Overview: A Coordinated Response Needed, including Law Enforcement
Over the past three decades, the response to domestic violence has dramatically evolved in countries around the world in terms of laws, policies, and programs. Now domestic violence interventions involve police, prosecutors, judges, parole officers, health care providers, social service providers, employers, the media, the clergy, traditional leaders, child protection services, schools, hotlines, shelters, advocacy organizations, and others. Interventions encompass criminal justice responses, civil remedies, victims services, and a wide range of prevention efforts, such as batterer treatment and various forms of community interventions. Yet empirical evidence of effectiveness of the various responses is uneven and sometimes contradictory, particularly in terms of preventing abuse or recidivism. In all countries, including Kyrgyzstan, greater efforts must be made to conduct research and evaluation on domestic violence interventions.
From what is known to date, interventions that involve a fully coordinated community response rooted in a strong law enforcement response are most promising. These typically use the full extent of the communitys legal and social systems to protect and empower victims, hold batterers accountable, and reinforce the communitys intolerance of domestic violence.
While the criminal justice system does not hold all the answers in terms of responding to domestic violence, it is a critical part of efforts to stop the abuse and hold offenders accountable. As the front line of the criminal justice system, police play a particularly important role in receiving and responding to domestic violence reports, making arrests, conducting investigations, referring cases for prosecution, and referring victims to services and protection measures.
But in Kyrgyzstan the police are failing in this role, and the government overall is failing to address the probem. In 2003 Kyrgyzstan adopted a progressive law to address the problem of domestic violence, a significant step toward preventing further violence and providing women with options to obtain safety and justice for violations of their rights. Unfortunately, law enforcement and government officials have failed to integrate this promising law into the everyday fulfillment of their duties.
As discussed below, officials remain unsympathetic to the problems of victims of domestic violence. The issue is of low priority for police and other government officials. Police do not view domestic violence as a law enforcement issue, and often blame women for the violence against them. Police do not effect orders of protection, one of the main innovations of the 2003 law, they discourage women from seeking investigations into domestic violence, and take other measures to ensure that perpetrators of domestic violence are not prosecuted. In the rare cases that are investigated, the lightest penalties are applied. Police and other local officials pressure women to reconcile with their abusers. As a result, women who are abused by their husbands are left with nowhere to turn for help to stop the violence, and no access to justice. They are expected to endure physical and sexual assault and other forms of abuse and the lasting injury and psychological trauma that result from it.
Women also encounter significant barriers to leaving violent marriages, including physical isolation, fear of retaliation, poverty, and social pressure not to divorce. Abused women who pursue divorce must observe waiting periods that put them at further risk of violence. They face difficulties asserting their rights to property, alimony, and custody of children.
Absence of empirical data on scope of domestic violence in Kyrgyzstan
As of this writing, there are no official government statistics regarding the scope of domestic violence in Kyrgyzstan. Experts who work with victims of domestic violence agree, however, that domestic violence is pervasive in Kyrgyzstan and that it affects women in every social stratum and in all regions of the country. After considerable pressure and grassroots lobbying from local womens rights groups and criticism from authoritative international bodies, the government in 2002 recognized the need to gather and use statistics on specific forms of violence against women, including domestic violence, and a government plan was made to begin to collect and analyze such data: according to officials, the government committed to gathering statistics in a unified format from NGOs and government and law enforcement agencies.53 Unfortunately, as of May 2006 this data was not yet available. Taalaygul Isakunova of the Presidential Council on Women, Family, and Gender Development told Human Rights Watch, We do not have statistics on these issues; the government has not followed these things with such attention. We have some statistics on crimes, but not on the numbers of victims. Statistics track the criminals but not their victims; those statistics we have even on this are old.54
When Human Rights Watch asked several police officials for current statistics on reports regarding domestic violence, which law enforcement agencies are required to compile in accordance with the 2003 Law on Social-Legal Protection from Domestic Violence (the domestic violence law), we were told such figures were unavailable.55 An international expert on police reform offered a blunt explanation for this: Complaints on domestic violence? Police dont keep this statistic officially because it makes them look bad.56
Local experts who have closely tracked the problem for years say that domestic violence in Kyrgyzstan is on the rise. Isakunova said, As an expert on these issues, I can say that the situation of violence against women is getting worse,57 and NGO activists, including one medical professional, shared the view that the prevalence of domestic violence in the country is increasing.58
Attitudes about domestic violence described or expressed directly to Human Rights Watch indicated that some people interpret as normal, or blamed the victims for, behavior that in other contexts might be described as assault, battery, or worse. NGO activists and some government officials stated that government and law enforcement authorities generally believe that domestic violence is a private matter rather than a law enforcement matter. 59 Some government and law enforcement officials blame women for violence done to them by their husbands. Others say that women provoke men to violence by failing to fulfill mens expectations and displaying excessive independence. In response to a question from Human Rights Watch about steps the Kyrgyz government could take to stop domestic violence, one official offered: Women should be more obedient and pay more attention to men and then domestic violence would decrease.60
These attitudes reinforce the dehumanization of women and the cycle of social acceptance of domestic violence. Girls in Kyrgyzstan are raised to accept domestic violence as normal and acceptable, and to put up with violence against them. Many witness violence against their own mothers at home. When they confront violence by their husbands as adults, women are told by relatives, community members, and government and law enforcement authorities that they should tolerate domestic violence.
One woman interviewed by Human Rights Watch talked about the response she had from her mother when she went to her for help with domestic violence by her husband. Keres K. said, When I told my mother that he beat me, she told me that this is normal, everyone is beaten. My mother said, What, you dont think that your father beat me? Because of that I thought I had to just live with it. She said, Put up with it. She said, What if you leave and come home, what will our neighbors and relatives say?61 Reflecting on the effect that these messages had on her life and experience of further abuse at the hands of her husband, Keres K. said, I put up with it and took it all on myself and for what? Now my health is ruined.62
Domestic violence and womens rights a low priority for the government
There is near-universal acknowledgment that the Kyrgyz government ranks womens rights a low priority. The attention of the government has centered on national security, fighting organized crime and corruption, and constitutional reform during President Bakievs first 18 months in power.
Taalaygul Isakunova from the Presidential Council on Women, Family, and Gender Development said bluntly, Big politics take priority with the government now. Gender is not a priority. We have a declarative commitment, but not in action.63 She noted, however, that this was not unique to the Bakiev government, but a continuation of the policy of the previous government and years of neglect of womens rights issues. She said the Presidential Council, for instance, has been impaired by the systematic ignoring of womens issues and development. The budget [for womens programs] comes to about $10,000, for seminars etc. That is not much.64
When asked about how the government prioritizes domestic violence specifically, one senior government official said, Society is not up to it yet. Not up for [discussing] violence against women. It is not a priority. To stop violence against women: We arent up to this.65 President Bakievs human rights advisor said that more action needs to be taken to raise awareness about domestic violence and stop the pattern of abuse. He said, We need to teach our children to respect each other, to not use violence, to treat each other humanely so we dont leave children fatherless . We need to use the mass media and roundtables and conferences and give authoritative people access to broadcast media.66
Views on Factors Contributing to Domestic Violence
There are a wide variety of views about the causes of domestic violence by husbands against their wives. However, the most commonly held views in Kyrgyzstan regarding the root causes of domestic violence have ramifications for the solutions that are developed by victims, activists, and government and law enforcement officials. Kyrgyz officials and members of civil society told Human Rights Watch that they felt the root causes are alcoholism, poverty, and the subordinate status of women in Kyrgyz households and society.
A number of experts on gender issues and activists who deliver direct services to women victims of violence see husbands violence against their wives as rooted in the subordination of women, and mens compulsion to assert dominance at home. Womens rights activist Bubusara Ryskulova stated, Domestic violence is about control. Its partly culturalmen think women need to stay in their place.67 A government human rights official said, In traditional Kyrgyz families, men were always dominating women, so men expect women to be tolerant. The head of the family is always considered right.68 One of the officials colleagues agreed, citing a proverb reinforcing male supremacy: The head of the family is the man. There is this principle: Men have more rights in the family. Right is the person who has more rights.69
Shoira S., a young woman who witnessed abuse in her aunt and uncles home, told Human Rights Watch, I live with my aunt. She is 33 years old . She and her husband fight . If she doesnt listen, he will just beat her. This is widespread. The husband feels he has the right to beat his wife.70 She added, There is this mentality here. Women must listen to husbands. Women must be subservient.71 A government official echoed this assessment, saying, When a woman starts to be independent, then that is the point at which men resort to violence. Men here often dont accept women having their own point of view.72
The vast majority of NGO leaders and government officials in Kyrgyzstan interviewed by Human Rights Watch cited alcoholism and financial difficulties as causes of mens violence toward their wives. As a result, many approaches to stopping domestic violence focus on helping men to overcome alcohol addiction or attain financial stability. There is a danger that those who emphasize these theories may fail to take into account other factors that contribute to domestic violence.
An official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs asserted, Economic reasons are a very important cause of domestic violence. We can do something about domestic violence by fighting poverty.73 An official from the Ombudsmans office, charged with monitoring and advocating for citizens human rights, also cited increasing employment of men as the key to addressing domestic abuse. He said, We need to give men more work, a higher salary, and then there wont be any violence because they will have everything they dream of. All the woman cares about is that the children are dressed and go to school. If men earn the salary then everything is OK. In this way we can decrease instances of domestic violence, but not eliminate them.74 His colleagues concurred, with one laying the blame on women in the workforce: If women have more money [than their husbands], then there are conflicts.75 Another said, The government needs to give social support. If a family has all it needs, it could reduce domestic violence in the family.76
Women victims of domestic abuse by their husbands also point to alcoholism and economic concerns as being among the principal triggers of violence in the home. Mother-of-four Aida A., who had suffered multiple head traumas from beatings by her husband, said, He beats me whenever he drinks and he drinks all the time.77 Farida F. said, Every time he would get drunk he would go around and look for me to beat me up. He would beat me just for nothing. He would just approach me and hit me, without saying a word.78 Lydia L. recalled, My husband would drink about two times per week and then would always beat me. He would get work for two or three days and then earn some money and then get drunk. He would come home so angry and then pound me.79 Elmira E. said, I had a son and after that my husband started to beat me. He drank almost every day and beat me when he was drunk . I remember one time that I accused him of not working and then he beat me. There were constant conflicts over money.80
The Experience of Domestic Violence
Beatings and psychological abuse
Human Rights Watch interviewed 25 women who experienced physical domestic violence. They described how their husbands and other family members often punched, kicked, or beat them with household objects. They also reported having suffered years of relentless psychological abuse by their husbands, resulting in emotional distress, fear, and often a loss of self-esteem. Many of these women said their husbands swore at them, shouted at them, and insulted them on a regular basis.
Farida F. told Human Rights Watch, You have no idea what he did to me. He wouldnt hit me with an object in his hands. He was such a strong man that he would hit me just with his bare hands. And he never paid any mind to the degree of physical force he applied during the beatings. He never cared when he would beat me up real bad either. He would just beat me with all his fury and strength.81 Tursunai T. said her husband beat her every day for 15 years: He beat me with his fists and kicked me with his boots on. I had bruises all the time 82 Elmira E. recalled, He would use dishes to beat [me and the kids]. He would use whatever ended up in his hands.83 Keres K., a mother of two children, said of her husband, He threatens us with knives . We are all afraid. He beat me with his fists and kicked me; Ive had a number of concussions. When I cover my head to protect myself, my hands are covered with bruises.84
Some women are beaten by their husbands so often and for so many years that they begin to view this kind of violence as normal. Mirgul M., who continued to live with her husband at the time she spoke to Human Rights Watch, said, He hits me with his fists or with anything at hand; with a teapot, cups anything One time I had a head wound and head trauma but I took care of it myself. I didnt go to the hospital. I put creams on the wound . A lot of times I had black eyes, but I dont think of that as anything.85
Some women described feeling intense fear while living with their abusive spouses. Keres K., for example, described the anxiety she felt trying to anticipate her husbands behavior, After I leave work, I think, Will he be drunk or sober? What waits for me?86 Another woman said this anxiety was what finally led her to flee a violent home, My husband beat me and I finally decided to leave when I realized that I feared him. I started fearing the moment when he would come home because he would start beating me.87 Mirgul M. echoed these feelings, saying, I used to put up with it, but now I cant stand it anymore . [W]hen he comes home drunk, I shake. I cant get a hold of myself.88
Several women described being beaten when they were pregnant. Gulzat G., age 20, said, One day [my husband] came home and I was standing on a table painting a wall in the house. He said, When are you going to get out of my life? And I didnt answer and he hit me on the legs and pushed me. I fell off the table and fell to the ground. I started bleeding and I was very afraid that something had happened to my baby.89 Farida F., who was repeatedly beaten by her husband, said, When my husband found out that I was pregnant, he changed his behavior a little bit. He became sort of quieter for some time. After a bit of a break he beat me up again when I was three months pregnant. After that he resumed his regular beatings of me.90 Farida F. also said her husband beat her after she gave birth, by cesarean section: Once, two months after I left the hospital, he beat me up so bad that my nose started constantly bleeding. All my linen, my entire bed, was covered with blood.
