At the 80th session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on November 2-3, 2021, the observance of women’s rights in Kyrgyzstan was considered. The Committee’s experts paid great attention to the information from civil society organizations and included the issues raised in their alternative reports in the open dialogue with the state delegation of Kyrgyzstan.
During the meeting of the NGO with the Committee, Baktygul Bozgorpoeva made a statement on behalf of ADC Memorial and the Kyrgyz Family Planning Alliance. She highlighted the problems of women’s rights to work, including a discriminatory list of prohibited professions and the risks related to mass labor migration (various types of violence and exploitation, the harm of hard work to health, the risk of HIV and tuberculosis infection, negative consequences for families and children):
Dear Committee Members, our presentation is dedicated to the implementation of women’s right to work.
Kyrgyzstan’s economy is heavily dependent on labor migration – even during the Covid pandemic, up to one million Kyrgyzstanis work abroad, and women make up from 40% to 60% of this number. While unemployment is a big problem in the country, women’s right to work is restricted by law with the discriminatory List of prohibited jobs, which, under the pretext of caring for women’s health, deprives them of professional choice.
Women’s participation in migration slowly leads them to financial independence, but it also has many negative consequences. The patriarchal views widespread in the society are insufficiently criticized and often even supported by the authorities, they slow down the processes of women’s emancipation and preserve gender discrimination. The isolation and vulnerability caused by migration status increases the risks of gender-based violence, forced labour and various forms of exploitation of women.
Often women are forced to migrate in order to pay off debts made by other family members. In rural areas, the departure of women for migration is seen as a lesser loss for workers in the household. ON the contrary, women who see migration as an opportunity for emancipation are often restricted by male family members in their free choice of way of life. Although women actually earn money fpr the whole family, they cannot manage their earnings or make important decisions. They are stigmatized, accused of violating mainstream gender norms of behaviour.
The problem of reproductive health of migrant workers is acute. An increase in maternal mortality of women working abroad has been registered. The issues of sexual health are not included into school education, nor used to be discussed in the family and in public. Being not aware of using contraception, migrant women often go for abortions in illegal clinics abroad, they also leave new-born babies in maternity hospitals.
With the feminization of migration, migrant women get infected with tuberculosis and HIV, mainly from their partners. Women suffer not only from the negative consequences of HIV for their health, but also from stigmatization and ostracism from both relatives and medical and public services. As a result, women hide the diagnosis and refuse therapy. Legal employment of women with HIV both in Kyrgyzstan and in migration is almost impossible.
There are about 84 thousand children in Kyrgyzstan whose parents are in labour migration. Many children do not even live with relatives, but with strangers; they face various types of violence, they even try to commit suicide, they stop attending school and have to work. Girls often work as nannies (both in Kyrgyzstan and in migration), they are locked up in other people’s families working without days-off, they are unable to manage their earnings and make their own decisions, being at high risk of various violence.
- Take measures to protect migrants from discrimination, exploitation, gender-based violence;
- Take effective measures to protect the reproductive health of women, especially in migration;
- Protect the rights of children affected by migration;
- Guarantee gender equality in employment and abolish the List of jobs banned for women (Art.303 of the Labour Code).
The Committee’s recommendations are expected at the end of the 80th session after November 12, 2021.