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Curbing Domestic Violence in Kyrgyzstan: Are Victims Protected?

The reform of the judicial system, including new codes generation, was aimed primarily at the humanization of legislation and the decriminalization of certain types of crimes. Domestic violence, in the framework of the legislation change, was on the contrary criminalized. It was included in the Code of Misconduct, which is part of the criminal law. But the de facto prosecution of perpetrators has become more difficult.


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Brief overview of the article:

  • The Law on the Defense and Protection from Domestic Violence, although contains progressive standards, is not fully implemented;
  • Changes in the criminal law have complicated the prosecution of perpetrators of domestic violence;
  • The inability to isolate the aggressor puts victims in an even more vulnerable position;
  • The penalties for domestic violence have changed many times, but despite the proven ineffectiveness of fines, they are almost the only punishment;
  • The fines for committing domestic violence are excessively high, and alternative forms of punishment (correctional and community service) are difficult to apply in practice due to the lack of mechanisms;
  • Huge fines make victims withdraw their applications, only 14% of cases are brought to court;
  • Domestic violence can lead to much serious consequences, including the inability to isolate victims from the aggressor;
  • The Law on Defense and Protection from Domestic Violence and the new criminal law require monitoring and a detailed analysis of law enforcement and judicial practice in order to assess the impact on the domestic violence issue.

In a couple of weeks of 2020, several women in Kyrgyzstan were seriously affected by domestic violence; two women died as a result of beatings. The number of victims is growing. Media daily posts on the victims of the problem. The current situation causes heated debate in society. The issue is under consideration of the Government and the Jogorku Kenesh. It becomes clear that despite the adoption of the law “On defense and protection from domestic violence” and heavier penalties, the problem is not solved. Experts sound the alarm: the punishment prescribed by law does not achieve its goal, and in some cases even exacerbates the situation. The mechanisms that were supposed to provide victims of domestic violence with protection cannot do the provision.

Statistics: Numbers Talk

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, announced at a press conference on January 17, 2020, there were 6,145 cases of domestic violence registered in 2019, and the same number of protection orders issued. Another department representative at the same press conference clarified that there was a total of 8,159 misconducts recorded in 2019 in the country under article 75 “Domestic violence”. Of these, 554 were sent to court, 7045 were terminated, 560 are in proceedings[1].

About 14% of cases in 2019 reached the court, the rest were terminated due to the drop of charges by victims. However, 75% of the victims received protection orders.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic, there is an annual increase in the number of protection orders issued on the facts of domestic violence. There were 6,145 protection orders issued in 2019, among them 5752 orders were issued for abused women, 393 – for abused men, and 168 – for the protection of minors[2].

An increase in the number of issued orders does not indicate a worsening situation. On the contrary, this is primarily due to the better problem response, since the number of issued orders was included in the assessment criteria for police officers. Besides, the law obliges police officers to issue orders for each case recorded.

Although more and more cases of domestic violence have been recorded in recent years, not all victims turn to the police. This is recognized by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. A study conducted by the National Statistical Committee in Bishkek demonstrates[3] that only 20% of victims of all crimes file an application to the police. Besides, for domestic violence, these indicators might even be lower. For example, representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs claimed that women who died in early 2020 had not previously contacted the police[4], although relatives, in an interview with the media, argued that the victims were systematically subjected to violence.

It is worth noting the creation of “Gender Policy” sector [5] on the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs dedicated to the implementation of legislation to protect against domestic violence. On this page, you can get acquainted with detailed statistics on cases of domestic violence for 2019. However, despite stated availability of statistics from January to October, actual information is posted only for May 2019.

New Legislation. Protection of the Victims De Jure And De Facto

The adoption of the new Law on the Defense and Protection from Domestic Violence in 2017 inspired hope for an improvement in the situation, as it contained progressive innovations. For the first time, the law defined the necessity and the obligations of the corrective programs aimed at changing behavior of perpetrator.

