However, human rights activists think this is not enough and liability for domestic violence should be toughened as well. It all usually starts with physical aggression, which can one day turn into sexual abuse.
Follow us on Facebook
Sanat (not his real name) is 14 years old. Two years ago, the guardianship authorities transferred him to a childless family for foster care. Since then, the boy started a new life. He found a good family, a brother and a sister.
“My foster parents are moderately strict and treat me very good, it was the first time I felt father care and mother affection,” he shared.
The child was abused since early childhood. After his father’s death, his mother decided to deal with her grief by means of alcohol. When she was drunk, she used to beat Sanat. The child got used to such beatings and got no other place to go. He didn’t have close relatives, while neighbours avoided the drinking woman who kept pestering them to buy her vodka and food.
“Every day I saw her drinking vodka. I felt pity for Sanar as he was a good boy. He always had bruises. Once, his mother broke his leg as she hit him with a stool. We, neighbours, called the ambulance and the police. They took her with the child, then they got back and lived normally for some time,” the former neighbour of Sanat, Baktybek, said.
When the boy was 11, his mother brought a man to their house. At first, they had good relations. He took even more care of him than his mother. The mother didn’t booze every day, found shift work. Their life seemed to get better. He had clothes, footwear, food. The difficulties started later on.
One evening, the stepfather and mother got back from their friends. Mother had to work in the night shift and she left home. Sanat went to sleep.
His stepfather used to drink, but Sanat had never seen him so aggressive. After repeated beatings, the boy lost consciousness. When he came round, the stepfather was not inside. Since then, the Sanat’s life turned into hell.
Zhannur, the foster mother of Sanat, said the stepfather used to beat the boy for bad marks, misbehaviour, for undone household chores. At some point, the neighbours couldn’t bear it anymore and applied to the local police precinct.
“The parents were deprived of parental rights and we took the boy. No one told us anything and we performed full medical check-up of the boy. Doctors said the boy survived sexual abuse. However, everyone keeps silent about it,” Zhannur said.
It happened in Almaty region of Kazakhstan. According to the prosecutor’s office of the region, 296 episodes of child abuse were registered there in 2019, including 96 episodes of sexual abuse. In most cases, abusers are family members.
Physical abuse as a method of upbringing
In Kazakhstan, 1,742 facts of offences against minors were registered in 9 months of 2019, according to the legal statistics committee of the Prosecutor-General’s Office of the Republic of Kazakhstan. 313 children suffered sexual abuse, 120 children suffered indecent assault (article 124, Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan).
According to the study of the National Human Rights Centre in partnership with the UNICEF, 67 per cent of adults use violence in order to make children more disciplined at home.
In particular, 65 per cent of adults used psychological violence and 39 per cent used physical violence in order to make children more disciplined. Moreover, 37 per cent of adults used both psychological and physical violence for the sake of better upbringing.
According to experts, many parents don’t think a slap or a punch is violence. And children take beating for granted.
Kazakhstan has hotlines that can be reached both by children and adults. The lines are free of charge and anonymous. About 9 thousand calls were made to the independent helpline for children, “150”.
“We always tell parents they need to listen to and hear their children. The number of calls is increasing every year. It’s good because it shows that more people learn about this helpline. It’s bad because children have problems,” Dana Anischenko, executive director of Soyuz Krizisnykh Centrov [Crisis Centre Alliance], said.
According to the children’s ombudsman of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Aruzhan Sain, the case of violence against a minor girl in Mangistau region is pending now. After two attempted suicides of the child, her mother called the helpline.
“I contacted the regional office for education, sent my requests to the police department, prosecutor’s office. The case was transferred for investigation to the regional Police Department for a number of reasons. We are waiting for the results. I’m staying in touch with the heads of the said regions,” Sain said.
Aggression promotes aggression
This year, the president of Kazakhstan Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev signed amendments to statutes regarding the activities of organisations that are responsible for protection of children’s rights. Now teachers and guardians found guilty of sexual abuse of children will face stricter punishment.
However, human rights activists think this measure is not enough. According to the founder of NeMolchiKZ movement, Dina Tansari, her fund took part in the investigation of 25 minor rape cases in the last three years. In all these cases, the victims of abuse faced the same thing: children had to have face-to-face questioning with the suspects and repeated questionings during the investigation.
“In most cases, investigators are men, which is an additional stress for a girl who survived violence. 15 children of 25, we worked with, attempted suicides during investigation. Two girls died, one became a physically challenged person,” Tansari quoted the gloomy statistics.
Now the country’s parliament considers the draft law on toughening liability for some kinds of offences, including sexual abuse. According to these amendments, a person charged with paedophilia can get up to 20 years in prison. Now the maximum term for this offence is 17 years, but, in most cases, courts give 10-12 years in prison based on attenuating circumstances.
However, Dina Tansari feels confident that toughened liability for paedophilia cannot mend the situation alone:
On October 24, according to the investigative authorities, a British father beat his 18-month-old daughter to death in Almaty.
One month before, a drunk man in Nur-Sultan shot his wife to death and wounded his five-year-old son.
Similar news with least deplorable consequences appears in the criminal news on a regular basis. However, cases that don’t involve death or grievous bodily harm end up with conciliation.
However, according to Dina Tansari, physical aggression can once turn into sexual abuse. Therefore, the activist suggests toughening liability for domestic violence while the amendments to the criminal law are being discussed. In addition to toughened liability, she suggests to provide such families with crisis centres and psychologists.
This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project.