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New Legislation Strikes Hard Against Domestic Violence: A Turning Point in Protecting Victims

New Legislation Strikes Hard Against Domestic Violence:  A Turning Point in Protecting Victims
Фото: © Pixabay.com 24.05.2024 11:20 2775

In the past year, a case that captured the attention of the entire society has finally reached its conclusion. Kuandyk Bishimbaev, who was arrested on suspicion of murdering his wife, has been handed a verdict. The former minister is now sentenced to 24 years in prison.

Let's refrain from delving into the details of the tragedy and the trial proceedings, as these have been extensively covered by the media. While on the surface, it may appear as a tragedy involving two families, the impact of the Bishimbayev case on society, particularly in the context of the formation of a just Kazakhstan, is substantial.

A Fair Punishment for the Offender

Many anticipated that Bishimbaev would receive a life sentence. However, it is evident that public sentiment cannot dictate legal outcomes. A 24-year imprisonment is deemed a fair punishment. Considering Bishimbayev's age, this essentially equates to spending his entire life behind bars. Upon completion of his sentence, the ex-minister will be in his seventies. Furthermore, he is ineligible for parole until serving two-thirds of his term. Thus, regardless of perspective, his release will only occur in old age.

Furthermore, the prosecution succeeded in securing the most severe punishment by presenting compelling evidence. Under the the Criminal Code, it is established that in similar cases, specifically those involving the intentional killing of a spouse with extreme cruelty, the average sentence is around 15 years of imprisonment. For instance, individuals like Yermolov, who brutally assaulted his wife 52 times in the East Kazakhstan region, received a 15-year prison sentence. Similarly, Turdubakiev, who fatally stabbed his wife 31 times in Almaty, was sentenced to 16 years behind bars.

In the last decade, 2036 individuals were convicted and imprisoned for the heinous crime of brutal murder. Approximately 70 percent of these offenders received sentences ranging from 15 to 20 years behind bars, while 275 individuals were sentenced to more than 20 years. Only 42 individuals were sentenced to life imprisonment, typically reserved for cases involving multiple victims or gang-related murders.

It's important to highlight that such a stringent penalty is typically reserved for cases involving the intentional killing of two or more individuals or instances of gang murder. For instance, Vyacheslav Chelak, convicted in the Arkankergen incident, received a life sentence. Similarly, Ruslan Kulekbaev, a terrorist responsible for spreading disease in Almaty a few years back, was also sentenced to spend the remainder of his life in prison.

Taking into account the provisions of the Criminal Code, it is evident that the decision to sentence Bishimbaev to 24 years is both fitting and stringent. Furthermore, throughout the investigation, prosecutors unearthed additional evidence that exacerbated the circumstances, substantiating their findings during the court proceedings. Prior to this, it had been established that Bishimbaev subjected his wife, Saltanat, to physical violence, as well as psychological abuse, intensifying the gravity of his actions. Thanks to the diligent efforts of the investigative team, the former minister's culpability was underscored, resulting in a more severe punishment being meted out.

Toward an Open Political System

The transparent conduct of the court session, with live broadcasting from the courtroom and extensive media coverage, captured the attention of the entire nation. This transparency offers several advantages. Firstly, it provides undeniable evidence that the court session was fair, as the entire proceedings were broadcast live without any violation of laws or procedural rules. In the past, trust in the judicial system had been eroded in Kazakhstan. Rebuilding this trust is not a simple task, but initiatives like online broadcasting of court hearings, as seen in the Bishimbaev case, will gradually bolster confidence in the impartiality and fairness of judges.

Secondly, due to the live broadcast, the public gained insight into the workings of a courtroom, including the roles and responsibilities of the judge, prosecutor, and lawyers. This exposure allowed viewers to understand the dynamics of a real trial, including how to prepare for it and appropriate courtroom behavior. Furthermore, the broadcast expanded the public's knowledge base on various legal issues, effectively turning court hearings into educational tools for the populace.

Thirdly, the live broadcast of court sessions and the media's access to the courtroom demonstrate the successful implementation of initiatives proposed by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. The genuine competition among parties, the preparedness of participants for open disputes, respect for the judge and jurors, and the quality preparation for hearings all indicate the establishment of a foundation for legal culture in the country.

If you recall, in his address to the people, President Tokayev emphasized the importance of the rule of law and outlined plans to enhance the judicial system. Public court proceedings, along with live broadcasting of cases of public concern, contribute significantly to achieving this goal. As a result, tangible changes in the law enforcement system, aligned with the vision of establishing a "Just Kazakhstan," have begun to take shape under the leadership of the Head of State.