In addition, the internal affairs bodies must respond to reports of domestic violence filed from any person and prevent and combat family violence through protective orders. This is a document designed to provide state protection to the victim and means of force defined by the law to the person who committed the violence[6]. This document is issued for 3 days and prohibits any contact of the perpetrator with the injured party. At the request of the injured party, the order can be extended up to 30 days, and for violation of its terms the perpetrator faces a serious fine and the mandatory passage of the correction program. If previously an order was issued only by a court decision or at the request of the victim, now the police are obliged to issue it upon detection of facts of violence, regardless of the victim’s will. But control over the execution of protective order’s terms is practically not conducted. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in 2019, there were only 18 recorded cases of non-fulfillment of a protection order. Correctional programs are applied only occasionally, to a greater extent by non-governmental organizations that implement projects.

Another guarantee of the new law is the right of victims to apply to the court with one or more requirements for a person who has committed domestic violence. For example, temporarily evict the aggressor from a place of joint residence or restrict parental rights regarding contacts with minor children. However, data on the law enforcement practice of these norms of the law are not yet available.

One of the types of suppression of domestic violence that can be carried out by internal affairs bodies is the immediate placement of a person, whose life and health is in danger, in a safe place or shelter. There are difficulties with the implementation of this norm. There is not a single state center for assistance to victims of domestic violence in Kyrgyzstan. In the future, support might be given for crisis centers and shelters within the framework of the state social procurement program but on condition that the necessary funds are put into the budget annually. According to experts, the full implementation of the law requires about 25 million soms per year[7].

The country has about 15 crisis centers of public organizations, fully or partially dependent on funding from international organizations. They are mainly located in cities of regional significance. But not all of them have appropriate conditions for temporary stay.

The impact of judicial reform

The reform of the judicial system, including new codes generation, was aimed primarily at the humanization of legislation and the decriminalization of certain types of crimes. Domestic violence, in the framework of the legislation change, was on the contrary criminalized. It was included in the Code of Misconduct, which is part of the criminal law. But the de facto prosecution of perpetrators has become more difficult.

The Code of Misconduct provides for high fines for committing domestic violence – from 60 to 80 thousand soms (from 860 to 1145 US dollars), as well as community service and correctional labor. However, the fines no longer scare the violators. The victims themselves drop the charges after learning about the amount to be paid. Families often maintain a joint budget, thus victims also have to participate in the payment of the fine, while such amounts are unbearable.  

It is problematic to involve a violator in correctional work with disbursement from wages. According to statistics, about 73% of people[8] who committed domestic violence do not officially work anywhere. The mechanism for engaging in community service has not yet been developed and applied formally in practice.

75% of domestic violence cases happen with an alcohol abuse.

Statistics also demonstrate[9] that almost 75% of domestic violence cases are committed while intoxicated. Typically, this condition is accompanied by uncontrolled aggression. Under old legislation, police officers could apply arrests for a period of 1 to 5 days in order to temporarily isolate the culprit from other family members. During this time, the culprit managed to realize his act, calm down and had alcohol detoxification. According to police officers, such a measure served both as a punishment and as a preventive measure[10]. New legal conditions do not provide for this type of punishment; the offender might stay in the police station for only a few hours. Both experts and law enforcement officials note that the victims are even more vulnerable when the intruder returns home, especially if he is intoxicated.

Cases of domestic violence are categorized under various articles of the Code of Misconduct, depending on what actions it involves. The data are reflected in the statistics of law enforcement agencies as “misconduct due to domestic violence”.

In some cases, this type of misconduct is recorded under section 119, Petty Hooliganism. This practice was used earlier, since until 2004 all offenses in the family domain fell under the scope of a similar article in the Code of Administrative Responsibility. However, currently, of the entire list of articles applicable to domestic violence, only article 119 provides for the restriction of freedom as one of the types of punishment – the perpetrator can be sentenced to a fine or a term from 6 months to 1 year without isolation from society but under the supervision of a probation officer.

Domestic violence can lead to more serious consequences, which are already listed under the articles of the Criminal Code such as murder, causing grievous and less serious harm to health, torture. In 2019, as a result of domestic violence, 4 murders occurred, 295 facts of causing grievous bodily harm due to negligence, 59 facts of causing less grievous bodily harm, 50 facts of torture.

