Kyrgyzstan: Male MPs Ditch Parliament During Discussions on Women’s Rights
When it came time to discuss the rights of women and girls in Kyrgyzstan’s parliament on June 22, the male members of the house decided they had somewhere better to be and took off.
Discussions were organized as an opportunity for lawmakers to question government representatives and experts on the issue, but out of the 101 deputies that had voted for various initiatives earlier in the day, only 16 remained. Of those, more than half were women.
Tolkun Tulekova, the director of the Association for Crisis Centers, who came to speak to lawmakers, said the predominantly male MPs left the chamber as soon as the subject was announced.
“They are not interested in women’s problems and in how their rights are being trampled. They chose to ignore the situation of half the members of our society. This was offensive to us,” Tulekova said.
Tulekova said that not one of the departing MPs returned to the chamber, even though several hours remained before the close of business.
Ainur Altybayeva, a member of the constitutional legislation committee, who organized the day’s discussion, said the behavior of her male colleagues outraged everybody present.
“Of course it hurts that they left. We discussed reproductive health and education. These are very important issues,” she told EurasiaNet.org.
All the same, Altybayeva thanked the male MPs for their prior record of supporting legislation upholding women’s rights.
President Almazbek Atambayev in April gave his final seal of approval to legislation intended to provide greater protections for victims of domestic abuse. Lawmakers and the government were widely hailed for the passage of the rules requiring police to respond more robustly to reports of abuse .
Many of the offending male MPs who were unwilling to stay on in parliament on June 22 cited urgent meetings with voters as their justification for leaving early.
“I didn’t take part. I had some urgent business,” said Nurbek Alimbekov, a lawmaker.
Azamat Arapbayev had a similar story, and he even had the temerity to criticize others for doing the very same thing he had done.
“I was acting as a moderator in another place. I think it is not right that my colleagues left the chamber,” he said.
Anvar Artykov, an MP who did attend the bulk of the hearings, said that it is possible that his male counterparts simply had no questions to raise on the given topic.
“Women know women’s problems better, that is why they remained,” he suggested.
By way of another explanation, Artykov said that during the holy month of Ramadan, deputies tend to remain until the end of the day only to discuss the most “serious” issues.
“Unless there is a particular need to do so, deputies do not stay behind during this month,” he said.
Tulekova, unamused, said these were just the poor justifications of MPs mostly interesting in passing legislation that is of relevance to the business community.
“All this talk of meetings with voters and important business to attend to, these are all just excuses. Is the violation of women’s rights and the health of women not an important issue?” she said.
Still, even without the delinquent men present, the remaining deputies managed to hold some useful discussions about contraception, female education and measures against domestic violence, Tulekova said.
Nurjamal Djanibekova is a journalist based in Bishkek.