalence of the various types of domestic violence against women and girls with disabilities, although there is disaggregation by age.

Only the most egregious cases, such as that of Jazgul, make it to the media and receive some attention from law enforcement and judicial authorities in the country.[6] Almost all violence and abuse by caretakers, family members, partners, or former partners against women and girls with disabilities goes unreported and unaddressed.

For these reasons Human Rights Watch undertook research between February 2022 and July 2023 in several regions of the country.

In 52 interviews with survivors of domestic violence who have a disability, service providers, community leaders, and experts, Human Rights Watch documented cases of long-term physical, psychological, sexual, and economic violence committed by their caregivers, family members, partners, or former partners.

Human Rights Watch heard stories of women and girls with disabilities being beaten, raped, sexually exploited, neglected, humiliated repeatedly, forcibly kept in their homes, banned from communicating with anyone other than family members, left without assistance for movement or personal hygiene, socially excluded, and deprived of access to education and welfare payments by relatives who control their financial lives. As a 23-year-old woman now living at the Center for Independent Living in Bishkek told us:

I am nobody for my family; my relatives use my money. My welfare card has long since been theirs, I have not seen it for so long. I wear old hand-me-downs from my siblings and I am the scapegoat when my family needs to let off steam. They mostly hit me in the head when beating me because no one will notice it. I don’t want to go back home, nobody is waiting for me there, they don’t care about me. I want to continue learning skills, like I do here [at the school for independent living], to live independently and be an activist.[7] 

The risks of violence increase when people are made dependent on others and cannot access their rights. Both women and men with disabilities in Kyrgyzstan face isolation, physical and communication barriers, prejudice, and paternalism that deprive them of agency and limit their access to social assistance or specialized services for survivors of violence, as well as basic services such as education.

However, women and men experience disability differently: while encountering the same obstacles, women with disabilities also face systemic and compounding gender discrimination throughout their lives. As a result, the risks of psychological, verbal, physical, sexual, and economic abuse and exploitation are higher for women with disabilities, and when they occur, they are often present and hidden for long periods of time, which is consistent with experiences of gender-based violence by women without disabilities.[8]

Venera J, 35, a participant at an independent living summer camp organized by the Kyrgyz NGO Ravenstvo, told Human Rights Watch that since her childhood her parents verbally/ emotionally abused her and forbid her from participating in society due to stigma: “My parents did not allow me to attend school, make friends, they said I would never have children and that no one would want to marry me. They wanted me to stay home forever. I have lived in constant isolation until now.”

The subordinate position of women and girls coupled with bias and negative attitudes towards people with disabilities in Kyrgyz society increase the risk of violence and abuse for women and girls and girls with disabilities. The intersection of gender and disability marks the violence with specific characteristics. For example, deprivation of aids for independent mobility or deprivation of basic means of communication can lead to complete social exclusion, and denial of assistance with personal hygiene, especially problematic and potentially harmful during the menstrual cycle, is demeaning and can create health risks and deepen social isolation. NGO social workers Human Rights Watch interviewed mentioned cases of girls immobilized as a result of their disability staying home in bed for days with unchanged diapers in a room that was rarely cleaned.

International human rights standards require governments to guarantee equal rights for people with disabilities and ensure they can live free from violence and neglect, including by family members, partners or former partners, and ensure their access to justice. The Preamble of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities notes that “women and girls with disabilities are often at greater risk, both within and outside the home, of violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation.”

In a welcome step, in 2019 the government of Kyrgyzstan ratified the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CPRD) following eight years of preparatory work. By ratifying the treaty, the Kyrgyz Republic has committed to “promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity”. However, Kyrgyzstan’s national legislation falls short of a CRPD-compliant legislative framework for both children and adults with disabilities.[9] For example, it does not include normative provisions for “reasonable accommodation” (modifications or adjustments to a product, service, or environment to enable use by individuals with disabilities) or for “universal design” (a design approach that considers the needs of all individuals, including those with disabilities, from the initial stages of product or service development). As a result, there is no legal framework in Kyrgyzstan that requires accommodation for the needs of people with disabilities in medical or educational facilities, or in transportation or rehabilitation services. And there are few disability-specific measures to ensure protection from domestic violence, access to justice and to services for survivors.

Neither existing legislation dealing specifically with protection of women from domestic violence, nor the broader legal architecture addressing protection of individuals from violence more generally takes into account the intersectional needs of women and girls with disabilities. The existing legal framework is ableist as it presupposes mobility and other physical abilities for these laws to be applied to women with disabilities. While many women and girls without disabilities are also financially dependent on their intimate partners or family members, they are more likely to have the physical capacity to leave a site of abuse and find shelter elsewhere; at present, women with various forms of disabilities are quite literally physically dependent on family members who might be perpetrators of violence towards them.

Inadequate laws, burdensome and discriminatory evidentiary standards, as well as the inaccessibility of the justice system make it extremely difficult for women with disabilities in Kyrgyzstan to protect themselves from domestic violence and to seek justice for it. This is exacerbated by their lack of access to targeted services from existing crisis centers and shelters, as well as inadequate and almost exclusively medicalized approaches to disability prevalent within state agencies and civil society.

There is momentum in Kyrgyzstan to change this. The Law on the Rights and Guarantees of People with Disabilities, adopted in 2008, is currently under consideration for modification by a group of Kyrgyz MPs. According to disability rights activists, the new law, if passed, would change the very architecture of disability support in Kyrgyzstan from a medical and charity-based model to a social and human-rights based approach. At the time of writing, legislation on protection from domestic violence, criminalized in 2019, was also under reconsideration in the Kyrgyz parliament.

The Kyrgyz government and society should seize the opportunity to ensure equal access to all human rights for women and girls with disabilities, including their right to be free from domestic violence.

In order to do this, Kyrgyzstan should align its Law on Rights and Guarantees of Persons with Disabilities and the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the UN Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women, emphasizing reasonable accommodations and the right to legal capacity, and transitioning from a medical to a human rights model of disability. Strengthening prevention and protection measures against domestic violence for women and girls with disabilities by ensuring accessibility and adapting standard procedures to their needs is essential. Laws and policies should also ensure rigorous investigation and prosecution of domestic violence cases against women and girls with disabilities and provide accountability for abusers/perpetrators and appropriate penalties for law enforcement and judicial officials who fail to investigate or prosecute such cases.


Key Terms

Consistent with the language of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), this report refers to “women and girls with disabilities” rather than “disabled women and girls.”[10] The CRPD acknowledges that disability is “an evolving concept,” but also stresses that “disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”[11] As explained by the World Health Organization (WHO), “defining disability as an interaction means that ‘disability’ is not an attribute of the person.”[12] Progress on improving social participation can be made by addressing the barriers that hinder persons with disabilities in their day-to-day lives.

The terms below acknowledge the complex interactions between a person and social norms that comprise the experience of disability. Common language references to disabilities also appear in direct quotes when this language has been used by interviewees.

Cerebral palsy: Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition that affects body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex posture, and balance. It can also impact fine motor skills. Every case of cerebral palsy is unique to the individual. Other complications such as cognitive delay, seizures and vision or hearing impairment also commonly accompany cerebral palsy.[13]

Domestic violence: All acts of physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence that occur within the family or domestic unit or between former or current spouses or partners, whether or not the perpetrator shares or has shared the same residence with the victim.[14]

Intellectual disability: Characterized by significant limitations in intellectual functioning (reasoning, learning, problem solving) and adaptive behavior, which cover a range of everyday social and practical skills. Intellectual disability is a subset within the larger world of developmental disability, but the boundaries often blur as many individuals fall into both categories to differing degrees and for different reasons.[15] Examples of cognitive disabilities include Down Syndrome and some forms of cerebral palsy.

Legal capacity: The right of an individual to make his or her own choices about his or her life.[16] The concept of legal capacity encompasses the right to personhood, being recognized as a person before the law, and legal agency, the capacity to act and exercise those rights.[17]

Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs): Organizations where persons with disabilities constitute the majority of members and the governing body and which work to promote self-representation, participation, equality, and integration of all people with disabilities.[18]

Psychosocial disability: The preferred term to describe people with mental health conditions such as depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, and catatonia. The term “psychosocial disability” describes conditions commonly referred to—particularly by mental health professionals, courts, lawyers, corrections officials, and media—as “mental illness” or “mental disorders.” The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes that disability is an evolving concept and that it results from the interaction between people with impairments and social, cultural, attitudinal, and environmental barriers that prevent their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. The term “psychosocial disability” is preferred as it expresses the interaction between psychological differences and social or cultural limits for behavior, as well as the stigma that society attaches to people with mental impairments.[19]



This report investigates domestic violence and neglect of women and girls with disabilities in Kyrgyzstan, focusing on lack of adequate support and protection by the government of Kyrgyzstan. It is based on Human Rights Watch research conducted in February-March, May, August-September 2022, and June-July 2023 in three regions in Kyrgyzstan: Bishkek and Issyk-Kul in the north and Osh in the south.

These cities were selected following consultations with local community-based organizations and were chosen to enable us to interview survivors representing diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. Interviewees were mostly with ethnic Kyrgyz women, and a smaller number of them were ethnic Russian. No ethnic Uzbek respondents were available for interviews, and the NGOs that facilitated many of the interviews did not work with this population. Mostly resident in Southern Kyrgyzstan, ethnic Uzbeks continue to be socially isolated from ethnic Kyrgyz, following interethnic conflict in 2010. However, experts Human Rights Watch talked with were familiar with the experiences of ethnic Uzbek women with disabilities and have shared some of their stories.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 35 female survivors of domestic violence and neglect ranging in age from 18 to 55. Although the research refers to women and girls with disabilities, no one under the age of 18 was interviewed – the reference to girls is in recognition of many of the violations that have happened when these women were under 18. Although, according to UN statistics,[20] globally 46 percent of people aged 60 and older are people with disabilities compared to 15 per cent of the total population; Human Rights Watch did not interview any older women with disabilities due to lack of access. Older women and men, especially with disability, in Kyrgyzstan are subjected to greater social isolation with fewer opportunities for mobility, and rarely are in contact with organizations working with people with disabilities.

The majority of those interviewed were women with pre-existing or acquired physical, developmental, intellectual or psychosocial disabilities as a result of repeated violence.

Respondents had experienced physical, psychological, or economic violence, and some had also experienced sexual violence or a combination of these types of violence. Fourteen reported abuse by their parents, twelve by their siblings or sibling in-laws, and nine by other close relatives. Survivors came from Chuy, Issyk-Kul, Jalal Abad, Naryn, and Osh provinces of Kyrgyzstan. They came from both rural and urban areas, but most did not have access to education or had only primary level education. A small number of interviewees in the 40-to-55-year bracket had graduate degrees.

Human Rights Watch identified survivors with the support of local community-based nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Interviews were conducted in Russian or Kyrgyz.

Interviews with survivors were conducted at places of their choosing, including a shelter, NGO offices, cafes, or private rooms at conference centers. Human Rights Watch informed all interviewees of the purpose of the interview and how information collected would be used and received verbal consent before conducting the interview. All respondents were informed of their right to stop or pause the interview at any time. No incentives were provided for interviewees, although in cases where the interview took place at a café Human Rights Watch paid for the meal.

Human Rights Watch referred survivors to available services where appropriate and possible and took care to minimize re-traumatization of interviewees.

Human Rights Watch also spoke with 17 representatives of law enforcement and the criminal and civil justice systems, public service providers, NGOs, and community leaders. These included six staff members of crisis centers and a shelter, three activists, as well as four representatives of the police, three lawyers, and one sign language interpreter. Four representatives of international NGOs and United Nations agencies were interviewed. Additional information was gathered from published sources, including laws, government data, United Nations documents, academic research, and media.

Human Rights Watch submitted written information requests to the Internal Affairs, Social Development, Health, and Justice ministries, as well as to the Prosecutor General’s Office in July 2022; no written responses had been received at the time of writing. Human Rights Watch met with representatives of the Ombudsman for Human Rights, and the Interior Affairs, Labour, and Social Development ministries in August 2022 and their perspectives have been reflected in the report.

Human Rights Watch, in August 2022 and in February 2023, also made unannounced visits to a small number of police stations in Bishkek and Osh and undertook informal interviews with on-duty police officers on areas of the research.

Human Rights Watch wrote to the Ministry of Labor, Social Welfare, and Migration, Ministry of Interior, and Prosecutor General’s Office in November 2023 with a summary of the research findings and a request for input and comments. Responses were received from the Ministry of Labor and the Prosecutor General’s Office and are reflected in the report.

All survivors’ names are pseudonyms and most identifying details have been withheld for their security and privacy. Pseudonyms are represented by a first name and initial at the first mention, and then simply the pseudonymous first name. Where actual names and the exact titles of expert [non-survivor] interviewees are used, Human Rights Watch received express consent to do so. However, in some cases these interviewees asked not to be identified, in which case a pseudonym was used, following the same system.

