On November 25, Astana hosted a round table “Expanded Dialogue in Central Asia: “Combating violence: Women and girls at risk. Elimination of the causes and assistance. Strengthening access to justice.” This event opened the annual campaign under the auspices of the UN “16 Days of activism against gender-based violence” in Kazakhstan.

The event, which brought together the Forum of Women Leaders of Central Asian Countries, Ombudsmen, civil society, was organized within the framework of the regional virtual platform for the exchange of experience in the field of gender equality “Act for Equal”, created in accordance with the instructions of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The round table was attended by Human Rights Commissioners, leaders of National Structures for Women’s Affairs of Azerbaijan, Albania, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, representatives of state bodies, international organizations, the Federation of Trade Unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan and civil sector organizations, human rights defenders and experts from Central Asian countries.

Unfortunately, in Central Asia, as in the rest of the world, violence against women and girls remains widespread. According to the organizers of the event, 80% of victims of sexual violence in almost all Central Asian countries are women and girls.

“With today’s discussion, the UN Women Structure opens the campaign “16 Days of activism against gender-based violence” in Kazakhstan. This year the campaign is focused on civic activism and personal participation of each person. Because it is possible to eradicate gender–based violence only together,” said Maria Dotsenko, Representative of the UN Women in Kazakhstan.

Today, 39 diplomatic missions and international organizations in Kazakhstan have issued a joint statement expressing their readiness to continue to support the Kazakh government and other partners in improving the country’s legislation to further protect women and girls from all forms of violence.

“Violence hinders women’s full participation in society. Unfortunately, the analysis of crime shows that the applied institute of protection and prevention does not provide complete safety of victims. Despite the legislative regulation of the measures, two-year practice shows their low effectiveness. In this regard, it is necessary to strengthen the response to violence by reformatting the work of police services within the framework of the Service Police project, partnership work with the civil institute, development of economic opportunities and skills of women, as well as the involvement of psychologists, sociologists and cultural specialists,” the Commissioner for Human Rights in Kazakhstan Elvira Asimova stressed.

“Kazakhstan stands in solidarity in eradicating the root causes of gender-based violence and providing assistance to women and girls at risk. In this regard, we have joined a number of international conventions. Moreover, at the meeting of the National Council of Public Trust in 2021, the Head of State drew special attention to the need to strengthen the staffing of inspectors for the protection of women from violence. Currently, the number of police officers has doubled and brought up to the appropriate standards,” said Aigul Nurkina, deputy of the Majilis of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

One of the important topics of discussion was the problem of harassment in the workplace. In a joint study on the level of violence and sexual harassment in the workplace of the Republican Research Institute for Labor Protection of the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of the Population of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Bureau of National Statistics of the Agency for Strategic Planning and Reforms and the UN-Women Structure, more than 80% of respondents noted the need to legislate the prohibition of gender-based violence and harassment in the sphere of labor and strengthening the legal protection of victims.

The presentation of the ILO Convention No.190 was made by Miranda Faherman, an expert of the International Labour Organization on international standards and labor law.

She spoke about the experience of implementing the Convention in various countries, the need for a legal definition of responsibility in the case of violence in the workplace in the fight against violence at work and expressed her willingness to share her experience with the participants of the meeting.

“The time has come to discuss this Convention from the point of view of innovations and current trends in international development,” the expert stressed.

Tatyana Shatokhina, Co–Chair of the Commission on Working Women’s Affairs, Member of the General Council of the Federation of Trade Unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan, informed about the activities of the Federation of Trade Unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan to protect working women from violence and harassment in the field of labor.

“The analysis of the situation shows that the problem of discrimination and violence against women in the workplace and the lack of official consolidation and definition of this term in regulatory legal acts shows the need to ratify ILO Convention No.190 “On the Elimination of Violence in the Workplace. It enshrines the fundamental right of every person to the world of work, freedom from violence and harassment, including gender-based violence and harassment. To date, 55% of the 2 million members of the Federation of Trade Unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan are women and 67% of more than 16 thousand primary trade union organizations are headed by women. Kazakhstan’s accession to the ILO Convention No.190 “On the Elimination of Violence and Harassment at Work” will be an important step in further improving working conditions,” Tatyana Shatokhina said.

The Speaker thanked the International Labor Organization for its advisory and organizational support in promoting international standards. Tatiana Shatokhina also informed the participants of the meeting about an important event – the restoration of the membership of the Federation of Trade Unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan in the International Trade Union Confederation on November 17.

In conclusion, the participants of the round table also noted the importance of joining the international Agreement “Women, Peace, Security and humanitarian activities”. This agreement is one of the key results of the Global Forum “Generation of Equality” (Paris, 2021) and a tool to accelerate progress in ensuring gender equality.