Dimira D. said that her husband came close to killing her and one of her children during one of his particularly violent bouts. She said, At that time I was working at the market. My husband came and grabbed me and my child and took us home. He put a cord around my neck and threatened to strangle me. He dragged me into the house and poured gas on me and threatened to set the house on fire with me in it. My neighbors saw this and stopped him from going through with it.91 Dimira D. also described some of the psychological abuse she was subjected to by her husband and his family. My mother-in-law and husband always insult me. He always says that I am having affairs or Im a prostitute, without any basis . One time, before I was ill, my son and I sold kefir. We would go to the city and purchase it and then sell it. My husband beat me and accused me of having syphilis.92
A womens rights activist in Jalal Abad recalled the story of a woman whose husband arranged for her to be gang raped. Zhanna Saralaeva said that the man had beaten and psychologically abused his wife for about 20 years. She said, She told him to stop calling her a prostitute. He went out and bribed three men with alcohol and they went to his home and the three men raped the wife in front of the family.93 Saralaeva saw the woman following this incident. She was covered in bruises and wounds, she said.94
Isolation and restricted movement
Abusive husbands restrict their wives movements in order to isolate and control them, which also prevents women from being able to escape an abusive home.95 Several womens rights activists say it is common for abusive husbands to prevent women even from leaving the house,96 a scenario corroborated by one young woman interviewed by Human Rights Watch who had been kidnapped for forced marriage and then raped and beaten by her husband for more than a year. She told us that her husband, and his relatives who lived in the same household, kept her locked up and never let me out of the house.97 One activist said that some women are locked up for years.98
Abusive husbands also attempt to control women by monitoring their movements. Dinara D. told Human Rights Watch, He locks up my clothes . He controls me . He always follows me.99 In other cases, abusers will cut off the telephone or lock women out of the room where it is located in order to limit their contact with others.100
Deprivation of food
Abusive husbands also control women by controlling their access to basic necessities, including food. Deprivation of food was a common complaint of the women we interviewed. Several said that their husbands closely monitored the amount they and their children ate. Keres K., the mother of two children, said, My husband accuses my son of eating too much; he doesnt even let him eat. Were all afraid to eat too much in front of him.101 Another woman said of her husband, Hes angry that the girls live there and eat his food.102
The husbands relatives, in particular his mother, often also control a wifes access to food. Gulzat G. described how her mother-in-law deprived her and her baby of food: She didnt give me much food to eat. She would lock up the bread so I could only eat the portion that she allotted to me. She would refer to me and my daughter and say, They eat too much and dont bring any money to the family. My baby was always crying because she was hungry. My breast milk dried up because I wasnt eating enough food. She described her emotional despair over not being able to provide for her baby, I even had this awful feeling one day when I came home and I just even thought I would want to kill my daughter because I saw how much she suffered because I could not feed her.103
Physical abuse leading to serious injury
Abusive husbands cause their wives serious and, in some cases, lasting injury. Women reported that they suffered cuts, stab wounds, broken bones, difficulties during pregnancy and childbirth, loss of hearing, and other injuries as a result of physical assault by their husbands. The majority of women interviewed by Human Rights Watch had experienced multiple concussions as a result of blows to the head. Some women attempted to treat even these serious injuries themselves, but others sought professional medical treatment and were hospitalized.
Nurzat N. told us that she continued to suffer the after-effects of an incident during which her husband beat her on the head and body with a metal pipe, causing her a concussion and other injuries.104 Other women also talked about the lasting damage done to them when their husbands beat them on the head. Asel A. said, My second husband used to beat me on the head and my head would spin. My head still aches.105 Dimira D., who was married in 1991 and beaten throughout her marriage, said, He beat me with a rock. He refused to let me go to the hospital, I had to go to a neighbor to get treatment. After being hit with the rock, I have problems with my hearing. Now he teases me that Im deaf.106 Batia Tolobaeva, a doctor in Bishkek, commented on the frequency of head injuries among women victims of domestic violence: Contusions and concussions are most common, they can even leave a woman disabled, and most live with headaches for the rest of their lives.107 A doctor in the south reported seeing women patients with similar problems.108
Dr. Tolobaeva said, Every day I see women victims of domestic violence. Out of seven women who come to the hospital on a given night, there are at least three women whove been beaten by their husbands. She added that some women are hospitalized multiple times: There are some women who come to us so often that the hospital is practically their home.109
Cholpon Ch., who was beaten for years by her husband, recalled a particularly brutal incident that led to her being hospitalized: [H]e came in one time and was drunk. He asked me, Why are you sitting doing nothing? I just sat silent and tried not to fight with him. He hit me in the head with a brick. I lost consciousness. I was at home for three days in bed. When I wasnt getting any better I went to the [name of city withheld] hospital and for 12 days I was in the hospital there. Three times hes beaten me so badly that I lost consciousness. The most recent time was this year, on April 20 . He punched me in the face and I fell down. Then he kicked me in the mouth and in the back of the head. I spent 10 days in the [city] hospital.110
Elmira E., who said her husband beat her frequently over a period of six years, described some of the injuries she sustained: I was in intensive care for 10 days. My husband stabbed me with a knife in my back. In another instance, before that, he kicked me in the head and I had a concussion. I still have after-effects from this . I ended up in the hospital two times, once for the stabbing in the shoulder and once for a concussion when he kicked me in the head. Now every year, once a year, I go to the hospital for treatment for the head trauma I suffered.111
Physical abuse causing death
In some cases, domestic violence can result directly in the wifes death.
Uliana Aitbaeva, an activist from the northeastern town of Tiup (Issyk-Kul province), has followed closely incidents of women being killed by their husbands, ever since her own daughter was murdered. Aitbaevas daughter, Iskra Aldoiarova, was shot dead by her husband, Nurbek Estebesov, in July 2002. Age 25 at her death, Iskra had been beaten by her husband, a police officer, repeatedly during the years prior to the murder. After a prolonged legal battle, the husband was eventually convicted and imprisoned.112 Aitbaeva also recounted that in 2003 a 65-year-old man in Tiup district who routinely beat his wife, a 14-year-old girl, one day allegedly beat her to death. The man was not convicted for the crime.113
Iskra Aldoiarovas case and other cases of death from domestic violence, some resulting in criminal penalty for the perpetrator and others not, are further discussed below (see, Prosecutions in cases of death).
Psychological damage and emotional impact
Nearly all the women interviewed by Human Rights Watch told us that they experienced sleeplessness, chronic fatigue, flashbacks of the violence, impaired memory and concentration, wariness or hypervigilance (akin to feelings of paranoia), panic attacks, phobias about their daily routine, as well as emotional numbness, depression, shame, fear, and guilt.114 Women also reported to Human Rights Watch that they suffered humiliation, anxiety, loss of self-esteem, and despair. NGO activists confirmed also that women who came to them for help were often experiencing psychological distress.
Keres K., who had just days earlier fled her marriage after years of physical and psychological abuse by her husband, told Human Rights Watch about the toll that her experience and fear of further abuse was having on her: I cant sleep at night, I cant watch TV, cant read . Im very afraid. If anyone walks up to me, Im afraid. For days I have not been able to sleep. She described being gripped by anxiety when out in public, I cant get out of the depression now. When Im riding in a minibus sometimes I have to get out and rest. When people yell on the bus or on the street or speak loudly, Im filled with fear and feel bad.115 Another woman who left her abusive husband after more than 10 years in a violent marriage said almost two years later, Im afraid that at any time he will come and find me and beat me. I cant sleep at night.116
A number of women interviewed by Human Rights Watch expressed their feelings of exhaustion after years of abuse and said they were unable to withstand any more violence, and in some cases said they experienced suicidal thoughts following abuse by their husbands. Keres K. said she didnt even want to live after her husband was released from a mandatory alcohol rehabilitation program. He came home and began beating her even more severely than he had before the treatment, and threatened to kill her. She said she also had violent fantasies: When he sleeps, I think of killing him 117 Elmira E., age 38, said, The situation was so bad that I thought it would be better if he killed me.118
At around the age of 20, Farida F. attempted suicide in an act of desperation to escape repeated beatings by her husband. She told Human Rights Watch:
Children who witness domestic violence perpetrated against their mothers also show signs of trauma, and can experience serious psychological problems. Some of the women we interviewed told us that their children complain of headaches and sleeplessness and experience depression and anxiety. They worry about their mothers and fear their fathers. Some women said their children would scream or try to intervene to stop the beatings.120 Nurzat N. said, My daughter saw all of our fights, the scandal. Shes now sick. Shes very weak and she often has headaches. She comes home from school shell go run around a bit and then complain of headaches.121 Keres K. told us, My daughter cries at night, saying dont hurt my mama. She needs a psychologist. 122
A medical doctor told Human Rights Watch about a case in which a man hit his wife over the head with an axe, spliting her head open. The children who witnessed the incident included the couples three-year-old daughter, who went into shock afterwards and stopped speaking. The woman died of her injuries.123
Farida F. described the trauma her son suffered when, at one-and-a-half years old, he witnessed his father beating her so badly he broke one of her ribs and caused her to fall down. She said, After this incident my baby became really afraid of his own father. My son has been so afraid, that even when I just simply lift my hands above my head, he becomes hysterical. He has been suffering from bed-wetting. Doctors told me that he keeps wetting his bed because of the neurological stress.124
Concern for the psychological and emotional well-being of children has led some government officials to look more favorably on divorce than they might have otherwise and to abandon talk of reconciliation to save the family. One official from the Presidential Council on Women, Family, and Gender Development said, Regarding saving the family versus pursuing divorce, you have to look at each case. Many times it really seems better that they divorce, especially often for the children, to save them the trauma of witnessing such violence and to prevent the sons from repeating the same patterns later.125
A number of women reported that their children were also beaten by their husbands during bouts of violence. Keres K. said her husband beat their children and threatened the life of their 17-year-old daughter by attempting to throw the girl off the balcony of their house.126 Women reported that children were particularly vulnerable to violence when they tried to protect their mothers from abuse. Salima S., for example, said of her husband, He fights with my son, who tries to protect me.127 Nurzat N. down-played the harm to her 11-year-old daughter, who was beaten when she tried to protect her mother, saying, He usually didnt touch her when we fought. He never beat her that badly. He would push her, but he wouldnt beat her badly. When he pushed her, she would fall. But he never beat her badly. He would yell at her, get angry with her. My daughter tried to defend me from my husband. She would cry.128
Other women say that they were beaten when they tried to protect their children from abuse. Elmira E., for example, said, My husband also beat our children. Sometimes I would try to defend them against him. I thought it was better that he beat me than them .129
Women victims of domestic violence face significant obstacles to assistance and to obtaining justice. When women seek help to stop domestic violence, obtain protection from further abuse, and punish the perpetrators, law enforcement officers and other officials often treat the women with scorn, side with their abusers, facilitate mens retaliation against their wives, and fail to prosecute men for the crimes they have committed. Police and other government officialsas well as aksakals, or community eldersalso pressure women to reconcile with their violent husbands.
Kyrgyzstan has one of the most progressive laws on domestic violence in the region. In 2003 the government adopted the Law on Social-Legal Protection from Domestic Violence, the result of years of lobbying by local womens rights groups, which contributed significantly to drafting the law. Domestic violence is defined under the law as any intentional act by one family member directed towards another family member if such act limits [the] victims legal rights and freedoms, inflicts physical or mental suffering and causes moral harm; or contains a threat to the physical or mental development of a minor member of the family.130
This law represents a significant step forward in the potential protection of women from violence by their husbands. While various aspects of the law will be discussed below, of particular significance is its provision on orders of protection. An order of protection is defined in the 2003 law as a legal document granting a victim of domestic violence protection by the state. It contains a warning to the individual who committed or attempted to commit an act of domestic violence by the means described in this Law.131
The law envisions two types of protection orders: temporary restraining orders issued by law enforcement agencies, and protective court orders. According to the law, a temporary restraining order can be issued by a law enforcement official from the moment a woman files a complaint about domestic violence. The order entitles a woman to police protection to ensure that her abuser does not harm her during the term of the orderup to 15 days. A temporary restraining order may specify that the accused abuser is to avoid direct or indirect contact with the victim, and it may also regulate access to dependent minors. In issuing the order, police also assume the obligation to investigate a womans complaint and to monitor the behavior of her husband, to ensure that he is not violating the terms of the restraining order and has not hurt her again. Judges also are authorized to issue protection orders, in their case for terms of one to six months. As of this writing, however, implementing mechanisms were lacking for this element of the law and it had consequently rarely been put into practice.132
The Administrative Code of the Kyrgyz Republic provides a penalty for violation of a protection order of five to 15 times the calculation indices [a fixed monetary value set by parliament]133 or 10 days administrative arrest, and a fine of 10 to 20 times the calculation indices or 10 to 15 days administrative arrest if the protection order was issued by a court.134
Therefore, the sanctions that flow from the Law on Social-Legal Protection from Domestic Violence are primarily administrative not cr iminal sanctions. Kyrgyz criminal law does not make specific reference to spousal violence. The Kyrgyz justice system deals with domestic violence through penalties for crimes involving the infliction of suffering through violence that are provided in the Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic and the Administrative Code.135 Criminal Code article 111 sets out punishment of up to three years in prison for inflicting physical or psychological suffering through systematic beatings or through other violent means. Aggravating circumstances that carry a heavier penaltyup to seven years in prisoninclude committing such violence against a person who is materially or otherwise dependent upon the perpetrator, as well as against a person who had been abducted or taken hostage.
Criminal Code article 112 assigns lighter penalties for [p]urposeful infliction of light damage to health having resulted in a short-term health disorder or in a minor permanent loss of the ability to work. The perpetrator of such violence stands to be punished with up to six months arrest or up to one year in prison. However, if the violence is deemed not to have caused a health disorder or loss of ability to work, then authorities can levy a fine of up to 30 times the minimum monthly wage, or place the perpetrator under arrest for up to three months.
Threatening to murder someone carries a penalty of arrest for up to six months or two years in prison, in accordance with article 113 of the Criminal Code. Criminal Code article 129, outlawing rape, prescribes imprisonment of five to eight years for regular rape, and from eight to 25 years for acts of rape committed under aggravating circumstances, and provides the death penalty as the maximum punishment in cases of rape of a minor (a child under age 14) that entails particularly serious consequences for the victim.
While marital rape is not specifically mentioned as a criminal offense under article 129, the 2003 law on domestic violence lists sexual domestic violence as a type of abuse forbidden under the law. Sexual domestic violence is defined in the 2003 law as an act by one family member that infringes the sexual inviolability of another family member; as well as acts of a sexual character involving a minor.136
The Kyrgyz Administrative Code contains an article specifically about domestic violence, though it does not specify spousal abuse. Article 66-3 states that administrative penalty is to be applied against the perpetrator of domestic violence, including physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, when that abuse does not justify criminal proceedings. It states that in cases where the action of one family member against another violates the persons constitutional or other rights, results in light damage to a persons health, causes physical or psychological suffering, or damages a persons physical or psychological developmentregardless of age or sexand that action does not qualify for criminal liability, an administrative fine should be levied against the perpetrator of five to 10 times the calculated indices.