Interviewing women with disabilities, the majority of whom had experienced neglect, which included lack of both formal and informal education and socialization, surfaced an ethical dilemma of knowledge traumatization – i.e., the act of categorizing their experience as survival of violence and/or abuse, which until the interview, the respondents may not have identified as such. This raises the issue of a researcher’s responsibility towards respondents that should extend beyond data collection and analysis, to possibly include human rights education of the respondents and advocacy for their rights with state bodies.

A specific methodological issue that arose regarding this dilemma was the need to reformulate the interview questions in such a way as to avoid direct leading questions, while leaving space for clarifications. One way this was done was by asking how a certain experience made the respondents feel to gauge whether the respondent registered the experience as an abusive one or not. In cases when the experience clearly presented as an abusive one to the researcher, but the respondent did not register it as such, the researcher made a note of it to herself. These issues were later brought to the attention of the grassroots activists that helped organize most of the interviews with women with disabilities for their future use in empowerment or advocacy work with this community.


I. Background

Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country in Central Asia with a population of 7 million people. The country has a vibrant socio-political environment with an active civil society, political opposition, and independent media. However, these conditions are increasingly under threat from the government’s attempts in recent years to suppress freedom of expression and assembly. There are also serious concerns regarding the lack of accountability of law enforcement agencies and a lack of independence in the judiciary. 

Gender-based Violence

Kyrgyzstan’s cultural fabric is interwoven with traditions that influence societal dynamics, including notions of family honor, patriarchal norms, and customary practices.

Gender-based violence in Kyrgyzstan is a deeply entrenched systemic issue, stemming from the subordinate status of women within family and societal structures. Factors such as women’s economic dependency, limited employment opportunities, and restricted involvement in decision-making processes contribute to this problem. However, accurately assessing the extent of gender-based violence in the country is challenging, as incidents remain underreported due to social pressures, geographical and resource constraints of available crisis support centers, and the ineffectiveness of existing legal mechanisms that often fail to break the cycle of violence.

In reports in 2015 and 2019, Human Rights Watch shed light on the alarming failure of the Kyrgyz government to provide services and support for survivors of domestic violence, investigate and prosecute cases, and hold perpetrators accountable.[21] The reports detailed distressing cases of severe physical, sexual, and psychological domestic abuse, with women recounting horrifying incidents of violence inflicted upon them by their partners, former partners, or family members. These acts included brutal physical assaults, such as head pounding, fractures, stabbings, and threats of murder. Some survivors also revealed they were forced into marriage, often through abduction, even when they were below the legal age of 18. 

The prior reports also found that survivors of domestic violence in Kyrgyzstan face a multitude of obstacles in seeking help, protection, and justice. Social pressures to preserve family integrity, coupled with shame and stigma, economic dependence, and the fear of retaliation by abusers, deter survivors from reporting incidents. Insufficient support services, such as shelters, and reluctance or hostility from law enforcement and courts, who often refuse to believe the survivors, further compound the difficulties that survivors encounter. This situation raises significant concerns, and places Kyrgyzstan in violation of both its own domestic violence legislation and its binding international human rights commitments.

Despite high rates of domestic violence against women and girls in Kyrgyzstan, few cases are reported, and even fewer are prosecuted. Government data highlights that only a fraction of domestic violence complaints reported to the police make it to court, with many cases considered administrative offenses rather than crimes, resulting in lenient penalties.[22] 

Domestic Violence Against Women and Girls with Disabilities

These issues are further exacerbated for people with disabilities, and even more so for women and girls with disabilities. 

According to information provided by the Ministry of Labor, Social Welfare, and Migration, more than 212,000 people with disabilities were registered with the social protection system in Kyrgyzstan as of 2023,[23], of which, according to the Kyrgyz national statistics committee, about 47 percent were women and girls.[24]  Registration with the system affords people with disabilities access to medical benefits and welfare payments provided by law for “socially vulnerable” categories of population. It is noteworthy that not all people and children with disabilities are registered with the social protection system, which is reported to be corruption-prone, with parents requested to pay an informal fee (effectively a bribe) to the disability assessment committees to be able to receive a disability certificate[25].

In 2011, Kyrgyzstan signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), ratifying it in 2019 and subsequently approving national programs that seek to align with CRPD principles. While the country does provide disability benefits and basic social services such as welfare payments including disability pension, domestic assistance for those living alone, free rehabilitation and medical care in inpatient institutions, free provision of prosthetic and orthopedic products, provision of technical and special means for mobility in areas like employment, education, or access to justice, it lacks programs to provide comprehensive support to people with disabilities. Many public buildings, including hospitals, lack necessary accessibility features – the latter is especially pronounced in the system of justice, which does not provide reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities, including accessibility of complaint mechanisms and of information (e.g. material in easy-to-understand formats or in Braille). Activists highlight a lack of political will and leadership as key factors contributing to the stagnation in implementing disability rights reforms.

For individuals with disabilities in Kyrgyzstan, the risk of experiencing violence is amplified when they face additional barriers that limit their autonomy, legal capacity, and civil rights. These barriers encompass restricted mobility, isolation, communication challenges, social prejudice, and a paternalistic approach to social assistance that emphasizes charity rather than recognition of their rights. This combination of factors presents formidable hurdles for people with disabilities when dealing with various social and legal matters, including accessing justice and asserting their rights within society.

Negative attitudes significantly impact social relationships, creating formidable barriers for women and girls with disabilities and depriving them of the opportunity to lead a life in accordance with their desires and beliefs. Civil society experts and crisis center professionals point out instances of complete isolation experienced by women and girls with disabilities, particularly in rural areas and remote regions, where prevailing prejudices foster a sense of shame regarding the presence of a family member with disabilities.

Consequently, in certain cases, women and girls with disabilities are limited to communicating solely with their immediate family members, forbidden from interacting with visitors and house guests, which compels them to conceal themselves within their homes, restricts their mobility, and denies them the freedom to leave their residences.

More often than not, women and girls with disabilities are deprived of education due to prevailing prejudices that lead to their social isolation as well as systemic issues with lack of access to inclusive education, which is in violation of the country’s Law on Education.[26]

Legal and Policy Framework

Framework on Rights of People with Disabilities

The legal and policy framework concerning the rights of people with disabilities in Kyrgyzstan is based on what experts refer to as the ‘medical model’, where disability is perceived as the result of a physical condition, which reduces the individual’s quality of life and causes disadvantages to the individual.[27] This model stigmatizes people with disabilities with its dichotomy between ‘normal’ and ‘not normal’ bodies and its exclusive focus on impairment.

The main law that regulates the rights of people with disabilities is the Law on the Rights and Guarantees of Persons with Disabilities adopted in 2008, and amended in 2009, 2016, and 2017; it is currently once again under reconsideration. [28] The law defines disability as “health impairments with persistent disorder of bodily functions that lead to a complete or significant loss of ability to work or significant restrictions for independent living.” The law also defines a person with “limited health functioning” (a legalistic euphemism for a person with a disability) as “a person with health disorders with persistent impairment of bodily functions resulting from illnesses, trauma, or defects, which lead to limitations of functioning and call for social protection and rehabilitation”. Together with four other specific laws, this law fundamentally establishes the right of adults and children with disabilities to disability benefits, which include disability pension, some forms of medical treatment and rehabilitation, and provision with personal assistants.[29]

While adoption of the law and its subsequent amendments shifted the policy away from Soviet-era social protection laws that identified people with disabilities as “invalids” and usefully introduced concepts of disability discrimination, accessibility, political rights, and reasonable accommodation, it falls severely short of fully embracing the normative framework outlined by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. There are however efforts to bridge this gap.

According to the 2023 Country Report of the UN Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,[30] the new draft of the Law on the Rights and Guarantees of Persons with Disabilities currently under consideration attempts to move away from the medical model and towards the social model, recognizing various rights of persons with disabilities, such as the right to social protection and guarantees, and highlighting the full legal capacity of persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others. However, it falls short of how the legal capacity of persons with disabilities would be protected and seems, in contravention of the CRPD, to promote segregation of adults and children with disabilities by including provisions for special services and institutional care.

In February 2023, the Kyrgyz government presented a State Program, “Accessible Country,” for 2021-2030 which boasts a comprehensive set of policies aimed at guaranteeing persons with disabilities in Kyrgyzstan full realization of their right to accessible public spaces, including education, health care, employment, as well as better access to basic social programs and opportunities.

In 2023 the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection presented a draft resolution that seeks to align the socio-medical examination for disability assessment with standards of the CRPD, marking the state’s further transition from a medical model of disability support to a social one.

In 2022, the government of Kyrgyzstan signed the Regulations on Personal Assistants to Children and Persons with Disabilities in need of constant care, which establishes payments for services of a personal assistant, who is defined as a parent, legal representative, close relative, or another person no older than 65 years old, who can aid. Before ratification of the CRPD, paid assistance was only provided for children with disabilities.

In 2019, the Kyrgyz Republic adopted the Concept and Program on Inclusive Education for 2019–2023, which if carried out in a timely manner and with adequate funding could have proved to be an important step toward making inclusive education a reality in Kyrgyzstan However, due to lack of funding and delays in passing legislation to implement the vision of the concept paper, less than 20 percent of planned activities have been initiated by the first half of 2023.[31]

However, despite this progress, there are still areas of significant concern for the rights of people with disabilities, especially with regards to recognition of their legal capacity.

The 1996 Civil Code[32] of the Kyrgyz Republic establishes that every person has the right to full legal capacity upon turning 18, however the Code provides for deprivation of their legal capacity by a court in the event a person has a psychosocial disability and is deemed not to understand the meaning of his or her actions or manage them. If a court deprives a person of legal capacity, the person will be appointed a “guardian” who “is the representative of their ward before the law and carries out all transactions in their name and in their interest,”[33] People who have been deprived of their legal capacity lose their right to vote, marry, open a bank account, make medical decisions in crisis, and other areas of life – all in contravention of the CRPD.

As this report further states, the concept of deprivation of legal capacity of persons with disabilities may lead to them being perceived as unreliable witnesses when seeking justice, being denied their rights, facing abuse in the medical system, and other consequences.

According to a 2021 Situation Analysis on Children and Adolescents with disabilities by UNICEF in Kyrgyzstan, the process of early identification and intervention, where available, lacks coordination, specialized knowledge, and parental involvement.[34] Parents often face a complex, costly process with limited support to identify their child's disability and their support needs. Lack of information about rights, incorrect diagnoses, bribery requests, and administrative complexity compound the challenges.

Although the health care system aims to provide quality services tailored to individual needs, people with disabilities are not treated as service users similar to the general population. Healthcare professionals often view them impersonally as “carriers of diseases” rather than people experiencing disability.[35]

The UNICEF situation analysis also found that the governmental rehabilitation program lacks essential expertise and services, with outdated medical rehabilitation and limited access to social, psychological, educational, and other forms of rehabilitation due to resource shortages. Obtaining age-appropriate assistive devices is difficult, particularly in rural areas, due to a lack of person-centered approaches and prolonged waiting times. People with disabilities are often not aware of their rights to access these programs and support.

In violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Kyrgyzstan ratified in 1994, the public education system segregates mainstream and special education, impeding access to education for children with disabilities, contingent on disability registration forms and the approach taken by schools’ individual staff members. A 2020 Human Rights Watch report titled Insisting on Inclusion: Institutionalization and Barriers to Education for Children with Disabilities in Kyrgyzstan, based on in-person visits to institutions for children with disabilities and extensive interviews with children with disabilities, their parents, institution staff and experts, describes abuses in state care and barriers to education that often lead to segregation and isolation of such children, increasing their risk of physical or psychological violence.[36]

Adolescents and young adults with disabilities who have experienced institutionalization face barriers to employment due to a lack of tailored transition programs and vocational training opportunities, insensitive public employment services, and weak reinforcement of reserved workspaces quotas.

