Ending violence against children
In Kyrgyzstan, UNICEF aims to reduce violence at home, at school, in communities and online, and to break the silence around this hidden epidemic
Violence, has a devastating impact on children. In addition to the immediate risks to their lives and physical health, violence threatens children’s emotional well-being and their future prospects. Violence can also be passed from one generation to the next because children who experience violence may see it as “normal”.
The issue of abuse and violence against children in Kyrgyzstan is widespread and affects children’s rights most directly.
Studies demonstrate that 73 per cent of children suffer from abuse and neglect in families and 83 per cent of children face violence in school.
A striking number of children are victims or witnesses of different forms of violence in various settings, including homes, alternative care settings, schools and detention facilities. Corporal punishment is not expressly prohibited in the home and in foster and day care.
Bullying by teachers and peers are among the most significant reasons why children in Kyrgyzstan do not attend school and school violence and racketeering have been identified as one of the key causes for increased violence among youth throughout the country, leading to cases of suicide among school students. The children of labour migrants often live with grandparents, relatives or in residential care, which exposes them to abuse and neglect.
As Internet access expands, violence against children is taking on new dimensions such as cyber-bullying and online sexual exploitation, with damaging and life-altering consequences. Adolescents who grow up with violence can see it is a normal part of life. Cultural practices, such as child marriage, also heighten the risks of violence against girls and young women.
The growing number of reported cases of sexual abuse of children requires urgent attention. A culture of covering up problems of sexual violence, inadequate mechanisms to identify, detect and protect children who are victims of sexual violence, the inaction - or complicity - of law enforcement agencies, the lack of direct complaint and protection mechanisms for child victims and the lack of psychosocial support for such children all lead to deprivation of the right of a child to protection.
Bride kidnapping, child marriage, and forced marriages are issues that affect the lives of thousands of girls and women in Kyrgyzstan. Early childbearing and gender-based violence are often associated and affect girls in all aspects of their lives - including education, health, protection and employment. All too often, cases remain unreported by the victims owing to social stigma and pressure.
In 2014, approximately 13 per cent of women aged 20-49 in Kyrgyzstan (14.6 per cent in rural areas) were married before the age of 18.
Underage married girls suffer health complications from pregnancy. They find themselves helpless if their partner leaves them as they may not have sufficient education to work or may not have strong family support. A significant number of underage married girls also suffer emotional and physical abuse from their partners.
In order to rehabilitate and provide social support for children who have suffered violence and abuse, UNICEF supports the Government to create a sustainable system to protect such children by child protection authorities.
Four UNICEF-supported child support centres provide social, psychological and legal assistance to children who have suffered violence and abuse.
Also, UNICEF supports the child helpline 111 established by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy. In addition, in order to better protect children from violence and abuse, UNICEF works to improve the referral mechanism and the effectiveness of cooperation between different State bodies responsible for child protection and social services. Moreover, UNICEF is working with the Government on promoting positive and non-violent parenting by establishing resource centres on parenting and introducing regular parenting programmes.
Kyrgyzstan adopted legislative amendments to the Criminal Code increasing the punishment to up to 10 years’ imprisonment for “bride kidnapping” below the age of 17 years. In the face of strong social norms and sociocultural practices and beliefs, UNICEF engages in continuous awareness raising campaigns targeting parents, caregivers, and authorities on children’s rights and on the negative impacts of bride kidnapping, child marriage and forced marriage.
The "School without Violence Programme" has been developed by UNICEF and has since been replicated by the Government: the initial piloting phase has proven highly successful at raising awareness of bullying and violence among schoolchildren as well as teachers, social pedagogues and local community members in 38 schools. Beyond the reduction of violence in schools, it contributes to a broader culture of peace, promoting a transformation of societal norms and values for respect for diversity, rights, support for dialogue and non-violent means of conflict resolution.
These resources represent just a small selection of materials on child protection produced by UNICEF and its partners in Kyrgyzstan. The list is regularly updated to include the latest information.
Child abuse and neglect in families in the Kyrgyz Republic (2010, UNICEF)
Report on violence in schools (UNICEF, 2011, School without violence)