According to people who spoke with Human Rights Watch, when the authorities punished violent husbands at all, they did so most frequently by applying short detention periods and fines. Human Rights Watch was unable to ascertain, however, whether these sanctions were applied under the Criminal or Administrative Code.
Law not enforced
Close observers of the problem of domestic violence in Kyrgyzstan say the Law on Social-Legal Protection from Domestic Violence and the Criminal Code are not implemented and therefore do not function to punish domestic violence. The laws are good, but they arent functioning, commented Aleksandra Eliferenko, head of the womens NGO Chance, in Bishkek.137 In 2004 the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women expressed concern that despite the 2003 domestic violence law, domestic violence in Kyrgyzstan remained hidden and the police response to victims reports was inadequate.138
In particular, observers point to a lack of implementation of the provisions in the Law on Social-Legal Protection from Domestic Violence, such as orders of protection. A lawyer with Chance in Bishkek commented, It is most important that the government carries out the law. If a person commits a crime, he should be punished. [But] they enact a law, and put it onthe shelf.139 When asked about this disconnect between the law and practice, a government official conceded there was much to be done. She stated, We need to continue to work on legal protections and we have to ensure mechanisms to carry it out, we need internal instructions in the MVD [Ministry of Internal Affairs] and elsewhere.140
In its 2003-2004 report entitled Domestic Violence in Kyrgyzstan: Causes, Scale, Effectiveness of Actions, the group El Pikir (Public Opinion), a public opinion research center, found that the absence of guidelines for implementing the Law on Social-Legal Protection from Domestic Violence was one of the main explanations for its ineffectiveness thus far. While there are no strict legal obstacles to implementing the law, the report charges that at present the law has [only] a declarative character and that most of its articles are not practically applicable. The group pointed specifically to the failure to amend other corresponding laws, such as the criminal and civil procedure codes, to incorporate the new provision on protection orders issued by courts. The report indicated other practical obstacles as well, such as the fact that the protection order forms had not been drafted and distributed so authorities could issue the orders, and that instructions on how protection orders are to be used have yet to be developed.141 The concerns in the El Pikir findings remained relevant at the time of Human Rights Watchs research for this report.
Those responsible for executing the law exhibit little interest in familiarizing themselves with it so long as the government fails to issue implementing guidelines. One court expert said, I know that such a law was adopted. But why should I study it? [W]hen they will develop instructions on its application, give it to me for execution, then I will study it.142
The non-application of protection orders is explored further in the sub-section below, Police failure to register and investigate complaints and issue protection orders.
While as of this writing no statistics were available to Human Rights Watch on the number of domestic violence complaints filed by women in Kyrgyzstan, experts we interviewed said the numbers were low and attributed this to several factors. First, people in Kyrgyzstan are generally reluctant to turn to police for help or to report a crime. Studies, including a survey by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2004, reveal that sizeable numbers of people view police with suspicion and have little faith that they will be fair or that it is worthwhile to turn to them for help.143 In 2005 the OSCE pointed out the need to build public trust in the police, perceived by some as a corrupt and undemocratic institution that protects only the interests of the state authority.144 OSCE experts on Kyrgyzstans law enforcement agencies say there continues to be widespread disapproval of police.145
Second, many women victims of domestic violence do not turn to the police to register a complaint or issue a restraining order. Few have faith that, if called upon, police will act on their behalf.146 I never went to the police, its pointless, said Aida A., grandmother of two, who has lived in a violent marriage for 25 years and has been hospitalized for head trauma due to beatings by her husband.147 Elmira E., whose parents were unsupportive when she left a violent marriage that had begun with her abduction, said, I didnt go to the police or anywhere for help. I just thought no one would help me.148
Third, some women fear that their abusive spouses will retaliate against them with further violence if they go to the police. Keres K., who suffered years of abuse in a violent marriage, said that past experiences with police failure to protect her had left her fearful. She said that once her husband had come home in a rage after being briefly detained by police (for assaulting her) and threatened to kill her. After she fled her husband, Keres K. said she would pursue a divorce but would not file a criminal case. Im afraid to go to the police about the threats on my life, because after he was arrested last time, he beat me so badly, she said.149 Another woman, who was beaten repeatedly by her husband of 30 years, explained why she would not consider going to the police: Even if the police did come to [a womans] defense, the husband would punish his wife [for having called them].150
Fourth, women may fear being stigmatized by their community for turning to law enforcement authorities. One lawyer for a womens rights group told Human Rights Watch, [W]omen dont go to the police because they consider it shameful It brings shame on the family.151 Another attorney who works with women victims of violence explained that women are denounced as home-wreckers if they turn to the police for help. He said, Theres this mentality, if a woman has written a petition then shes trying to destroy her family, undermine her husband.152
Finally, after they leave violent marriages, some women find the prospect of pursuing a criminal case against their husbands daunting and too emotionally painful, and see themselves as facing a choice between pursuing legal action or being allowed by their former abuser to live in peace. Nurzat N. explained that she did not go to the police after leaving her abusive husband because she did not want to be re-traumatized: I didnt go to the police. I didnt go to anyone. You know, I didnt want this to start again. I just want him to leave me alone. I dont want to face him again at some police station. I just want to live.153
Article 10 of the 2003 domestic violence law specifies measures police must take in response to domestic violence. If implemented, these would be effective in protecting women from abuse and in leading to the prosecution of their abusers. They include:
Article 19 of the law states: Upon receiving oral or written information about domestic violence, law enforcement agencies or a local prosecutors office must take immediate measures directed to the prevention of domestic violence.155
However, police consistently fail to fulfill the responsibilities that are so clearly spelled out in this law. As detailed below, in those cases when women do come forward, police often do not register their complaints, issue protection orders, or seriously investigate the case with a view to prosecution. Instead, they often encourage women to reconcile with their abusers. Womens lack of confidence that police will act to stop domestic violence, mentioned above, is well-founded.
Underpinning police inaction on domestic violence are attitudes indicating that they do not take domestic violence seriously. Often police do not view violence by men against their wives as a law enforcement issue, and many view family arguments that involve violence as normal and a private matter. 156 NGOs that work with victims of domestic abuse told Human Rights Watch that police routinely side with male abusers in cases of domestic violence: women who turn to the police to register a complaint and obtain a protection order find police often blame them for causing domestic violence. An ombudsmans office official commented that many neighborhood police officers dont try to settle the problem, but try to cover for the person who committed the abuse.157 A rights defender recalled, A husband in our communal courtyard [dvor] came home drunk and got into a fight with his wife and hit her, and his nine-year-old son stood up for the mother and both the son and mother ended up in the hospital. The neighborhood police officer did nothing, they see it as just normal.158
Some officers, including senior police officials, also hold women responsible for bringing about the law enforcement consequences of male abusestating, for instance, that they are opposed to women sending their husbands to jail for domestic violence and therefore breaking up the family.159 Interviews with NGO staff, victims of domestic violence, and several police officers indicated that police see the womens complaint, not the mens violent behavior, as the reason men are at risk of prosecution and imprisonment, and they often seek to prevent this outcome. In fact, few men are successfully prosecuted or go to prison for acts of domestic violence against their wives. One senior officer we interviewed was left at a loss for words when asked about convictions of men for domestic violence, but said, Sentencing of husbands is very rare. It happens maybe only once per year. 160 Perhaps unsurprisingly, the same officer noted that there had not been a single conviction of a man for domestic violence during his nine months on the job, Since Ive been here, since March, we havent had a single case of a husband convicted.161 NGO statistics confirm the trend: the lawyer for one womens crisis group said that in the four years he had been working with women victims of domestic violence, since 2002, he had only seen seven or eight cases in which a husband was sentenced.162
Police often cast their failure to hold men accountable for their crimes as a favor to the women who are being abused. One senior law enforcement officer said, You can turn a man into a criminal quickly, try him and put him in jail and thats it for him and the family. Then they get divorced. So we try to deal with this in the community. We do prevention work with the husband so as not to break up the family. Above all we try to save the family . If a woman complains, then we can arrest her husband, convict him, and then put him in prison. Its very easy to make a criminal out of him. But if a woman is left without work and without income, then how can she raise the children? This is what happens if there are criminal cases. We try not to let it get to that point.163 A procuracy164 official echoed this: If you put the man in jail, who will feed the children?165
Law enforcement officers encourage women to reconcile with their abusers and down-play the cost to her of the ongoing violence that she will therefore be consigned to endure. These officials see it as the job of the local neighborhood police officer to facilitate a womans remaining in or returning to an abusive home. One procuracy official, for example, told Human Rights Watch, If she has children In these cases it may be better for the police to reconcile the man and woman. The neighborhood police officer sometimes reconciles the man and woman. A good officer will do this. Maybe the husband just came home in a bad mood and his wife hadnt cooked dinner, and they had a fight.166 Its not good for there to be a lot of divorces, said another senior law enforcement officer during a discussion about protection orders and options for ensuring womens safety.167 Also, as described below, police sometimes facilitate the return of a woman to an abusive home out of solidarity with, or in exchange for payment by, the husband.
Even when officers recognize that domestic violence is a crime, they give it low priority as compared to responding to other crimes. An attorney who works with women victims of domestic abuse summed up the situation: If a woman calls about beatings, the police often dont come, because there are so many such cases and by the time they get there the conflict is often over. They dont want to waste the time or gas [responding to such calls]. The attitude of police to domestic violence cases, she said, is often simply why bother?168 Police who reach a home where violence has been reported but is no longer in progress may consider the conflict to be over and the work of the police to be no longer necessary. They may also believe the woman will withdraw the complaint and view the effort expended as wasted. Officers generally do not see it as their role to ensure that men are brought to justice for the beating that has taken place, nor do they see it as important to ensure that the men in such cases do not harm their wives again.
Other experts state that in addition to police perception that it is not their responsibility to respond to domestic violence, entrenched problems such as corruption and incompetence also are reasons for police indifference.169
Police failure to register and investigate complaints and issue protection orders
Bubusara Ryskulova, a long-time activist who works with women victims of violence, said, If a woman goes [to the station] on her own, the police dont always register it.170 An official from the governments Office of the Ombudsman said, Many women come to us with cases of physical and psychological abuse by their husbands. Many say that the police refuse to take their complaints and say its just a family matter.171 Some point to officers bias in favor of reconciliation of the couple, regardless of the violent nature of the marriage, as part of the explanation for this.172 Another womens rights expert pointed out that police use threats to prevent women from filing complaints, Police dont register complaints, [they] try to dissuade women [from filing complaints]. They say: Well put him in jail for three days and then let him go and it will be worse for you. They scare women into not complaining.173
Farida F., who was subjected to repeated brutal beatings by her husband, turned to the police after her husband beat her at a busstop one day in front of other people. She said when none of the eyewitnesses helped her, she decided to go to the police. Convincing officers to register her complaint was extremely difficult, she recalls: You know in cases like mine, our police do not accept complaints. They consider such things as just a family affair, which is truly terrible. So, in order for my complaint to be accepted by the police I had to behave in the most inappropriate way. And it was the only way for me, because I came there for help and they refused to help me. I became hysterical and made a scene asking them: Then who would help me but you?! I had to cry and yell at them. Only then they realized that I was truly in trouble.174
In addition to preventing women from seeking justice in cases of abuse, police also fail to take positive action to protect women from further violence. Accounts by victims of domestic violence and NGOs that provide services to them, as well as by several police officials, indicate that they do not issue orders of protection, or temporary restraining orders designed to help women in just such situations. Farida F. said,
As one NGO leader told Human Rights Watch, We tell women to go to the police to get restraining orders, and then the police say What restraining order? Ive never heard of it.176 Law enforcement officials say a lack of knowledge about the mechanism among police is to blame for the low number of protection orders issued. A procuracy official from one province told Human Rights Watch that his office had noticed that a district police station in the province had failed to issue even a single protection order since the law went into effect. He said that there had been complaints of domestic abuse registered at that station, but no protection orders issued. When his office investigated, he said, it found that the police did not know about the mechanism. At this time there are very few protection orders issued, he said, The police dont know about it and the investigators dont know about it.177
Even with a protection order in place, the police may take no further action. This inaction can be devastating to a woman who has received an order of protection and is counting on the police to protect her from further abuse. For example, police had issued a protection order for Dimira D., but she continued to suffer brutal attacks by her husband. She said, The police warned my husband not to harass me, but the restraining order didnt really function.178
One action some police resort to is to put men who beat their wives on the uchet, or police registry. One police official said that thousands of people were on this preventative list in his area for a variety of reasons. If a man has had complaints lodged against him and is put on the list, he is monitored: This means that the neighborhood police officer knows the man is on the list and will investigate how things are with him. Hell talk with the neighbors and his wife and the aksakals and maybe also with the man and will warn him that hes on the list. However the official also noted, Its not hard to get off and on the list.179
Investigations halted when women are pressured
As noted above, many police justify their failure to take meaningful steps to investigate domestic violence complaints by blaming women for withdrawing their statements. As one activist put it, Police do know that domestic violence is a problem, but they dont work very hard at it. They know that very often women will write a petition but then refuse to go through with the case.180
There are many reasons why a domestic violence victim might not want a prosecution to go forward. She may no longer see prosecution as necessary if the arrest put a stop (at least temporarily) to the abuse. She may fear that the costs of prosecution, such as violent retaliation, outweigh the benefits. She might not see prosecution as an effective remedy, for example if she believes the violence results from a substance abuse or emotional problem for which treatment or counseling might be effective. She may fear financial repercussions for the family if the abuser goes to jail or has to pay a fine. She may feel otherwise dependent on the abuser and afraid of his long-term absence, particularly if the abuser has isolated the victim and cut her off from social support systems. Or she may just want to move on with her life, and not have to confront her abuser in court.