Negative societal attitudes towards disabilities persist, where people with disabilities are perceived as deviant, incapable, defective, unable to live independently and in need of care, as well as dangerous with higher risk of exhibiting aggression and inappropriate behavior, especially concerning people with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities.[37] Service providers often are unaware or guided by traditional models. Families lack information for informed decisions, potentially subjected to biased support due to factors like residence and social status. More broadly, the existing social services provided to people with disabilities are neither sufficiently developed, nor in line with the CRPD.[38] The main factors limiting adequate development and implementation of such services are general poverty within the country, lack of state resources resulting in a shortage of social workers and underdevelopment of universally designed infrastructure, as well as limited understanding on the part of authorities, expert bodies, and families themselves of the needs and rights of people with disabilities, exacerbated in the cases of women and girls with disabilities.[39]

The situation of women and girls with disabilities living in rural areas is even more acute, as the few state-supported centers for rehabilitation and education are largely located in the two biggest cities – Bishkek and Osh. Physical access to recreational facilities, healthcare, social welfare, state institutions, and banks is extremely limited.[40]

State Protection of Women and Girls from Domestic Violence

Kyrgyzstan’s legal framework aimed at tackling domestic violence has been reviewed and updated in recent years. In 2017 Kyrgyzstan adopted a Law on Protection from Domestic Violence, which led to a spike in the issuance of protection orders, which provide short-term, immediate protection from abuse. Although certainly a step in the right direction, the orders are rarely enforced, or violations punished. Human Rights Watch’s reports in 2015 and 2019 found that survivors generally needed support from nongovernmental organizations in accessing the system of protection orders in order for their complaints to be heard, and in accessing justice.[41]

In January 2019, the government made further strides in addressing domestic violence by introducing a "Code of Misdemeanors," which for the first time classified domestic violence as a criminal offence. In the previous legislation it was treated as an administrative offense. However, this re-categorization has done little to prevent domestic violence, as under the new Code, authorities can still close cases on the basis of reconciliation between the parties involved. In the previous, separate, iterations of domestic violence legislation, an administrative offence led to an administrative arrest, which many survivors found to be the only respite from abuse, even if for a few days.

Kyrgyzstan also in 2016 passed a law against child and forced marriage. Again, despite this positive step, lack of enforcement means the practice remains widespread.

In 2022, the 2017 Law on Protection from Domestic Violence came under revision due to the general legal inventory process launched by the government in 2021. A draft of the new Law was in circulation at the time of writing, but, according to disability rights advocates, the draft still lacked any specific reference to women and girls with disabilities as being especially at risk. The draft of the Law had not been considered in parliament at the time of writing.

Despite these steps forward, there remain significant gaps in the protection of women and girls from violence.

Human Rights Watch’s previous research on domestic violence found that weak enforcement of existing laws, such as inadequate implementation of protection orders, contributes to the ongoing exposure of women and girls to violence. Survivors often required support from non-governmental organizations for their complaints to be effectively addressed, and service providers reported that police rarely enforce protection orders. Furthermore, authorities may close cases following reconciliation between survivors and perpetrators, perpetuating a culture of impunity for domestic violence and putting survivors at continued risk.

The situation is exacerbated by scarce government support for services for survivors of abuse, leaving women and girls without a safety net. To date, there is only one fully state-funded shelter for survivors of domestic violence and it is located in Bishkek.[42]

Despite legislative efforts to improve access to protection orders, the system is often cumbersome and poorly implemented.[43] Lawyers and advocates in Kyrgyzstan note that authorities sometimes dismiss complaints, viewing them as routine disputes between women and men.[44]

Adding to these gaps is the lack of explicit references to persons with disabilities in legislation. Many women and girls with disabilities are physically and financially dependent on family members who, although meant to provide them with support, perpetrate violence against them – making it difficult to report them using the law, including and in terms of the issuance and enforcement of the protection orders.

The omission of specific reference to women with disabilities in the 2017 law, particularly procedural accommodations as prescribed in article 13 of the CRPD on access to justice, has resulted in difficulties for disability rights activists engaging with the police on these issues, where the latter often question the woman or girl’s legal capacity to make decisions. Law enforcement and the judiciary are not trained to handle and fittingly respond to cases of domestic violence against women and girls with disabilities. There are no protocols for police, judicial, medical, or social workers addressing needs of women with disabilities.

Exclusion of People with Disabilities from Coordination Efforts

The Kyrgyz Republic government decree titled “On the procedure for the implementation of protection and protection from family violence,” dated August 1, 2019, provides important mechanisms for protection against family violence, including procedures to ensure coordination among relevant state bodies, provision of assistance to survivors, and intervention programs for perpetrators of domestic violence.

However, these mechanisms do not take into account the specialized needs of women and girls who have disabilities, such as requiring accommodations due to being deaf or blind, or having a psychosocial disability (mental health condition) or “musculoskeletal system” conditions, as specified in the Law of the Kyrgyz Republic "On the rights and guarantees of persons with disabilities" (2008).

The National Action Plan for Achieving Gender Equality in the Kyrgyz Republic for 2018-2020 included “solutions to the problems of gender-based violence” as a priority area for eliminating discrimination and expanding access to justice.[45] The plan identifies goals aimed at strengthening legal and other national mechanisms for assistance to survivors and access to justice in cases of gender discrimination and gender-based violence, and developing a culture of intolerance towards discrimination and gender-based violence. However, once again, gender-based violence specifically against women and girls with disabilities was not included in this gender equality strategic plan, as representatives of the groups working with people with disabilities were not invited for input.

The government’s Urgent Action Plan for the Prevention of Domestic Violence developed during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 also did not contain special measures for timely response and prevention of violence against women and girls with disabilities, disability rights experts told Human Rights Watch.[46]

Key Stakeholders

The key government stakeholders in prevention of gender-based violence against women and girls with disabilities are the following:

  • Council for the Affairs of Persons with Disabilities under the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic together with the National Council for Women and Gender Development under the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic;
  • Ministry of Labor, Social Welfare, and Migration as the authorized state body tasked with implementation of the Law on Rights and Guarantees of Persons with Disabilities to Social Protection;
  • Ministry of Health;
  • Ministry of Interior Affairs;
  • Ministry of Education as the authorized body for information and educational activities in the field of gender development, as well as raising awareness and promoting social inclusion in society;
  • National Statistics Committee;
  • The Prosecutor's Office of the Kyrgyz Republic, which is authorized to ensure the rule of law, the unity and strengthening of the rule of law, as well as the protection of legally protected interests of the individual, society, and the state;
  • Local self-government bodies;
  • Council on Women's Rights and the Prevention of Gender Violence under the Speaker of the Jogorku Kenesh of the Kyrgyz Republic and the Ombudsman Institute, responsible for parliamentary control over the observance of constitutional human rights and freedoms of Kyrgyz citizens.

Each of these state and municipal authorities is mandated to advance national strategies and state programs on implementation of the state’s obligations under the UN conventions on the Rights of People with Disabilities and on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women.  However, in practice this is complicated by compartmentalization or isolation of these tasks within the framework of each ministry or department so an interagency and intersectoral approach that would consider the specific needs and interests of women and girls with disabilities has proven difficult to implement due to lack of clear coordination mechanisms. Human Rights Watch previously noted the government’s commitment to establishing a coordination mechanism on preventing domestic violence, as required by the 2017 domestic violence law; at time of writing this had still not come to fruition.[47]

In meetings with representatives of the Ministry of Labour, Social Welfare, and Migration, and with the Ministry of Interior Affairs in August 2022, Human Rights Watch noted the need for greater cooperation between the different state bodies identified as responsible by the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence and a lack of dedicated resources on this issue.

In its letter to Human Rights Watch in November 2023, the Ministry of Labour noted that the Ministry provides funding to crisis centers and NGOs working on domestic violence through state funding programs, with 7 million Kyrgyz Som provided to 13 NGOs in 2023. These projects include provision of services to survivors of domestic violence, correctional programs for violent perpetrators, and establishment of safehouses. The Ministry also works with local village committees on prevention of domestic violence by providing them with model provisions that include the legal basis for protection from domestic violence and practical advice and examples of actions that can be taken by the committees. The Ministry also noted the planned development of a project that would provide medical, legal, psychological services to survivors of sexual violence through a “single window.”[48]

In the meeting in August 2022 with Human Rights Watch, Ministry of Labour representatives noted a significant lack of funds and human resources to adequately implement their responsibilities within the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence, as well as concerning their obligations towards people with disabilities.

The Prosecutor General’s office in its letter to Human Rights Watch noted it conducts regular monitoring of implementation of legislation on prevention and protection regarding domestic violence throughout the country. According to their data in 2023, the office conducted 43 monitoring visits, during which they have identified 113 procedural violations on the parts of law enforcement and other responsible officials. This resulted in what the office termed 38 recommendations, one order, four disciplinary investigations, and one breach of the law, with 24 officials ‘held accountable’. The office also noted that work on prevention of domestic violence against women and girls with disabilities in Kyrgyzstan is done as part of the general work on prevention of domestic violence.[49]

The Ministry of Interior representatives shared with Human Rights Watch during the meeting in August 2022 that in 2021, as a result of the “Spotlight Initiative” on tackling domestic violence supported by the United Nations and the European Union, two guides were developed for district police officers setting forth standard operating procedures (SOPs) for responding to reports of domestic violence against women and children.

The SOPs have sections on specificities of working with women and children with intersecting forms of discrimination and violence, which includes recommendations on communication with people with different types of disability, as well as a small table of correct and incorrect linguistic terms. While the publications were distributed to all regional police offices in 2022, and have been seen by Human Rights Watch, the ministry officials could not confirm if these recommendations were used in practice, as the implementation of the guides is not binding.

The Ministry of Interior representatives also noted that there was no disaggregation of data on the basis of disability in domestic violence statistics, although according to article 37 of the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence, there is a requirement for statistics to include socio-demographic data on perpetrators and survivors of domestic violence, which implies disaggregation of data along an expanded set of factors, including disability. However, the ministry officials Human Rights Watch spoke with noted that neither the national nor departmental statistics on domestic violence of the ministry or Prosecutor’s Office includes data on women with disabilities among the survivors of domestic violence.

The ministry officials also noted that law enforcement officers are only tasked with collecting data on cases addressed according to established forms and policies, none of which request information about a person’s health or disability status.

In 2014, the then United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Rashida Manjoo, recommended disaggregated data collection not only on disability, but also sex, age, caste, religion, language and other relevant criteria.[50] The lacuna in counting persons with disabilities presents a significant hurdle to providing adequate services and a lack of attention to their needs in government policies and programs—including those aimed at supporting access to justice in cases of sexual violence.

Role of Civil Society Organizations

Civil society organizations play a crucial role in Kyrgyzstan in the fields of disability rights, women’s rights, and domestic violence, working on development of inclusive policies, advocating for increased accessibility and full participation of women with or without disabilities in society, and pushing for improved protection from and response to domestic violence.

In part due to the lack of state resources in these areas and the lack of political will on the part of authorities, NGOs have made significant contributions, both in terms of advocating for legal and policy changes and through provision of services and support, such as shelter, psychosocial support, medical care, and legal assistance for survivors of domestic violence.

There are challenges in this area, however. Government authorities have in recent years criticized some aspects of the work of civil society organizations, which has resulted in stigmatization of NGOs among parts of the public, and in increased difficulties in accessing foreign funds, which often are the only source of financial support for work aimed towards at risk groups of populations.

Many NGOs are also under-resourced and cannot provide support to at risk groups across the country. Most NGOs that protect the rights and interests of people with disabilities are concentrated in the capital or regional centers, and so are inaccessible to hundreds of rural women and girls with disabilities. About 48 percent of such NGOs are registered in Bishkek.[51] The same can be said of domestic violence services: there are at least 18 crisis centers for women throughout the country, but only 4 of them provide shelter for survivors of domestic violence[52], and only one is equipped to support women and girls with disabilities.

According to experts whom Human Rights Watch talked to, among the 257 NGOs registered with the Ministry of Justice that deal with the concerns of people with disabilities, only a few focus specifically on women and girls with disabilities, and even fewer on issues concerning domestic violence against women and girls with disabilities. Out of those working in this area only one, “Ravenstvo” (Equality) provides access to information on sexual and reproductive rights, as well as protection from domestic violence for women and girls with disabilities.

Case Study: “Center for Independent Living”

The "Center for Independent Living” for women with disabilities is a project of “Ravenstvo” (Equality), a community-based organization of people with disabilities established in Bishkek in 2021. The center's primary focus is on empowering women (although it does not close its doors to men) with disabilities through a structured curriculum and innovative outreach programs to enhance their independence and awareness of rights. 

Gulmira Kazakunova, the director of Ravenstvo, who herself uses a wheelchair, began working on disability issues in 2008 in Karakol, a city in the Issyk-Kul region of Kyrgyzstan. 

I was working with adults then, but sometimes I would encounter children with disabilities, who seemed to not have had access to education. I realized that when they grow up, they would become the adults with disabilities that we were working with, who did not know how to live independently, did not know about their rights. After this, I had a dream to set up a center where youth with no education and no social skills, who were overprotected and sheltered, or on the contrary – neglected – by their parents, would be able to come on a regular basis to learn to live independently.

Kazakunova notes that by 2021 she had gained a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by people with disabilities through her work in projects on disability issues. She saw that the problem with lack of education and ensuing lack of social skills for independent living was widespread across Kyrgyzstan. 

