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How Kazakhstan is Enhancing Protections for Women and Children

Azamat Yeskarayev
May 7, 2024

The protection of human rights remains a cornerstone of Kazakhstan’s national agenda, reflecting values shared widely across the globe, including in the UK. Kazakhstan is making significant strides in enhancing the safeguards around the rights of vulnerable groups, particularly women and children. On April 15, Kazakhstan’s President, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, signed legislation aimed at tackling domestic violence and strengthening the legal, economic, and social frameworks that protect women and children. These efforts echo the UK’s own legislative measures, such as the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, highlighting a shared commitment to eradicating violence and providing a safer environment for these at-risk populations.

The new laws in our country increase penalties for any form of violence against minors and enhance the country’s criminal laws against domestic violence. Three key strategies form the backbone of these new measures. First, there are preventive actions to stop violence before it starts, such as new rules for domestic violence prevention and support for young victims of abuse and bullying. Second, the laws boost social support and protection for those in tough situations, ensuring they have the help they need. Lastly, the laws toughen both criminal and administrative penalties for violence against minors.

Part of the prevention strategy includes setting up a system to quickly identify individuals and families who might be at risk, regulating activities at a contact centre dedicated to protecting family and children’s rights, and certifying organisations that offer special social services or run children’s summer camps.

Kazakhstan is also enhancing support for individuals in difficult life situations, particularly victims of violence. Like the UK, the country has introduced policies allowing employees engaged with organisations that support domestic violence victims up to 30 days of unpaid leave. Local authorities have been authorised to offer comprehensive assistance and establish family support centres that coordinate assistance programs and provide psychological first aid in educational institutions.

In addition, Kazakhstan is toughening its criminal and administrative penalties for serious offences, including inducing suicide, causing harm, torture, rape, kidnapping, and illegal confinement of minors. Previously, crimes like rape and violent sexual offenses against minors could lead to up to twenty years or life imprisonment. Now, such crimes will result in life imprisonment, with a lifelong ban on certain jobs, intensifying protection for children against sexual predators.

Furthermore, actions formerly regarded as minor under the Administrative Code, such as beating or causing minor harm, are now classified as criminal offenses. The Criminal Code has expanded to include charges for sexual molestation of minors and promoting suicide, with added provisions for indecent acts involving minors under sixteen. These measures have been introduced in response to high-profile incidents that have stirred significant public concern in our country. Notably, prosecuting indecent acts against children in public places has been difficult due to legal classification challenges. To address this, laws have been revised to ensure accountability for such acts.

Additionally, administrative measures against bullying have been strengthened. The Code of Administrative Offences now includes provisions that establish liability for both bullying and cyberbullying of minors, as well as for the forced removal of individuals under sixteen from public transport when they are not accompanied by parents or legal guardians. This reflects similar legislative actions in the UK, such as the provisions under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, which target anti-social behaviour and harassment.

Additionally, administrative measures against bullying have been strengthened. Quote

The structure of penalties for bullying in Kazakhstan is designed to escalate with the severity and frequency of the offences, akin to the UK’s tiered approach to dealing with minor to severe antisocial behaviours. A first-time offence may result in a warning or a fine, calculated on a basis known as monthly calculation indices, which serves a similar function to penalty units used in some UK legal contexts. For repeated offences within a year, the penalties intensify.

The implementation of these laws is expected to have a profound impact on reducing violence, enhancing women’s rights, and safeguarding children. We appreciate that the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States have recognised Kazakhstan’s efforts, commending the country’s progress in protecting human rights and applauding its actions against domestic violence.

The Kazakh government in partnership with civil society will now ensure that these laws are effectively applied and enforced. As both nations are committed to advancing human rights protections, there is considerable potential for Kazakhstan and the UK to exchange best practices in legislation and policy implementation. Such cooperation could enhance efforts in both countries to combat domestic violence and support vulnerable populations effectively. By sharing insights and strategies, Kazakhstan and the UK can further their mutual goals of fostering safe, inclusive communities where the rights and dignity of every individual are respected and protected.

Minister of Justice 1

Azamat Yeskarayev is the Minister of Justice of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

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