Police view it as normal and even rational for an abusive husband to intimidate his wife to drop the charges against him. As one official from the prosecutors office put it, There are often such instances: the police start to investigate and want to conduct a full criminal investigation. The wife comes and decides that she wants to withdraw her petition. Her husband often pressures her to do this. The wife will go back to him because shes thinking: whos going to raise the children, since the woman is likely not working.181
Nurzat N. told her own story of being convinced by her husband and his family not to bring charges, despite the serious injury that her husband had caused her. She described the beating that landed her in the hospital with a concussion in 1997 or 1998: He beat me. He said, You came home late. He beat me really badly . He had something metal in his hands, it was a pipe, but not too thick. He beat me all over my body and my head. He then beat me with his fists. But I lost consciousness while he was beating me. She later called her parents and they took her to the hospital. She said, While I was in the hospital, the police came and talked to me and asked me to write a complaint. But then my husbands mother and grandmother came and pressured me not to write it. I felt sorry for them, so I didnt write it. They cried and they begged me not to write it . I was in the hospital for two weeks and then for one month after that I also underwent treatment. While I was in the hospital my husband came, took care of me, asked that I not write a complaint to the police . I regret it now. I should have written the complaint then and handed him over to the police.182
Even considering the many reasons why a woman may fear going forward with a prosecution, this is not a reason to presume domestic violence victims will not cooperate with a prosecution. Instead, police and prosecutors should fulfill their duties in ways designed to ensure not just accountability for the abuse, but also empowerment for the victim. This would include avoiding blaming the victim for the violence, giving her information about the court process and her role as a witness, referring her to social services, informing her about civil remedies like protection orders, and involving her in decisions about her case.
The present reality, however, is that police are at times party to the pressure on women to withdraw complaints. One senior government official said, The police dont block a woman [from getting an official medical exam], but they might try to close the case before it goes higher; they might try to resolve the situation or ask her, Why do you need such shame? and try to convince her to drop the case.183
Womens rights advocates and government officials told Human Rights Watch that police corruption is an impediment to investigations and prosecutions. One former police officer now working as a government official with responsibility for human rights monitoring said, [In cases of domestic violence], the man just pays money to the local police officer to get the matter closed. People pay different amounts, about 500 som [about $12] and up.184
President Bakievs advisor on human rights confirmed that he too was aware of the problem of police corruption as an obstacle to justice in such cases. Speaking of complaints about domestic violence that have come to his office, he said, Lots of people come to me after having gone to the police or the procuracy and failed to receive results. Often the husband or his relatives give money, give bribes, so that the police and procuracy dont review cases.185 OSCE law enforcement experts said there is often an agreement between police officers and abusive men, in which the officers accept bribes to close a case.186
One doctor who works at a hospital that has a full-time police duty officer (not all do), said that much police corruption is right out in the open. She said, If a woman gives a statement to the police in the hospital, the man may be right there and can pay the officer off right there and the statement is torn up and thats that.187
Womens own stories describe how police corruption works to frustrate their access to justice. One woman who had left her husband described what happened when she was again beaten by him and went to the police. Chinara Ch. hired a driver and returned home to retrieve her clothes. Her husband beat her and broke the drivers car window. He was forced to pay the driver compensation for the broken window, but he was not punished for beating his wife. According to Chinara Ch., her husband bribed the local police to side with him and they blamed the incident on her.188 She said, I went to the police; to the colonel. The neighborhood officer said he would not go to the house, that it was my own fault. The neighborhood officer was given two bags of potatoes by my husband, after I wrote the complaintso that the officer would open a case against me instead. Then the police decided it was my fault and refused to open a [criminal] case.189
When women try to flee to safety, police sometimes return women to abusive households in exchange for payment. Dinara D., who had been physically and psychologically abused by her husband, said that police accepted a bribe in exchange for forcing her to return home when she tried to leave. She said, Ive tried to run away 26 times. He gives the neighborhood police officer money and the police find me and take me back home. They scare me and say that they will put me in jail for two or three years if I dont go back . My husband told the local police officer that I had stolen money from him and thats what the officer threatened to charge me with.190
Even when a woman is seriously injured by her husband and it is clear that he has hurt her repeatedly and may continue to do so, police have sided with the man in exchange for money. One woman said that a relative of hers had separated from her husband and was unable to get police to act on her reports of ongoing violence by him. The relative said, She wrote lots of complaints to the police, but each time her husband would just bribe the policeman. Her husband would come to her house and beat her. He broke her ribs four times and gave her a concussion five times.191
Administrative penalties and light penalties instead of prosecutions
When women are successful in getting their husbands investigated for abuse, they still may not see justice done. Instead of passing on to the procuracy and the courts domestic violence cases that warrant criminal prosecution, police instead pursue administrative fines or three- to 15-day periods of detention, usually under the Administrative Code.
As noted above, the law prescribes fines as a penalty only for violence that is properly categorized as purposeful infliction of light damage to health that does not result in even a short-term health disorder or minor permanent loss of the ability to work. Article 66-3 of the Administrative Code envisions a fine as the proper penalty for domestic violence only when the degree of damage to the victim could not justify criminal liability. It is the lightest of all possible penalties for acts of domestic violence.192 In the cases researched by Human Rights Watch, it was unclear whether the fines and brief detention periods were assigned by police or an administrative court. In some cases involving brief detention periods it was unclear whether the sanction was applied under the Criminal or Administrative Code. Our research suggested that police did not forward cases for criminal prosecution because they had a biased assessment of what constitutes serious injury to a woman.
Rights defender and Bishkek doctor Batia Tolobaeva recalled a case in which police
assigned a man three days of detention after his threats and abuse caused his wife to be hospitalized and apparently drove her to suicide. Tolobaeva said, One year ago, a woman was beaten and taken to the hospital. The husband left her, but would come back periodically and beat her. She wrote a complaint to the police, but after that he came even more often. He came every day and threatened her saying, Ill kill you. And she really believed this. She believed she had no way out. So she prepared herself for death. She saved some money and left a note for her 14-year-old daughter. She got dressed, put on makeup, and then jumped from the fourth floor and killed herself. The police detained him for only three days.193
An elderly woman, Nadira N., who said she was seriously injured by a man living with herhe had suffocated her and tried to kill hersaid, I went to the police several times. They detained him for 15 days and then beat him and then let him go.194 Jamila J. said her ex-husband stalked her and continued to assault her after their divorce. He would break into her house, hit her, yank her by the hair, threaten her with a knife and threaten to kill her. She went to the police to ask them to help put a stop to the violence. She said, I demanded that they do something urgently. They detained him, but held him for only three days and then released him.195 Following the police failure to act, Jamila J.s ex-husband attacked her again and she eventually resorted to using violence to defend herself.196
One expert on womens rights, Nurgul Asylbekova of Soros Foundation-Kyrgyzstan, asserted that in instances of lighter injuries, such as broken bones, the lightest possible sanction is often applied. The only exceptions are when a woman is killed or there are very serious physical injuries. If a woman gets a broken arm or ribs, the police just give the man three days of detention, then he gets out and beats her again.197 A procuracy official acknowledged the phenomenon to some extent, but presented a deliberately minimal hypothetical example to justify the resort to lighter penalties through the administrative, rather than criminal, justice system. He told Human Rights Watch, The sentence for domestic violence depends on the seriousness of the physical injury. If she has a black eye, they wont give him 10 years, you know.198
While police intervention is no guarantee that violence will stop, when police fail to act they deprive women of any possibility for protection and justice. As a result, the abuse can continue, sometimes for decades, and in some cases the violence can escalate over time. In these cases, the increased frequency or brutality of the violence leads to serious injury to women, and sometimes to a womans death.
Local rights groups also point out that when police fail to respond to domestic violence, women sometimes take action, including violent action, in self-defense. Jamila J. described the consequences of the accumulated failure of local police to protect her. Unsuccessful in her attempts to convince the police to protect her from repeated assault by her ex-husband, which resulted in a concussion and other injuries, she eventually resorted to violence to defend herself in May 2004:
The incident finally sparked police and judicial action to address her ex-husbands violent behavior; a former convict, he was sent to prison on an eight-year sentence for beating her.199 But even after her husband was sent to prison, Jamila J. was skeptical that the police would protect her, My ex-husband is in prison now, but I still fear him. I fear what he will do when he gets out. The police clearly cant protect me.200
Prosecutions in cases of death
When a woman is killed by her husband, there is a greater chance that the man will be successfully prosecuted.201 Even so, there are cases where it appears that investigation and prosecution were not diligently pursued. In the case of Iskra Aldoiarova, the daughter of womens rights activist Uliana Aitbaeva, police initially took the position that she was responsible for her own death. Aldoiarova was found shot to death, lying in a pool of blood inside her home on July 26, 2002.
As far as what happened that night, Aitbaeva told Human Rights Watch, [H]er husband came home drunk He started to fight with her and she argued back. Then he started to beat her. She locked herself in a room but then he tried to get through the window. He got in through the window and he took her outside and pushed her down. He shot her in the throat and killed her. He then dragged her body back into the house.202
Only after years of struggle by Aitbaevawho demanded that her daughters body be exhumed so that new forensic tests could be conducted, insisted on a change of venue for the court hearing, and persistently pushed for justice in the casedid the authorities successfully prosecute Aldoiarovas husband, Nurbek Estebesov, for murdering her. Estebesov is now serving a 14-year prison term. Iskra Aldoiarovas case illustrates how particularly challenging it can be to hold a man accountable for violence against his wife, even in a case of murder, when he is a police officer or has relatives in law enforcement. Estebesov was both a police officer and the son of a law enforcement officer.
From the first moments after Aldoiarovas death, police appear to have been engaged in a cover-up. Aitbaeva said Aldoiarovas father and father-in-law went to the house to try to find her, and Her husband came out of the house and said that she was lying in a pool of blood . When police officers arrived at the scene, they pronounced her death a suicide. Authorities opened a criminal case to investigate the suicide and illegal possession of firearms. Aitbaeva said, We thought at first that the police were working [on it] . [A year later] the investigator told me, My personal conviction is that there was no murder here. I became convinced he was hiding something, that he wasnt doing his job. Aitbaeva began to push for further action on the case. We went to court and asked for an additional investigation. I didnt believe that the procuracy was doing a proper job because he [Aldoiarovas husband] worked for the police. She succeeded in getting the case transferred to the military procuracy.203 As a result of this investigation, Aldoiarovas husband was charged with murder and the case went to court. Aitbaeva said, We demanded a lot of expert analyses: ballistics, forensics, etc. The civilian procuracys expert had determined She had possibly shot herself, when this is not at all what had happened. He appeared in court drunk. We believe that he must have been paid by her husbands family. By contrast, she said, the military investigator was very professional, He checked everything and determined that she had been shot and murdered 24 hours earlier [before the family had found the body]. He found a lot of shortcomings and mistakes in the civilian prosecutors work. Nonetheless, the first military court acquitted Aldoiarovas husband. The judge was drunk. We were shocked, Aitbaeva recalled.204
The family appealed the case to the Supreme Court, which convicted Nurbek Estebesov of murder, assault, and illegal possession of weapons and sentenced him to 14 years in prison on June 17, 2004.205
Aitbaeva speculated that not only did police solidarity inhibit a genuine police investigation and accountability, but that bribery also played a significant role in the extraordinarily shoddy police work and ill-founded first court decision regarding the shooting death of her daughter. She conjectured about the officials responsible for the early stages of the case, I think his family paid them. Paid all of them. Of course I dont have any evidence. But why else would the expert and the judge appear in court drunk? And why would they commit a crime like giving false testimony or falsely acquitting someone?206
Aitbaeva has since become an activist on violence against women and follows other cases in northeastern Kyrgyzstan when violence has led to a womans death. She recounted another case from Tiup in which a young woman had been murdered by her husband, also a police officer, sometime between 2002 and 2004. The husband had tried to avoid punishment also by claiming his wife had committed suicide by hanging herself. In the end he was found guilty and was convicted.207
Anecdotal accounts like this second Tiup case were generally the only other information Human Rights Watch obtained about cases in the past few years in which domestic violence had led to the death of the woman. This is due in part to the lack of disaggregated statistics on violence against women. Aitbaeva stated that her daughters case and the Tiup case, both of which resulted in prosecution, stand out as exceptions.208 We received from her and from other activists accounts of what appear to be unpunished murders that lend support to this view, including the following:
An expert from the Presidential Council on Women, Family, and Gender Development asserted the prevalence of domestic violence in police homes. She said, The majority of domestic violence cases are in homes of police officers. We dont have exact data on this, but the wealth of anecdotal evidence points to this.214 Leading womens rights groups throughout Kyrgyzstan told Human Rights Watch that domestic violence by police officers against their wives is common and widespread.215 An OSCE law enforcement expert said that police tend towards violence at home as well as at work.216 Police officers own culpability in acts of violence against their wives may contribute to their unwillingness and failure to act to protect women victims and hold male abusers accountable for their crimes. Several women victims of violence by husbands who are police officers told Human Rights Watch of particular challenges they faced to obtaining justice and protection from law enforcement agencies. They are also more likely to feel constrained from escaping from a violent home.
