Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal; however, as in previous years, the government failed to enforce the law effectively. Activists continued to note a growing number of rape cases, although this may have been due to increased reporting of attacks. NGOs claimed that rape cases continued to be dramatically underreported, and the prosecutor rarely brought these cases to court. No statistics relating to the number of cases or convictions during the year were available. NGOs estimated that approximately 90 percent of all rapes were committed by the victim’s partner or former partner.
The law specifically prohibits domestic violence and spousal abuse; however, violence against women remained a problem. Police sometimes regarded spousal rape as an administrative offense, which carries a fine of 1,000 soms ($20). According to a poll conducted in 2008-09 by the Association of Crisis Centers, 83 percent of respondents stated there was physical violence against women in the home. The UN Women’s Development Fund also stated that between 40 and 50 women and girls were hospitalized in the Bishkek city hospital every month because of domestic violence. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, police responded to almost 10,000 cases of family conflict annually, and nearly 15 percent of crimes committed during family conflicts resulted in death or serious injury. Many crimes against women went unreported due to psychological pressure, cultural traditions, and apathy among law enforcement officials. Furthermore, there were reports of spouses retaliating against women who reported abuse. Penalties for domestic violence ranged from fines to 15 years’ imprisonment, the latter if abuse resulted in death.
Eurasianet.org reported that on May 24, a military court acquitted GKNB officer Azamat Bekboev and his driver of raping and beating Bekboev’s wife at the time, Nazgul Akmatbek kyzy. The court accepted Bekboev’s assertion that the driver had been Akmatbek kyzy’s lover. During the trial and investigation, Akmatbek kyzy had to recount her story in public multiple times. Family and neighbors reportedly shunned Akmatbek kyzy for going public with her story, and some press articles criticized Akmatbek kyzy, saying that she “should have relaxed and enjoyed the experience.” Bekboev reportedly called her a prostitute during the hearings. Akmatbek kyzy, who claimed that her former husband had repeatedly raped and abused her during their 14-year marriage, appealed the ruling. The military appellate court ordered psychological evaluations for both the victim and the defendant, but at year’s end it had not considered the appeal.
Several local NGOs provided services for victims of domestic violence, including legal, medical, and psychological assistance, a crisis hotline, shelters, and prevention programs. Organizations assisting battered women also lobbied to streamline the legal process for obtaining protection orders. The government provided offices for the Sezim Shelter for victims of domestic abuse and paid its bills. According to the shelter, its hotline received 2,019 telephone calls during 2011. Women made 90 percent of calls, 507 of which involved domestic violence. The shelter provided services to 256 individuals, including 122 children. It reported that 104 women and 105 children were victims of domestic violence.
Harmful Traditional Practices: Although prohibited by law, the traditional practice of kidnapping women and girls for forced marriage continued. Recent independent studies estimated that 50 to 75 percent of all marriages in the country involved bride kidnapping, amounting to an estimated 12,000 cases per year. According to the Center for Assisting Women, there were approximately 11,800 cases of bride kidnapping in 2012, accounting for 35 percent of all marriages in the country. While some cases were consensual, reports estimated that up to two-thirds of bride kidnappings were nonconsensual. Cultural traditions discouraged victims from going to the authorities. Reportedly, some victims went to the local police and obtained protective orders, but the orders were often poorly enforced.
On June 8, 35-year-old Shaimbek Imanakunov allegedly kidnapped and sexually assaulted a 19-year-old student at the State University of Karakol. Fearing her kidnapper, the woman told her parents the next day that she had agreed to the marriage. The following day she took her own life. On October 1, a court in Aksuu (Issyk Kyl Oblast) sentenced Imanakulov to six years in prison for “incitement to suicide,” “rape,” and “forcing to marry,” but not for the crime of bride kidnapping. Imanakulov, who had been married twice before, filed an appeal. While this was one of the few bride-kidnapping cases in which a defendant received a prison sentence, NGO observers noted that the defendant was not convicted of bride kidnapping and likely would not have been sentenced to prison if the victim had not committed suicide.
Sexual Harassment: According to an expert at the local NGO Shans, sexual harassment was widespread, especially in private sector workplaces and among university students, but was rarely reported or prosecuted. The law prohibits physical sexual assault but not verbal sexual harassment. Penalties for sexual assault range from three to eight years’ imprisonment.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. National health regulations require that family planning counseling and services be readily available through a range of health professionals including not only obstetricians and gynecologists but also family doctors, paramedics, and nurse-midwives. At the level of primary health care, regulations require that women who request contraceptives can receive them regardless of ability to pay. The country’s Essential Drug List (a list of drugs and other medical items that all government medical clinics should have in supply and available to patients) also includes different types of contraceptives. National health protocols required that women be offered postpartum care and counseling on methods and services related to family planning. The government offered special programs to meet the needs of vulnerable target groups, such as adolescents, internally displaced persons, new urban migrants, persons in prostitution, and the very poor.
According to statistics provided by the Population Reference Bureau, access to contraception and maternal health care was widely available, and skilled personnel attended to virtually all births in urban areas and 96 percent of births in rural areas.
Discrimination: A 2008 law provided for equal rights for men and women. Women have the same rights as men, including under family law, property law, and in the judicial system, but because of poor enforcement of the law, discrimination against women persisted in practice. According to an expert from the NGO Women’s Educational Coalition for Equal Rights, Development, and Peace the government did not protect the property rights of women from Muslim families, and those women were subject to discrimination when applying for jobs or entering educational institutions. The National Council on the Issues of Family, Women, and Gender Development, which reports to the president, is responsible for women’s issues.
Average wages for women were substantially less than for men. Women made up the majority of pensioners, a group particularly vulnerable to deteriorating economic conditions. In rural areas, traditional attitudes toward women limited them to the roles of wife and mother and curtailed educational opportunities. Data from NGOs working on women’s issues indicated that women were less healthy, more abused, less able to work outside the home, and less able than men to determine independently the disposition of their earnings. According to the UN Development Fund for Women and domestic NGOs, women did not face discrimination in access to credit or owning businesses.
The annual government-sponsored media campaign to combat violence against women took place during the year. According to NGOs, the campaign helped to coordinate the efforts of groups combating violence against women and give them a greater voice.