Fourthly, it's evident that the Bishimbaev case has reshaped the perception of the judicial system. Previously, there existed prejudiced opinions about judges, with many being unfamiliar with their names. However, Judge Aizhan Kulbaeva, who presided over the case, has now become a household name among Kazakhs. Judge Aizhan carried out her challenging responsibilities with dignity. Throughout the court session, the defense was given ample opportunity to present their arguments, with sharp questions shedding light on obscured matters. Under Judge Aizhan's guidance, the proceedings were conducted smoothly, allowing both parties to effectively present their cases before the jury.

It's worth highlighting the meticulous preparation undertaken by the prosecution for this high-profile court case. The public prosecutor demonstrated a high level of professionalism and responsibility throughout the proceedings. Prior to this, there existed a perception in society that prosecutors might seek to influence the judge and expedite case closures. However, Prosecutor Aizhan Aimaganova dispelled such notions through her actions. Her thorough understanding of the case materials, coupled with a steadfast belief in the righteousness of her work, left a lasting impression. Moreover, her emotionally charged comments resonated with many observers. Today, social media platforms are abuzz with praise for the prosecutor, with some even drawing comparisons between her and revered Kazakh heroines like Manshuk Mametova and Aliya Moldagulova.

The participation of jurors in reaching a verdict during the court session holds significant meaning. It signifies that the decision was not solely reliant on the judgment of the judge but also involved the input of a group of impartial individuals from the community. In essence, it underscores the democratic and participatory nature of the legal process.

Furthermore, the fact that the court proceedings were broadcast online implies that a wide spectrum of society, ranging from elderly individuals to young children, had access to information about the case. As a result, the judge's sentence should be viewed not only through the lens of legal principles but also in consideration of societal expectations regarding punishment. This reflects a growing awareness and involvement of the populace in matters of justice, ultimately contributing to greater transparency and accountability within the legal system.

No to Domestic Violence

The Bishimbaev case has brought into sharp focus a longstanding societal issue: domestic violence. While this problem was previously acknowledged, the tragic death of Saltanat has underscored the severity of the issue. Regrettably, there is a tendency among people to downplay domestic conflicts by attributing them to mere disagreements between partners. However, it's crucial to recognize that such conflicts cannot be dismissed as trivial, as they often involve psychological and physical abuse.

It's disheartening that many in society fail to acknowledge the gravity of domestic violence, choosing instead to overlook or minimize it. The reality is that violence within intimate relationships can have devastating consequences, as evidenced by Saltanat's tragic fate. This case serves as a stark reminder that the problem of domestic violence cannot be solved through psychological coercion or physical force.

It's imperative for society to confront the issue of domestic violence head-on and recognize that it is a serious crime with far-reaching implications. Only by acknowledging the problem and taking concrete steps to address it can we hope to create a safer and more just society for all individuals, free from the scourge of domestic violence.

The tragic events surrounding the Bishimbaev case have also brought to light another troubling issue: the neglect of proper child upbringing and the failure to instill essential human values in the younger generation. It's evident that many parents today have become preoccupied with their own concerns, often neglecting their responsibilities to nurture and guide their children.

In today's fast-paced world, where both parents often work outside the home, children may find themselves left alone after school with little to no supervision or guidance. This lack of parental involvement can have profound consequences, as it deprives children of the support and guidance they need to develop into responsible and compassionate individuals.

Furthermore, it's important to recognize that instilling human values in children goes beyond formal education. While schools play a crucial role in shaping young minds, the values children learn at home from their parents and caregivers are equally—if not more—important. These values, such as empathy, kindness, and respect for others, form the foundation of a healthy and harmonious society.

The Bishimbaev case serves as a sobering reminder of the importance of prioritizing the well-being and upbringing of our children. By investing time and effort into nurturing the next generation and instilling in them the values of empathy, compassion, and respect, we can help create a brighter and more compassionate future for all.

As Al-Farabi once said, "Education without upbringing is the enemy of mankind." It's worth noting that Kuandyk Bishimbayev, despite his education at George Washington University through the "Bolashak" program, embarked on a career path marked by corruption and violence. His trajectory serves as a stark reminder that education alone is insufficient in fostering moral integrity. Would a corrupt individual refrain from bribery or refrain from brutally assaulting his wife merely due to education?

It's crucial to emphasize the importance of addressing gender-based violence and empowering girls to stand up against abuse. Sadly, in many societies, including Kazakhstan, there are still deeply ingrained cultural norms that perpetuate the idea that women should endure suffering silently, even in the face of abuse.

Parents play a pivotal role in shaping their children's attitudes and behaviors towards gender equality and violence. By teaching both boys and girls to respect each other's rights and to reject violence in all its forms, parents can help break the cycle of abuse and promote a culture of mutual respect and equality.

