BISHKEK (TCA) — More than 60 government and parliamentary representatives from Central Asia gathered at a United Nations regional conference in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan on November 5 to discuss holistic strategies to combat all forms of violence against women and girls in Central Asia.
The regional conference comes amid important policy changes and legislative reforms to address gender-based violence. Participants, including high-level government representatives, parliamentarians, civil society representatives and experts from Central Asia and countries outside the region, pledged to work together to end the pandemic of gender-based violence, which violates the rights of women and children, brings huge economic costs to societies and is a barrier to sustainable development.
The two-day conference, “Turning policies into action: Eliminating gender-based violence against women and girls in Central Asia,” is organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in partnership with the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic.
The four UN agencies, with their partners, have been contributing to efforts to advance gender equality, empower women and girls and combat all forms of violence against women and girls in the region.
But challenges remain, the participants pointed out.
One in three women worldwide suffers violence, often from someone they trust. The impact on children who may be either witnesses or themselves survivors can be devastating and have a lifelong impact. Even though many countries in Central Asia have adopted policies aimed at addressing violence against women and girls, it remains a persistent problem across the region. Nearly 30 per cent of women in the Kyrgyz Republic and 20 per cent of women in Kazakhstan experienced violence, primarily by their intimate partners. The actual figures are likely to be higher since data remains scarce or outdated and incidents are often not reported. In many parts of the region, early and forced marriage and bride kidnapping remain common practice.
“Gender-based violence is a phenomenon that does not have national borders. People can be exposed to it regardless of gender, age, place of residence, education, property or social status and other socio-demographic differences,” said Altynai Omurbekova, Vice Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic. She noted that the Kyrgyz law on social and legal protection in the family, the first such in the region, recognizes family violence as a dangerous and unacceptable phenomenon to be fought on all fronts.
“Violence against women and girls is a fundamental violation of human rights with far-reaching negative consequences on development. The Government of Kyrgyzstan is taking decisive steps to implement laws to end gender-based violence, and the United Nations will actively support these efforts to build a society free from violence,” said Ozonnia Ojielo, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations system in Kyrgyzstan.
The participants examined best practices from around the region and beyond to prevent and end violence against women. They discussed how to strengthen national policies in line with international standards, ensure that survivors receive quality health, police, legal and social services, and transform social norms that perpetuate violence against women and girls.
“Eliminating gender-based violence against women and girls calls for pro-active national policy that is well-defined, holistic and human rights-based,” said Violeta Neubauer, gender expert and former member of the CEDAW committee. Whatever the differences in country contexts, she added, all national policies must adhere to legally binding norms and standards to prevent violence against women and girls, protect survivors, and punish perpetrators.
Violence against women and girls is not inevitable, the participants agreed. It can be ended with measures such as the enactment and enforcement of laws to protect women and girls, the stringent prosecution of offenders, prevention efforts that begin at an early age to instill a culture of zero tolerance of violence and support services that are available to all survivors.
The conference concluded with participants pledging to strengthen regional cooperation to eliminate gender-based violence against women and girls in all countries in Central Asia.