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Access to Justice for Vulnerable Groups in the Kyrgyz Republic: Findings from Baseline Assessments in Bishek, Chuy Province, Osh City, and Osh Province

By: Lillian Langford, Elzar Elemanov

Meaningful human rights guarantees cannot exist in the absence of mechanisms for enforcing them. The ability of individuals to insist that the government and private actors respect their civil rights and liberties is tied to the availability of tools for complaining about violations. Access to the institutions, knowledge, and willingness needed demand one’s rights is paramount. This is particularly true for those who are especially at risk of rights violations due to discrimination, physical or cognitive constraints, poverty, or a lack of knowledge or experience.

The Kyrgyz Republic has laid the groundwork for creating such access to justice for vulnerable groups. Yet ensuring that meaningful rights guarantees are ultimately realized for all will require further steps to be taken. When viewed through the lens of three specific groups – women, children and youth, and people with disabilities – in select target areas of the Kyrgyz Republic (Bishkek, Chuy province, Osh city, and Osh province), some of the largest deficits in practical access to justice become clear.

Women face special barriers to the enjoyment of their rights in the Kyrgyz Republic. Many are subject to discrimination, violence, and economic dependence. The present research showed that well over half of women in the target areas lacked paid employment, and younger women were particularly unlikely to be employed. More than one in 10 women surveyed lives on a family income of less than US$89 a month. Over one in 20 married women has no marriage certificate, blocking these women from exercising the important bundle of rights attached to the marriage institution in the country. Furthermore, a large percentage of women lack a valid residence permit, making it difficult to access basic social services for themselves and their children. This problem is particularly acute in Bishkek, where more than one in 3 women have no propiska. However, women in Osh were more likely to have experienced a problem accessing services as a result of having no valid residence permit.

Children and youth also confront serious challenges to accessing justice. Their relative lack of experience and education, economic dependence, and – often – lack of necessary documents makes it more difficult for them to engage with the formal and informal justice sectors. Two out of three young people said that their monthly household income was less than $178 a month. One in 10 young people aged 16 to 28 does not have a national identity card, making it impossible to access important public services and justice institutions. Many young people lack birth certificates, a problem that appears worse in Osh city, where more than one in 10 women said that they had a child with no certificate. Young people in Osh were also less likely to have a valid national identity document. People with disabilities, both physical and cognitive, are among the most vulnerable of all. Physical inability to enter justice and educational institutions and restricted access to public information represent serious hindrances. A dependence on government financial assistance, received by half the respondents, creates a tenuous situation for many disabled individuals, who have no other way to generate income if government payments fail. Residence permits, required for access to medical care, education, and other important services, are not held by almost one in five surveyed people with disabilities.

This is a baseline study, a tool that will help the government of the Kyrgyz Republic and the United Nations Development Program to better understand the needs of the country’s people, especially the most vulnerable ones, such as rural women, people with disabilities, youth at risk and ethnic minorities.