Female head of Kyrgyz Central Election Commission resigns over threats

Today Klara Kabilova, former head of the Central Election Commission, made a statement about receiving threats from Maksim Bakiev, son of President Kurmanbek Bakiev. In her statements she mentions that he swore at her and threatened her safety.

I am not surprised that this happened. Kyrgyz masculinity is very violent, quite a few men find it acceptable to threaten other people, swear at them and use violence to pressure a person into agreeing or submitting. It is seen as part of being a man and hardly challenged. I want to give credit to Klara for speaking up against abuse. In her statement she highlights power dynamic between her and the president’s son.  She is older than him, a woman, a mother, a daughter of elderly parents and holds an important government position. I hope she is feeling safe where she is right now. I am so glad that I am away from political opposition now and am dealing with ‘soft issues’ though who knows what is going to happen after CEDAW session or OSCE Human Dimension Meeting.  Again thank you to Klara for speaking up, I hope more people will do that to make the state transparent and to put an end to abuse of authority and nepotism.

Bishkek city elections: who is running?

Elections in Kyrgyzstan always give me a lot of food for thought.  As I am looking through lists of candidates kindly put in the web by Kloop.kg. Every year I hope that the lists would surprise me but they don’t. It is mostly men of one ethnic group, they are either presidents or executive directors of different businesses.  Some of the men who are running are unemployed [how can you run for a council post if you are unemployed?]. Some of them are advisors to Members of Parliament. The surprise of the day is that the most represented party at least in the list online is the Green party. The parties which name themselves ‘green’ are supposedly progressive. I wonder what their stand is on women’s and LGBT rights.

And all the women who are running are either teachers or school directors, doctors or assistants to MPs. Feel the difference. Only maybe one or two who are executive directors.

My personal favorites are candidates from Bishkek AIDS Center, Olympics Reserves coordinator and Ortosay Bazaar head of security. Just to give you an idea about who would like to make decisions on behalf of communities.  Basically it is businesses who want to have more space for their businesses, only maybe less than a dozen of NGO representatives. I am happy to see a lot of young people and a handful of women (no, they are not following the quota system this time, every fourth candidate has to be a woman…).  For example, in Asanbai disctrict there are 6 women out of 42 candidates.

UN Reporting: discrimination against women and sexual/reproductive rights

I have not been writing much for the past months. The work never stops and the gendered world is always there. Today I want to touch on the issue of UN mechanisms of protection of the rights of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. There are two mechanisms that I am very familiar with because of producing quite a few reports using them recently. One is a shadow report mechanism for reporting on state implementation of the UN conventions (GenderStan focus is particularly on Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women).

The other is a relatively new procedure of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) which is basically similar to convention reports but it includes more opportunities for NGOs to be involved and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reviews the reports which come to them and prepares a summary of all the concerns. The UPRs usually  focus on specific human rights issues. The ones posted here are on sexual and reproductive rights in Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. I am posting them because, first of all, Kyrgyz NGO worked on putting them together and, second, the issues are very similar to Kyrgyzstan largely because traditional attitudes in all three countries are similar.

UPR report on Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Uzbekistan

UPR report on Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Turkmenistan

UPR report on Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Azerbaijan

Lithuania reports in front of CEDAW Committee

This is our third day at the 41st CEDAW Session.  Today Lithuanian governments is answering the questions of the CEDAW Committee. The session will take the whole day and the questions range from the rights of Roma women to sexual rights which Lithuania is violating due to putting restrictions on abortion and limiting young people’s access to information about sexuality.

It is amazing to see a situation when government is put through the international embarassment on the rights of people whom they usually consider unimportant. The process takes about 4-5 hours and questions asked are very detailed and sometimes they are very embarassing. Yesterday Yemen government had the floor and they could hardly respond to some of the questions.

Kyrgyz government will be presenting in the end of October and we are preparing for it with effort and zeal.

Women and Men in state bodies

Just found very interesting statistics about the percentage of men and women working at administrative positions in the government. It is 86% men and 14% women at top positions, 91% men and 9% women at mid-level positions and 41% men and 59% women at junior positions. So guess who’s got the power in this country?

Some of recent highlights was talking to a lot of HIV positive people from Kyrgyzstan from other countries of the former Soviet Union. I admire their energy and activism. It takes a lot of strength to be open about their status and to live knowing that there is no cure yet. I wish we had so much energy flowing in the women’s/gender ‘movement’.

Maternal leaves extended to three years in Kyrgyzstan

Fresh news from the Parliament. Maternal leaves have been extended to three years and the male initiator of the bill also is hoping that if the husbands will earn a lot of money than the wives would be able to stay at home with the child for life.

From the point of view of child’s interest this is a nice gesture. From the woman’s point of view, it can turn into an employment issue. The employers are not generally happy about hiring young women because of the pregnancy risk. It is also unusual that the employers pay the women on maternity leaves as they are required by law. Therefore, it is unlikely that women’s situation is going to improve with the longer maternal leaves. The usual story is that the mother either stays at home until the family is able to afford taking their child to kindergarten or her extended family (usually a younger sister or distant female relative) takes care of the child while she is at work.

The statement of the MP Rahatbek Irsaliev who initiated the bill about staying at home ‘for life’ is particularly scary to hear because it implies that the Soviet idea of women being an important part of the work force is vanishing and the more traditional view is taking over.

Female Minister of Labor and Social Development resigns to free the way

When I was writing about Parliamentary elections and women’s participation, there was a concern over possibility of resignations of electen women to give their place to somebody else. There was a precedent in 2007 Armenian parliamentary elections of elected female MPs resigning to give their seat to a more popular man. The 15% quota in Armenia only gave women a 9% representation in Parliament.

‘Freeing a way’ for somebody younger, stronger and male has been one of the strategies sometimes raised in Kyrgyz society. For example, in 2001 Presidential elections village elders wrote a letter to Omurbek Tekebaev who was running for a presidential seat that he should ‘ free way’ to an older and wiser candidate. 

I am happy that the freeing way is not yet part of discourse in the parliament, yet resignation of Minister of Labor Jamilya Alymbekova set a precedent for using this approach to leaving political spaces. She freed way to ‘the young’.