The recent outbreak of violence in Kyrgyzstan has led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people and resulted in a tragic loss of life due to ethnic clashes. As the humanitarian response mobilizes, the InterAction Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Working Group remains concerned about the impact of this crisis on women and girls. This document summarizes our concerns and offers recommendations for United States action.
The situation of women and girls in Kyrgyzstan is worrying. According to UNICEF, 90% of those who fled the country in the first week of the crisis were women and children, as men stayed behind to protect land and property in areas affected by violence. Many of these displaced have returned in recent days only to find their homes burned or destroyed. Additionally, the reports of rape and attacks on women and girls during incidents of ethnic violence are alarming. During the crisis, the World Health Organization noted that sexual violence was increasingly reported among affected communities in both Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, and media reports indicate that women and girls were attacked by groups of men, often in public or in front of their families. Without attention now, women and girls will remain at risk, particularly if violence recurs.
We appreciate the swift attention of the United States to this situation, including the comments of Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Robert Blake, highlighting United States support for efforts to provide assistance and improve security, as well as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, Eric Schwartz's travel to the region. The U.S. must sustain attention to this issue and take steps to help protect women and girls before the crisis escalates further.
Ensure that assistance adheres to international standards, as outlined in the Inter-Agency Standing Committee's Guidelines for Gender- Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings. This guidance lays out the specific actions that should be taken by various sectors to prevent acts of GBV and treat survivors.
Support programs to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls. The UN called for approximately $3 million in the Flash Appeal for Kyrgyzstan for initiatives to address GBV. We urge the U.S. to ensure that GBV programs remain a central component of the humanitarian response and that such programs are fully funded.
Include essential reproductive health services as a key component of early response, as outlined in the Minimum Initial Services Package for Reproductive Health in Crisis Situations (MISP). The MISP is a coordinated set of priority interventions that can prevent excess maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality, reduce HIV transmission, and prevent and manage the consequences of sexual violence.
The U.S. must press for incidents of sexual violence to be investigated and perpetrators to be held accountable. This can be done as part of U.S. diplomatic efforts with relevant parties and the international community, in line with obligations under Security Council Resolutions 1820 and 1888.
Ensure displaced and vulnerable women and girls are protected and that they have full and equal access to assistance provided through relief efforts.
Women's Refugee Commission
International Rescue Committee