Kyrgyz politics, election code and gender.

As I was looking through the blogs and news over the past week to gather information to post here, it surprised me how few women’ faces or commentary was available at these resources. Are there any female political analysts around? Out of seven experts in the Institute of Public Policy, all are male. Looked ar AkiPress website to find out that most of the news are about men.  Here I am expecting responses that men make the politics and women have their own domain of home and children. How would it feel if we said the same things about different ethnic or religious groups – that they have their own role and domain and should not cross the boundaries.

On 24.kg read through the news about the committees and commissions that exist within the Kyrgyz parliament. Out of 17 committees, three are not working and 14 are headed by men. Three commissions are headed by men and two are not working. There are no women in parliament since March 2005 when the only three women who were elected had to leave due to their connection to the president and irregularities connected to their election. 

During the past week there was a number of interesting meetings related to the issue of women not being represented in government structures. In the light of making changes in the Kyrgyz Election Code, proposals from civil society to include a quota for women could be considered by the parliament.  Reactions to this idea followed immediately. Kyrgyz Ombudsman Tursunbai Bakir uulu  declared that he ‘wants a woman’ (source: 24.kg) to be one of his deputies.  Adakham Madumarov, Kyrgyz Secretary of State, asked during a discussion of the second national plan on achieving gender equality in Kyrgyzstan, what are the obstacles of achiving gender equality in Kyrgyzstan. The question was asked during the speech of Toktokan Borombaeva (an expert of the sector of social and gender department of economic and social polocy of the President’s administration) about Kyrgyzstan’s obligations to international community and the importance of the national plan. Madumarov allowed himself to interrupt the speech without letting Borombaeva finish it which illustrates well the attitudes to gender equality and quotas for women in the Parliament. Women activists are rather skeptical about the possibility of including quota or appointment procedures for women to be represented in decision-making bodies, yet they promised to file a complaint to the UN (Mira Karybaeva, expert from Agency of Social Technologies in her speech during parliamentary hearings on the new election code 24.kg).  Male MPs have their own view of the situation:

 ‘The new “Election” Code, which was discussed in the parliament today, does not contain the women quota, parliament deputy speaker Kubanychbek Isabekov told the press today.

The deputy speaker thinks that such a quota is insulting for women. “It may humiliate them. Women make the biggest part of our constituency and unfortunately there is no a single woman in Kyrgyz parliament today. Women should vote for women candidates more actively. I know that ladies usually have very active social life, they drive cars, go to clubs and cafes. We should turn their energy into the right direction,” Isabekov said.’ (24.kg)  

In 2006 President Bakiev signed a decree about women’s representation of at least 30% in  

More information of different views could be found in IWPR article on women’s participation in decision-making

Quotas for underrepresented groups exist in order to make the decision-making bodies more representative and attentive to the needs of these groups.  Without having experienced what the minorities go through in their everyday lives, the decision-makers have a distorted view of how to address their needs, therefore, it is important to include minorities in decision-making. This is a very mild approach to inclusiveness. It is the existing social system that does not allow women to be represented and elected, ideally it should be challenged and changed but majority of politicians see the situation as a norm (due to their social status of well-off older Kyrgyz men).   

While being in a numerical majority in Kyrgyzstan, women have a minority status with higher unemployment rate, lower salaries and few options to present their views at political arenas.  The previous national plan of achieving gender equality (2002-2006) introduced secretariats on women and family in each akimiat (local governing body) which were underfunded and unpopular among the officials.  

This is the latest update of the situation. 

3 thoughts on “Kyrgyz politics, election code and gender.

  1. Hi all,
    Ania, great job on creating this genderstan blog! Quotas for women are absolutely necessary especially in such a country as Kyrgyzstan where women are discouraged to participate in politics. Taking into consideration the present attidute and beliefs of our politicians not to mention the general public women will harldy get elected. Thus, in order to open the public space for women’s paticipation quotas are needed. Moreover, i consider it the right time to push for reforms that promote gender equality. It seems to me that women activists could demand more action from the present government as it tries to win more public support.
    And it is important to keep in mind that changes happen because people want change and the same applies to women.
    Finally, i am also interested to know how the revolution has affected women in Kyrgyzstan if it did at all.

  2. Kishim, I think women do not quite feel their power in Kyrgyzstan yet. Same with young people. The means of using force for facilitating change are seen as the only effective way. Which is actually a reproduction of family models used in Kyrgyzstan. E.g. elders make decisions for young people and if the young people do not obey, they use force. Women do not feel powerful enough to use force or maybe do not want to use force and trust men for representation of their interests.

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