The speech of Neal Walker, on the occasion of the launch of the 16 Days of Activism Gender Violence
Monday, 26 November 2007

The speech of Mr. Neal Walker, UN Resident Coordinator in the Kyrgyz Republic on the occasion of the launch of the 16 Days of Activism Gender Violence At the press conference "The Role and Competence of the Law Enforcement Bodies In Elimination of Gender Violence", 26 November 2007.

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to be with you today to report on the Consultative meeting on the role and competence of the law enforcement bodies in elimination of gender violence. This is a joint event of the Ministry of Interior, Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of OSCE and the United Nations.

25 November is International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women, at which the 16 Days Campaign of Activism against Violence starts.

During this campaign, activities designated to raise public awareness of the problem are organized worldwide by governments, international organizations and NGOs. This year the theme of the 16 Days Campaign is meeting the challenges and overcoming obstacles in order to achieve long-overdue results in the struggle to end violence against women.

The 16 Days Campaign is a time to focus on the concrete actions that all of us can and must take to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls – the government, civil society, gender advocates, the United Nations family, OSCE and other international organizations.

Violence against women and girls has a horrific imprint on the country. It does not care about your income, class or ethnic background. It takes a devastating toll on women's lives, on their families, and on society as a whole. It is a threat to all women, and should be unacceptable to all.

Kyrgyzstan has made some progress in recent years in the efforts to end violence against women. International standards and norms have been agreed upon. The Government has adopted strategies, such as the National Action Plan for Gender Equality, and passed laws, including the Law on the Social and Legal Protection from Domestic Violence. Partnership between the Government and women’s groups has been strengthened.

Yet much more remains to be done. First and foremost impunity for violence against women should be stopped. Impunity builds a climate of normalcy and acceptability to crimes of beating, rape and other forms of violence. The impunity often continues even though there are laws prohibiting violence against women because social institutions, cultural norms and political structures in every country sustain and maintain it, making the law a dead letter. It is here that the role of law enforcement agencies is of prime significance.

UN Security council Resolution 1325 emphasizes the responsibility of all states to put an end to impunity and to prosecute those responsible for "genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, including those relating to sexual and other violence against women and girls".

Among the most widespread forms of gender-based violence in Kyrgyzstan are domestic violence, bride theft, polygamy, trafficking of women for sexual exploitation, rape and sexual harassment. These crimes are often being justified as traditional and culture specific and as such are left unpunished.

Shockingly, UNIFEM research states that 80% of respondents mentioned domestic violence, including rape, torture and sexual and psychological violence, as a common problem. According to the research 58% of women, 18% of children and 13% of the elderly people become the victims of the domestic violence. Even worse, we know that even the most horrific of the statistics still largely underestimates the harsh realities.

Ignoring this problem, or not treating it as a serious crime and human rights violation, makes its eradication impossible. Even reducing the problem is difficult if it is not recognized as criminal. It is clear that police and judiciary can play a crucial role in this context, either positive or negative. I would like to think that in Kyrgyzstan, the role of the police will be positive. The presence here of the Deputy Minister of Interior, and the support his Ministry has shown for the 16 days campaign, is testament to our hopes.

Unless police is willing and fully equipped to adequately deal with female specific needs, there will be no relief for the women who suffer. That is why cooperating with the security and judiciary institutions in combating violence against women is one of the priority of UN agencies.

The Kyrgyz Republic has come a long way in formally addressing the issues of violence against women in the laws it has passed. It is now time to turn legal norms into reality in women's lives. It means society as a whole must take responsibility, and work for enduring change in values and attitudes. It means the Government and international organizations must operate in close partnership with social services, voluntary and professional organizations, such as crisis centers, the private sector and the broader public.

Specifically, we must work together on the following fronts:

  • Closing the gaps between international standards and national laws, policies and practices;
  • Strengthening our knowledge and understanding of all forms of violence against women;
  • Building and sustaining effective strategies embracing all parts of society, coordinated nationally and locally; and
  • Allocating adequate resources and funding for all these efforts.

In this context, further cooperation between UN agencies, governments and NGOs is key for success. The United Nations System in the Kyrgyz Republic has been a partner to several projects, like the Life Free of Violence Campaign (UNIFEM), advocacy during the 16 Days Campaign against Gender Violence etc.

We stand ready to continue our activities aimed at improvement of the normative base, at building the capacities of judges, police and prosecutors in addressing the gender violence issues and in increasing awareness of the population about the root causes and consequences of violence.

Thank you for your attention and interest.