The "Center for Independent Living" focuses on women with disabilities aged 18 and above, who are invited to apply for the Center’s “School of Independent Living”. Participants from outside Bishkek can stay at the Center for free while those living in Bishkek come daily. Through a structured curriculum spanning three to six months per cohort and accommodating 10 to 15 participants, the center aims to address their multifaceted challenges. 

The curriculum covers fundamental literacy skills, including reading, writing, and basic mathematics. It also encompasses critical social skills and practical knowledge. Following the first cohort, the program adapted to include a section on personal hygiene,

We realized that we needed to add an early section on hygiene because we had girls that did not know how to use menstrual pads, how to wash up, how to change. They must have been neglected by their mothers, who failed to teach them these basics. So, we added hygiene into the curriculum. Then they would learn about self-care as a woman, how to dress, how to look after their clothes, how to clean their rooms and beds. Then we would teach them how to cook simple food, how to boil water, how to make a boiled egg, and a simple sandwich. All of these are a novelty to them because they are not allowed to do any of this at home, as their parents would see them as too fragile or, on the complete opposite end of it – they would just neglect their daughters with disabilities, seeing them as a burden that is not worth investing time and effort in.

The curriculum extends beyond the center’s walls. Participants attend external masterclasses such as cooking classes receive life skills training encompassing budgeting and shopping and become proficient in navigating public transportation. 

We teach them how to make purchases - starting at the center first, where we teach them about currency, money, and different types of banknotes. Then we play a game where we set up a shop and encourage them to play-buy. We then take them out to the city, where they can practice in a shop buying simple things like bread or milk together with our staff. After this we encourage them to go on their own, while our staff is watching from afar, ready to provide support
if needed.

The Center also pays very close attention to communication training on self-confidence, teaching how to say “no” if they do not like something, changing their attitude to themselves and to others, to make choices for themselves - all the seemingly basic soft skills that they were not allowed to learn. Kazakunova says that they go so far as to teach the girls to choose the color of their socks when shopping for clothes, the type, the kind as well - which often is the first step in making choices for themselves. 

Former students often return as mentors, representing the tangible impact of the program. One case stands out - a participant who initially grappled with the basics but has since transformed into a confident and independent individual.

Every time we organize the school we get some truly heartwarming stories, like the case of Alina – the way she came to us, almost a wildling who did not know basics of hygiene, interpersonal communication, and who growled when anyone tried to speak to her, and [comparing that to] how she is now is like the difference between sky and earth. And although her time at the school is long past, she is still staying with us as a helper, teaching the new ones.

The "Center for Independent Living" accepted its 5th cohort in autumn 2023 with 12 participants, who will stay at the center for 6 months. Kazakunova hopes that they will not have to move location yet again. In the last two years the center has had to move three times due to increases in rent that went above the budget. 

“I wish we had our own building, where we could organize different levels of schools, maybe even house the masterclasses or skills building courses. We would be so much more independent, and we could do so much more!”


II. Family Violence, Abuse, and Neglect

In interviews with women with disabilities and experts, Human Rights Watch documented physical, sexual, psychological, economic violence against women and girls in Kyrgyzstan at the hands of close and extended family members, relatives, and others in the home.

Physical Violence

Crisis center specialists report that women with disabilities experience physical violence, beatings from partners, parents, husbands, and other relatives. Women with disabilities, due to their isolation and the lack of alternatives in obtaining support, are perceived as unable to fight back.

“When we tried talking to her, after we extracted her from that house, she was like a mute scared little animal. She did not respond to any of our questions and did not want to come out of her room. All of her behavior indicated to us that she had experienced great trauma from her relatives,[53]” says Sveta Esengazieva, coordinator of the Center for Independent Living, remembering the story of Aidai J., a 30-year-old woman with a learning and physical disability.

In families, it is common to take out frustrations stemming from other causes on women and girls with disabilities, who are more likely to endure violence due to their high degree of dependence on the people around them, social workers said. Violence can also be used to try to force a woman or girl with a disability to be more active in housework.

Venera J., a 27-year-old woman with a physical disability, told us:

When my sister was yelled at by our parents, she took it out on me. She saw me as the reason she was yelled at. They wanted her to take care of me, but I think she did not want that, she resented it. All the house chores were on her, and she thought I was lazy. One time she hit me in the head. She apologized, of course, but this happened all too often. I was happy when I could finally go off to study at the internat [residential educational institution].[54]

Physical abuse can manifest in various ways, such as hitting, pushing, or restraining the individual. Twenty-two of the thirty-five women interviewed reported some form of physical abuse.

“It was normal for my jenge [sister-in-law, brother’s wife] to pinch me every time I failed to do the task the way she wanted me to do. And I couldn’t exactly do it that way not because I hate her, but because my fingers wouldn’t listen to my command. Is it my fault?[55]” said Jyldyz, a 32-year-old woman with cerebral palsy.

Albina, a 24-year-old woman with cerebral palsy, said:

My mother, before she left for Moscow [as a migrant worker], she was kind to me more than the others, but sometimes she would also get very upset with me and give me a slap on my head when food fell down from my mouth. Maybe she thought she would help me eat better, I don’t know, or teach me how to be more accurate? I don’t know.[56]

Due to their disabilities, women may face particular risks that can intensify the physical abuse they endure. For instance, a person with a physical disability may have limited means to escape or defend themselves from physical violence. Additionally, perpetrators may exploit the dependence of people with disabilities on caregivers, who, may also be perpetrators themselves.

Rita I. is a 34-year-old woman with cerebral palsy, who moves with difficulty on two crutches. She earned money from her house garden, where she grew vegetables and made homemade conserves that she sold on the market. Her partner systematically assaulted her physically and took away her earnings, as well as conserves so he could sell them to buy himself alcohol. Rita reached out to a shelter in Osh, which helped her get a protection order from the police. Although the partner was detained for violating the order, he was quickly released, and this happened several times, which only exacerbated the situation.

A social worker told us:

This went on two or three times. Both were called to the central police office, and we, as an organization, called the district police officer, whom we talked to. We even organized a medical examination, which showed she had minor bodily injuries. However, no one noted that she has a disability, that when he was attacking her, she was in a helpless state, physically unable to answer. So, they would let him off easy. So, she has ultimately decided to stay with him. She told us “I am afraid, but I will live as long as I will live.” From what we know he continues assailing her regularly, but she does not want us to interfere to not make things even worse.[57]

Another type of physical abuse that people with disabilities, including women, often experience in their families is neglect of their physical needs. A social worker[58] told Human Rights Watch that she has seen many households in which girls with physical disabilities who could not move independently would stay in bed wearing one set of diapers for many days in a row, in a room that was rarely cleaned.

I still remember entering that room – it smelled horribly, of all the physical excretions that you can think of, that were not cleaned for many days in a row. The whole family was very poor, but cleanliness does not really require a lot of money. They were just neglectful. The child was a burden to them.[59]

A community leader[60] told Human Rights Watch that the biggest cause of death for people with physical disabilities who are unable to move independently is bedsores, indicating just how dangerous neglect and negligence can be in homes or residential care settings.

Reproductive violence – including discrimination, and abuses such as forced sterilization and denial of access to or ill-treatment in healthcare facilities – is another, often overlooked, type of physical abuse that women with disabilities and activists emphasized.

Jarkyn S., a 29-year-old woman with a physical disability, told Human Rights Watch: “My parents didn’t want me to give birth to my child. They thought it would be born with disabilities too. They wanted to force an abortion and then also sterilize me all at the same time. I ran away from home and came here.”[61]

A social worker from “Ravenstvo” said:

This happens so often – a woman with a disability wants to become a mother, she believes she can be and with proper support of course she can. But no one wants to give this support, no one wants to risk. The doctors, their families, everyone will try to convince them not to do it. Some agree, some don’t – like Bermet. She gave birth to a beautiful baby, and we fundraised to support her during her pregnancy and after.[62]

Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is difficult for any woman to speak out about, especially when it happens in the family. But for women with intellectual disabilities who have been isolated, stripped of their agency, and psychologically manipulated, it is all but impossible. The exercise of their rights depends on decisions of their guardians and they typically lack independent legal capacity. If the abuser is a guardian, there is no way for them to assert or defend their rights without the external intervention of civil society organizations and crisis centers.

Of the 35 women we interviewed, only three shared their stories with Human Rights Watch.

When Bermet D. was 17 years old she was raped by her step-father, who had been pressuring her to give her consent for a year before that:

My relatives rejected me from the moment I was born. I was always scolded, told that I am a fool. They would say that my father was a retard and that I am just like him. My parents divorced after my birth. I grew up in different relatives’ houses with my mom, always feeling guilty that I was burdening them. Then when I was a teenager, my mom got married for the second time. I was happy for her. But after a while my stepfather started driving my mom to places that were farther and farther away from home. It would be just us at home while she was working somewhere. Then one time when she was gone to her job, he raped me for the first time. This lasted for many years. Once he held a knife to my neck and said: “Remember this, if you tell anyone, I will kill your mother!” These words are still ringing in my years, even after so many years.

In February 2021, the case of Jazgul., the 27-year-old girl with a disability who had been physically and sexually abused by her grandfather and uncle for many years, became public in the media due to her brother finding out and asking for help. Jazgul was not educated, was socially isolated, communicating only with relatives, and at the age of 27 she could neither read nor write and did not have the life skills to live independently. With support of the Center for Independent Living and their lawyer, Jazgul was evacuated to Bishkek and admitted to their safehouse. Still living at the center when we spoke with her in October 2022 and still living there as of writing, she had learned the basics of reading and writing. However, social workers there noted she had relapsed several times, forgetting the progress she had made previously. Law enforcement agencies questioned Jazgul's accounts of sexual violence.

Society tends to view individuals with disabilities through a lens of asexuality or hypersexualization, leading to their sexuality being denied, ignored, or dismissed. This perception increases their risk of sexual exploitation, as perpetrators may assume they are less likely to report or be believed. Most cases of sexual violence against women and girls with disabilities remain hidden and go unpunished.[63]

According to Gulmira Kazakunova:

Women with certain levels of learning difficulty, or speech and hearing impairment, can sometimes be considered to be hyper-sexual. We have seen cases when underage girls with cerebral palsy would be manipulated into having sex with someone they knew, with an unwanted pregnancy developing - when this became known the perpetrators would deny it, saying she wanted it. And the police and judges believe them. Nobody thinks about the concept of consent and how it may be different for girls with learning difficulties, how it may be difficult for them to say no to someone they know and trust.[64]

Perpetrators of sexual violence may exploit power differentials, manipulate trust, or use coercion to engage in non-consensual sexual acts.

Asel G., a 22-year-old woman with a mobility impairment, told us:

My uncle raped me. How could I know that someone I respect, and trust had bad intentions? I will never forget that day. He lied to me, saying that I was needed in another village. There he took me to some house, where he tied my hands and feet, and put a piece of cloth in my mouth. Then he raped me from late night until dawn. I think I died that day. All my clothes were covered in blood. I didn’t have the strength to resist or even to move my leg. After all that he left me there.[65]

Women with disabilities face additional barriers to escape or seek help due to lack of support, limited access to sexual and reproductive health services, or the perception that their experiences are not valid.

Jazgul’s Story: Beaten By Grandmother, Raped by Uncle and Grandfather

Jazgul came to the safehouse ran by Ravenstvo NGO, nearly three years ago in February 2021. Social workers at the center describe her as shy, she does not like to look people in the eye. Sveta Esengazieva, coordinator at Center for Independent Living helped Jazgul tell her story.

Jazgul grew up as an orphan. She was born in 1996 with cerebral palsy, learning difficulties, and a level of visual impairment – disabilities that her grandparents told her were most likely a result of repeated kicks and blows Jazgul’s father gave her mother while she was pregnant. Jazgul's disability and support needs have never been formally assessed, as most of her life she spent locked up in her maternal grandparents’ house, who took her in after her parents died when she was young. She has an older brother, who ran away from the family when he was a teenager, unable to take the abusive behavior toward him. “They abused me all the time. Maybe even dogs were treated better than I was when I was with them. Both my uncle and grandfather raped me, Jazgul said.

When Jazgul turned 16, her maternal uncle took her to a shed in the yard and raped here there for the first time. This happened regularly and did not stop even when he almost got caught by his own child – he forced Jazgul to pretend they were playing. Then her grandfather started taking her to “bathe” where he would also sexually abuse her before taking her to the shed outside the house, telling everyone she was resting.

Jazgul could not tell anyone about what was happening to her, because everyone in the family was an abuser of one or another kind. Her grandmother verbally and physically abused her, saying she was a burden to them. Her uncle’s wife resented her disability and forced her to help her around the house even though Jazgul was never taught any skills. As Jazgul was refused school admission due to her disabilities and did not receive any social service visits, she could not tell anyone outside the family.

