June 2006, Laying the foundation for the rights of Kyrgyz children
Kyrgyzstan’s children and the whole society celebrate the adoption of the Code of the Kyrgyz Republic on Children as the main means to realize all their rights and to get protection from abuse, discrimination and separation from their families.
On June 9th 2006, the Kyrgyz Parliament unanimously passed the Code of the Kyrgyz Republic on Children. It became a reality after nearly two years of intensive work led by the Kyrgyz Ministry of Justice and with assistance from UNICEF.
Various drafts of the Code were discussed at some 94 meetings and round tables among children themselves, caretakers, civil society representatives, parliamentarians and international organizations. UNICEF advocated amongst decision makers by supporting study tours, trainings and the provision of information. Parliamentarians, together with UNICEF specialists, visited residential institutions and disadvantaged communities to gain a better understanding of the needs of children and to see the realities of life that figures and reports can only describe .
Finally, the issue of the Code was raised at an intergenerational dialogue of children and Parliamentarians on the International Day of the Child (celebrated on the 1st of June) as a way to provide a framework and to develop coherence within the Kyrgyz system of child protection.
In Kyrgyzstan 60 per cent of rural children and 54 per cent of urban children under 10 years of age live in poverty. For children under one year of age, the rates are even higher at 65 per cent (urban) and 57 per cent (rural). Here, residential care is still a common solution for children from needy families. In recent years, there has been a steep rise in the number of cases of child abandonment. Children experience loss and separation in institutions and there is no support by way of counseling to support their needs. Fifty per cent of children in institutions have difficulties in education. Sadly, 88 per cent of these children have one or both parents.
The number of children living and working on the streets has been increasing as well, although accurate figures on their numbers are not available because there is no official body to register them. The Code stipulates that the fundamental rights of every child include the right to live in a family, or when not possible, the right to support from community-based services that are family-like. The Code will help families and local authorities to thoroughly consider each child’s case in order to best find the an optimal solution that serves his or her best interest.
The adoption of the Code also obliges the Government to reconsider existing mechanisms and services for children. The care and protection system will become child-focused, meaning that a child’s individual needs and rights will guide the services and actions provided. The Code introduces for the first time, the need to set basic quality standards for children’s services as a vital part of child protection and welfare. To safeguard children’s wellbeing, the Code also calls for the creation of a Child Ombuds system.. Moreover, it stipulates the creation of a governmental body to implement the provisions of the Code. Thus, one of the major barriers to reform the current child protection system will be overcome.
The Code, which is the first of its kind in Central Asia, is consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and implements the recommendations made by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child following its last periodic report from the State Party. It is an unprecedented event for children to make their rights a reality and to make Kyrgyzstan a country fit for children.