Astana, Dec 4 (EFE).- Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries acknowledged on Monday at a regional forum their commitment to combating tolerance towards domestic violence, which remains alarmingly high in the region.
“We must admit that the tolerance level towards domestic violence is still high,” conceded Yerlan Koshanov, Chairman of the Majilis (lower house) of Kazakhstan, during the “Central Asian Women’s Dialogue” forum.
According to the official, victims of domestic violence often reconcile with their aggressor and “withdraw their complaints out of fear.”
Time for Change
Statistics show that more than 400 Kazakh women die annually at the hands of their partners, with only 40% of these crimes reaching the courts.
Last month, a former senior official brutally beat his 32-year-old wife in their restaurant. She died before medical help could arrive. A week later, two more femicides occurred in Astana. Concurrently, stories emerged about three cases of women being raped by police officers.
These incidents sparked widespread outrage in Kazakh society and significant media coverage.
Social media users called for harsher punishments for crimes against women, and a rally advocating for the criminalization of domestic violence was held in the country’s largest city, Almaty.
Kazakh lawmakers have begun to consider legislation to toughen penalties for domestic violence.
Punishment for Assaults Not in Place
Presently, Kazakh law does not criminalize assaults that cause minor harm to the victim.
“In 2017, domestic violence involving minor harm assaults was decriminalized in our country,” recalls activist and lawyer Jalida Azhigulova in a conversation with EFE.
Lawyer Aiman Umarova agrees, believing that any form of violence should be considered a crime and punished accordingly.
“I’ve had cases where women, in defending their lives, kill the aggressor and receive long sentences, simply because the police did not respond to the violence in that family, and the women did not receive necessary legal support and advice,” she said.
Experiences from Neighboring Countries
As Kazakhstan examines changes to its domestic violence legislation, its neighbors, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, have already made significant strides by toughening not only administrative but also criminal responsibilities in such cases.
According to Zhamilya Isaeva, Vice Speaker of the Kyrgyz Parliament, since the toughening of laws in her country in 2021, the so-called “bride kidnapping” is now a crime punishable by five to seven years in prison.
“Currently, we virtually have no bride kidnappings,” Isaeva said.
Tanzila Narbaeva, Chairwoman of the Uzbek Senate, noted that her country enhanced the protection of women and children following the passage of a new law in April.
Now, penalties for domestic violence in Uzbekistan can extend up to 15 years, and perpetrators are not eligible for pardon or early release from prison. EFE