Sveta explained:

When her brother learned that Jazgul was being raped, it was sometime in late 2020, he tried to get her out of there. The grandparents denied everything, saying she made it all up, so he came to us eventually. We wanted to take this case to court, but turned out that before he came to us, he signed a document prepared by a previous lawyer that offered his services to him for free. The document said he did not have any claims towards the family. The lawyer must have been bribed [by the family].

Sveta says that when Jazgul arrived at the safehouse she had no understanding of personal feminine hygiene, could not speak in long sentences, could not write or do math. Jazgul’s case did not make it to court. Although an investigation was eventually opened into the abuses she endured, it was closed due to “lack of evidence,” almost certainly in part because police and prosecutors deemed Jazgul’s testimony unreliable given negative stereotypes about her disability.[66]

Jazgul has been staying at the center since her arrival there in February 2021 “I feel so at peace now,” she said.

The social workers at the center note that she is making a lot of progress, even though she regresses and forgets most of what she learned and must start anew. They think it will take her many years to rehabilitate from the abuse she lived through.

Today she is a helper at the center, not just a resident. She has learned how to write and read and the basics of math. She looks after new arrivals and shares with them some of her tips on house chores.

Psychological Abuse

Women and girls with disabilities are often subjected to psychological abuse, often characterized by acts of intimidation, threats, humiliation, neglect, deprivation of necessary resources and means of communication, leaving them alone without assistance (if mobility assistance is required), and various forms of controlling behavior and. manipulation of their disability-related needs. Perpetrators may exploit their disabilities by denying them necessary accommodations, withholding medication or assistive devices, or exacerbating their condition through deliberate acts of harm. This form of abuse perpetuates a cycle of powerlessness, isolation, and dependence, leaving survivors with disabilities more susceptible to continued abuse.

Olesya B., a 30-year-old woman with a mobility impairment, told Human Rights Watch:

Sometimes when they were angry at me my siblings would hide my things from me. My phone, my crutches, or move them away. I had to crawl to get there. They thought it was funny.[67]

Psychological abuse can also manifest as verbal threats, insults, or belittlement. Women and girls with disabilities are often subjected to emotional manipulation and control, which can have severe consequences for their mental health and overall well-being. Furthermore, perpetrators may undermine their self-esteem, diminish their independence, and create an environment of fear and constant surveillance.

Jarkyn A., a 24-year-old woman with cerebral palsy, said:

My family always treated me like I’m not really human, I realize now. They would never let me do anything, saying ‘you can’t do it, look at you’, or they would use slurs against me when they were angry, call me ‘sicko.’[68]

Abusers have also exploited the disability-related needs of women and girls by withholding their assistive devices or medication, or neglecting/refusing to provide personal care assistance.

As Sveta Esengazieva said, speaking of Jarkyn I., a young woman with cerebral palsy and high support needs:”

When she just came into the shelter, she did not know what a menstrual pad was. She just bled into her panties, tried stuffing toilet paper in there. She smelled really bad too in the beginning because she just did not have a habit of washing herself. We taught her all of those things. It’s terrifying to think of the conditions in which she lived and the cruelty of her guardians, who did not teach her any of that.[69]

Isolation, Social Exclusion and Dependency

Physical and psychological abuse often involve isolating individuals with disabilities, fostering dependence and limiting their support networks.

Isolation is one reason why violence and abuse against people with disabilities is hidden. The isolation of people with disabilities is facilitated by the lack of reasonable accommodations, such as an accessible transport system suited to the needs of all, organization of public space that makes it accessible and inclusive, and provision of information in accessible formats. The lack of ramps at intersections and building entrances, inadequate architectural design of public buildings, and the failure of public and social service systems to take into account the needs of people with disabilities – all lead to social exclusion.

In addition to these physical barriers that deepen isolation, there are social barriers, including a moral justification for social exclusion of women with disabilities stemming from paternalistic stereotypes about a woman’s place in the family and society. Human Rights Watch interviewed family members and caregivers who see themselves as guardians with a duty to protect women and girls with disabilities from the dangers of the outside world by any means. Justifying isolation as necessary for protection and thus in the “best interests” of the affected women and girls, they significantly limit social contacts, movement, and communication with the outside world. The result is that women with disabilities from birth are deprived of the opportunity and support to acquire necessary social skills and prepare themselves for independent living and employment.

According to social worker and disability rights activist, Ukei Muratalieva:

Communication is the only way to ensure safety of women and girls with disabilities, if they have contacts outside their family they can always share what is happening with them. But often what happens is that their families prohibit them from having any friends – fearing ‘bad influence’ in some cases, in others we don’t even know why.[70]

Social workers at the two crisis centers in Bishkek and Osh told Human Rights Watch of family members and relatives restricting the social interactions of women and girls with disabilities, isolating them from having friends or support networks, creating a sense of isolation and diminishing their ability to seek help. In many cases the family members undermined the independence of women with disabilities, knowingly or unknowingly, exerting control over their daily activities and decision-making.

As Larisa Kuznetsova, head of disability rights group “Smile.KG” told us:

Until age 32 she had never left her house [talking about a woman who uses a wheelchair] - her parents thought she did not need anything apart from food, clothing, a roof under her head. When guests came over, she would be left in the room, encouraged not to communicate with them. If she wanted to go somewhere they would question why.
Then she saw our organization’s ad on TV, we provided a hotline for people with disabilities – she called us, said she wanted to communicate, to have friends. We visited her house, talked with her family, and she began to be allowed to leave and have friends.[71]

Marina Fegele, a disability rights activist with an acquired physical disability says:

In rural areas especially girls [with disabilities] are not let out. ‘What else do you need? Your stomach is full, you’re dressed, what else do you need?!” – they say and honestly believe that this is enough. This is the understanding of disability – a sick person cannot and does not need to live a full life.[72]

Negative attitudes significantly affect social relationships, creating obstacles for women with disabilities and depriving them of the opportunity to build a life according to their desires and beliefs. Disability rights activists and experts indicate that there are numerous cases of complete exclusion of women with disabilities in villages and remote regions, where prejudice and societal stereotypes lead to a sense of shame that there is a person with a disability in the family.[73] As a result, in some cases, women with disabilities are only allowed to communicate with their family members, they are not allowed to be present with visitors and guests of the house, they are required to hide in other areas of the house, their movement is restricted and they are not allowed to leave the house.

Gulmira Kazakunova of “Ravenstvo” says:

They lock them up inside the house, or just in their room, especially when guests are over, because they don’t want unwanted questions or are just ashamed that they have such a child.[74]

Ukei Muratalieva adds:

Friends of the family, acquaintances of the family will never know that there is a woman with a disability in this family, because if guests come, she is hidden somewhere. If there is no place to hide at all, then she will sit somewhere – in a bathroom or some room where no one enters.[75]

Social exclusion has far-reaching, serious consequences that can reduce the quality of life and affect the life course of women and girls with disabilities. It contributes to self-doubt, poverty, limits employment opportunities, deprives women with disabilities of the opportunity to establish meaningful social ties and lead an independent life. Isolation increases the dependence of women with disabilities on the people they live with and, when there is violence in the family, makes it impossible for them to break the cycle of violence, causing them to fear losing any economic and physical support and other resources necessary for life.

Sveta Ezengazieva, from the Center for Independent Living says:

When there are people who always make decisions for you, you will not have life skills, plus the possible lack of education, lack of self-realization lead to poverty. It might seem that it was because of disability that a woman ended up in poverty, but in fact the woman did not receive sufficient skills and resources, and the knowledge that she can do much more...[76]

Intimidation and Threats

Social workers at the crisis center and Center for Independent Living told Human Rights Watch that in egregious cases family members use psychological tactics to instill fear as a tool for maintaining control over women and girls with disabilities.

In some cases, family members threaten to stop helping them address their disability-related needs. Sabina K., a 24-year-old woman with a mobility impairment told us:

My brother and my jenge [brother’s wife] wanted me to give my welfare payments to them, in addition to the assistant payments that they were getting for taking care of me. When I said ‘no’, she said I should learn going to the toilet on my own, that she would not help me anymore.[77]

In other cases, abusers use their size, physical strength, or verbal aggression to intimidate and control women with disabilities, making them feel powerless and trapped. As Altyn K. told us: “He towered above me, I could not go anywhere…”


Economic Abuse and Denied Access to Education

Larisa I. is a young woman with epilepsy who did not get school education.[78] A disability rights activist told Human Rights Watch her story and shared her contacts. In a phone interview Larisa explained that her family makes a living from handcrafted goods, with Larisa doing all of the embroidery. In addition to being kept at home and not allowed to go out, Larisa also does not see the financial fruits of her labor:

Mom sells it at the market, I do the embroidery the whole day at home because I do it the best of them all. And if I am done with it, I just go do other things around the house... I’m not allowed to go out, no, so I don’t have the need for that money.

In Kyrgyzstan attitudes towards girls and boys with disabilities in families differ significantly. If there are several children in a household with a small budget, then the interests and needs of a girl with a disability, as a rule, are not considered as a priority by family members when deciding questions regarding education, vocational training and attending courses. Either children without disabilities are sent for training, or boys with disabilities are preferred.

The girl is often told that education or meeting friends is superfluous, their main task is housework. If a girl with a disability does not cope with housework, gets tired more quickly, or cannot do quality work, she faces rude and neglectful attitudes about her disability and, at times, physical abuse.

“My siblings were constantly saying that my only use is doing homework and even that I cannot do properly,[79]” said Venera J., a 33-year-old woman with limited mobility.

In many cases, family members consider disability benefits as part of the general budget and women with disabilities cannot spend these funds at their own discretion and for their own needs. Adinai B., a 23-year-old woman with cerebral palsy, told us:

I am nobody for my family; my relatives use my money. My welfare card has long since been theirs, I have not seen it for so long. I wear old hand-me-downs from my siblings and I am the scapegoat when my family needs to let off steam. They mostly hit me in the head when beating me because no one will notice it. I don’t want to go back home, nobody is waiting for me there, they don’t care about me. I want to continue learning skills, like I do here [school for independent living] to live independently and to be an activist.[80]

More generally, family members may control the financial resources of women and girls with disabilities, limiting their ability to meet their basic needs and assert their independence. Social workers gave Human Rights Watch examples of family members withholding or manipulating access to funds, preventing women with disabilities from having financial autonomy or making independent decisions. They also spoke of family members or schools denying them education and of family members or employers preventing them from getting jobs.

Human Rights Watch interviewed several women with disabilities who said they were denied educational opportunities either because of shame on the part of their family members to be seen as having a child with a disability, or because it was too burdensome to organize their education.

It was just too difficult for [my family] to do this [advocate for a home teaching agreement with the school] and they probably also did not think someone like me even needs education,[81]” said Meerim D., a 27-year-old woman, who uses a wheelchair.

A social worker recounted:

Her father was a school principal. She is a girl in a wheelchair, her intellect is intact, everything is fine, but her father told her: “I am ashamed that I have such a daughter – you will not study.” And this girl did not study. Then we tried to involve her in various events, but she had a complete ban, they did not let her out. We negotiated with the family for her to be let out and join our activities sometimes and we barely managed it in the end.[82]

Several women now living at the Center for Independent Living in Bishkek shared that they had only started learning to read and write once they arrived there. Most of them were in their 20s or older when we spoke with them.

Kalina J., a 24-year-old woman with a learning disability and a speech impairment shared her thoughts:

I am so happy, I learned to read! I can be independent now. I didn’t know how to do this before. There was a teacher that was supposed to come visit me and teach, but she came only a few times when I was small, and then stopped. My mom raised me alone and did not have time to teach me. I was trying to help her as I can. Now I am finally learning.[83]

Five of the 35 women with disabilities whom Human Rights Watch talked with specifically said family members had taken their disability benefits or financial assistance. Many others preferred not to comment, some likely because they did not want to say something that could disgrace their family. Social workers at the center confirmed that families routinely do not give women and girls with disabilities access to benefits or other funds. Larisa Kuznetsova, the director of Smile.KG, a nongovernmental organization working to provide project-based education and rehabilitation services to children with disabilities … told Human Rights Watch:

The families are mostly poor, uneducated, unsupported by the state. They were already struggling when their child with a disability was born. Of course, on the one hand I understand how frustrating this must be. And it feels to them that they have rights to those payments because they are providing them with shelter and food. And what else could they need, right? So, they just take away their money, it’s so normal.[84]

Although rare, social workers from “Ravenstvo” noted that inheritance can also be an issue, recalling cases where siblings without disabilities manipulated or defrauded their siblings with disabilities of their share of an inheritance. A Ravenstvo staff member gave an example:

Tanya [85] is an ethnic Russian woman, 45 years old, with cerebral palsy. She had a very loving mother, who took care of her all her life. But she died recently. In the will she indicated her apartment was to be left to Tanya because she would not be able to make a living otherwise. However, her younger brother and his wife were upset with this decision and tricked Tanya into signing a refusal. She did not know what she was signing, trusting her brother. Now she is homeless. We helped her get into a charity house, but we really need to find a more permanent solution, so we’re talking to a lawyer on how to help her get it back.[86]

Alina’s Story: They Took All My Earned Money, Called Me a ‘Prostitute’

Alina D.[87] is a 26-year-old woman with cerebral palsy, who uses a wheelchair for easier mobility, and lived with her family in Southern Kyrgyzstan until recently. She came to the Center for Independent Living as an intern after participating in a UN organized school for disability rights youth, working at the Center for six months, participating in activities of the Center and the “School”. Alina has a dream of helping others like her:

I want to start an NGO that would help people like me and older people [with disabilities], so I am learning everything I can while I am here. I used to think I was good for nothing before the activism school and before this Center. But now I feel like I can do so much despite my physical limitations.

