Alcohol abuse and domestic violence, early and forced marriages and bride kidnappings are among the factors making children in Kyrgyzstan more vulnerable to sexual exploitation and forced labour, warned a United Nations independent expert at the end of her recent visit to the country.
“The full extent of the sale and sexual exploitation of children in the Kyrgyz Republic remains unknown, due to the clandestine and underground nature of the phenomena, lack of early detection of children victims, and insufficient awareness of child sexual exploitation online,” UN Special Rapporteur Najat Maalla M’jid said in a news release.
“The [Kyrgyz] Government must uphold its commitments through ensuring regular evaluation, follow-up and accountability mechanisms of its child protection programs,” added Ms. Maalla M’jid, the first UN expert dealing with child sexual exploitation and abuse to visit Kyrgyzstan.
Despite budgetary constraints on the Government, she urged Kyrgyz authorities to take low cost priority actions to ensure better detection of victims and children at risk. She also urged the provision of more comprehensive care, including psycho-social support for children and families at risk, as well as to standardize residential institutions and find alternatives to placing children in institutions.
Kyrgyzstan has adopted a Children’s Code, with support from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The Special Rapporteur said this would lead to the creation of local level Family and Child Support Units, and the requirement for a court order to place children in residential institutions, as well as regulations for inter-country adoption.
“Such measures, if properly implemented, could effectively assist with early detection and support of vulnerable children and families at risk,” said Ms. Maalla M’jid. “They could also help reduce the hardship experienced by many families, avoid the unnecessary institutionalization of vulnerable children, and help promote the strengthening of family ties.”
During her visit, Ms. Maalla M’jid met with Government representatives at all levels, civil society organizations, and international organizations in Bishkek, Osh, Jalalabad and the Issyk-Kul Province, including the city of Karakol and surrounding villages.
She also visited eight residential institutions for children, both private and public, where she met and spoke with children, including child victims of sexual exploitation.
Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes.
Ms. Maalla M’jid will present a comprehensive report containing her findings and recommendations to the Council in March 2014.