President Tokayev's emphasis on instilling values in the younger generation, as highlighted during the National Congress, is particularly relevant in addressing issues of gender-based violence. By promoting values such as respect, empathy, and equality, the President is laying the groundwork for a society where every individual is treated with dignity and has the courage to speak out against injustice.

Furthermore, education and awareness-raising initiatives aimed at both young boys and girls can help challenge harmful stereotypes and empower individuals to recognize and address instances of abuse. By fostering a culture of openness and dialogue, we can create a safer and more supportive environment for victims of gender-based violence to come forward and seek help.

Ultimately, by working together to promote gender equality and empower young girls and boys to reject violence and stand up for their rights, we can build a more just and inclusive society for all.

 

Attention from the Head of State

President Tokayev has consistently prioritized the protection of women's and children's rights and ensuring their safety throughout his tenure. He has repeatedly addressed the issue of family violence, advocating for stricter penalties for perpetrators. In 2022, he stressed the need to punish those who undermine families, proposing an increase in penalties for such actions. Furthermore, in 2023, he instructed the reinforcement of penalties for all forms of violence against minors.

In a resolution published in December of the previous year, the President mandated the government to draft legislation to tighten criminal laws related to domestic violence. In a recent interview with "Egemen Kazakhstan" newspaper, President Tokayev reiterated his full support for tougher penalties for domestic violence.

The changes in the law include several provisions aimed at preventing violence, cruelty, or humiliation of human dignity. The articles for intentionally causing minor damage to health and physical assault were removed from the Administrative Offenses and included in the Criminal Code. Additionally, for intentionally causing serious harm to health, a prison term of three to eight years is imposed.

The researcher of gender economics and lawyer, Aigerim Kusayynovna, wants to capitalize on the momentum to forge a new law. According to her, the removal of the aforementioned provision from the Criminal Code in 2017 was one of the biggest mistakes.

"Several factors contribute to the reduction of family conflicts and domestic violence. A strict legal norm is a part of comprehensive measures to prevent and reduce these actions. In the past six years, maternal and child mortality rates have increased, and domestic violence has tripled," says A. Kusayynovna.

According to the new law, the article "Beating" is added to the Criminal Code. In this article, it is stated that a fine of 80 monthly calculation indicators is imposed on a person who inflicts bodily injury or uses other force that does not cause minor damage to health, or imprisoned for up to 25 days. Those who willfully cause minor damage to health will be imprisoned for up to fifty days.

There are special requirements for the behavior of a person who has committed a criminal offense. In addition to strengthening the punishment, if a court decision deems it necessary, they will be given the opportunity to receive psychological help in medical institutions. Additionally, it is prohibited to search for, harass, negotiate with the victim orally or by phone, and contact in other ways for a period of three months to one year.

 

Enhancing Family Protection

There are those who try to cover up the quarrels in the family by saying that "madness falls between husband and wife". Will the changes in the new law and the toughening of the punishment affect the institution of the family? When the draft law on domestic violence was discussed in the Majilis, the deputies sent this question to the initiative group.

 

According to Zhuldyz Suleymenova, a member of the Social and Cultural Development Committee of the Mazhilis, solving the problem of domestic offenses requires joint efforts of all levels of society. According to the opinion of the deputy, in addition to making changes to the legislation on the prevention of domestic violence, the attitude and moral position of citizens should also be corrected.

Also, the operation of family support centers is regulated within the framework of the law. These centers provide social, legal, and psychological support to people in difficult situations. The option of temporary residence for up to one month is considered for victims of domestic violence. The "111" contact center addresses issues related to family, women's, and children's rights protection. All of these initiatives aim to enhance the institution of the family, prevent conflicts within households, and offer support to victims.

An Earlier Oversight Addressed

The articles for intentionally causing minor damage to health and beatings were included in the category of administrative offenses. At that time, the General Prosecutor's Office claimed that the number of domestic violence cases had decreased because it had become difficult to prove such cases. However, a closer look at the statistics reveals a different story. When domestic violence was included in the Criminal Code, the number of people sentenced for beatings and causing minor harm to health decreased by 37 times.

The crux of the issue lies in the systemic challenges ingrained within the legal framework. Under the Criminal Code adopted in 2014, victims were required to substantiate claims of violence, meaning even with medical evidence of bodily harm, victims had to initiate legal proceedings. Igor Lepekha, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, highlighted that many victims of abuse refrained from reporting due to various factors.

Lawyer Aigerim Kusayynovna underscored bureaucratic hurdles as a significant impediment to accurate statistical representation. For instance, proving severe harm to a victim's health necessitated specialized examinations, deterring many women from pursuing legal recourse. These obstacles compounded with societal pressures and economic dependence on spouses often deterred victims from filing complaints.

