Kazakhstan’s landmark law criminalizing domestic violence: what’s next

Photo credit: Kazinform
Photo credit: Kazinform

On April 15, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev signed a landmark law that criminalizes domestic violence, introduces administrative liability for bullying and cyberbullying of minors, and creates an infrastructure needed to support families, among other important provisions. Kazinform News Agency digs dipper to find out what stands behind the law, what are the key provisions, and what stands next.

The law envisions norms that tighten penalties for any form of violence against women and children. A 2018 study conducted by the United Nations Women in Kazakhstan revealed significant levels of domestic violence: 17% of women aged 18-75 who had ever been in a partnership reported experiencing physical or sexual violence from a partner, and 21% reported psychological abuse.

The increasing number of cases involving violence against women and children also presents a grim reality. The necessity for changes in the legislation to better protect the rights of women and children has been raised by people from various spheres. The public has expected these law amendments for years.

The law was presented in the General Prosecutor's Office and in the Mazhilis, a lower chamber of the Kazakh parliament, in September last year. After that, the amendments were discussed on various platforms with representatives from over 100 non-governmental organizations and activists, as well as in working groups of the Parliament.

According to the Ombudswoman for Children’s Rights in Kazakhstan Dinara Zakiyeva, statistics indicate that six criminal offenses against children are committed per day, and over 340 individuals are subjected to violence.

“In 2023 alone, 69 women and seven children in Kazakhstan died as a result of family and domestic violence; there were more than 99,000 reports of family and domestic violence, and 2,452 crimes against children were committed. Behind each number is the life of a woman or child,” Zakiyeva told Kazinform.

Kaisar Sultanbaev, chairman of the Administrative Police Committee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, out of all crimes committed against minors in 2023, one-third of these crimes involve violations of minors’ rights to sexual inviolability.

He noted that a large part of the crimes against minors are registered within the family.

“65% of the crimes were committed in private houses where police entry is restricted. Every third crime is committed by close individuals who have not been previously noticed by the police. These are fathers, stepfathers, cohabitants, neighbors, relatives, or acquaintances," said Sultanbaev at a roundtable in the Senate in March.

The key task is implementation.

“We will now begin implementing the law's provisions in cooperation with the authorized bodies. With the state agencies, over the next two months, we will be approving the concepts of rules and regulatory legal acts for the approved law. Following that, we will work with the akimats [city administrations] on implementing provisions related to the opening of family support centers, psychological support centers, and creating mobile groups,” she said.

She said the implementation will be constantly monitored.

What is the law about?

Now, with the new law, intentional infliction of minor injury envisions a fine of up to 200 monthly calculation indexes, correctional labor in the same amount, community service for up to 200 hours; or arrest for up to 50 days.

Inflicting beatings or committing other violent actions that cause physical pain but do not result in minor injury is punishable by a fine of up to 80 monthly calculation indexes, correctional labor in the same amount, community service for up to 80 hours, or arrest for up to 25 days.

The law excludes the option of reconciliation of parties in case of violence against minors.

Individuals convicted of the murder of a minor or sexual abuse of a minor are to face life imprisonment under the new legislation.

Bringing a person to suicide or attempted suicide by threats, cruelty, or systematic humiliation of the victim's dignity, or inducing or aiding suicide shall be punished by restriction of liberty for a term of up to three years or by deprivation of liberty for the same term. The same action against minors entails deprivation of liberty from 5 to 9 years.

This is a victory for every woman and child

Dinara Zakiyeva is one of the people significantly contributing to the development of the law.

“This is a victory for every child and woman. (...) Each amendment can be named after a child and a woman who died as a result of violence. Childhood should be happy and safe. And this law is a big step towards the realization of this goal,” she wrote in a Facebook post.

Director of the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies under the President of Kazakhstan, Yerkin Tukumov, emphasized the important role of new amendments in changing people’s mentality.

“I believe that this is not just an ordinary law, it is one of the laws that will change our society as a whole for the long term. Such laws could not have been adopted in conditions where neither society nor the authorities were ready for it. We see a lot of other examples in different countries where patriarchal norms persist. We have only now public opinion has matured and there is a movement on the part of the authorities to hear and adopt important laws for the country," Tukumov told Kazinform.

Addressing the public at an event discussing the criminalization of domestic violence, Sukhrob Khojimatov, UNDP Deputy Representative in Kazakhstan, said “It is important that criminalization policies simultaneously include a wide range of measures related to alternative approaches, to work on early detection and to prevention of gender-based violence.”

“Although the police play a major role, we need to develop coordination and interaction both within the protection sector itself (police, prosecutors, courts) and between all actors (police, crisis centers, health and social protection organizations, legal services),” he added.

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