Asel A. recalled the beatings she endured during her marriage to her first husband: He was a police officer. He was beaten at work and became ill . He began to drink, he sold our house and sold my things, he just sold everything. When there was nothing left, he began beating me. He would scare me, run at me with a knife. He threatened to kill me.217 Asel A.s descriptions of the way her husband beat her suggested he was using techniques common to police practice to hide evidence of abuse: .he beat me with his fists and kicked me. He beat me only on the body, never on the face.218
Experts attribute the disproportionately high rate of police violence against their wives to a variety of factors. The OSCE police experts cited alcoholism and financial concerns; many other officials and NGO leaders view the culture of violence and prevalence of violence in the police force as the major factors contributing to domestic violence by officers.219 The director of the NGO Chance, which has followed this issue closely, said, Many womenwives or girlfriendswhose husbands are government workers, especially police officers, put up with violence. Violence is especially common in households of police officers, because this is the environment theyre in and the way theyre used to relating [to others]. [The officers] take out their work aggression and frustrations on the women at home.220
According to NGO activists, police officers themselves claim that the nature of their work makes it inevitable that they will use violence at home. As one NGO leader recalled, We had a seminar, the gender secretariat under the president invited representatives of all law enforcement agencies. [A senior law enforcement official] was there. He said, They say that police beat their wives. Once a woman came to me and said her husband beat her and I took her to the detention facilities and showed her and she watched the work of the policehow they have to deal with drunks I said, Have you seen the work of a police officer? You should go home and thank your husband for doing such hard work. How could he not beat you after [going through] that?221
Women whose abusive husbands are police officers are often constrained from leaving abusive marriages and are afraid to go to the police for help. Asel A. said, I never went to the police because he himself is an officer and his brother is too, so I couldnt go to the police.222 According to Nargiza Eshtaeva of the NGO Ailzat in Osh, Elena E., who was beaten by her husband, said that because he was a police officer and many of his relatives were also on the police force, she could not leave him. Eshtaeva said that when Elena E. came to Ailzat for counseling she was afraid even to speak to the groups lawyer because she feared the lawyer might also know her husband and would tell him what she said.223 NGO activists say womens perceptions that their options are constrained by the fact that their abusive husbands are police officers are well-founded, and that police regard themselves as above the law. Leading womens rights advocate Bubusara Ryskulova asserted that when a womans abusive husband is a police officer, she cant do anything, because he says, I am the police, you cant go anywhere.224 Policemen with contacts can do what they want, said another activist.225
Wives of abusive police officers also may not have access to police protection orders. Activist Nargiza Eshtaeva told Human Rights Watch, A woman came to us and she was covered in bruises. She didnt know how to get a restraining order. Her husband was a police colonel.226 In that case, although the woman had been hospitalized several times due to injuries caused by beatings by her husband and she had her doctors documentation of the injuries, the presence of her husband and all of his brothers on the police force convinced her that she could not turn to the police herself.227
Rather than treat cases of domestic violence as law enforcement issues, police often dismiss them as community matters and pass them off to the aksakals, or community elders. While Kyrgyz law envisions that some domestic violence cases will be handled by the aksakal courts, police appear to resort excessively and inappropriately to this option in order to get rid of such cases, which they deem unworthy of their time and attention. As will be discussed below, in dealing with family matters, including domestic violence, aksakals promote reconciliation, often at the expense of a womans safety.
The term aksakal itself translates into white beard and refers to a respected elder of the community. Aksakals have long been looked to in Kyrgyzstan for advice and leadership, particularly to resolve disputes among community members. In 2002 the role of the aksakals was codified in the Law on Aksakal Courts. Aksakal courts, local government structures that operate on the neighborhood or district level, now work in tandem with other government agencies and arbitrating bodies to deal with certain community matters. Members of the aksakal courts are nominated by area residents and local government institutions or agencies, and are elected by residents for terms of three years. Only a handful of members of the aksakal courts are women.228
Kyrgyz law envisions a role for the aksakals in responding to cases of domestic violence. Article 6 of the 2003 Law on Social-Legal Protection from Domestic Violence lists among a victims rights, the right to address the issue to the local court of elders. It states that, The goal is a public reprimand of the assailant.229
In accordance with article 4 of the Law on Aksakal Courts, the elders can hear and resolve civil cases and cases that have been forwarded by courts and the procuracy in order to apply measures of social influence, in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Code. They may also hear cases forwarded by police, but only if police have received sanction to do so by the procuracy. The aksakals can also hear cases addressed to it directly by individuals, with the aim of achieving the reconciliation of the parties.230 Article 15 of the Law on Aksakal Courts grants the elders jurisdiction to hear cases related to family conflicts, including matters of national (ethnic) marital relations and traditions related to marital and family relations. The range of penalties aksakals may impose to resolve family conflicts include warnings, requiring the perpetrator to offer a public apology to the victim, making a public reproach, requiring the guilty party to compensate for material damage caused, or fining the perpetrator up to three times the minimum monthly wage.231
In accordance with article 240 of the Criminal Procedure Code, criminal matters should be sent to the district court for a hearing, not to the aksakal courts, which have no jurisdiction over criminal matters and cannot impose criminal penalties. The only time when the law permits review of criminal cases by the aksakal courts is when the procuracy has already closed the case, and, rather than pursuing criminal prosecution, forwards it on for the aksakals to apply measures of social influence.232 The law dictates that when an act of domestic violence is potentially a criminal matter, it should be taken up and investigated by the police. Only cases of family conflict that would not qualify as criminal casesfor example, where there are no grounds for charges under Criminal Code articles 111 and 112should be forwarded to the aksakal courts. A human rights lawyer claimed that the division of labor between police and aksakals in domestic violence cases indeed falls along the lines of Criminal Code articles 111 and 112, with the light cases going to the aksakals. He said, If there is severe bodily injury in a case of domestic violence, then the police need to refer the case to the court. If it is a case of light harm, then it goes to the aksakals. 233
In practice, however, it appears that police often disregard the laws prescription for aksakals to play a limited role in addressing domestic violence cases and forward cases to the aksakals long before they reach the procuracy, even when they should have been sent to the procuracy in the first place for criminal prosecution. One senior police officer spoke plainly about police referrals to the aksakal courts when women complain about domestic violence, When they appeal to us, we react: we go to the aksakal courts and try to sort this out. There are usually five or six people, they invite the husband, and we talk it through.234
Consequences of police passing cases to the aksakals
There are serious consequences to womens prospects for justice and protection when police pass responsibility for domestic violence cases off to the aksakals instead of treating these as law enforcement matters. The failure of law enforcement personnel to register, investigate and prosecute cases that have c riminal content robs women of their access to justice and the full range of options for protection envisioned under the law. Aksakals, unlike police and courts, cannot issue orders of protection for women at risk of continued violence. Nor can they detain or imprison abusers. Once police pass on cases that would rightly be prosecuted under the Criminal Code to the aksakals, the case is no longer considered a criminal matter, but a social problem.
Few women know that they have the right to appeal decisions of aksakal courts to a district court, which does have jurisdiction over criminal cases. According to the law, a woman can appeal an akasakal court decision, but one lawyer told Human Rights Watch that women dont actually do this. Many probably dont even know about it.235 It appears that the only cases in which women avail themselves of this right are those in which the aksakals themselves decide that they cannot resolve a matterthat is they cannot reconcile a coupleand they refer the case onward.
One officer used a de minimus case to explain the circumstances under which officers refer cases to the aksakal courts, We send small matters to the aksakals and they warn people or fine them. Sometimes we forward family problems to the aksakals. If a man hits a woman once and asks for forgiveness, this is the kind of case that would go to the aksakals. People are concerned about their reputation in the society. The [Criminal Procedure Code] dictates which cases go to the aksakals. Is it better to give a case to the aksakals to decide or better to put someone in prison for 15 days? If you have a completely normal person, who drank once and then hit his wife, then you dont need to punish him too hard. Its better for the aksakals to handle this case, to fine him. The neighborhood police officer will help to enforce payment of the fine.236
Police without doubt know that sending a domestic violence case to the aksakals means that the man will not face detention and that the aksakal court will most likely encourage the woman to remain in a marriage that may be characterized by violence. As noted above, however, some officers view this outcome as preferable to administrative or criminal penalties for the abusive husband and therefore block the womans ability to exercise her right to bring criminal charges or push for administrative arrest. One officer told Human Rights Watch, We work with the aksakal courts, we have them go to the location and address the situation. We are working with them to encourage reconciliation so that there arent divorces.237
Another consequence women face when police send cases to the aksakals or when women themselves go to aksakals for help, is that the elders encourage women to remain with their abusers, or facilitate their return to violent marriages. Aksakals view it as their role to reconcile women and their abusive husbandsone female member of an aksakal court said, When husbands and wives fight we try to reconcile them.238 In practice, abusive men face few consequences other than public exposure, while the woman is asked not only to reconcile with her abuser but in fact to reconcile herself to continuing to live with the abuse.
An aksakal court member from a southern village explained how the reconciliation process works: When we get the womens complaints about fights, we summon the menif he doesnt come, we get the police to bring him or else we go to his house ourselves. The husband and wife will be here. We discuss the matter and then we reconcile them.239 He said that in his village, Six women appealed to us in 2005 . Three of the women who came to us had fights with their husbands. Two of these reconciled [with their husbands], one went to court.240
The same aksakal court member added, When the parents of the couple dont want them to be reconciled, we give the couple a three- to six-month period to continue to try to live together. Usually they reconcile in this period.241 Human rights activists confirm the use of waiting periods by aksakal courts as a means of facilitating womens return to abusive homes. Said one rights defender, The aksakal courts try to reconcile people when there are conflicts in the family. Their first priority is to save the family. They dont have the authority to grant permission for a divorce, but they try to give people [seeking divorce] three to six months [waiting period] and tell them to reconcile.242
Government officials recognize that aksakals are actively encouraging women to remain in abusive households. One official told Human Rights Watch, Aksakal courts have a more traditional view, they try to keep families together. They are very conservative and try to save the family and subscribe to a lot of stereotypes and blame women or tell men [the violence is taking place] because they need a job.243
Some members of aksakal courts acknowledge that reconciliation can fail to be a lasting solution to domestic violence and that abuse often continues after the aksakals intervention. In these cases, the aksakals may refer a case to local judicial authorities. As one aksakal put it, [If there are conflicts in a home and a man is summoned] we give them a specific period to continue to live together and to try to sort it out. We maintain control over the situation, we observe the situation. If there are repeated incidents then we hand over the case to the district court. If we cant reconcile the couple, then we forward the case to the court. If abuse is happening for a second, third, or fourth time then we give up.244 In some cases, aksakals can be callous in the face of womens complaints about violence or refuse to help them at all. One activist charged, Aksakal courts can help. It depends on the person. Sometimes the aksakals just say, Girl, thats the way things are. Go back home and reconcile with your husband.245
One woman, Dimira D., who had suffered years of violence at the hands of her husbandincluding being hit in the head with a rock, being strangled, beaten, and threatened with deathsaid the aksakals refused to help her: I went to the aksakal court, I asked them to warn my husband that if it happened again he could be taken to court. I asked, if I paid for gas [to cover the cost of the car trip to her house], would the aksakals go to warn him? The aksakal said, No, I know your relatives and that they can just accuse me of something [in retaliation].246
Some women choose not to appeal to the aksakal courts for help in cases of domestic violence because they view the aksakals as biased in favor of male abusers.247 One expert on domestic violence and gender issues stated, When a woman goes to the aksakal court with a domestic violence problem, the men side with the men.248 We need women on the court, she added.249
NGO leaders generally agree that the extremely small number of women members of the aksakal courts makes them an unwelcoming place for women to go. One said, Aksakal courts are mostly men. They dont pay attention to womens issues. Young women would never go to them.250
Very little empirical research exists worldwide on the effectiveness of community, rather than criminal justice, responses to stop domestic violence. While Human Rights Watch is not aware of any such studies on Kyrgyzstan, interviews with victims of domestic violence and the NGOs that provide services to them indicate that government and law enforcement authorities may overestimate the power of reprimanding men as a means of solving the problem of domestic violence. Officials who spoke with Human Rights Watch presented the authority of the aksakals, and the threat of public shaming that they wield, as sufficiently powerful to stop men from committing acts of violence against their wives. Some womens rights NGOs and victims of violence emphasized, however, that scoldings by community elders often have no effect on abusive men. They charge that while the aksakals and state authorities congratulate themselves on having solved the problem, women reconciled with their abusive husbands often experience a continuation of violence in their marriages.
