Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal, but as in previous years, the government failed to enforce the law effectively, and rape cases were underreported. Penalties for conviction of sexual assault range from three to eight years’ imprisonment. Prosecutors rarely brought rape cases to court. Police generally regarded spousal rape as an administrative, rather than a criminal, offense.
While the law specifically prohibits domestic violence and spousal abuse, violence against women and girls remained a significant yet underreported problem. Penalties for domestic violence convictions range from fines to 15 years’ imprisonment, the latter if abuse resulted in death. In 2015 HRW catalogued a range of violent forms of domestic violence and found that the government did not sufficiently investigate and prosecute cases, provide services and support for survivors, pursue protection, or penalize perpetrators. In the small number of reported cases reviewed by courts over recent years, many charges were considered administrative offenses rather than crimes, thus carrying a lesser punishment.
On April 28, the president signed a new domestic violence law, which streamlined procedures for the issuance of protective orders and increased protections for the victims of domestic violence. The law requires police to file cases of domestic violence, and recognizes economic violence as a form of abuse in addition to physical and psychological abuse. The law had not yet entered full force by year’s end.
Many crimes against women went unreported due to psychological pressure, economic dependence, cultural traditions, fear of stigma, and apathy among law enforcement officers. There were also reports of spouses retaliating against women who reported abuse.
Organizations assisting battered women lobbied successfully to streamline the legal process for obtaining protective orders. The government provided offices to the Sezim Shelter for victims of domestic abuse and paid its expenses.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Although prohibited by law, the practice of kidnapping women and girls for forced marriage continued. The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe estimated that each year 12,000 young women are kidnapped into forced marriages and 20 percent are raped in the process. Kidnapped brides are more likely to be victims of domestic abuse and are limited in their pursuit of education and employment. The negative effect of the practice extended to children of kidnapped brides. An August study by Duke University reported that children born to kidnapped brides had lower birth weights, an indicator for potential long-term health and development issues. Observers reported there was a greater frequency of early marriage, polygamy, and bride kidnapping in connection with unregistered religious marriages. This also affected data availability on such marriages.
Some victims of bride kidnapping went to the local police to obtain protective orders, but authorities often poorly enforced such orders. Although in 2013 the government strengthened the penalty for conviction of bride kidnapping to a maximum of 10 years in prison, NGOs continued to report no increase in the reporting or prosecution of the crime.
Sexual Harassment: According to the local NGO Shans, sexual harassment was widespread, especially in private-sector workplaces and among university students, but it was rarely reported or prosecuted. The law prohibits physical sexual assault but not verbal sexual harassment.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .
Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women and men, but because of poor enforcement of the law, discrimination against women persisted.
As in previous years, data from NGOs working on women’s issues indicated women were less healthy, more abused, less able to work outside the home, and less able than men to determine independently the disposition of their earnings.
Birth Registration: Although the law provides that every child born in the country has the right to receive a birth certificate, local registration, and citizenship, some children were stateless (see section 2.d.). Children of migrant parents who moved to and acquired citizenship of another country had to prove both of their parents were Kyrgyz citizens to acquire Kyrgyz citizenship.
Education: The law provides for compulsory and free education for the first nine years of schooling or until age 14 or 15. Secondary education is free and universal until age 17. The government did not provide free basic education to all students, and the system of residence registration restricted access to social services, including education for children who were refugees, migrants, or noncitizens. Families of children in public school students often paid burdensome and illegal administrative fees.
Child Abuse: According to NGO and UN reports, child abuse, including beatings, child labor, and commercial sexual exploitation of boys and girls, were problems.
Early and Forced Marriage: Children ages 16 and 17 may legally marry with the consent of local authorities, but the law prohibits civil marriages before age 16 under all circumstances. Although illegal, the practice of bride kidnapping continued (see section 6, Women). The kidnapping of underage brides remained underreported. The National Statistics Commission estimated that 15 percent of married women between the ages of 25 and 49 married before age 18, and 1 percent under the age of 15. A 2015 HRW report on domestic abuse found inadequate government attention focused on addressing bride kidnapping or other forms of early and forced marriage. In November 2016 the president signed a law criminalizing religious marriages involving minors. No prosecutions were filed.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The criminal code prohibits the sale of children, child trafficking, child prostitution and child pornography, as well as other sexual crimes against children. The law criminalizes the sale of persons and forced prostitution and provides penalties for conviction of up to 15 years in prison if the victim is a child. The law also makes it a crime to involve someone in prostitution by violence or the threat of violence, blackmail, destroying or damaging property, or fraud.
The criminal code prohibits the distribution of child pornography and the possession of child pornography with the intent to distribute. The law does not specifically define child pornography, and the criminal code does not fully criminalize computer-related use, access to child pornography online, or simple possession of child pornography.