Due to various reasons, the registration of domestic offenses was changed last year from being complaint-based to detection-based. This change aims to prevent abusers from evading accountability. According to Aigerim Kusayynovna, the new law no longer requires the aggrieved party to submit a written statement. If any third party - such as neighbors, relatives, or acquaintances - reports domestic violence to the local police, a criminal case will be initiated. Even if the woman objects, an investigation will proceed.

"Given that women are often financially and economically dependent on their husbands, they are less likely to report violence," says A. Kusayynovna. "Anyone who notices injuries on a woman's face should report it to the authorities."

 

Statistics Reveals a Troubling Reality

Despite a decline in reported crimes, indicators of domestic violence, particularly fatalities, remain alarmingly high. Over the past five years, nearly 900 individuals have lost their lives due to domestic violence in the country. Additionally, more than 2,000 cases of severe bodily harm have been documented. Despite legislative changes, data from the Legal Statistics and Special Accounting Committee of the General Prosecutor's Office reported 121 fatalities attributed to domestic violence last year alone.

For example, in 2019, 96,000 crimes were registered, and in 2022, this figure decreased to 61,000. However, while the number of reported crimes has decreased, can we confidently say that the rate of domestic violence has decreased? Unfortunately, the answer is no.

Specifically, the number of people killed due to domestic violence is not decreasing. Over the past five years, about 900 people died at the hands of abusers in the country. More than 2,000 criminal cases have been registered for intentionally causing serious damage to health.

Chingys Alekeshev, the official representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, stated that in the past, about 100,000 reports of violations were received every year, but in 70% of cases, the police could not take action due to the refusal of the victims to file a complaint. However, data indicates that this has changed since the shift to detection. Last year, 99,000 reports of domestic disputes were received. More than 79,000 offenders were brought to administrative responsibility, and about 1,000 citizens were brought to criminal responsibility. It is evident that the decrease in domestic violence against women until 2022 is due to the refusal of the victim to file a complaint.

Aigerim Kusayynnova explains the data from the Bureau of Statistics as follows: These cases are not a problem that can be solved by one article or one set of data alone. Intentional harm to health encompasses various degrees of severity, including torture, suicide, hooliganism, and assault, which are registered under different legal articles. Since these cases were transferred to the category of administrative law in 2017, the Legal Statistics Committee only maintains data on criminal offenses. According to the lawyer, the statistics have not actually decreased; rather, the methodology of categorization and registration of these cases by the Ministry of Internal Affairs has changed.

"The fact that a case is not registered in the Bureau of Statistics does not mean that it did not occur. This is because the actions of local police officers who withdraw complaints after one day, or demand their withdrawal, should not be overlooked. There are cases where women in crisis centers return home, but criminal cases are not initiated or reported. Domestic violence is now a public crime under the new law, making it difficult to conceal such crimes," says A. Kusayynova.

The expert's words resonate deeply. In some instances, we've heard from the media about cases where police officers rejected complainants' applications. Human rights activists frequently address this issue. Even when complaints are accepted, sometimes they result in nothing more than a warning under administrative offenses. Consequently, perpetrators in domestic violence cases often escape with lenient sentences. The current definition and inclusion of domestic violence in the Criminal Code should act as a deterrent to abusers.

A Call for Justice and Reform

The new legislation takes a firm stance against pedophilia, with stricter penalties now in place. Pedophiles will face life imprisonment under the law, as will those who commit the murder of minor children with a sexual motive. This reflects a broader tightening of penalties for all forms of violence against children.

Despite these legal changes, statistics indicate that instances of sexual violence against children have not decreased in recent years. For instance, in 2022, 719 children experienced such violence, compared to 920 in 2021. Currently, around two thousand pedophiles are serving prison sentences.

Concerns raised by human rights activists have prompted these legal adjustments. Instances where individuals were released only to reoffend underscore the necessity for such measures. The law ensures that those who sexually abuse children will face lifelong imprisonment without the possibility of amnesty or sentence reduction.

Furthermore, the legislation includes additional provisions aimed at reducing domestic violence and safeguarding children's rights and safety. Given the current societal focus on these issues, the timely adoption of this legislation is imperative.

The legislative amendments introduced signal a broader societal commitment to combating domestic violence and protecting vulnerable populations. By criminalizing domestic violence and enhancing penalties for perpetrators, lawmakers aim to deter abusive behavior and ensure accountability. However, the efficacy of these measures hinges on effective enforcement and a supportive societal framework that prioritizes victims' safety and well-being.

In conclusion, Saltanat Nukenova's case serves as a catalyst for meaningful change and underscores the imperative of addressing systemic issues perpetuating domestic violence. Creating a just Kazakhstan requires collective action to eradicate societal ills and foster a culture of respect and equality. While the judicial system has rendered a fair verdict in Saltanat's case, it is a somber reminder of the sacrifices endured to achieve justice.

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