One government official responsible for monitoring and reporting on human rights matters in the country claimed that the effectiveness of the aksakals was the reason so few victims had come to his office for help. He said, Women dont come to [this office] because they often resolve the matter right at the scene. Aksakals know everyone and when theres a fight they comeand then they can get an agreement [from the parties] or else they forward the matter to the police. We have respect for elders.251 A police officer asserted, Young men respect the aksakals and listen to them.252 Some NGO activists also view the aksakal courts as an effective mechanism for stopping domestic violence. For example, a volunteer at a womens NGO cited the fines imposed by aksakals as evidence of resolution of the problem: If a woman goes to the aksakals, they help resolve the problem and even fine the guilty party. There are some cases like this, when the men have had to pay a fine. They resolve it immediately, they dont pass it on to the law enforcement organs.253 Another activist expressed her faith in the power of the aksakals influence and their potential as advocates for women: Women do go to the aksakals. When the aksakals give warnings and fine men or meet with their relatives about domestic violence, it really helps, because in the villages people really respect them and listen to what they say. Also, people dont like the police so they feel its better to go to the aksakals Its very important to do trainings with them, because if they have respect for women then the community will.254
While others acknowledge the importance of social standing and reputation, especially in smaller communities, they say the effectiveness of community elders is not reliable. Said one gender expert, Aksakal courts can use moral pressure. In the villages this moral pressure is severe. The aksakal courts can sit a man down and tell him to stop behaving this way. They can even exile a person from the village, saying, Dont bring shame on the village. But of course aksakals are also human and have faults, it doesnt always work and they dont always have an effect.255
Some of those who work directly with women victims of domestic violence assert that the aksakals approach fails to have a lasting effect on abusive spouses. One psychologist suggested that the effect of reprimands by elders is typically short-lived: In response to an intervention by the aksakals, the husband may be quiet for a few months because hes ashamed.256 Significantly, women victims expressed sharp skepticism about aksakals ability to change their husbands abusive behavior. Dinara D., whose husband is 76 years old, said, [My husband] wouldnt pay attention to the aksakals.257 Nurzat N. also rejected the idea that the aksakals could stop her husband from beating her: I never went to the aksakals . My husband wouldnt have listened to the aksakals anyway. We have this tradition of respect for elders, but my husband doesnt respect his elders.258
One police official shared his view that local womens councils (local government agencies responsible for engaging community members on issues related to women) also have considerable authority and influence over male behavior: In instances in which violence is repeated, the aksakals and the womens committees will control this so that this doesnt happen. Theyre very strong and can conduct good prevention. If five or six people come to a mans home, itll be very embarrassing for him.259 But NGO activists say that womens councils actually have limited capacity: We work with the womens committees in the regions. This is basically one person who has an office in a government building and women can go to her for consultations.260
Emphasis on reconciliation as the primary solution to domestic violence
As noted above, police and aksakals press women to reconcile with their abusive husbands. Other government officials and some NGOs also emphasize reconciliation, even though this can have serious consequences for the womans safety. A human rights official told Human Rights Watch:
The leader of one womens NGO said, We try to do the maximum to keep families together.262 Another said, Women stay with us at the crisis center for only 15 days. We help them stay with relatives or to reconcile with their husband 263 The head of another crisis center described the consultation process her group employs: Women can stay in the shelter for about one week. Then [our group] holds a consultation with a woman and her husband and family to resolve the problem. He signs a paper. If a woman doesnt want to go back, she gets a divorce, but that is hard [for her].264
Lydia L. told Human Rights Watch that she appealed to a crisis center for help and said she was able to reconcile with her husband following the consultation, and that the abuse had stopped. She said, He hasnt stopped drinking, but for now he has stopped beating me.265 She described the method of counseling used at the crisis center she went to for help to stop the abuse by her husband, When the women from the organization spoke to him, they explained to him that he is not allowed to beat me, that I have rights and that they will protect me. They said, What will you do if she leaves you? Youll drink yourself silly and then no one will need you. This had an effect on him. They spoke to him one-on-one, without me.266 One NGO activist expressed her satisfaction regarding this kind of process, It is so satisfying when a woman says that her husband has stopped beating her and now knows the law is on her side.267
However, some NGO activists say that, having witnessed the experiences of women who continue to endure violence after returning to their spouses, they are beginning to question the benefit to women of reconciliation strategies. Said the leader of one NGO, We used to work with women to save the family and help them go home. But now we realize: why should she go home to such a place?!268 Another activist voiced her own frustrations with the reconciliation approach she has been using to counsel women: Sometimes we want to tell a woman to leave, especially when she stays just so society doesnt say shes a woman without a husband.269
One young woman recalled her friends experience after she was apparently encouraged by an NGO to reconcile with her abusive husband:
Womens escape stories
In addition to, or instead of, seeking legal remedies, some women attempt to stop the violence being committed against them by ending relationships with violent spouses, typically by leaving the home. Most NGO leaders agree that the women who manage to escape violent households are in the extreme minority: one group said that 99 percent of the women who come to its crisis center about problems with domestic violence continue to live with their husbands, and 1 percent get divorced.271 Despite all the obstacles, some women whom Human Rights Watch interviewed for this report had successfully fled their abusive homes.272 These women told their stories about how and why they eventually escaped the violence.
Elmira E. described how, after being beaten repeatedly by her husband, she fled with her children, including one son who was just an infant at the time: I borrowed money. First we had to walk 10 kilometers, and I was covered in blood. She finally convinced the driver of a passing car to pick them up, took the children to her parents house, and then got herself to the hospital.273 Keres K. also fled with her children in tow, walking for hours and going days without sleeping before finally reaching a shelter. Our legs shook, she said.274
Some women said their husbands or in-laws tried to convince them to stay. Tursunai T. said, I tried to leave. I ran away four or five times and they followed me and promised it [the beatings] wouldnt happen again and they took me back. The fifth time I didnt go back.275
Dimira D., who had suffered more than a decade of abuse by her husband, and who had been hospitalized after he hit her in the head with a brick, described what happened the day she left: On that day he threw me out of the house. He had beaten me for a whole month straight. He threw me and the children out. We sat outside all night because we had no place to go. I was so ashamed. All the neighbors saw this. This was the hundredth time he had done this to me. So I decided to go to court for a divorce.276
Gulzat G., age 20, recalled the planning she had to do in order to execute her escape, I went to the Russian woman who sold the milk who knew everything about what was happening to me and I asked this woman for money to pay for a taxi to get out of Bishkek. And this woman agreed. So I washed and gathered my things and at 3 a.m. I snuck out and left the family and came to [another city far from Bishkek]. That was [gives exact date]. Before I left I had found a way to call my parents so that they could give me permission to come home. My in-laws had cut off the phone in the house. This was another way to control me, to isolate me. I went to the sklad [warehouse or storehouse] and found an old telephone and was able to make the call.277
Women face particular obstacles when they attempt to escape an abusive marriage that has started with abduction, because of isolation imposed on them by their in-laws.
Feruza F., who was kidnapped at age 17 and then beaten and raped by her husband, said that she finally was able to convince her parents to help her escape and take her back after a year-and-a-half in the abusive home. Forbidden by her abductors to leave the house, she was permitted to see her parents only twice during the time she was with her husband. She described the process of convincing her parents to help her to escape the abusive home, where she was being raped and beaten on a regular basis:
Other aspects of Feruza F.s case are discussed below in the chapter on bride-kidnapping.
In some cases, real and perceived obstacles can make it very difficult for a woman to leave a violent home in order to end an abusive relationship. Abusive men use different means to physically isolate and prevent women from escaping. In some cases, men capture women who have fled and force them to return. Many women, lacking financial support, simply have nowhere to go. They may also fear retaliation by their spouses and stigma from their communities and natal families.
Rights activists report that there are many cases when women cannot escape abuse because men prevent them from leaving the home. They report that it is common for women to be confined to the house for extended periods. One rights defender said that a woman had sought help on behalf of her sister, who was being beaten by her husband. The woman wanted to leave and get a divorce, but her husband had not permitted her to leave the house for several years and had cut off the telephone.279
Gulzat G. described being locked up by her husband and his family: One evening my mother-in-law and my husband and I all got into a fight and I said, I just want to go. I started packing my things, but my mother-in-law forbade me to leave. She forced me to stay . My in-laws would lock me in the yard of the house. I could only speak to my parents from behind the fence when they came to visit.280 She described being kept in a small room off the kitchen, locked out of the main house on the one hand and prevented from leaving on the other. She said, During the day, when everyone else would leave the house, I would be locked in the courtyard. I could not go out of the house. I could only enter my room and the kitchen. The main house was also locked.281
Farida F. described how her husband put a stop to her work outside the home as a way of exerting his control over her. She said, I got a job as a dishwasher. The place where I worked was opened until the last client was served, so I had to work late, until midnight or 1:00 in the morning. My husband did not like it at all. He would come over there, right into the café and he would make a scene. He would even take me away from the job during my working hours. It happened several times and as a result I had to quit this job.282
Nurzat N. had experienced being forcibly returned to her violent home. Speaking to Human Rights Watch at a shelter she said, This is the fifth time that Ive left him. In the past he would use force to make me go back home with him. If he saw me on the street, hed violently force me into a car and take me home. Im afraid to go out on the street now. I dont want to leave the shelter.283 Dimira D., who was repeatedly beaten by her husband for years recalled, I ran away and went to some acquaintances. When my mother-in-law and sister-in-law found out they forced me to go back home.284
Economic constraints; limited shelter capacity
Physical and material constraints often deter women from leaving violent situations. Some women are prevented from leaving because they have nowhere to go.
Crisis centers and shelters run by Kyrgyz NGOs and funded by international donor organizations provide a life-saving service offering a temporary home to women who have fled domestic violence or kidnapping. However, these shelters often have only four to eight beds and cannot offer women long-term residence. In most towns and villages there is no NGO or other shelter operating at all.
If women do not have friends, neighbors, or relatives who will take them in, many are left with nowhere to go. This, together with the pressure to reconcile, contributes to the high number of women who return to abusive homes after seeking help. As noted above, some NGOs estimate that 90 to 99 percent of the women who flee violence and appeal to them about domestic abuse return to their abusers. One local expert on womens issues observed, Women dont have a place to go if they want to leave their husbands.285 Asel A., who lived in a village that did not have a womens shelter and who remained with her abusive second husband, put it bleakly, saying, I think Ill put up with him and even will die with him, because I have nowhere to go.286
Keres K. fled her husband after many years of abuse and went with her children to a shelter in a major city. She said, Were looking for an apartment. My salary is 2,000 som [about $50] and an apartment is $100 [per month]; I dont know what to do.287 When asked what might make the situation better, she said, It would be good if the government at least helped us with a place to live or something at least for a little while. If it hadnt been for this place [the shelter], I dont know where the kids and I would have gone. They could have a dormitory where people could live for a little while.288
NGO activists and international experts say that women often remain in abusive situations or are forced to return to violent marriages because they are economically dependent on their husbands.289 Elmira E., age 38, who eventually left her husband, said, I wanted to leave even earlier than I did, but without money, what could I do? Where could I go without money?290 Female unemployment is high in Kyrgyzstan. One law enforcement official observed that there were more jobs for women before independence and that he thought women therefore had greater opportunity to escape abusive husbands during the Soviet era. He said, There used to be factories where women and men could work, now theyre closed. In the USSR, before, if a woman left her husband, she would be able to support herself and could get a job and there would be social support for the children.291
Even when women work, however, abusive husbands will sometimes claim control over all family income. My husband demands that he gets all my salary and controls all the money, said Asel A.292 Mens tight control on money can mean that women in villages sometimes literally cannot afford the cost of transportation to leave home and seek help from one of the NGOs in the cities. As one activist put it, Women cant come to the city to see us for help, a woman needs to ask her husband for permission and for money for the trip...293 Gulzat G.s story of borrowing money from a woman in the neighborhood in order to hire a car to take her to her parents home also speaks to the significance of even small amounts of money in determining whether a woman is able to flee a violent situation.294
Two women said their husbands locked up their clothes, often womens only personal property of value, to prevent them from leaving.295
NGO activists say that about 80 percent of women are granted alimony upon divorce,296 but that the amounts can be very low and there can be problems with execution of the court order. As one activist put it, The law guarantees the right to alimony, but the law is not implemented. The husband is never punished for not paying alimony. Those responsible for implementing court decisions do not track down the husband and force him to pay. 297 This failure to enforce alimony orders may deter women from seeking divorce. The same activist said that the amount can be as low as 20 som (about 50¢) per child per month if a man is unemployed, or can be paid out in goods such as food. In cases when the ex-husband works, the authorities should arrange for payments to be deducted directly from his salary.298
Fear of retaliatory violence
In some cases, women remain in abusive homes because they fear that their husbands will cause them even worse harm if they leave. Some abusers threaten wives with retaliatory violence and even death if they were to leave the marriage.
Keres K., who endured 17 years of violence by her husband, said that threats against her and her children kept her from leaving earlier: He threatened to kill me. I suggested a divorce and he said, No Id kill you and the children.299 Tursunai T., who was repeatedly beaten by her husband, who had kidnapped her, said he threatened her with further violence if she left: He threatened me with a knife and said that if I wouldnt live with him, hed kill me. He chased me around the house. He kicked me and beat me with his fists.300
In some cases abusive men effectively hold children hostage in order to force their wives to remain in, or return to, abusive homes. Elmira E. faced such a situation. Her husband regularly and severely beat her and their children. When Elmira E. left her husband, he refused to allow her to take the children away, so she went back to live with him out of concern for her children.301
Fear of social stigmatization
Sometimes the most powerful constraint on a womans ability to leave a violent situation is her fear of being disgraced by her community. Many women in Kyrgyzstan fear that they, their children, or their parents and extended families will be shamed and stigmatized if they leave their abusive husbands. In Kyrgyz society great emphasis is placed on social standing, and an entire familys reputation can be damaged by the behavior of one family member. For a woman to be part of a failed marriage is considered enough to bring shame on the whole family.
Many women are told by their families that it is shameful to seek divorce, even in cases when the woman is living in a violent marriage. Elmira E., who was kidnapped by strangers at age 17 and beaten for years by her husband, described the reaction of her parents when she fled the abuse: When I did decide to leave, my husband agreed to the divorce and gave me the children. I went to my parents and lived with them for six months and lived. They were unhappy. They were ashamed and accused me of doing something very wrong. They said, Why did you divorce your husband? None of our [other] daughters have divorced.302
Another woman, Tursunai T., said she had reunited with her abusive husband and felt she had to stay with him in order to avoid hurting her grown daughters reputation: My daughter got married. If I divorce my husband because he keeps beating me, then my daughters parents-in-law would consider it a shame in our family.303
The social stigma attached to a child growing up without a father is often viewed as worse than a woman being beaten by her husband for years on end. In many cases, children raised by single mothers are referred to as orphans. Dimira D. said, I suffered for so many years because I didnt want my children to grow up without a father. Society humiliates those who dont have a husband or a father.304 Nurzat N., who was frequently beaten by her husband for more than 10 years, said her parents encouraged her to stay: They forgave my husband and wanted me to live with him so our child didnt end up without a father.305 Elmira E. blamed her sons suicide on the social stigma and rejection he incurred after she left her abusive husband: I had two children but one died last year. He hanged himself because he was tormented by his friends over the fact that he didnt have a father. He was 17.306
Imposition of waiting periods hindering access to divorce
Article 23 of the Family Code of the Kyrgyz Republic307 states that in cases when one party objects to divorce, judges may, at their discretion, impose a waiting period of up to three months, during which time the couple is supposed to attempt to reconcile. Even in cases when both the husband and wife agree to the divorce, the courts may impose a waiting period of up to one month. Often in cases of domestic violence, the husband will object to the wifes request for divorce.308 Even though the longer waiting period is not mandatory, it is used at the discretion of the judge, and according to women who have sought divorce, lawyers, and NGO activists, it is almost universally imposed. The one-month waiting period in cases of mutual agreement to the divorce may be imposed regardless of the circumstances. Dimira D. left her husband after more than a decade of abuse. She said, Now were divorcing. The court gave us one month to reconcile before the divorce goes through.309
Though it is not provided for under the law, sometimes judges insist that a woman wait six months for the divorce to be granted, or impose an initial waiting period and when the woman returns to the court to say that reconciliation was not possible, the judge imposes yet another delay. Keres K., whose husband beat her for 17 years, threatened her life and the lives of their children, and caused her multiple head concussions, spoke of her difficulties in getting a divorce: I applied for a divorce. They gave me six months to reconcile. They said it was the law.310
In addition to delaying legal separation for women who actively seek divorce, the mandatory waiting period for divorce may also sometimes act as a deterrent for women contemplating leaving their abusive spouses.
