Kazakhstan’s Groundbreaking Law Prioritizes Family Protection, Says Human Rights Commissioner

ASTANA – This week, Kazakhstan passed a landmark law that strengthens protections for women and children by criminalizing domestic violence, introducing tougher penalties for crimes against children and for bullying, among other provisions. Human Rights Commissioner Artur Lastayev said the new law is aimed at protecting the families, reported the commissioner’s press office.

Artur Lastayev has served as the country’s Human Rights Commissioner since December 2022. Photo credit: Human Rights Commissioner’s Office website

According to him, the endorsement of the law is a “common victory” for the state and civil society. 

“The head of state signed a law aimed at protecting the institution of family, children and women. The amendments were developed based on the results of preliminary broad discussion at various platforms with the active participation of all civil society. First of all, this law is aimed at protecting the family,” said Lastayev. 

“The moral and spiritual education of children must be carried out in a spirit of respect for national and traditional values. There are other amendments to the new law, but I believe that these provisions provide a strategic state guideline,” he added. 

Previously treated as a civil offense, domestic violence is now a crime in Kazakhstan. This means harsher penalties, including imprisonment for severe or moderate harm.

“Now, for acts of battery causing physical pain but not resulting in minor health damage, penalties ranging from fines of 80 monthly calculation index (MCI) [roughly $661] to 50 days of arrest are being introduced. For minor health damage to a person, fines ranging from 200 MCI [roughly $1,652] to imprisonment for up to two years can be imposed,” he said. 

The law also introduces stricter punishments for all forms of violence against children. Life imprisonment becomes mandatory for the murder or rape of a minor, as well as for violent sexual acts.

“The new law protects our children from pedophiles. Perhaps this is the most long-awaited measure that has deeply concerned society upon reports of abuses against minors. Now, offenders will be sentenced to lifelong imprisonment for this. The same applies to the murder of children,” said Lastayev. 

The legislation introduces administrative penalties for bullying and cyberbullying of minors. The law also aims to prevent violence through measures that support families.

This law is a significant step towards protecting vulnerable populations in Kazakhstan. It reflects a growing awareness of the issue of domestic violence and a commitment to ensuring the safety of children.

Lastayev is sure the adoption of the law was welcomed positively in Kazakhstan. 

“A new penalty is introduced for sexual harassment of children under the age of 16, punishable by up to 40 days of arrest. Since the amendments came into effect, explicit touching of children, indecent proposals, and similar acts will no longer go unpunished. Children and their parents will feel more protected in their country,” he said. 

Lastayev also mentioned a new offense for promoting suicide. 

“This measure will not only legally block numerous websites, channels, chats, and groups promoting suicide, but also hold their organizers and accomplices accountable, with penalties of up to five years of imprisonment,” he said. 

On April 16, Artur Lastayev presented to the public a special report on combating domestic violence. The constitutional law grants the ombudsperson the right to prepare and disseminate special reports on specific issues regarding the observance of human and civil rights and freedoms in Kazakhstan.

The data in the report indicates there were 5,958 criminal offenses in the sphere of domestic relations from 2018 to 2023, with the highest number of cases registered in 2020 (1,072). 

This reflects the United Nations reports that the COVID-19 pandemic has enabled a “shadow pandemic of violence against women and girls, where they often found themselves in lockdown with their abusers.”

In 2023, 923 criminal offenses in the sphere of domestic relations were reported.

The report also said in 2023, more than 66,000 offenses related to domestic violence were registered, whereas in previous years, their number ranged from 30,000 to 38,000.

The UN welcomed the new law in Kazakhstan, saying it is a “significant advancement in eradicating gender-based violence.” The European Union also commended the passing of the law. 

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