The Human Rights Watch Tuesday urged Kazakhstan to ensure the protection of women from family violence, including making domestic violence a standalone offense. Ever since the withdrawal of previous draft laws on domestic violence three years ago, the inadequacies in the remedial measures in this area are being attempted to be corrected by two new draft laws that offer greater protections to women.
Presently under Kazakhstan’s laws, domestic violence is not a standalone criminal offense, even in the 2009 Law On Prevention of Domestic Violence. The HRW reported that domestic violence continues to be a serious human rights violation in the country, with numerous cases leading to the deaths of over a hundred victims, according to a report from early 2022. The previous legislation on domestic violence passed its first parliament reading in September 2020, but was withdrawn just four months later in the name of extra consultations. The two new legislations currently proposed by the lawmakers consist of a draft law on measures to prevent domestic violence, and a second legislation that amends the administrative and criminal law provisions related to the same.
Kazakhstan’s Interior Ministry said on February 13 that the Lower Chamber of Parliament, the Mazhilis, has approved and forwarded the draft law to the Senate (upper chamber) for consideration. The draft law mentioned by them have not yet been made public, and there is no indication that domestic violence has been made a standalone offense in it. The version of this law on the Mazhilis website proposes comprehensive preventive measures including strict recognition of media reports on domestic violence, requiring increase in data collection of violence-based reports. However, there is no mention of domestic violence as a standalone offense.
Moreover, the HRW has consistently called upon Kazakhstan to specifically prohibit domestic abuse, to hold perpetrators of such crimes more accountable, and to provide better help and protection for victims, particularly in remote rural regions. It pointed out the country’s obligation as a party to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) to eliminate violence towards women by providing adequate protection and access to remedies and essential services, along with abuser accountability. It also reiterated that Kazakhstan’s partner countries should insist that the nation’s authorities ensure their laws meet international standards, particularly referencing the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
Mihra Rittmann, senior Central Asia researcher at HRW, said that Kazakhstan’s existing laws “basically leave domestic violence survivors to fend for themselves, and women have paid a high price for delays in law reform.” She insisted that lawmakers should make use of this “chance to ensure that new laws fully protect women from domestic violence.”