At the start of her stay Alina came across to the center staff as a young woman who had a regular family life, if neglected a bit. She had both her parents and siblings. She was curious, and even though she did not have an education she had a thirst for knowledge. And she was allowed to participate in the few programs aimed at supporting youth with disabilities. However, as Alina grew closer to the Center staff, she shared with them stories of economic and psychological abuse that she had to endure at home.

She won a small amount of money in some NGO youth entrepreneurial contest, which she spent on buying chicken. She wanted to start a business breeding hens and selling them. But when she got the internship with us, she had to leave them with her family. And just a few weeks after she got a call from her siblings that they were planning to sell the chicken and use the money to close a loan her sister had taken out from a bank. Despite Alina’s protests, they just went ahead and did it, paid no attention to her request.[88]

After Alina’s internship was over, she had funds she had been able to save up from her six months of work at the center. Her family asked her to give them the money and when she refused they accused her of prostitution while she was away from them, beat her up, and threatened to lock her up. Every day she was pressured, cursed by the family for having changed, for no longer being submissive and compliant. They forced her to hand over her bank card and took all the savings from her account.

When it got too much, she called us, [she was] suicidal. She said she couldn’t take it anymore. I called her mother and asked if Alina could come back to our center to help us, but she said no, that her character and mood had become worse after interning with us. So, we had to intervene. An activist in Osh bought her a ticket and we evacuated her from that home. She was able to leave under the pretense that she would attend a birthday party of a friend, so she had nothing else on her except what she was wearing when she arrived in Bishkek. We got everything for her here.

Alina is now back in Bishkek, staying at the center again. Her parents tried to get her back through aunts that attempted to kidnap her, according to center staff. The relatives thought that she was engaging in prostitution in Bishkek and needed “saving.” The center staff were able to explain Alina’s true story to them and they let her go.

Alina now plans to support other women: “There are so many women like me out there and I want to dedicate my life to helping them out of this.”

III. Lack of Access to Justice

Jazgul, whose case is profiled on page 43, suffered economic, physical, psychological violence and sexual abuse by her paternal grandparents and uncle. At least in one aspect, her case is an exception in that she was able to escape her home and much of her story became known. After her brother’s appeal, her case was picked up by the media and caused a public outcry, which led to an investigation, although it never made it to a trial. However, most cases of abuse and violence against women and girls with disabilities in Kyrgyzstan go unnoticed and unaddressed, with perpetrators remaining free and not brought to justice. There are many barriers that women and girls face in gaining access to justice in domestic violence cases, as outlined earlier. In addition, according to existing research[89] corroborated by lawyers Human Rights Watch interviewed for this report, there are some additional key issues related to women and girls with disabilities. These include:

  • The Statute of limitations, which sets between 2 to 10 years as the timeframe within which a survivor must report a crime before prosecution is no longer possible. This is problematic, as it fails to account for the fact that victims may only disclose or report abuse after a significant period of time, which disproportionately affects women and girls with disabilities.
  • Evidentiary standards that prioritize physical injuries and biological evidence, which may be absent in cases of reporting a crime from the past, or in cases when violence, especially sexual, was perpetrated using threats and intimidation, but leaves little or no physical evidence. This also undermines the credibility of victims' testimonies, particularly if they have intellectual or psychosocial disabilities, or have been stripped of their legal capacity.
  • Domestic violence investigations are only initiated upon the proactive request of victims or their representatives, leaving many survivors without protection provided by the law, even when prosecutors become aware of a case.
  •  The lack of effective pre-investigation processes, inadequate identification of at-risk individuals, limited accessible information about sexual violence, and a lack of affordable and accessible legal support, exacerbate the challenges faced by survivors with disabilities.
  • Lack of accommodations, and failure to account for disabilities by police, medical and court professionals, even when families, their lawyers, and engaged organizations identify disabilities and corresponding needs. For some women and girls with disabilities, reasonable accommodations—changes in ordinary procedures or practices to meet the needs of a particular person—are key in reporting sexual violence.

Women and girls with disabilities may be more at-risk of abuse and have increased difficulty leaving abusive situations since they are more reliant on families and caregivers.

Alina, a 27-year-old woman with cerebral palsy, said:

I thought I would never make it out of there. They were not going to let me go, they believed the stories my family told them, that I was selling my body to earn that money. I thought I was done for. But thankfully Sveta-eje [respectful way of referring to an older woman in Kyrgyz] was there and she didn’t let go of me. She yelled at them to let me out and she told them everything as it was. So now I’m here.[90]

At the same time, when violence and abuse, especially sexual violence, occurs outside the family, it is the decisions, patience, and perseverance of the guardian that determine how effective legal protection will be and whether the law enforcement system will be able to investigate and charge the perpetrator. In many cases, as experts from crisis centers and lawyers explained to us, guardians are either not interested, for various reasons, to accompany and represent the interests of their wards, or do not have the appropriate legal knowledge and skills to do this effectively.[91]

Women and girls with disabilities—like other women and girls—may face pressure from perpetrators, communities, and even their own families to not seek legal redress. A lawyer specializing in domestic violence cases told Human Rights Watch:

They just decided that they will not pursue this because the perpetrator had denied everything, saying the girl was making it all up. And people had already started talking about this in the village, they believed him because the girl had learning difficulties. Her sister tried not to give up, and submitted a complaint to the police anyway, regardless of what they [villagers] were saying about their family – but eventually she withdrew it. Apparently, the perpetrator had threatened their whole family and told them they had better take what he is offering – cattle – for stopping the case.[92]

Women and girls with disabilities may also face the added trauma of their accounts being discredited on the basis of their disability.[93]The concept of legal incapacitation, while only applying to people with psychosocial disabilities, may influence the reliability of witness testimonies of people with all kinds of disabilities.

Even when a woman with a disability has independent access to legal assistance, she faces additional social barriers in exercising her rights compared to a woman without a disability. In addition to barriers to justice common to all women, such as low levels of legal knowledge, risks of public stigmatization, economic dependence on abusers, and difficulty accessing social support resources, women with disabilities are forced to overcome inaccessible transportation systems, lack of information in a form accessible to them, and extreme difficulty accessing or navigating law enforcement agencies, courts, and crisis centers. Even where resources are available in theory, they are not necessarily accessible in practice. For example, limitations on access to specialized medicines that women with disabilities require can make it difficult for them to leave their place of residence to pursue legal cases, which can take months and require appearances in different locations as the case moves from one district court to another, then to a regional court, or to the national level. As a social worker told Human Rights Watch:

[S]ome benefits or medicines are tied to the place of residence where we live, and this, of course, also plays an important role in life. If there are specialized medicines that can be dispensed by doctors from the local family medicine center, then if I am registered, I go there. I cannot go to another center and get these medicines. It is difficult to change the registration, and all medicines are tied to registration and place of residence.[94]

Women with disabilities experience additional difficulties when contacting law enforcement agencies. For those with physical disabilities, the buildings of law enforcement agencies remain physically inaccessible, since there typically are no ramps, and internal stairs, corridors, and so on are not adapted for the movement of a person in a wheelchair. A lawyer told Human Rights Watch:

All of the district police officers that I know of in Osh are located either in a basement, or on second or third floor of buildings that do not have ramps. So, imagine a woman that uses a wheelchair – she comes to that office, asks for a possibility to submit her complaint. She has to first tell all her story to just the person guarding the police station, so he can direct her to the next officer. Then she has to somehow make her way in and ask for help from random men – because it is absolutely mostly men that work in the police here – to be taken to the necessary room. And what if her perpetrator was a man? She still has to bear with all of them being men and be reliant on their help. There are no accommodations for women with disabilities.[95]

Women with visual disabilities do not have the opportunity to receive timely and complete information about the legal process, and it is difficult for them to navigate the premises of law enforcement agencies since there is no appropriate support. Women with hearing disabilities face a lack of information about the legal process, communication with law enforcement officials is difficult, and sign language interpreters are often unavailable. Moreover, law enforcement officers do not have sufficient skills and resources to interact with people with different types of disabilities.

A sign language interpreter shared with Human Rights Watch:

While there is more visibility and attention now to people with [physical] disabilities, the plight of those with hearing disabilities remains completely unaddressed because sign language is extremely limited only to its users and some members of their families. The cases of violence remain hidden, they don’t even share within their own groups. I have not yet heard of a case when a hearing-impaired person who, for any reason, turned to the police was able to get a service from there.[96]

Articles 3 and 31 of the Law On the Rights and Guarantees of Persons with Disabilities provide for the provision of sign language interpreters during investigative actions or when participating in court processes, and the Ministry of Justice determines the list of certified sign language interpreters with a legal specialization. Lawyers and specialists from crisis centers report that in their experience, the involvement of sign language interpreters occurs mainly on a paid basis and is an expensive service only accessible in Bishkek and Osh.

A lawyer gave examples of an investigator trying to interrogate a person with a hearing disability without a sign interpreter, and of sign translation being carried out by family members of a person with a hearing disability during investigation and trial[97] despite provisions in the law requiring court-appointed sign interpreters.

Yeseniya Ramazanova, a lawyer with extensive experience working with women with disabilities, told Human Rights Watch that stereotypes about disability—that a person with a disability is not a reliable witness—and lack of skills to respond sensitively to the needs of people with disabilities too often lead police officers to refuse to register applications. And low levels of legal literacy and even general literacy among women with disabilities contributes to them being less persistent in getting their cases registered.[98]

As Muhayo Abdurayupova, a lawyer, said: “It is not easy for women with disabilities to turn to law enforcement agencies because of the rough treatment they receive there, because the police just do not want to deal with these cases.”[99]

Problems common to all women in Kyrgyzstan in accessing justice, such as delays in investigations, pressure on survivors of sexual violence with accusations that they did not resist enough or behaved in a provocative matter, dismissal of cases due to insufficient evidence, as well as corruption endemic in the system, are aggravated by these stereotypes, which see women with disabilities as problematic and untrustworthy witnesses.[100]

Police officers whom Human Rights Watch interviewed in unannounced visits to district police offices in Bishkek and Osh were largely uninformed about the specificities of working with women with disabilities.[101] Two of them confirmed they were aware of a standard operational procedure guidebook distributed by the Ministry of Interior in 2022 but were unable to list the recommendations. One of them disclosed that, in their opinion, “even if someone like that came by the police office there would not be a lot of willingness to take up their case” due to difficulties associated with such cases. Another said that there was an epidemic of domestic violence in Kyrgyzstan, “but even those cases, most of them are eventually closed because the sides come to an agreement, and we feel like we’ve lost time trying to gather evidence,” noting that when even “regular cases are closed, there’s no way cases of women with disabilities can have a higher chance of investigation.”

In a case where a 15-year-old girl with learning disabilities was raped by a co-worker at a cafe where she was working to help her mother, who also has a disability, the lawyer who represented the girl said that the police made no attempt to provide procedural accommodations, noting lack of skills among the officers in communicating with someone with a intellectual disability. The lawyer petitioned that in this case, considering the peculiarities of the child's condition, that a confrontation with the accused be omitted. However, this request was not granted by the investigator, nor was any modification of the format of the confrontation made.

She was very afraid of her rapist, she could not stand it, she started screaming, she almost broke all the computers, and after that the confrontation had to be interrupted.[102]

Burdensome evidentiary standards in sexual violence cases further hinder access to justice for survivors, especially those with disabilities. Prosecution of such cases often relies heavily on physical injuries and biological evidence associated with a sexual act. Consequently, if forensic examinations do not find visible injuries or signs of violence, the victim's testimony, particularly if she has an intellectual or psychosocial disability, may not be believed or suffice. Psychological/psychiatric examinations conducted to assess competency often fall short of scientific standards and perpetuate myths and negative stereotypes about sexual violence. These practices contribute to a culture of impunity and systemic discrimination.