Difficulties asserting womens rights to property, alimony, and child custody
Often marriages are not registered with the state civil registry, ZAGS (Zapis Aktov Grazhdanskogo Sostoianiia), despite a requirement under law that a marriage be registered in order to be recognized as legal.311 Couples are often married through a Muslim ceremony without separately taking steps to officially register the marriage; in cases of bride-kidnapping, discussed below, marriages and womens property are seldom registered with the state.
In some cases, couples view the cost of registration as prohibitive.312 One activist noted, however, that while many couples fail to register marriages, the families incur considerable wedding expenses. She said, They have a big party at a fancy restaurant and with fancy cars, but they dont go to ZAGS.313 She and other womens rights activists say that when a marriage is unregistered, a wife is left with nothing upon divorce.314 Courts will often refuse to recognize womens rights to custody of children, alimony, or property if the marriage was not registered.315
Nurzat N., who was with her husband for 12 years and had two children with him, said that she has no legal basis on which to claim the common property accumulated during their marriage. We didnt register our marriage. He didnt want to register. He told me even then, that he didnt want to have to share the property with me. We had a home and a car, and he didnt want to share that. It doesnt even matter that we built our house together. Everything stays with him, she said.316 Nazgul N., a 73-year-old whose husband left her after 37 years of marriage, described a similar scenario: she was left with no money and no property because the marriage had not been registered.317 She spoke of her devastation at being left with nothing: My husband left me for another woman. When he left me he sold everything I wanted to sell the house, but it turns out that the house is in his name.318 Other women also reported being left homeless after they divorced.319
Traditions and, until recently, laws favoring male inheritance of property have meant that land is usually held in the husbands name or ownership is divided among members of his family. As a result, even when marriages have been registered, women seeking divorce have no land in their own name and are often deprived of their right to a share of the joint property. An attorney working with a womens rights group in eastern Kyrgyzstan commented, Its hardest with land, its very hard to divide this . The family owns the land as a group. A woman cant sell her portion of the land without permission from other people in the family. A women doesnt have anything at all in her nameall the land, the animals, theyre registered under the husbands name or under the husbands fathers name.320
The husbands extended family often holds on to personal property when a woman leaves the household. Ainura A., who was kidnapped and then evicted from the house by her mother-in-law 10 years later, said she was left with nothing:
Another young woman, Shoira S., who was kidnapped and pressured to stay with her abductor, found herself unable to retrieve any personal property after she left him. She said, All of our marital property stayed with my husband: furniture, household items. My mom wentI went with my momto try to get it. But my father-in-law doesnt allow me to have anything.322
Many women see their options in absolute terms: they can choose to either exercise their right to property or remain safe from further harassment. Fearing that their husbands will retaliate against them if they pursue their property rights, or worried that the experience of pressing for legal division of property will be excessively traumatic, women forego asserting their rights. Zarina Z., who left her abusive husband of 30 years, said, Now I think it is too late to sue for property; I dont want to mess with that, I just want peace.323 Nurzat N. said that her husband had possession of all the property, even the house they had built together. She expressed a reticence to fight for her portion of the property because, she said, All I want now is for him to leave us alone, me and the children, and not touch us.324 One young woman who left the home of the man who abducted her and then raped and beat her for more than a year said, I didnt even go back to that house for my clothes. I just want as much distance between myself and that place as possible.325
53 Human Rights Watch interview with Taalaygul Isakunova, expert, the National Council under the President of the Kyrgyz Republic on Women, Family, and Gender Development, Bishkek, October 31, 2005. Hereinafter, Presidential Council on Women, Family, and Gender Development. Isakunova subsequently left her position at the council.
55 Human Rights Watch interviews with a senior police officer, name withheld, Osh Province Police Department, Osh, November 10; and a senior police officer, name withheld, Jalal Abad City Police Department, Jalal Abad, November 11, 2005.
56 Police Colonel Salishybek Mamyrov, OSCE national professional employee (Ministry of Internal Affairs liaison), Bishkek, November 17, 2005.
57 Human Rights Watch interview with Taalaygul Isakunova, expert, the Presidential Council on Women, Family, and Gender Development, Bishkek, October 31, 2005.
58 Human Rights Watch interview with Batia Tolobaeva, a doctor who frequently treats battered women in the hospital and a member of the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights (KCHR), Bishkek, November 15, 2005.
59 Human Rights Watch interviews with Taalaygul Isakunova, expert, the Presidential Council on Women, Family, and Gender Development, Bishkek, October 31;officials from the ombudsmans office, Bishkek, November 14; and Nargiza Eshtaeva, Ailzat, Osh, November 8, 2005.
60 Human Rights Watch interview with Embek Tarajanov, ombudsmans office, Bishkek, November 14, 2005.
61 Human Rights Watch interview with Keres K., November 2005.
63 Human Rights Watch interview with Taalaygul Isakunova, expert, the Presidential Council on Women, Family, and Gender Development, Bishkek, October 31, 2005.
65 Human Rights Watch interview with a senior government official, name withheld, Bishkek, November 2005.
66 Human Rights Watch interview with Tursunbek Akun, chairman, Presidential Commission for Human Rights, Bishkek, November 14, 2005.
67 Human Rights Watch interview with Bubusara Ryskulova, Sezim, Bishkek, November 1, 2005.
68 Human Rights Watch interview with Embek Tarajanov, ombudsmans office, Bishkek, November 14, 2005.
69 Human Rights Watch interview with officials of the ombudsmans office, Bishkek, November 14, 2005.
70 Human Rights Watch interview with Shoira S., November 2005.
72 Human Rights Watch interview with Embek Tarajanov, ombudsmans office, Bishkek, November 14, 2005.
73 Human Rights Watch interview with Zamira Tokhtohojaeva, UN Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bishkek, November 14, 2005.
74 Human Rights Watch interview with Embek Tarajanov, ombudsmans office, Bishkek, November 14, 2005.
75 Human Rights Watch interview with Mamat Momunov, ombudsmans office, Bishkek, November 14, 2005.
76 Human Rights Watch interview with Ermamat Siuita, ombudsmans office, Bishkek, November 14, 2005.
77 Human Rights Watch interview with Aida A., November 2005.
78 Human Rights Watch interview with Farida F., November 2005.
79 Human Rights Watch interview with Lydia L., November 2005.
80 Human Rights Watch interview with Elmira E., November 2005.
81 Human Rights Watch interview with Farida F., November 2005.
82 Human Rights Watch interview with Tursunai T., November 2005.
83 Human Rights Watch interview with Elmira E., November 2005.
84 Human Rights Watch interview with Keres K., November 2005.
85 Human Rights Watch interview with Mirgul M., November 2005.
86 Human Rights Watch interview with Keres K., November 2005.
87 Human Rights Watch interview with Elmira E., November 2005.
88 Human Rights Watch interview with Mirgul M., November 2005.
89 Human Rights Watch interview with Gulzat G., November 2005.
90 Human Rights Watch interview with Farida F., November 2005.
91 Human Rights Watch interview with Dimira D., November 2005.
93 Human Rights Watch interview with Zhanna Saralaeva, Association of Women Leaders of Jalal Abad and Kaniet Crisis Center, Jalal Abad, November 10, 2005.
95 See below, Obstacles to leaving a violent home.
96 Human Rights Watch interviews with Bubusara Ryskulova, Sezim, Bishkek, November 1; and Zhanna Saralaeva, Association of Women Leaders of Jalal Abad and Kaniet Crisis Center, Jalal Abad, November 10, 2005.
97 Human Rights Watch interview with Feruza F., November 2005.
98 Human Rights Watch interview with Burul Sopieva, KCHR, Bishkek, November 2, 2005.
99 Human Rights Watch interview with Dinara D., November 2005.
100 Human Rights Watch interviews with Burul Sopieva, KCHR, Bishkek, November 2; and Gulzat G., November 2005.
101 Human Rights Watch interview with Keres K., November 2005.
102 Human Rights Watch interview with Altinai A., November 2005.
103 Human Rights Watch interview with Gulzat G., November 2005.
104 Human Rights Watch interview with Nurzat N., November 2005.
105 Human Rights Watch interview with Asel A., November 2005.
106 Human Rights Watch interview with Dimira D., November 2005.
107 Human Rights Watch interview with Batia Tolobaeva, a doctor and member of the KCHR, Bishkek, November 15, 2005.
108 Human Rights Watch interview with Gulnara Mataeva, Mirzake, Uzgen, November 12, 2005.
109 Human Rights Watch interview with Batia Tolobaeva, a doctor and member of the KCHR, Bishkek, November 15, 2005.
110 Human Rights Watch interview with Cholpon Ch., November 2005.
111 Human Rights Watch interview with Elmira E., November 2005.
112 Human Rights Watch interview with Uliana Aitbaeva, Tiup, November 18, 2005.
113 Ibid., and email from Human Rights Watch consultant, Sardar Bagishbekov, based on his telephone interview with Anna Makarova, Accent, Tiup, April 26, 2005.
114 These experiences are all indicative of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but Human Rights Watch is not competent to evaluate the women medically. There is considerable published documentation of the experience of PTSD among women victims of domestic violence. According to the U.S. governments National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), victims of domestic violence are among those who suffer from PTSD. Michelle Rice, Domestic Violence: The National Center for PTSD Fact Sheet, The National Center for PTSD, http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/facts/specific/fs_domestic_violence.html (accessed April 26, 2006). According to the American Psychiatric Association, individuals suffering from PTSD may re-experience the traumatic event in one of the following ways: recurrent and intrusive stressing recollections of the event, including images, thought, or perceptions, recurrent distressing dreams of the event. Individuals with PTSD persistently try to avoid thoughts, feelings, conversations, activities, places or people associated with trauma. They also suffer from markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities, feeling of detachment or estrangement from others, sense of foreshortened future (e.g. does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span). Individuals with PTSD also experience difficulty falling or staying asleep, irritability or outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response. The characteristic symptoms of PTSD that domestic violence victims may experience include feelings of ineffectiveness, shame, despair, or hopelessness, being permanently damaged, constantly threatened, a loss of previously sustained beliefs, hostility, social withdrawal, impaired relationships with others, or a change from the individuals previous personality characteristics. American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 2000, Fourth Edition, Text Edition), pp. 463-468.
115 Human Rights Watch interview with Keres K., November 2005.
116 Human Rights Watch interview with Dimira D., November 2005.
117 Human Rights Watch interview with Keres K., November 2005.
118 Human Rights Watch interview with Elmira E., November 2005.
119 Human Rights Watch interview with Farida F., November 2005.
120 Human Rights Watch interviews with Mirgul M. and Keres K., November 2005.
121 Human Rights Watch interview with Nurzat N., November 2005.
122 Human Rights Watch interview with Keres K., November 2005.
123 Human Rights Watch interview with Batia Tolobaeva, a doctor and member of the KCHR, Bishkek, November 15, 2005.
124 Human Rights Watch interview with Farida F., November 2005.
125 Human Rights Watch interview with Taalaygul Isakunova, expert, the Presidential Council on Women, Family, and Gender Development, Bishkek, October 31, 2005. Government officials emphasis on saving the family and pressuring women to reconcile with their abusers is discussed at length below.
126 Human Rights Watch interview with Keres K., November 2005.
127 Human Rights Watch interview with Salima S., November 2005.
128 Human Rights Watch interview with Nurzat N., November 2005.
129 Human Rights Watch interview with Elmira E., November 2005.
130 Law on Social-Legal Protection from Domestic Violence, 2003. The law breaks down domestic violence into further categories. It defines physical domestic violence as an intentional torture by beating, damaging health, intentional deprivation of the freedom of movement, housing, food, clothing and other normal living conditions, forcing hard labor by one family member to another; as well as deviation by the parents or guardians of minors from their responsibilities towards the minor, such as carrying out their responsibilities regarding health and security of the minor that may result in infliction of harm to his physical or mental wellbeing, damage to his honor and dignity as well as physical and mental development of an affected child; or may lead to death of the member of the family. Psychological family abuse is defined as an intentional humiliation of one family member by another; coercion by one family member of another to commit an illegal act by threats, humiliation or blackmail that causes danger to ones life or health, including offenses that lead to disruption of mental or physical development of a family member. The definition of sexual domestic violence is given as an act by one family member that infringes sexual inviolability of another family member; as well as acts of a sexual character involving a minor.
131 Law on Social-Legal Protection from Domestic Violence, 2003.
132 Email communication from Human Rights Watch consultant, Sardar Bagishbekov, based on his interview with Bermet Tolubaeva, lawyer, Family Support Act NGO, Bishkek, April 2005. According to articles 23 and 24 of the Law on Social-Legal Protection from Domestic Violence, restraining orders are to be issued by a law enforcement officer in cases when a persons health or life are threatened by domestic violence. The order must be filed within 24 hours of the act or a threat of domestic violence or within 24 hours of filing a domestic violence report. Police should exercise control over the accused abusers compliance with the order. A temporary restraining order instructs that the accused assailant is informed that there will be consequences for violation of the restraining order. Article 24 also spells out the requirement of law enforcement and judicial officials to inform the victim of his/her rights. It says that a court order will inform the complainant of the right to bring a case to court, and to file for divorce, division of property, child support, and other compensation, despite the existence of the temporary restraining order. A victim of domestic violence also has the right to file for a protective court order, in which event the temporary restraining order is suspended. Violation of the protective court order leads to civil or criminal liability. Local law enforcement agencies and court bailiffs are responsible for monitoring the execution of conditions mandated by the protective court order. Article 27 of the law provides additional information about the conditions of a protective court order..
133 The amount of the calculation index for 2006 was set at 100 som (around $2.50).
134 Administrative Code of the Kyrgyz Republic, art. 66-4 and 66-5. Administrative penalties may be assigned by a number of authorities, including courts and, in some cases, police.
