New law, but old habits: victims of domestic violence in Kazakhstan are still afraid to file complaint

Photo credit: Viktor Fedyunin/ Kazinform

Every month, nearly 800 people in the city of Karaganda, who were victims of domestic violence, call the police. The new law, which was adopted last week and entails provisions that tighten penalties for crimes against women and children, also involves new procedures by police officers and judges. Kazinform News Agency reports on how law enforcement officers in Karaganda, one of the country’s largest cities, handle the increasing number of cases and how the new law applies to offenders.

Before the adoption of this law, law enforcement agencies were already transitioning from complaint-based to proactive registration of domestic violence offenses. Now law enforcement officers can initiate cases against offenders without a victim filing a report.

“This has simplified our tasks in terms of bringing offenders to administrative responsibility. According to the nature of calls, our police officers and district inspectors can, at their discretion, draw up administrative protocols and issue a protective order without the need for a complainant's statement. In most cases, complainants are afraid to file a report on their spouses or cohabitants. In 80% of cases, the victim is afraid to make such a statement, fearing further consequences,” says Daniyar Bekeshov, head of the Karaganda city’s police department.

However, simplifying procedures for claims registration has entailed another problem. The load on district officers has increased. For example, one district officer in Karaganda makes rounds of 20-25 houses per day, and in a month, the officers can draw up about 50 protocols against offenders. Thus, more than 2,000 calls are handled by district police officers monthly in the city.

Often, victims of domestic violence themselves refuse to file a complaint against the offender. Some are afraid, while others do not believe in fair and timely punishment.

However, police officers believe that arrest is the most effective method in such cases. There are cases when, after reconciliation, an offender becomes more aggressive.

“After being held accountable for their actions, offenders do everything to avoid it. They ask for forgiveness and push the victims toward reconciliation. In court, reconciliation often occurs. I would like the opinion of police officers to be taken into account in court as well because, in most cases, judges disregard the opinion of police officers. However, in reality, the precinct inspector knows better about the situation in that particular family,” says Daniyar Bekeshov.

In general, positive changes in the frequency of violence cases are noted by police officers.

“We, police officers, see that with the signing of the law, many offenders have become afraid of punishment. After all, they are mostly brave only within the walls of their apartments, but in reality, they are afraid of punishment. No one wants to be imprisoned, pay fines, or be called to community service. That is why they think about it before raising their hands on their spouse or children next time,” said police officers.

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