IV. Recommendations


To the Government of Kyrgyzstan, the Parliament, the Prosecutor General’s Office, and the Office of the Ombudsman

Recommit to and comply with obligations under international law on combatting violence against women and girls with disabilities:

  • Kyrgyzstan should fully align national legislation with the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), explicitly recognizing the intersectionality of gender and disability as outlined in CEDAW Articles 1 and 5, specifically:
    • National legislation, including the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence, should be amended to include specific provisions aligned with UN CEDAW Article 2, on prohibiting discrimination against women with disabilities in all spheres of life, ensuring equal rights and opportunities for them, including access to justice and protection from violence.
    • The Law on Protection from Domestic Violence should be amended to include provisions that address the specific vulnerabilities faced by women with disabilities, such as provisions requiring training for law enforcement and judicial personnel on recognizing and addressing violence against women with disabilities.
  • A systematic data collection mechanism should be established to gather disaggregated data on violence against women and girls with disabilities, in line with UN CEDAW Article 18. This data should inform policy development, monitoring, and evaluation, allowing for targeted interventions. Ensure compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) by amending existing laws and policies, integrating the CRPD’s principles into the national legal framework, and eliminating discriminatory practices against women with disabilities, specifically:

o   Incorporate the concept of “reasonable accommodation” from CRPD Articles 2 and 5 into domestic legislation. This should mandate public institutions, including the judiciary and law enforcement agencies, to provide accommodations for women with disabilities involved in legal proceedings related to domestic violence. This should take into account potential physical and financial dependency of women with disabilities on perpetrators.

o   Ensure sensitization on supporting persons with disabilities to provide accurate testimony in cases of sexual violence in a manner least traumatic for the survivor and upholds the fair trial rights of the defendant.

o   Ensure that information about protection from violence and access to justice is available in accessible formats, including Braille, sign language, and easy-to-read materials, as stipulated in CRPD Article 9, which would provide women with disabilities the necessary access to information.

o   Provide accessible information to women and girls with disabilities about their rights in cases of sexual violence and appoint special educators and interpreters to ensure that accommodations are available and provided.

o   Require all public facilities and services, including shelters and healthcare facilities, to adopt universal design principles, ensuring physical accessibility for women with disabilities.

o   Actively involve women with disabilities in the development, implementation, and evaluation of policies and programs related to domestic violence prevention and response to ensure that their needs and perspectives are considered.

o   Issue a standing invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to facilitate ongoing assessments and improvements in accordance with CRPD Article 34. This engagement will enable the Special Rapporteur to provide expert guidance and recommendations on addressing violence against women with disabilities in Kyrgyzstan, promoting adherence to international standards.

Strengthen government policies and procedures on prevention and protection measures regarding domestic violence against women and girls with disabilities:

·       Ensure that implementation of the standard operating procedures for police officers handling domestic violence cases involving women with disabilities is a requirement, rather than a recommendation.

·       Enact specific legislation allowing immediate protection orders to be issued for women with disabilities experiencing domestic violence, ensuring their safety and well-being.

Ensure full investigation and prosecution of cases of domestic violence against women with disabilities:

·       Ensure that all reports of abuse and violence against women with disabilities are consistently registered, thoroughly and promptly investigated, regardless of the relationship of the perpetrator, with a focus on gathering evidence in a sensitive manner.

·       Ensure that all complaints and reports of abuse and violence against women with disabilities are duly presented with charges, if appropriate, upon completion of investigations and perpetrators are prosecuted, and that victims have access to effective remedies, including compensation.

·       Ensure that legislation on protection from domestic violence includes family members as potential perpetrators, not just intimate partners.

·       Enhance capacity of law enforcement officials, social services professionals, and others to identify situations of violence towards people with disabilities, including through trainings with disability and gender and child-friendly perspectives.

·       Establish specialized courts or divisions within existing courts to handle cases of violence against women and children with disabilities staffed with personnel trained in disability and gender issues and how to take statements from children’s survivors.

·       Increase the number of women police officers, their promotion opportunities, and the number of women’s police stations. Ensure that women police officers are sensitized to the rights and particular needs of women and girls with disabilities, including how to support victims and survivors of sexual violence, record their claims, and interview them for the purpose of crime investigation.

·       Instruct police stations to create a database of special educators and legal aid providers to support women and girls with disabilities who seek relief in cases of sexual violence and other crimes.

·       Organize special programs for police related to prosecuting cases of sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls with disabilities. Training content should include sensitization on supporting persons with disabilities to register complaints, to access appropriate and effective accommodations, to receive immediate medical attention and to access legal counsel and other support services.

·       Institute mandatory training for investigating officers regarding sexual violence. Training should include investigative methods applicable to sexual violence cases, including accommodations for persons with disabilities, working with traumatized victims, protecting victims from harassment, gathering forensic evidence, and collecting and preserving evidence.

·       Enact a victim and witness protection program that includes protection for women and girls, including women and girls with disabilities, who face retaliation for reporting sexual violence. The law should direct the government to adequately fund the witness protection program.

Ensure CRPD and CEDAW compliant medical treatment and examination for women with disabilities:

·       Ensure that medical professionals are trained to provide adequate accommodations to women and girls with disabilities.

·       Appoint special educators and sign language interpreters to ensure that hospitals and medical centers can provide accessible services.

·       Hold periodic trainings for doctors, paramedics, nurses and other health professionals on these guidelines.

·       Ensure that medical forms and consent forms are available in local languages, easy-to-read and other accessible formats.

·       Ensure that government and private hospitals that receive government subsidies are accessible to women and girls with disabilities, in line with universal design as defined by article 2 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

·       Call for the Kyrgyz State Medical Academy to include the particular needs of women and girls with disabilities in all existing and forthcoming training modules and medical standards for training medical students on treating and examining victims of sexual violence.

Improve co-ordination and co-operation between relevant ministries and official bodies to enhance effective response to domestic violence against women with disabilities.

  • Ensure that the various government agencies effectively cooperate and collaborate in preventing and responding to domestic violence against women with disabilities, including by establishing a coordination mechanism within the government.
  • Develop policies promoting the availability and affordability of assistive technologies and devices for women with disabilities to enhance their independence and participation in society.
  • Develop and implement policies that prioritize accessible healthcare services, including sexual and reproductive healthcare, for women with disabilities.
  • Implement a comprehensive policy for inclusive education, guaranteeing that women and girls with disabilities have equal access to quality education.

Reinforce data collection to support justice, prevention measures and redress for victims and survivors:

  • Collect disaggregated data on violence against people with disabilities, including identifying those who acquired disabilities as a result of family violence or other forms of violence.
  • Ensure official data on aspects of domestic violence, including data on victims and survivors, on police investigations and prosecutions, are made accessible in a transparent way on a regular basis to the public.

Expand protection and support for women with disabilities who are survivors of domestic violence:

  • Ensure access to free legal representation, including pro-bono lawyers specializing in the rights of people with disabilities, for women and children with disabilities who are survivors of violence.
  • Ensure that shelters, safehouses and crisis centers for survivors of domestic violence include women with disabilities, are equipped with reasonable and procedural accommodation with regularly trained staff.
  • Respond to domestic violence against women and children with disabilities with a survivor-centered approach that empowers the survivors, refrains from stigmatization and victim-blaming, and prioritizes the survivor’s safety, health, and well-being.

Promote awareness raising and information campaigns to increase public understanding of domestic violence issues:

  • Conduct information campaigns and awareness raising campaigns among both persons with and without a disability, including decision-makers, about disability and equal opportunities, as well as about family violence against people with disabilities and avenues of support, including in easy-to-understand formats.
  • Implement educational programs in schools and communities that challenge stereotypes, promote inclusion, and emphasize respect for the rights of women and children with disabilities.
  • Promote economic empowerment programs tailored to women with disabilities, enabling them to achieve financial independence and reduce their risk of abuse.

To Kyrgyzstan’s International Partners

  • International partners should provide support, including technical and financial assistance to enhance Kyrgyzstan's capacity to address violence against women with disabilities. This includes supporting the development and delivery of training programs for law enforcement, judiciary, healthcare providers, and social workers to effectively respond to cases involving women with disabilities.
  • Encourage funding mechanisms that prioritize and allocate resources for services catering specifically to women with disabilities who are survivors of domestic violence. These resources should support accessible shelters, crisis centers, legal aid, and psychological support programs.
  • Support civil society organizations in Kyrgyzstan working on the rights of women with disabilities by providing grants and technical assistance for advocacy campaigns and awareness-raising initiatives. This support should aim to challenge societal stereotypes and improve public understanding of the unique challenges faced by these women.
  • Collaborate with Kyrgyz authorities and civil society organizations to establish comprehensive data collection and research initiatives focused on violence against women with disabilities. These partnerships should facilitate the gathering of accurate and disaggregated data to inform evidence-based policies and interventions.
  • Encourage and support the establishment of a victim and witness protection program, with protection for women and girls, including women and girls with disabilities.




This report was researched and written by Syinat Sultanalieva, Central Asia researcher in the Europe and Central Asia (ECA) Division of Human Rights Watch.

The report was reviewed by Hugh Williamson, director, Vika Kim, assistant researcher, and Iskra Kirova, advocacy director in the ECA division; Kriti Sharma, senior researcher in the Disability Rights Division; Hillary Margolis, senior researcher in the Women’s Rights Division; Nevena Saykova, advocate in the Children Rights Division; Aisling Reidy, senior legal advisor; and Joseph Saunders, deputy program director.

Elly Bleier, ECA associate, assisted with proofreading and formatting. Travis Carr, publications officer, prepared the report for publication. José Martinez, administrative officer, coordinated production.

Igor Gerbich translated the report from English to Russian. Zeinep Altymysheva translated from Russian to Kyrgyz. Estelle Bloom prepared the easy-to-read version of the report.

We would like to thank all of the individuals and organizations that supported research and analysis for the report. Among others, Ravenstvo, Nazik Kyz, Smile.KG, Gulmira Kazakunova, Ukei Muratalieva, Larisa Kuznetsova, Marina Fegele, Askar Turdugulov, Muhayo Abdurayupova, Yeseniya Ramazanova, Tolkunbek Isakov, Sveta Esengazieva.

We wish to express our gratitude to all of those who spoke with us during this research, and particularly to the survivors of domestic violence who shared their stories and the service providers and activists dedicated to supporting them.


[1] Human Rights Watch interview with Jazgul A. (all survivor names changed), 27, Bishkek, Center for Independent Living, November 23, 2021.

[2] Human Rights Watch interviews with Gulmira Kazakunova, head of “Ravenstvo” NGO, February 11, 2022, and Ukei Muratalieva “Nazik Kyz”, February 14, 2022.

[3] Human Rights Watch interviews with Gulmira Kazakunova, head of “Ravenstvo”, February 11, 2022,  Lira Duishebaeva, “Bir Duino”, April 18, 2022; Yeseniya Ramazanova, lawyer, April 2, 2023.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Human Rights Watch, Call Me When He Tries to Kill You: State Response to Domestic Violence in Kyrgyzstan, October 2015, https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/10/28/call-me-when-he-tries-kill-you/state-response-domestic-violence-kyrgyzstan.

[6] Jazgul’s case was picked up by the media, an investigation was opened but no prosecution has taken place.

[7]Human Rights Watch interview with Asylai I., 23, Bishkek, Center for Independent Living, September 14, 2022.

[8] Sexual Violence and Disability in Kyrgyzstan: Law, Policy, Practice and Access to Justice, Equality Now, May 2023, https://equalitynow.storage.googleapis.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/12094124/EN-Disability-in-Kyrgystan-07-ENG-PDF.pdf (accessed on August 24, 2023).

[9] One Step Closer to the Implementation of the UN CRPD, UNDP Kyrgyzstan, December 2021, https://www.undp.org/kyrgyzstan/press-releases/one-step-closer-implementation-un-convention-rights-persons-disabilities (accessed on August 24, 2023).

[10] Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), adopted December 13, 2006, G.A. Res. 61/106, Annex I, U.N. Doc. A/61/49 (2006), entered into force May 3, 2008. Kyrgyzstan ratified the CRPD on March 14, 2019. This approach emphasizes the person before the disability, focuses on the disabling barriers erected by society, and emphasizes the state responsibility to remove these barriers in order to achieve equality.

[11] Ibid.

[12] World Health Organization and World Bank, “World Report on Disability 2011,” http://www.who.int/disabilities/world_report/2011/report.pdf (accessed July 3, 2016).

[13] “Definition of Cerebral Palsy,” CerebralPalsy.org, http://www.cerebralpalsy.org/about-cerebral-palsy/definition (accessed November 7, 2016).

[14] Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention), adopted May 11, 2011, available at: https://rm.coe.int/168008482e#:~:text=Article%2036%20%E2%80%93%20Sexual%20violence%2C%20including%20rape&text=causing%20another%20person%20to%20engage,nature%20with%20a%20third%20person.&text=Consent%20must%20be%20given%20voluntarily,context%20of%20the%2html, (accessed November 22, 2023).

