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HRW Calls On Kazakhstan To Take 'Urgent Steps' To Help Domestic Violence Victims

HRW concluded that Kazakh women receive "insufficient protection and have little recourse for justice" when it comes to domestic violence. (file photo)
HRW concluded that Kazakh women receive "insufficient protection and have little recourse for justice" when it comes to domestic violence. (file photo)

Human Rights Watch has called on the Kazakh government to take "urgent steps" to address legal gaps that leave female victims of domestic violence vulnerable and without support.

The rights group said in a brief report on October 17 that women in the Central Asian nation receive "insufficient protection and have little recourse for justice."

"Kazakhstan should have made much greater strides in protecting women from violence, but instead women continue to suffer," Viktoriya Kim, assistant Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

"The government has renewed its commitments to provide help, but at the same time is sending women, and abusers, the message that abuse inside the home isn't to be taken seriously," she added.

In 2009, the country attempted to address the issue when it adopted a domestic violence law that provides for short-term protection orders aimed at stopping contact between a survivor and their abuser for up to 30 days and ensuring access to shelters and other services for victims.

Critics, though, noted that the move fell short as it does not specifically criminalize domestic violence.

Kazakhstan's president, Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev, said in his first state address following his June election victory earlier this year the government "urgently needs to tighten the penalties for sexual violence…and domestic violence against women."

During a series of interviews with domestic violence survivors, activists, legal authorities and social workers, HRW said it found that Kazakh authorities are neither "adequately preventing violence nor holding abusers accountable."

It says that police fail to routinely inform women about services available to them and how to protect themselves with regard to domestic violence.

"Women said that police often encourage them to drop their complaints and reconcile with their abusers," the report said.

"Women in Kazakhstan have the right to a life without violence, abuse, and harassment," Kim said. "Kazakh authorities should ensure their safety and take urgent steps to fulfill its international obligations on domestic violence."

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