Kyrgyzstan - Social development

Old age, disability and survivorship pensions are provided to all employed persons and members of cooperatives and collective farms. Contributions of 2.5% of earnings from employees, and 34% of payroll by employers finance the program. A universal medical care system exists for all residents. Maternity benefits for employed women include 100% of pay for 126 days of leave. Workers' compensation, unemployment benefits, and family allowances are also provided.

Women have equal status under the law although discrimination persists. Women are well-represented in the work force in urban areas, and participate in higher education and professional fields. However, they appear to be disproportionately affected by growing unemployment. A women's congress in Bishkek convenes periodically to consider women's issues. Opportunities for women are lacking in the rural areas. Domestic abuse and violence against women remain common. The lack of government funds impacts the programs aimed at assisting children. Child labor is increasingly common.

In 1993, parliament narrowly rejected a law to legalize polygamy, a Muslim custom practiced in Kyrgyzstan. Polygyny (one man having multiple wives) is more common, and a husband must financially provide each wife with her own separate household. In order for a woman to have multiple husbands (polyandry), she must have substantial wealth or influence.

There is reported discrimination in hiring, promotion, and housing against citizens who are not ethnic Kyrgyz. Police brutality has been reported, as well as arbitrary arrest and detention. The government violates basic civil rights, including the freedoms of speech, assembly, association, and the press.

Compared to other Central Asian states, many observers stress, Kyrgyzstan has a less objectionable human rights record. According to the State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2001 , however, the Kyrgyz government's human rights record remains poor. There were problems with freedom of speech and the press, due process for the accused, religious freedom, ethnic discrimination, and electoral irregularities. There are cases of police brutality and arbitrary arrest. Citizens have only a limited ability to peaceably change their government. Elections and referenda have involved irregular procedures. There are independent newspapers, magazines, and radio stations, and some independent television broadcasts, though the government increasingly adopted measures to curtail the operations of independent media.

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