According to UNICEF, children under age 18 in Bishkek were involved in prostitution. Although precise figures were not known, police stated that typical cases of child prostitution involved young girls from rural areas who relocated to Bishkek for educational opportunities or to flee from an abusive family environment. Once in the capital, they entered the sex trade due to financial pressures. There were allegations of law enforcement officials’ complicity in human trafficking; police officers allegedly threatened, extorted, and raped child sex-trafficking victims. The government reportedly has not investigated allegations of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses.
Under the criminal code, it is illegal for persons ages 18 and older to have sexual relations with someone under age 16.
Displaced Children: As in previous years, there were numerous reports of child abandonment due to parents’ lack of resources, and large numbers of children lived in institutions, foster care, or on the streets. Approximately 80 percent of street children were internal migrants. Street children had difficulty accessing educational and medical services. Police detained street children and sent them home if an address was known or to a rehabilitation center or orphanage.
Institutionalized Children: State orphanages and foster homes lacked resources and often were unable to provide proper care, sometimes resulting in, for example, the transfer of older children to mental health-care facilities even when they did not exhibit mental health problems.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
According to the NGO Open Position, the Jewish population in the country was approximately 500-700. There were no reports of anti-Semitic comments in mainstream media.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, but such persons faced. The law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, requires access to public transportation and parking, and authorizes subsidies to make mass media available to persons with hearing or vision disabilities, and free plots of land for the construction of a home. The government generally did not ensure proper implementation of the law. In addition, persons with disabilities often had difficulty finding employment because of negative societal attitudes and high unemployment among the general population.
A lack of government resources made it difficult for persons with disabilities to receive adequate education. Although children with disabilities have the right to an education, the Association of Parents of Children with Disabilities stated schools often denied them entry. The government funded programs to provide school supplies and textbooks to children with mental or physical disabilities. According to UNICEF one-third of children with disabilities were institutionalized.
As in previous years, conditions at psychiatric hospitals were substandard, stemming largely from inadequate funding. The government did not adequately provide for basic needs, such as food, water, clothing, heating, and health care, and facilities were often overcrowded.
Authorities usually placed children with mental disabilities in psychiatric hospitals rather than integrating them with other children. Other residents were also committed involuntarily, including children without mental disabilities who were too old to remain in orphanages. The Youth Human Rights Group monitored the protection of children’s rights in institutions for children with mental and physical disabilities. The group previously noted gross violations by staff at several institutions, including depriving young residents of sufficient nourishment and physically abusing them.
The PGO is responsible for protecting the rights of psychiatric patients and persons with disabilities. According to local NGO lawyers, members of the PGO had no training and little knowledge of the protection of these rights and were ineffective in assisting citizens with disabilities. Most judges lacked the experience and training to make determinations as to whether it was appropriate to mandate committing persons to psychiatric hospitals, and authorities institutionalized individuals against their will.
Several activists noted authorities still had not implemented a 2008 law requiring employers to provide special hiring quotas for persons with disabilities (approximately 5 percent of work positions).
Tensions between ethnic Uzbeks, who comprised nearly 15 percent of the population, and ethnic Kyrgyz remained problematic, particularly in Southern Osh Oblast where Uzbeks make up almost one-half the population. Discrimination against ethnic Uzbeks in business and government, as well as harassment and reported arbitrary arrests, illustrated these tensions. Ethnic Uzbeks reported large public works and road construction projects in predominantly Uzbek areas, often undertaken without public consultation, interfered with neighborhoods and destroyed homes.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
LGBTI persons whose sexual orientation or gender identity was publicly known risked physical and verbal abuse, possible loss of jobs, and unwanted attention from police and other authorities. Inmates and officials often openly victimized incarcerated gay men. Forced marriages of lesbians and bisexual women to men also occurred. The Labrys Public Foundation noted the continued practice of “corrective rape” of lesbians to “cure” their homosexuality.
Members of the LGBTI community continued to report attempts to forcibly “out” gays, lesbians and transgender persons on social media. Specifically, secretly recorded LGBTI wedding ceremonies and LGBTI participants were posted on social media pages, drawing unwanted attention and negative comments.
In 2014 HRW released a report based on interviews with 40 LGBTI persons chronicling instances of extortion, beatings, and sexual assault. The report described in detail how police patrolling parks and bars frequented by gay men would threaten them with violence and arrest or threaten to reveal their homosexuality to their families if they did not pay bribes. These practices, according to representatives of the LGBTI community, continued during the year. NGO leaders in the southern part of the country reported an even greater threat.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
While the law protects against discrimination and stigmatization of persons with HIV/AIDS, according to UNAIDS, people living with HIV continued to encounter high levels of stigma and discrimination. According to 2015 Stigma Index data, HIV-positive persons felt fear or experienced verbal abuse, harassment and threats, with some reporting incidents of physical abuse and assault. Loss of employment and lack of access to housing were reported due to social stigma of HIV/AIDS status.