The refusal to arrest on domestic violence cases raises questions since the inefficiency of fines and the need for temporary isolation of offenders from victims have already been proven in practice before.

 The “evolution” of punishment in law

As noted earlier, until 2004, offenses in the family domain fell within the scope of Article 364 “Petty Hooliganism” of the Code of Administrative Responsibility of the Kyrgyz Republic (hereinafter – the CoAR KR)[11]. This article provided for sanctions in the form of a fine of 3 to 5 notional or arrest for up to 15 days.

After the adoption of the Law on Social and Legal Protection against Domestic Violence[12], domestic violence was recognized as a separate offense. A mechanism has emerged for the issuance of protective orders of two types – temporary, issued by the internal affairs bodies for a period of up to 15 days and a judicial one – for a period of 1 to 6 months. The concept of “domestic violence” was introduced in CoAR[13], for which only an administrative fine of 5 to 10 notional was provided. For non-compliance of the terms of the temporary protective order, the perpetrator would face a fine of 5 to 10 notional or arrest for up to 10 days; in the case of non-compliance of the judicial security order – a fine of 10 to 20 notional or arrest for a period of 10 to 15 days.

In 2012, the types of sentences were reviewed at the initiative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (hereinafter the MIA). In addition to the fine for domestic violence, it stipulated an administrative arrest of up to 5 days[14].

In a justification note[15], the ministry clarified that fines are not effective enough as main sanctions. An analysis by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of judicial practice materials for 2009 showed that in all court decisions under article 66-3 there was a minimum possible penalty imposed, whereas at the time of the analysis, almost half of them were not paid for. Since most perpetrators of domestic violence do not have a permanent job, the victims themselves have to pay fines from the family budget. Besides, employees of the internal affairs bodies were forced to engage in the process of collecting fines together with the bailiffs, which created an additional burden to the detriment of their basic duties.

Another reason for the arrest was the need for temporary isolation of perpetrators of domestic violence from other family members. In order to prevent the commission of more serious crimes, including murder and harm to the health of victims, administrative arrest was the most acceptable form of punishment.

However, after the adoption of the Law on the Defense and Protection from Domestic Violence in 2017, the types of punishments in the CoAR [16] has been modified again. Despite previous experience and data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs on ineffectiveness of fines, their amount doubled, and arrest for committing violence was replaced with community service, although the detention of the abuser as a way to curb domestic violence remains in the law. (Article 24, Part 1, Clause 2).

With the introduction of the Code of Misconduct in 2019, one of three types of punishments can be applied to a person who has committed domestic violence – a fine in the amount of 600 to 800 notional, correctional labor from 4 to 6 months with a deduction from the salary of 10 to 20 percent or community service from 40 to 60 hours. Now, neither the act of domestic violence nor the failure to comply with the terms of the temporary protection order stipulate arrest.

Now, neither the act of domestic violence nor the failure to comply with the terms of the temporary protection order stipulate arrest.

It is worth noting that the Law on the Defense and Protection from Domestic Violence has not yet been brought into line with the new criminal law. The Ministry of Internal Affairs applied to the Jogorku Kenesh with the initiative only in October 2019[17], 10 months after the new codes entered into force. Now the bill is under consideration in the Jogorku Kenesh.

Both the Law on Defense and Protection from Domestic Violence and the new criminal law certainly require monitoring and a detailed analysis of law enforcement and judicial practice in order to draw conclusions regarding their impact on the domestic violence issue. However, it is already clear that victims are not adequately protected from domestic violence.

