Kazakhstan’s Milestone Legislation

In a bold move to tackle domestic abuse and advance gender equality, Kazakhstan has introduced new legislation aimed at safeguarding the rights of women and children. Leading the charge and receiving assistance from multiple government agencies, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s legislative reform is a major step in the direction of a society that is more just and inclusive.

Photo credit: freepik

By completely reworking the current legal structures, the new laws aim to address the pervasive problem of domestic abuse. One of the main goals is to eradicate deeply embedded cultural norms that put men’s interests ahead of women’s safety and wellbeing. Violence against women and children will not be tolerated, as the Act makes clear by reintroducing criminal culpability for battering and minor health harm – a provision that was previously removed in 2017.

Alessia Canuto.

Importantly, the law toughens punishments for major offenses and removes opportunities for reconciliation in situations of ongoing abuse. A strong position against those who commit domestic abuse is reflected in the fact that offenders now face up to eight years in jail for moderate and severe health damage. The law also makes it illegal to purposefully cause minor health harm, which changes the focus from establishing a pattern of abuse to addressing cruelty and mocking as justifications for punishment.

With a focus on victim assistance and interventions to end the cycle of abuse, preventive measures are essential to legislative change. Psychological treatment for victims is mandated, and measures to isolate them from offenders are intended to shield them from additional suffering. Kazakhstan has demonstrated its commitment to offering comprehensive aid to victims of domestic violence through the development of Family Support Centres and a specialized contact center for family-related matters.

The law not only addresses marital abuse but also includes safeguards against child exploitation and other forms of violence and commits to protecting the safety and wellbeing of Kazakhstan’s youngest, as evidenced by the harsh punishments it imposes, which include life in prison for crimes including murder and rape of minors. 

In addition to bolstering legal protections, the new laws hope to promote a cultural shift that prioritizes respect for human rights and gender equality. Kazakhstan aims to dismantle ingrained beliefs and practices that support prejudice and violence by raising awareness and educating people, establishing an example for the region, and demonstrating its commitment to international human rights norms by taking a proactive approach in combating gender-based violence. The country has gained international prominence and received worldwide recognition, whether through participation in regional discussions or engagements at the UN General Assembly. Among other projects, Kazakhstan exhibits its dedication to gender mainstreaming and its role as a global advocate for women’s empowerment and gender equality by also actively engaging in programs like the Spotlight Initiative.

Understanding the complex effects of violence against women and children is essential because it has both moral and financial repercussions that are significant. Such financial responsibilities impact different societal strata and industries, and they might be overt or covert. Expenses associated with mental and behavioral health, social welfare spending, healthcare costs, and costs associated with the criminal justice system are examples of tangible economic burdens. In addition, intangible expenses like hampered human capital development, lost productivity, and generational effects highlight the wider results. In the midst of these complications, it is critical to emphasize the ongoing significance of preventative measures.

As Kazakhstan strides forward with these groundbreaking laws while planting the seeds for a safer, wealthier, and fairer society, one can’t help but wonder: are we witnessing the birth of a new standard-bearer for women’s rights and child protection in the region?

The author is a graduate in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from LUISS University in Rome. Canuto focuses on international relations, geopolitics, international law, and economic development.

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