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Divisions remain in Kyrgyzstan

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OSH, Kyrgyzstan, June 9 (UPI) -- Kyrgyzstan struggles to overcome social stigma associated with rape as it recovers from last year's ethnic violence in the country's south, an advocate said.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in separate reports Wednesday highlighted the use of sexual violence against members of the Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities during ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan in June 2010.

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Amnesty International said sexual violence constitutes a crime against humanity, something Bishkek is trying to dismiss. The rights group said it documented 20 cases of sexual violence though figures could be much higher.

Khafiza Makhmudova, the head of local Legal Order, a group advocating for Uzbek women, said few women are coming forward with rape claims because of the social stigma attached, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports.

"You go to the market and Kyrgyz women will yell at Uzbek women and say, 'Your women and girls who were raped are going to give birth to Kyrgyz, future Kyrgyz,'" she told the news agency. "So how are we going to go on living like this?"

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said that ethnic conflict could rekindle without proper justice. Makhmudova said her sense was that reconciliation between the groups would be difficult to achieve.

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