Kazakhstan’s New Legislation Takes Stand for Women’s and Children’s Safety

ASTANA – Anna Ryl, the head of Korgau crisis center, discussed the role of human rights organizations and the societal actions necessary for the effectiveness of the new law on women’s and children’s rights in an interview with The Astana Times.

Anna Ryl, the head of the Korgau crisis center. Photo credit: Ry’s personal archieve.

A month ago, Kazakhstan enacted legislation on women’s rights and children’s safety, which criminalizes domestic violence, imposes stricter penalties for violence against children, and introduces preventive measures against domestic violence. The law aims to enhance legal, economic, social, institutional, and organizational foundations for state policy on women’s and children’s safety, representing the government’s commitment to upholding human rights and protecting vulnerable groups.

“The level of violence in society is alarmingly high, prompting a call for action to mitigate its effects,” said Ryl. “The first aspect addressed by the law is the implementation of stricter punishment. However, prevention measures are equally crucial, an area that is often neglected. Prevention entails the challenging task of reshaping societal consciousness.”

Ryl also emphasized the significance of engaging with aggressors, recognizing them as part of society prone to violence. 

“Without proactive intervention, individuals may remain unaware of the underlying causes of their behavior and the potential for change,” she explained. “Early engagement, even before criminal activity occurs, offers an opportunity to redirect aggressive tendencies towards constructive pursuits, ultimately improving their quality of life.”

In discussions regarding legal measures to address domestic violence, Ryl underscored the necessity of eviction orders to protect victims.

 “Another critical aspect of the law is the temporary eviction of the aggressor from the household for 30 days. This is particularly vital for women unable to leave due to concerns for their safety and that of their children, as well as fear of retaliation from the aggressor or his relatives. Allowing time for the victim to gather essential belongings and documents before leaving is imperative,” she said. 

Ryl pointed out that the current amendments to the law prescribe penalties such as fines, correctional or community service, or a maximum of 15 days’ arrest for cases of intentional minor harm. However, she contends that this duration is insufficient.

“Fifteen days is not enough. For example, a 25-day arrest would significantly disrupt an individual’s routine. Thus, if someone were to face a 25 to 50-day arrest, it could potentially serve as a lifelong lesson,” said Ryl.

Ryl emphasized the critical role of crisis centers in assisting women enduring prolonged domestic violence.

Out of 49 crisis centers in Kazakhstan, 14 are located in district centers and 32 in cities, offering specialized social services to victims. However, a November 2023 report from the Prosecutor General’s Office highlighted significant coverage gaps, with 85% of the country’s districts lacking such facilities. Victims who seek assistance from crisis centers receive comprehensive support, including medical, psychological, and legal aid, as well as assistance with document restoration, benefit applications, vocational guidance, and job placement.

Expressing a need for increased support for crisis centers, Ryl welcomed the establishment of family support centers, especially in rural areas where access to services may be limited.
In her opinion, human rights organizations also play a pivotal role in safeguarding women’s and children’s rights by initiating public discourse on issues of domestic violence, thereby drawing attention to the problem. 

The expert observed a positive trend of increased advocacy from organizations pushing for legislative reforms and engaging youth in addressing societal challenges.

Ryl expressed hope for a more civilized approach to conflict resolution, emphasizing the importance of legal channels in reducing incidences of violence.

She highlighted the significance of effective implementation of legislative changes, stressing the need for economic support for prevention measures, specialist training, and a restructuring of police procedures.

“This is not only about imposing strict punishment, it also involves improving the quality of services provided during the handling of administrative and criminal cases to ensure comprehensive coverage,” she said. 

“It is crucial not only to have sound legislation but also to enforce it effectively so that aggressors understand they will face consequences regardless of the circumstances. Highlighting and fostering global intolerance or society’s rejection of violence is essential. When society reacts decisively to instances of violence, immediately documenting and reporting them, it enhances the chances of victims surviving,” added Ryl.

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