  • One of the most important needs of victims at the time they face violence, i.e. the temporary isolation of the person representing the danger from them, is not provided. On the one hand, the law no longer allows the arrest to temporarily isolate the offender from the rest of the family, and on the other, the state is not ready to massively provide safe places for the temporary stay of victims themselves. As a result, victims who turned to law enforcement for help do not receive the necessary assistance and lose confidence in the system. Accordingly, the state can act as following: either return the practice of temporary arrest for perpetrators of domestic violence or start financing crisis centers and shelters for victims at the earliest opportunity.
  • Since the assessment system for police officers is still based on quantitative indicators, and not on the quality of the services provided, protection orders are issued in thousands, but the actual control over their implementation is poor. The main indicator in the fight against domestic violence should not be the number of protective orders issued, but their mandatory execution, as well as the results of the corrective programs taken to change violent behavior of perpetrators.
  • Practice has shown that fines for domestic violence are ineffective. The Ministry of Internal Affairs raised this issue in 2012, when the size of fines for committing domestic violence was several times lower. In the current legal environment, the availability of an alternative in the form of community service can be an effective way to combat domestic violence unless it is accompanied by actions harmful to the health of the victims. For this, the body that provides the work and controls its implementation needs to develop on issues related to the types of work the guilty person can perform.
  • It is common that victims drop their charges. Only 14% of cases go to court. Mostly withdrawals are associated with huge fines, but this may not be the only reason. It is necessary to analyze all cases related to domestic violence; to study the reasons, to record how many times the same victim has contacted the police, why the victims drop the filed applications. This will help in building the right strategy to prevent domestic violence and avoid serious consequences.

This material has been prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project project. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial board or donor.


[1] Combating Domestic Violence Is A Priority for The Internal Affairs Bodies – Ulan Rysbekov // KIA Kabar URL: http://kabar.kg/news/bor-ba-s-semeinym-nasiliem-iavliaetsia-prioritetnoi-dlia-organov -vd-ulan-rysbekov / (publication date: 1.17.2020)

[2] How many cases of domestic violence were recorded in 2019? The Ministry of Internal Affairs answers // IA AKIpress URL: https://kg.akipress.org/news:1590986?from=kgnews&place=newstopic (publication date: 01.17.2020)

[3] Data from the victimological survey conducted by the National Statistical Committee of the Kyrgyz Republic in Bishkek and pilot new buildings

[4] More than 5 thousand facts of domestic violence registered in Kyrgyzstan in 2019 // 24.kg news agency URL: https://24.kg/obschestvo/139983_bolshe_5tyisyach_faktov_nasiliya_vseme_zaregistrirovano_vkyirgyizstane_v2019_godu/ (publication date: 9.01.20)

[5] https://mvd.gov.kg/gendernaya-politika.html

[6] Government Decree of October 3, 2017 No. 642 “On approval of the form of a protection order”

[7] Combating domestic violence. Expensive // ​​IA 24.kg URL: https://24.kg/obschestvo/39340_boremsya_s_semeynyim_nasiliem_dorogo/ (publication date: 11.03.2016)

[8] Women and men of the Kyrgyz Republic: 2013-2017. B .: 2018 – 150 p., ISBN 978-9967-28-558-3

[9] Women and men of the Kyrgyz Republic: 2013-2017. B .: 2018 – 150 p., ISBN 978-9967-28-558-3

[10] The results of assessment of the implementation of certain norms of the Law of the Kyrgyz Republic “On the Prevention of Crimes in the Kyrgyz Republic” and the Law of the Kyrgyz Republic “On Defense and Protection from Domestic Violence”: 2019, Bishkek

[11] expired on January 1, 2019 in accordance with the Code of the Kyrgyz Republic dated April 13, 2017 N 58

[12] Repealed in accordance with the Law of the Kyrgyz Republic of April 27, 2017 No. 63

[13] As amended by the Law of the Kyrgyz Republic of July 26, 2004 No. 98

[14] As amended by the Law of the Kyrgyz Republic dated July 25, 2012 No. 136

[15]  Decree of the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic dated January 21, 2012 No. 46 “On the draft Law of the Kyrgyz Republic“ On Amending and Adding to the Code of the Kyrgyz Republic on Administrative Responsibility ”

[16] As amended by the Law of the Kyrgyz Republic dated April 27, 2017 No. 64

[17] http://www.kenesh.kg/en/draftlaw/557168/show

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