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 rape cases to court. No statistics on 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. Police generally regarded spousal rape as an administrative offense, which carries a fine of 1,000 soms ($20).
While the law specifically prohibits domestic violence and spousal abuse, violence against women remained a problem. In 2012 the UN Women’s Development Fund estimated 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. Penalties for sexual assault range from three to eight years’ imprisonment.
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 915 telephone calls during the first six months of the year. Women made 90 percent of the calls, 27 of which involved domestic violence. The shelter provided services to 145 individuals, including 68 children. It reported that 72 women and 66 children were victims of domestic violence.
Harmful Traditional Practices: Although prohibited by law, the newly “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. On June 14, Freedom House reported that there were 5,000 nonconsensual bride kidnappings every year in the country and that 2,000 of them involved rape. Cultural traditions discouraged victims from going to the authorities.
Some victims of bride kidnapping reportedly went to the local police and obtained protective orders, but the orders were often poorly enforced. In December 2012, the government strengthened the penalty for bride kidnapping to a maximum of 10 years in prison. Despite the tougher law, NGOs reported that there has been no increase in the reporting or prosecution of the crime.
Sexual Harassment: According to 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.
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 receive them regardless of ability to pay. UN Population Fund figures for 2010 indicated that 30.3 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 used various forms of contraception.
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. However, in many remote villages, reproductive health services were nonexistent. Where services did exist, the rugged terrain, inadequate roads, or lack of transport made it nearly impossible for people to reach them.
Discrimination: The law provides 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. The National Council on the Issues of Family, Women, and Gender Development, which reported 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 in December. According to NGOs, the campaign helped to coordinate the efforts of groups combating violence against women and give them a greater voice.