[15] Human Rights Watch, Futures Stolen: Barriers to Education for Children with Disabilities in Nepal, August 2011, http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/nepal0811ForWebUpload.pdf, pp. 12-13.

[16] United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, General comment No. 1, Article 12: Equal recognition before the law, U.N. Doc. CRPD/C/GC/1 (2014), pp. 1-3.

[17] International Disability Alliance, “Legal Opinion on Article 12 of CRPD,” undated, http://www.internationaldisabilityalliance.org/sites/disalliance.epresentaciones.net/files/public/files/LegalOpinionLetterArt12FINAL.doc (accessed October 12, 2023).

[18] Disabled People’s International, “Constitution of Disabled People’s International,” 1993, http://www.dpi.org/Constitution (accessed October 12, 2023).

[19] World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, “Implementation Manual for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” February 2008, http://www.wnusp.net/documents/WNUSP_CRPD_Manual.pdf (accessed December 20, 2015), p. 9.

[20] Ageing and Disability, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/disability-and-ageing.html (accessed on August 24, 2023).

[21] “Call Me When He Tries to Kill You”: State Response to Domestic Violence in Kyrgyzstan, October 2015, available at https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/10/28/call-me-when-he-tries-kill-you/state-response-domestic-violence-kyrgyzstan and Kyrgyzstan: Pressure Builds to Protect Women and Girls, May 2019 available at https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/05/28/kyrgyzstan-pressure-builds-protect-women-and-girls.

[22] Data from Kyrgyz National Statistical Committee: http://www.stat.kg/ru/news/semejnoe-nasilie-sredi-zhenshin-i-muzhchin/.

[23] Letter from Ministry of Labor, Social Welfare, and Migration, to Human Rights Watch, November 24, 2023.

[24]Data from Kyrgyz National Statistical Committee: http://www.stat.kg/media/files/17a43597-ca96-49b1-b0db-c348bd37d7bc.xlsx.

[25] Mothers of Children With Disabilities Demand to Be Heard, Kaktus Media, April 2022, https://kaktus.media/doc/458288_mamy_detey_s_invalidnostu_vyshli_na_miting:_yslyshte_nas.html (accessed June 20, 2023).

[26] Kyrgyz Law on Education, 2023, http://cbd.minjust.gov.kg/act/view/ru-ru/112665?cl=ru-ru.

[27] The concept of disability has transformed over time, with three main models being used to define it. The 'charity model,' the oldest and outdated, views disability as a punishment or tragedy, emphasizing the need for care from others. The 'medical model' perceives disability as a physiological condition requiring treatment by healthcare professionals. The most recent 'social model' recognizes barriers hindering the participation of individuals with disabilities, attributing disability to the interplay between personal impairments and the social and cultural environment. The human rights model calls for recognition of disability as a natural part of human diversity that must be respected and supported in all its forms, with legislation recognizing the rights of people with disabilities to be the same as everyone else’s in a society.

[28] Law on the Rights and Guarantees of Persons with Disabilities in the Kyrgyz Republic: http://cbd.minjust.gov.kg/act/view/ru-ru/202329/20?cl=ru-ru.

[29] The State Pension Social Insurance Act; The Act on Basic Principles of Social Services in the Kyrgyz Republic; The Law on the State Social Procurement, the Civil Code of the Kyrgyz Republic.

[30] UN Partnership on Rights of People with Disabilities (UNPRPD), “Situational Analysis of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Country Report on Kyrgyzstan, UN Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”, September 2023, https://www.unprpd.org/sites/default/files/library/2023-10/CR%20Kyrgyzstan%202023.pdf (accessed October 12, 2023).

[31] Program on Development of Inclusive Education in Kyrgyzstan Lacks Funding, 24.kg news agency, https://24.kg/obschestvo/264356_naprogrammu_razvitiya_inklyuzivnogo_obrazovaniya_vkyirgyizstane_nehvatilo_deneg/ (accessed October 12, 2023).

[32] Civil Code of the Kyrgyz Republic No. 15, May 8, 1996, http://cbd.minjust.gov.kg/act/view/ru-ru/4 (accessed May 15, 2020), Art. 56.

[33] Ibid, Art.64.

[34] Situation Analysis: Children and Adolescents with Disabilities in Kyrgyzstan, UNICEF, 2021, https://www.unicef.org/kyrgyzstan/media/7256/file/Situation%20Analysis%20of%20Children%20and%20Adolescents%20with%20Disabilities%20in%20Kyrgyzstan.pdf.

[35] Ibid

[36] Insisting on Inclusion: Institutionalization and Barriers to Education for Children with Disabilities in Kyrgyzstan, December 2020, available at https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/media_2020/12/kyrgyzstan1220_web_0.pdf.

[37] Rakhat Orozova, Alfiya Battalova and Nina Bagdasarova, "A Critical Analysis of the Disability Movement in Kyrgyzstan: Trying to Be Heard", Europe-Asia Studies (2023), accessed August 6, 2023, doi: 10.1080/09668136.2023.2179602

[38] International Labour Organization, "Overview of the Situation of Persons with Disabilities in Kyrgyzstan for Project:'Enhancing Disability – Inclusiveness of Social Protection System in Kyrgyzstan', 2023, https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---europe/---ro-geneva/---sro-moscow/documents/publication/wcms_857310.pdf (accessed October 17, 2023)

[39] Ibid

[40] United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Kyrgyz Republic, "Report on the Survey Results for the Study of the 'Leave No One Behind' Principle Implementation", 2021, https://kyrgyzstan.un.org/en/176738-report-survey-results-study-leave-no-one-behind-principle-implementation (accessed October 17, 2023)

[41] Call Me When He Tries to Kill You, and Pressure Builds to Protect Women and Girls, op. cit..

[42] Working Group on discrimination against women and girls: End of mission statement by the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls visit to Kyrgyzstan 15 April 2022, https://kyrgyzstan.un.org/en/189400-un-working-group-discrimination-against-women-and-girls.

[43] Pressure Builds to Protect Women and Girls, op. cit..

[44] Human Rights Watch interviews with Mukhayo Abdurayupova, lawyer, Osh, May 25, 2022 and Yeseniya Ramazanova, lawyer, Bishkek, April 2, 2023

[45] Approved by Government Decree No.443, June 27, 2012

[46] Interview with Gulmira Kazakunova

[47] "Kyrgyzstan: New Domestic Violence Law", Human Rights Watch news release, May 10, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/05/10/kyrgyzstan-new-domestic-violence-law

[48] Letter from Ministry of Labor, Social Welfare, and Migration, to Human Rights Watch, November 24, 2023

[49] Letter from Prosecutor General’s Office, to Human Rights Watch, November 28, 2023

[50] UN Human Rights Council, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Rashida Manjoo,” April 1, 2014, A/HRC/26/38/Add.1., http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session26/Documents/A-HRC-26-38-Add1_en.doc (March 13, 2018).

[51] UNICEF situation analysis on Children and Adolescents with Disabilities in Kyrgyzstan, op.cit.

[52]Kaktus Media, “USAID поможет пострадавшим от насилия женщинам получить работу и независимость”,

March 14, 2022, https://kaktus.media/doc/456222_usaid_pomojet_postradavshim_ot_nasiliia_jenshinam_polychit_raboty_i_nezavisimost.html

[53] Sveta Esengazieva, coordinator (has an acquired physical disability after a car crash), Center for Independent Living, October 11, 2022.

[54] Human Rights Watch interview with Venera J., 27, participant of the summer school by Ravenstvo, September 3, 2022.

[55] Human Rights Watch interview with Jyldyz C., 32, participant of the summer school by Ravenstvo, September 3, 2022.

[56] Human Rights Watch interview with Albina J., 24, participant of the summer school by Ravenstvo, September 4, 2022.

[57] Human Rights Watch interview with social worker who asked to be anonymous, Osh, May 27, 2022.

[58] Human Rights Watch interview with Larisa Kuznetsova, social worker and director of “Smile KG” (OPD), Osh May 27, 2022.

[59] Ibid.

[60] Human Rights Watch interview with Gulmira Kazakunova, Ravenstvo, June 3, 2022.

[61] Human Rights Watch interview with Jarkyn S., 29, resident at the Ravenstvo’s shelter, interview on February 07, 2022.

[62] Human Rights Watch interview with Ukei Muratalieva, Ravenstvo,  November 14, 2022.

[63] Emily Ledingham, Graham W. Wright, Monika Mitra; “Sexual Violence Against Women With Disabilities: Experiences With Force and Lifetime Risk”, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 62, Issue 6, 2022,

Pages 895-902, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2021.12.015.

[64] Interview with Gulmira Kazakunova, director of NGO Ravenstvo, May 20, 2023.

[65] Interview with Asel G., 22, resident at shelter of Ravenstvo, October 11, 2022.

[66] Human Rights Watch interview with Yeseniya Ramazanova, lawyer specializing on domestic violence cases, who took over Jazgul’s case on request from “Ravenstvo”, April 2, 2023.

[67] Human Rights Watch interview with Olesya B., 30, participant at the summer school by Ravenstvo, September 4, 2022.

[68] Human Rights Watch interview with Jarkyn A., 24, participant at the summer school by Ravenstvo, September 4, 2022.

[69] Human Rights Watch interview with Sveta Esengazieva, Center for Independent Living, October 11, 2022.

[70] Human Rights Watch interview with Ukei Muratalieva, Ravenstvo, interview November 14, 2022.

[71] Human Rights Watch interview with Larisa Kuznetsova, Smile.KG, interview May 27, 2022.

[72] Human Rights Watch interview with Marina Fegele, activist, interview May 27, 2022.

[73] Human Rights Watch interviews with Gulmira Kazakunova, head of “Ravenstvo”, February 11, 2022, Lira Duishebaeva, “Bir Duino”, April 18, 2022.

[74] Human Rights Watch interview with Gulmira Kazakunova, director of NGO Ravenstvo, June 3, 2022.

[75] Human Rights Watch interview with Ukei Muratalieva, Ravenstvo, interview November 14, 2022.

[76] Human Rights Watch interview with Sveta Esengazieva, Center for Independent Living, interview August 30, 2022.

[77] Human Rights Watch interview with Sabina K., 24, participant at summer school by Ravenstvo, September 3, 2022.

[78] Human Rights Watch phone interview with Larisa I., 27,  September 13, 2022.

[79] Human Rights Watch interview with Venera J., 33, participant of a summer camp by Ravenstvo, September 5, 2022.

[80] Human Rights Watch interview with Adinai B., 23, participant of the School for Independent Living, October 13, 2022.

[81] Human Rights Watch interview with Meerim D., 27, participant of the School for Independent Living, October 13, 2022.

[82]Human Rights Watch interview with Larisa Kuznetsova, director of Smile.KG NGO, May 27, 2022.

[83] Human Rights Watch interview with Kalina J., 24, participant of the School for Independent Living, October 13, 2022.

[84] Human Rights Watch interview with Larisa Kuznetsova, director of Smile.KG NGO, May 27, 2022.

[85] Name changed

[86] Human Rights Watch interview with Gulmira Kazakunova, director of NGO Ravenstvo, August 15, 2023.

[87] Human Rights Watch interview with Alina D., 26, intern at Center for Independent Living, October 13, 2022.

[88] Human Rights Watch interview with Sveta Esengazieva, coordinator at the Center for Independent Living, October 13, 2022.

[89] Ravenstvo, Equality Now, Bir Duino, May 2023: “Sexual Violence And Disabilities in Kyrgyzstan: Law, Policy, Practice and Access to Justice”, presentation of report.

[90] Human Rights Watch interview with Alina, 27, woman with cerebral palsy, participant of School of Independent Living August 20, 2023.

[91] Human Rights Watch interview with social worker that did not want to be named, Osh, May 27, 2023, and with Lira Duishebaeva, “Bir Duino”, April 18, 2022.

[92] Human Rights Watch interview with Yesenia Ramazanova, lawyer, BishkekApril 2, 2023.

[93] UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, General Comment No. 3, see para. 52.

[94] Human Rights Watch interview with Larisa Kuznetsova, social worker and director of “Smile KG” (OPD), Osh, May 27, 2022.

[95] Human Rights Watch interview with Muhayo Abdurayupova, lawyer, Osh, May 25, 2022.

[96] Human Rights Watch interview with Margarita Trifonova, sign language interpreter, February 12, 2023.

[97] Human Rights Watch interview with Tolkunbek Isakov, lawyer with a disability, February 2, 2023.

[98] Human Rights Watch interviews with Yeseniya Ramazanova, lawyer, April 2, 2023, and Tolkunbek Isakov, lawyer, February 2, 2023.

[99] Human Rights Watch interview with Muhayo Abdurayupova, lawyer, Osh, May 25, 2022.

[100] Ibid

[101] All spoke on condition of anonymity.

[102] Chinara K, lawyer