Gulzhan Pasanova could spend 10 years in prison because in defending herself from her abusive husband, he died. On October 22, the Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan will consider her case on appeal.
In November 2019, Pasanova’s husband, accusing her of having an affair, threatened her with a knife. Gulzhan hit her husband with a metal pole in self defense. She called for help for her husband, but he died at the hospital.
It wasn’t the first time Pasanova’s husband attacked her. A forensic medical examination she underwent in 2019 showed evidence of previous physical abuse.
Following his death in November, police arrested Pasanova, and placed her in pre-trial detention. In March, the Osh City Court found her guilty of inflicting grievous bodily harm resulting in death and sentenced her to 9 years.
Her lawyer, Muhayo Abduraupova, called the sentence “cruel” and told Human Rights Watch that under Kyrgyz law, the extenuating circumstances meant a judge could have issued Pasanova a shorter sentence or even acquitted her.
In June, an appeals court reduced Pasanova’s sentence as part of a general prisoner amnesty, but her in-laws appealed, requesting Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Court to impose the maximum 10-year sentence.
The American Bar Association Center for Human Rights, which monitored the hearings, found that Kyrgyzstan’s prosecution of Pasanova entailed serious violations of international human rights standards.
Despite positive steps and improved legislation, Kyrgyz authorities do not routinely enforce measures to keep domestic violence victims safe, such as protection orders that limit contact between an abuser and his victim. The years of abuse Pasanova suffered at the hands of her husband show how difficult it can be for some women in Kyrgyzstan to overcome barriers to reporting abuse, including stigma, social pressure, and dismissiveness by authorities. When women do report instances of domestic violence, their abusers are rarely punished.
Authorities need to take more action to protect women and hold perpetrators accountable to prevent grave violence at home, but when prevention fails a victim of domestic violence should be assured that evidence of self-defence will be given proper weight in any determination of guilt and sentencing.