Kyrgyzstan seeks gender balance in law enforcement

BISHKEK – The Kyrgyz Interior Ministry, with the help of the OSCE, intends to make gender balance part of its reform of the police and other law-enforcement agencies.

kgA forensic lab officer from Bishkek city police shows children fingerprinting techniques during a police open house April 10 2009. [OSCE/Ruslan Izmaylov]

“The promotion of gender equality is one of the OSCE’s priorities. Without giving members of both genders equal opportunity in their careers and social life, democratic development is impossible,” Tarmo Viikmaa, community policing advisor at the OSCE Centre in Bishkek, told Central Asia Online.

Having woman police officers can build trust in and create a modern, professional police force, she said.

Women’s active involvement in the police is especially important now, said OSCE Centre in Bishkek Head Andrew Tesoriere.

“Establishing a police force that operates in accordance with the principles of openness, transparency and public service is of particular importance in the current situation, wherein there is a real need for post-conflict reconstruction in Kyrgyzstan,” Tesoriere said.

Asel Osmonova, an advisor to the Interior Minister, has been charged with implementing the ministry’s gender policy.

Association of Policewomen helps

“The Association of Policewomen was founded in September 2010 (in collaboration with the OSCE) to ensure equal rights and opportunities for policewomen,” Osmonova said. “Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva took part in the founding conference. The Interior Ministry has been actively involved in various forums and is also organising training seminars and conferences on achieving gender equality with OSCE support.”

The Association of Policewomen has conducted many training seminars on ethics, equality, mutual understanding and rules of conduct for men and women on the police force.

In 2010 the Interior Ministry held more than 15 workshops on gender equality, she said, and in January 2011 it sponsored an “Improving Performance in the Country’s Internal Affairs Structures: Gender Aspects” seminar for senior Interior Ministry administrators.

kgmilitiaKyrgyz women graduate from the Police Academy in Bishkek June 2004. [OSCE/Mikhail Evstafiyev]

In December 2010, a gender analysis on the Kyrgyz Interior Ministry’s human-resource policies showed that since 2006 the number of women working in the ministry had increased by 30% and was projected to keep growing, Osmonova said.

However, only 765 women – less than 10% of the staff – work in the ministry. The vast majority of women in law enforcement are in low- or middle-ranking positions in human resources, information and analysis, scientific research and the ministry’s training establishments.

“I’d like to draw attention to the proportion of women in management, where, as I see it, we need to increase (their) percentage of these positions,” she said. “I hope that this figure will even out over time.”

Investigative work opens to women

Investigative work – some of the most difficult and dangerous – is becoming more open to Kyrgyz women.

Aijarkyn Bektemirova is an investigator at the Oktyabr District Department of Internal Affairs in Bishkek.

“Sometimes, you have to work into the night, but I love my job and I cannot imagine doing something else,” Bektemirova said. “As long as I have been working, I have never run into stereotypes or prejudices. Except when I walk down the street in my uniform, I get more attention than when I’m in plain clothes.”

The Interior Ministry employs many women with graduate and doctoral degrees, Bazarkulova said, adding that these are the kind of people the ministry needs to attract.

The task at hand for the Interior Ministry is to appoint women to both high-ranking and ordinary positions in order to build public confidence in the police, Osmonova said.

Woman police can bring about positive change, experts say

Bakyt Baketayev is a political analyst who is studying last April’s popular movement. Women’s participation in law enforcement will reduce corruption, he said.

“I worked in governmental agencies for a long time, and in my experience, women are more conscientious and less money-grubbing,” Baketayev said. “So I can only applaud the efforts to introduce gender balance into our police forces.”

Talaigul Bazarkulova directs the NGO Centre for Research on Democratic Processes, which is working with the OSCE on introducing gender balance in law enforcement. Women’s involvement in law enforcement should improve trust in the police, she said.

“We just need to ensure that women are more involved in the Interior Ministry’s agencies,” she said. “This will have a positive impact on police performance because women are generally much more humane.”

It would also help in cases of domestic violence, she said.

“The police also often have to work with victims of sexual assault, and the policemen do not understand the women in this situation and even sometimes blame them,” Bazarkulova said. “So, we need more woman investigators who understand the special needs of women who have suffered from domestic or sexual violence.”