Forum of Women MPs champions gender-sensitive response to COVID-19

June 11, 2020

Aida Kasymalieva, Member of Parliament of the Kyrgyz Republic plays crucial role in the Forum of Women Deputies. Photo: Altynai Akmatova / UNDP Kyrgyzstan

This blog post is prepared by Bermet Ubaidillaeva, Gender Programme Specialist of UNDP Kyrgyzstan.

The COVID-19 outbreak has intensified gender-based violence (GBV) globally. Between January and March, Kyrgyzstan saw a 65 percent spike in the reported cases of domestic violence compared to the same period last year.

The gendered impacts of the pandemic are demonstrating the relevance of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda to all societal shocks, to conflict, and to the COVID response. Kyrgyzstan’s WPS National Action Plan for years 2018-2020 stipulates measures for addressing GBV during emergencies.

Since 2018, the Forum of Women MPs, with support from UNDP, has actively advocated for greater engagement of Jogorku Kenesh, the Kyrgyz Parliament, in the institutionalization and accountability for the country’s WPS commitments. The MPs have promoted local ownership of the NAP by convening and consulting local government and civil society.

During the COVID crisis, the Forum has championed a gender-sensitive and locally-consulted response. The MPs have supported a series of consultations on improving the system of GBV protection and addressing the special needs of women and girls during the pandemic.

The Council on Women's Rights and Countering Gender Violence in Jogorku Kenesh 

Reforming the law and overseeing how the government puts it into practice is a key way for parliament to support the WPS agenda. Civil society in Kyrgyzstan had long advocated for the creation of a parliamentary body to monitor the implementation of GBV and gender equality laws, with systematic and meaningful opportunities for citizen participation. With support from the Forum of Women MPs, a group of gender experts, CSOs and the UNITE movement against GBV have come up with a concept and operational rules of a parliamentary Council on Women's Rights and Combating Violence.

While the Council is still pending the Speaker’s t’s endorsement, MPs and women’s rights community networks have come together with to call for an amendment to Code of Criminal Procedure on immediate detention of GBV abusers for the duration of up to 48 hours. The amendment has passed three hearings in parliament and has been signed by President in early June.

Online meeting with the members of Forum of Women Deputies.

Immediate response from the GBV Cluster

With support from UN agencies and development partners, the so-called GBV sub-cluster was established in March 2020 to provide immediate support and services to GBV victims and survivors during COVID-19. Vice-Speaker of the Jogorku Kenesh, Aida Kasymalieva, WPS champion in Jogorku Kenesh, Karamat Orozova, and women-led CSO have led a series of sub-cluster’s consultations which have mobilized the provision of first-aid items, medicines and personal protective equipment to those in most need during lockdown.

The discussions within the GBV sub-cluster have also helped identify new ways to raise public awareness of the increased risk of GBV during periods of self-isolation. Along with a social media campaign encouraging active responses to signs of violence and discrimination. A collaboration with a popular Facebook channel, the Kyrgyz Kob, has resulted in a Kyrgyz-language animated video with the main character calling the police after overhearing threats of physical harm made against their neighbor by their partner.