Summary.

Summary.

Violent assaults by her husband, with whom Gulnara B. had already lived for 15 years by that time, began in 2003. One evening in 2012, after returning from a meeting of classmates in their Bishkek apartment, her husband gave her a kick. Gulnara told:

Gulnara spent ten days in the hospital with a severe concussion. From the hospital, without consulting her and without asking her consent, they reported to the police. Gulnara wrote a statement, but the police did not inform her about the possibility of obtaining a protection order and did not take any measures against her abusive husband.

Over the years, while the beatings continued, Gulnara tried several times to part with him, and in 2010 she even got a divorce. However, she said, she invariably returned, fearing that the children would be stigmatized as growing up “without a father.” After ten years of bullying, her husband stabbed Gulnara in 2013, and she decided to pursue criminal prosecution. The case has been dragging on for over two years; at the time of writing this report, no sentences or sanctions had yet been issued against Gulnara’s husband.

Gulnara’s story illustrates various aspects of the situation in which the Kyrgyz authorities do not provide survivors of domestic violence with adequate support, protection and remedial measures.

This report is a follow-up to the 2006 Human Rights Watch report on domestic violence and bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan. Since then, the Government has introduced a number of legislative changes and awareness-raising campaigns to eradicate the tolerance and impunity that accompany violence against women. For example, in 2013, the responsibility for kidnapping a woman to marry against her will was tightened.

Unfortunately, problems persist.

This report documents the government’s failure to provide victims with assistance and support, to use available protection mechanisms, to investigate and prosecute violations, and to hold perpetrators of domestic violence accountable. Human Rights Watch interviews with survivors, relief workers, police officers, judges, local community leaders, and government officials found that domestic violence continues to be a problem in Kyrgyzstan, with a number of factors preventing access to help or access to justice for the victims in such situations.

In interviews with survivors and relief workers, Human Rights Watch documented episodes of extreme physical and psychological violence in the home, the consequences of which were sometimes persistent. Women told us about cases when they were beaten with their heads against a wall or pavement; broke their jaw, caused concussion and head injuries; stabbed; beat with a rolling pin, metal kitchen utensils and other objects; locked them outside in the cold without shoes or warm clothes; beat during pregnancy, which sometimes led to its violation; chased them with a knife or a shovel; tried to strangle, threatened them with murder; spat in the mouth; verbally abused at work. Several women also told Human Rights Watch about being forced to marry, sometimes through kidnapping; Three of the victims we interviewed were married between the ages of 15 and 17, while the legal minimum age for marriage is 18. Many women said they had been subjected to domestic violence over the years, almost always by a husband or partner, but also by the husband’s relatives, in one case by a brother.

Some women suffered from persistent physical or mental disorders as a result of domestic violence.

Survivors of violence face a daunting range of barriers to seeking help, protection and justice. Social factors include pressure to keep the family at any cost, stigma and shame, economic dependence, vulnerability and isolation (especially for unregistered marriages), and fear of retaliation from those involved in domestic violence. Factors of a different nature include, inter alia, a shortage of assistance services, especially shelters, and inaction or hostility on the part of law enforcement and judicial authorities.

In many ways, Kyrgyzstan is violating its own 2003 law “On social and legal protection against domestic violence”, as well as its international obligations in the field of human rights.

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Official figures indicate that not all of the allegations of domestic violence that are registered by the police reach the court. If the issue is nevertheless considered by the court, then often within the framework of administrative proceedings, which provides for less severe punishment than in criminal proceedings. However, even in the case of bringing to administrative responsibility, the case, as a rule, is qualified as “petty hooliganism”.

Assessment of the practice of responding to domestic violence in Kyrgyzstan seems especially relevant at this very moment. By the end of this year, experts and government departments should complete the work on preparation for consideration in the Jogorku Kenesh (parliament) of a new draft law on domestic violence to replace the 2003 law “On social and legal protection from domestic violence”. It is imperative that the new legislation on domestic violence retained the already existing safeguards to protect and remedy the situation, while simultaneously ensuring that weaknesses were corrected and enforcement mechanisms included.

The 2003 law, for all its breakthrough nature for that time, largely failed to realize its potential.

Parliament is also considering amendments to the criminal and criminal procedure codes that could strengthen existing legislation applicable to domestic violence.

Not all police officers, judges and government aid workers ignore their responsibilities in responding to domestic violence. Some police officers told Human Rights Watch that they regularly accept statements of such incidents and issue temporary restraining orders. Some victims said that judges helped them obtain divorce or child support from an abusive spouse. The Ministries of Health and the Interior have developed guidelines for responding to cases of domestic violence and maintaining statistics.

However, the provision of assistance to survivors of violence, including the organization of shelters, psychosocial support and the promotion of access to justice, remains almost entirely with non-governmental organizations, most of which do not receive any support from the state.

Kyrgyzstan has ratified a number of international human rights treaties that oblige the state to protect women and girls from violence and discrimination. However, it has not yet ratified an important regional treaty – the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (entered into force in 2014). Kyrgyzstan is not a member of the Council of Europe, but it could and should ratify this convention, which details the response to domestic violence.

The Kyrgyz government must enforce national legislation on violence against women, including domestic violence, and change laws and practices that put women and girls at risk of violence. The Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the General Prosecutor’s Office and the Supreme Court should ensure that police officers, prosecutors and judges receive periodic in-depth training and monitor their compliance with laws and policies related to domestic violence. The latter includes the issuance and enforcement of protection orders and the prosecution of those involved in the violence. The government must state clearly and publicly that the safety and well-being of survivors of domestic violence is more important than reconciliation and family preservation. The government should also clarify and enforce laws restricting the referral of severe domestic violence cases to aksakal courts, which prioritize reconciliation and may restrict survivors’ access to the full range of remedial action.

It must also enforce laws prohibiting marriage before the age of 18 and any form of forced marriage, including through bride kidnapping.

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