Kyrgyzstan doesn’t have separate laws protecting the victims of violence in case of self-defence. According to experts, women are brought to trial and almost always found guilty.
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20 per cent of women in Kyrgyzstan were found guilty in 2014 of homicide or involuntary manslaughter of a male family member and other 12 per cent were found guilty of murdering a person who was not a male family member. According to experts, these figures remained almost the same in the last five years.
Asel (not her real name) was sleeping at home, and when she woke up the found that her relative was lying on her trying to undress her. After a few attempts to get away from the rapist, the woman felt a kitchen knife with her hand.
She stabbed him with the knife a few times, and then the man fell down and a few minutes later he died from blood loss. The woman called the police and police officers arrested her.
According to the forensic examination, there were injuries on the woman’s body. But the court of first instance and the public prosecutor’s office didn’t take into account these two facts. Her actions were qualified as a homicide and they decided she had had some purpose and intention to kill a man.
The arguments specified by lawyers that a sleeping person may not have any intention and it was self-defence did influence the judges. The initial charge was changed to “homicide with excessive self-defence” and carried punishment up to 5 years in prison.
However, Asel’s lawyers fear that the prosecutor would lodge an appeal to ensure even tougher verdict. It’s very difficult to prove the fact of self-defence in Kyrgyzstan. The fact that the victim called the police and the ambulance herself would work in her favour, but it doesn’t mean she wouldn’t be convicted.
“They are almost always found guilty”
In 2014, Penal Reform International (PRI) held a research “Female prisoners – who are they?” It covered two republics – Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. According to the analysis, “both countries have high rates of guilty verdicts for homicide or involuntary manslaughter.”
In Kazakhstan, 12 per cent of women were found guilty of homicide or involuntary manslaughter of a male family member and 9 per cent for homicide or involuntary manslaughter of other person. In Kyrgyzstan such figures are higher – 20 and 12 per cent, respectively.
According to the PRI’s regional director in Central Asia, Azamat Shambilov, despite a small sample of 27 women, it’s highly probable that at least half of women in Kyrgyzstan who committed homicide of a male family member had previously suffered violence from their partner or a spouse.
“During the survey, women told us they had to commit homicide because they feared for the lives of other family members – old parents or children. Almost all the respondents confessed that they had long suffered violence, bullying and abuse from their partners. They should not be deemed as murderers, but as victims. However, the real picture is that women are brought to trial and are almost always found guilty,” Shambilov said.
Didn’t die, but went to jail
On September 6, 2018, a 40-year-old woman with an infant jumped from the window on the 4th floor at Osh. Right after she was discharged from the hospital, she was sent to pre-trial detention facility of Dzhalal Abad region by court decision.
During questioning, the woman confessed she made this desperate attempt after her spouse kicked her and her child out of the house.
On October 10, she was charged with an attempted homicide of a child. The latter was sent to an orphan home, and the woman was sentenced to 12 years in prison with forfeiture of property.
According to the Osh-based human rights activist, Mukhayo Abduraupova, the court didn’t take into account the fact that the woman’s body was almost all cut, and the victim was in despair. No relevant examinations were performed. A forensic doctor “didn’t see” the cuts on the woman’s arms and legs.
According to Abduraupova, Kyrgyzstan has very soft laws regarding abusers – they can be quit for a fine, or in case of a counter statement, criminal charges may be dropped:
According to the friends of the victim, she appealed to police a few times regarding abuses, but her husband was released every time. He reportedly paid fines and was again released, and beat his wife even harder for her reporting to the police.
This situation continued for many years.
What about neighbours?
In 2017, Kazakhstan, after Russia, decriminalised domestic violence. It worsened the situation of women in the republic – domestic violence increased sharply, according to human rights activist and representative of the movement against sexual violence “#НеМолчиKZ” (Don’t be silent KZ), Yohanna Akbergenova.
“Decriminalisation of domestic violence has made women vulnerable not only to husbands and abusing lovers, but to the law because domestic violence is no longer a crime. Woman’s routine pattern of life has been destroyed, and the victims of violence have to escape, often with children, to crisis centres or shelters and live there for years,” Akbergenova said.
According to her, there is only unofficial information in Kazakhstan about the number of women convicted for self-defence. Only state officials can provide this information because it is not published on the websites of prosecutor’s office or police.
“According to this unofficial statistics, there’s a prison for habitual female criminals near Shymkent in Kazakhstan. About 80 per cent of inmates were convicted first time for homicide of husband or partner. It means that homicides were committed when the victim was defending herself from abuse. This is a very big number. Most often, these women are given long terms in jail,” human rights activist said.
According to experts, the situation is somehow similar in all Central Asia. The entire region does not have individual laws protecting the victims of domestic or sexual violence who self-defended against their partners or husbands.
The new version of the Criminal Code of Kyrgyzstan, according to lawyers of Advocacy Centre for Human Rights, has a clause on excessive self-defence. However, there are no clear criteria to differentiate between self-defence and intended bodily harm.
“As far as we know, there is no separate law on self-defence in Kyrgyzstan. So, the victims cannot prove the fact of self-defence.
We’ve had many such cases, but only once we’ve managed to prove the fact of violence. It was four years ago. A man attempted to rape a minor girl. When the woman saw it, she attacked her mate and killed him. We managed to reduce her jail term – the woman had to face 15 years in prison, but she was sentenced to 4 years only and was released on parole,” lawyer Zalina Abdulkhakova said.
Since January 2019, the criminal legislation of Kyrgyzstan has seemingly changed towards humanisation, but this is not so, according to lawyers.
“We want to implement a project, where we will clearly demonstrate how unfair the justice is towards female victims who turned out to be in trouble with the law after many years of abuse. In fact, our legislation doesn’t even take into account the pregnancy of a woman who goes to jail,” Abdulkhakova said.
Main photo: RFE/RL. Exhibition “Do not keep silent and do not be afraid”
This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project implemented with the financial support of the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial or donor.