Gulnara Ibraeva, chair of Agency of Social Technologies and women’s movement activist, held a lecture titled ‘Women in Kyrgyz Parliament: experience and possibilities of the new electoral process’. The lecture was hosted by Social Research Center of the American University – Central Asia.
Gulnara spoke about the structure of power and decision-making in Kyrgyz society which offers ways to interpret and theorize about women’s future involvement in Parliament. According to Ibraeva, the state can be compared to a benevolent paternalistic father who is simulating protection and care while at the same time has something to hide. The structure of the 2005 Parliament all male over certain age and mostly ethnic Kyrgyz paternalistically claimed accounting for all groups’ needs.
Gulnara said that new people in the government which give representation to different points of view might shake the system, yet there is a concern that the women running for parliament right now represent systems which are rigid and might not recognize the need for addressing gender inequality due to privileged social status. Political parties also did not have time to prepare for the elections and the need for party lists quotas caught them unarmed having to find young, female and non-Kyrgyz candidates within a short period of time.
Committed women’s rights activists are hardly represented among female candidates for parliament seats. According to Ibraeva, either they were not contacted or they fall outside of the accepted male leadership domains.
Another issue that restricts representation is based on an unspoken rule among political parties of the ‘contribution of a candidate towards election campaign’. Women’s income in Kyrgyzstan despite the social position are hardly high enough to ‘contribute’ to be listed among the top three names.
According to Ibraeva, if the formerly underrepresented groups will make it to parliament (and she is optimistic about it), they will shake the state structures and challenge the system’s rigidity thus giving a new perspective on state power. The shake might cause a change of power relations in Parliament and eliminate the domination at least of one ethnic group in decision-making. Representation of women also might serve as a shield from Islamization and protect from proposals to legalize polygamy, criminalize abortion and decrease the sentence for bride kidnapping all made in the past years by the government.
The newly represented groups may also put the new and forgotten issues on political agenda with focus. and The role NGOs which compensate for lack of different groups’ access to power would then be recognized and stronger.
The audience at the lecture asked Gulnara whether the Armenian scenario of elected women giving up their positions to men could be repeated in Kyrgyzstan. Gulnara responded that the quota system ensures that any quota member elected can be substituted by another quota member (e.g. if an elected woman declines her seat, she can only be substituted by another woman).
For more information, please, look at the powerpoint presentation (in Russian) below.