135 Amended on January 5 and February 13, 2006, respectively.
136 Law on Social-Legal Protection from Domestic Violence, art. 1, 2003.
137 Human Rights Watch interview with Aleksandra Eliferenko, Chance, Bishkek, October 28, 2005.
138 Report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Thirtieth session (January 12-30, 2004), Thirty-first session (July 6-23, 2004), General Assembly Official Records, Fifty-ninth Session, Supplement No. 38 (A/59/38), United Nations, New York, 2004.
139 Human Rights Watch interview with Olga Klementieva, lawyer, Chance, Bishkek, October 29, 2005.
140 Human Rights Watch interview with Taalaygul Isakunova, expert, the Presidential Council on Women, Family, and Gender Development, Bishkek, October 31, 2005.
141 E. Ilibezova, L. Ilibezova, and R. Toktosunov, Domestic violence in Kyrgyzstan: causes, scale, effectiveness of actions (Semeinoe nasilie v Kyrgyzstane: prichiny, masshtaby, effektivnost deiistvii), El Pikir (Public Opinion) center of public opinion research, Bishkek, 2003-2004, p. 54.
143 About 27 percent of the residents of the Pervomaisky district in Bishkek said they viewed corruption as among the main causes for shortcomings in police work. About 50 percent said police give preferential treatment to friends or those who offer them money. About 29 percent doubted the honesty of police officers. Executive summary of the report on social research results of public opinion in Pervomaisky district and the staff of Pervomaisky district police organization (ROVD) of Bishkek city, OSCE, 2004. On file with Human Rights Watch. Despite the lack of trust in police that these statistics reveal, the OSCE analysis states that the residents polled have a generally positive assessment of the district police.
144 OSCE Centre in Bishkek, Concept Paper, Kyrgyz Republic: Police Reform Strategy, http://www.osce.org/documents/cib/2005/04/13866_en.pdf (accessed August 7, 2006).
145 Human Rights Watch interview with Police Colonel Salishybek Mamyrov, OSCE national professional employee (MVD liaison), Bishkek, November 17, 2005.
146 Two experts on womens rights in Kyrgyzstan told Human Rights Watch that victims of domestic violence do not believe that police will treat them as victims of criminal abuse. Taalaygul Isakunova stated bluntly, The reasons why women dont report to police: they dont have faith that the man will be punished Human Rights Watch interview with Taalaygul Isakunova, expert, the Presidential Council on Women, Family, and Gender Development, Bishkek, October 31, 2005. An expert from Diamond, a womens rights group, said, Women fear that they themselves will be tried and not their abusers. Human Rights Watch interview with Maya Kaparova, Diamond, Bishkek, October 31, 2005.
147 Human Rights Watch interview with Aida A., November 2005.
148 Human Rights Watch interview with Elmira E., November 2005.
149 Human Rights Watch interview with Keres K., November 2005.
150 Human Rights Watch interview with Zarina Z., November 2005.
151 Human Rights Watch interview with Olga Klementieva, lawyer, Chance, Bishkek, October 29, 2005.
152 Human Rights Watch interview with Svetlana Sayakbayeva and Erkin Asanaliev, Tendesh, Naryn, November 5, 2005.
153 Human Rights Watch interview with Nurzat N., November 2005.
154 Law on Social-Legal Protection from Domestic Violence, 2003.
156 Human Rights Watch interviews with Taalaygul Isakunova, expert, the Presidential Council on Women, Family, and Gender Development, Bishkek, October 31, and Zamira Tokhtohojaeva, UN Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bishkek, November 14, 2005.
157 Human Rights Watch interview with Embek Tarajanov, ombudsmans office, Bishkek, November 14, 2005.
158 Human Rights Watch interview with Burul Sopieva, KCHR, Bishkek, November 15, 2005.
159 For example, one senior police officer in Jalal Abad told us, For a woman to jail her husband is inconsistent with our religion, its better to resolve problems. There have been no cases when women have sent their husbands to jail. Human Rights Watch interview with a senior police officer, name withheld, Jalal Abad City Police Department, Jalal Abad, November 11, 2005.
162 Human Rights Watch interview with Erkin Asanaliev, Tendesh, Naryn, November 5, 2005.
163 Human Rights Watch interview with a senior police officer, name withheld, Osh Province Police Department, Osh, November 10, 2005.
164 State agency responsible for both criminal investigation and prosecution, and for the protection of due process rights.
165 Human Rights Watch interview with a senior official, name withheld, Osh Province Prosecutors Office, Osh, November 8, 2005.
166 Human Rights Watch interview with a senior official, name withheld, Osh Province Prosecutors Office, Osh, November 8, 2005.
167 Human Rights Watch interview with a senior police officer, name withheld, Osh Province Police Department, Osh, November 10, 2005.
168 Human Rights Watch interview with Olga Klementieva, lawyer, Chance, Bishkek, October 29, 2005.
169 Human Rights Watch interview with Nurgul Asylbekova, Soros Foundation-Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, November 15, 2005.
170 Human Rights Watch interview with Bubusara Ryskulova, Sezim, Bishkek, November 1, 2005.
171 Human Rights Watch interview with officials from the ombudsmans office, Bishkek, November 14, 2005.
172 Human Rights Watch interview with organization psychologist, Association of Women Leaders of Jalal Abad and Kaniet Crisis Center, Jalal Abad crisis center, November 10, 2005.
173 Human Rights Watch interview with Aleksandra Eliferenko, Chance, Bishkek, October 28, 2005.
174 Human Rights Watch interview with Farida F, November 2005.
176 Human Rights Watch interview with Aleksandra Eliferenko, Chance, Bishkek, October 28, 2005.
177 Human Rights Watch interview with a senior official, name withheld, Osh Province Prosecutors Office, Osh, November 8, 2005. Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed half a dozen victims of domestic violence in that district.
178 Human Rights Watch interview with Dimira D., November 2005.
179 Human Rights Watch interview with a senior police officer, name withheld, Osh Province Police Department, Osh, November 10, 2005.
180 Human Rights Watch interview with Erkin Asanaliev, Tendesh, Naryn, November 5, 2005.
181 Human Rights Watch interview with a senior official, name withheld, Osh Province Prosecutors Office, Osh, November 8, 2005.
182 Human Rights Watch interview with Nurzat N., November 2005.
183 Human Rights Watch interview with Taalaygul Isakunova, expert, the Presidential Council on Women, Family, and Gender Development, Bishkek, October 31, 2005.
184 Human Rights Watch interview with Embek Tarajanov, ombudsmans office, Bishkek, November 14, 2005.
185 Human Rights Watch interview with Tursunbek Akun, chairman, Presidential Commission for Human Rights, Bishkek, November 14, 2005.
186 Human Rights Watch interview with Police Colonel Salishybek Mamyrov, OSCE national professional employee (Ministry of Internal Affairs liaison), Bishkek, November 17, 2005. Another expert also pointed to police corruption as a huge problem with respect to domestic violence cases: Human Rights Watch interview with Nurgul Asylbekova, Soros Foundation-Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, November 15, 2005.
187 Human Rights Watch interview with Batia Tolobaeva, a doctor and member of the KCHR, Bishkek, November 15, 2005.
188 Human Rights Watch interview with Chinara Ch., November 2005.
190 Human Rights Watch interview with Dinara D., November 2005.
191 Human Rights Watch interview with a person close to the case, name withheld, November 2005.
192 Fines for domestic violence in particular were reported as having a damaging effect on the well-being of women victims rather than male abusers, because the men pass on the costs to the women. One rights defender reported, If men are fined for acts of domestic violence, then they make the woman pay, if they have no job or money. They say, You called, so you pay. Human Rights Watch interview with rights defender Aziza Abdurasulova, Bishkek, October 30, 2005. Another researcher said, When theres a fine, its also bad for the family because then less money is available for the family, or else the man will take the money from the family budget. Human Rights Watch interview with Bektur Davletov, intern, Diamond, Bishkek, October 31, 2005.
193 Human Rights Watch interview with Batia Tolobaeva, a doctor and member of the KCHR, Bishkek, November 15, 2005. Article 103 of Kyrgyzstans Criminal Code specifies that driving a person to suicide can be punished by up to five years in prison.
194 Human Rights Watch interview with Nadira N., November 2005.
195 Human Rights Watch interview with Jamila J., November 2005.
196 See below, Consequences of police failure to act.
197 Human Rights Watch interview with Nurgul Asylbekova, Soros Foundation-Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, November 15, 2005.
198 Human Rights Watch interview with a senior official, name withheld, Osh Province Prosecutors Office, Osh, November 8, 2005.
199 Human Rights Watch interview with Jamila J., November 2005.
201 There were indications that the possibility of severe or fatal consequences can also spur police to action. One officer told Human Rights Watch, If a woman writes a petition, then we take the husband in. We cannot refuse a petition or fail to act because if the husband then kills his wife, then it will be our own fault. Human Rights Watch interview with a senior police officer, name withheld, Osh Province Police Department, Osh, November 10, 2005.
202 Human Rights Watch interview with Uliana Aitbaeva, Tiup, November 18, 2005.
203 In cases such as the case related to the death of Iskra Aldoiarova, when there are grounds to believe that the procuracy cannot be objective, the plaintiff has the right to request transfer of the case to the military procuracy, as Aitbaeva did.
204 Human Rights Watch interview with Uliana Aitbaeva, Tiup, November 18, 2005.
205 Ibid., Aitbaeva said that the investigative work of the military procuracy was crucial to getting a conviction in the case: They determined that if she had shot herself there would have been blood and matter spray on the wall, but there wasnt. They also analyzed the trajectory of the shot and determined that she could not have shot herself. [The defense] experts tried to say that she had shot herself using her foot.
208 Activist Nargiza Eshtaeva also recounted to us sketchy details of a case in which a man had argued with his wife, reportedly about the paternity of their daughter, and had then killed both wife and daughter with a knife. The case was prosecuted and the man sent to prison. Human Rights Watch interview with Nargiza Eshtaeva, Ailzat, Osh, November 8, 2005.
209 Email communication from Human Rights Watch consultant, Sardar Bagishbekov, based on his telephone interview with Anna Makarova, Accent, Tiup, April 26, 2006.
211 Ibid., and Human Rights Watch interview with Uliana Aitbaeva, Tiup, November 18, 2005.
212 Human Rights Watch interview with Uliana Aitbaeva, Tiup, November 18, 2005.
213 Email communication from Human Rights Watch consultant, Sardar Bagishbekov, based on his telephone interview with Anna Makarova, Accent, Tiup, April 26, 2006.
214 Human Rights Watch interview with Taalaygul Isakunova, expert, the Presidential Council on Women, Family, and Gender Development, Bishkek, October 31, 2005.
215Human Rights Watch interviews with Zhanna Saralaeva, Association of Women Leaders of Jalal Abad and Kaniet Crisis Center, Jalal Abad, November 10; Nargiza Eshtaeva, Ailzat, Osh, November 8; Maya Kaparova, Diamond, Bishkek, October 31; Jamila Kaparova, affiliated with Diamond, Osh, November 8, 2005; Aleksandra Eliferenko, Chance, Bishkek, October 28; Olga Klimentieva, lawyer, Chance, Bishkek, October 29; and Bubusara Ryskulova, Sezim, Bishkek, November 1, 2005.
216 Human Rights Watch interview with Police Colonel Salishybek Mamyrov, OSCE national professional employee (Ministry of Internal Affairs liaison), Bishkek, November 17, 2005.
217 Human Rights Watch interview with Asel A., November 2005.
219 Human Rights Watch interviews with Police Colonel Salishybek Mamyrov, OSCE national professional employee (Ministry of Internal Affairs liaison), Bishkek, November 17, 2005, and with with Taalaygul Isakunova, expert, the Presidential Council on Women, Family, and Gender Development, Bishkek, October 31, 2005.
220 Human Rights Watch interview with Aleksandra Eliferenko, Chance, Bishkek, October 28, 2005.
221 Human Rights Watch interview with Zhanna Saralaeva, Association of Women Leaders of Jalal Abad and Kaniet Crisis Center, Jalal Abad, November 10, 2005.
222 Human Rights Watch interview with Asel A., November 2005.
223 Human Rights Watch interview with Nargiza Eshtaeva, Ailzat, Osh, November 8, 2005.
224 Human Rights Watch interview with Bubusara Ryskulova, Sezim, Bishkek, November 1, 2005.
225 Human Rights Watch interview with Nargiza Eshtaeva, Ailzat, Osh, November 8, 2005.
227 According to Nargiza Eshtaeva, the womans husband had managed, through his connections with local authorities, to obtain a divorce from her without her consent and this contributed to her belief that law enforcement authorities would not help her.
228 Human Rights Watch interview with Aleksandra Eliferenko, Chance, Bishkek, October 28, 2005. Official statistics on the number of female members of the aksakal courts was not available at the time of this writing. Email communication from Human Rights Watch consultant, Sardar Bagishbekov, based on his telephone interview with Toktokan Borombaeva, Presidential Council on Women, Family, and Gender Development, Bishkek, April 24, 2006.
229 Law on Social-Legal Protection from Domestic Violence, 2003.
230 Law on Aksakal Court, art.4.
231 Law on Aksakal Court, art. 28.
232 Law on Aksakal Court, art. 4.
233 Human Rights Watch interview with Makhamadjan Abduzhaparov, attorney, Spravedlivost, Jalal Abad, November 11, 2005.
234 Human Rights Watch interview with a senior police officer, name withheld, Osh Province Police Department, Osh, November 10, 2005.
235 Human Rights Watch interview with Makhamadjan Abduzhaparov, attorney, Spravedlivost, Jalal Abad, November 11, 2005.
236 Human Rights Watch interview with a senior police officer, name withheld, Jalal Abad City Police Department, Jalal Abad, November 11, 2005.
237 Human Rights Watch interview with a senior police officer, name withheld, Osh Province Police Department, Osh, November 10, 2005.
238 Human Rights Watch interview with members of an aksakal court, place withheld, November 2005. Another former aksakal, now a senior government official, said, A lot of people continue to use [domestic] violence in the villages. I worked as an aksakal. We usually helped people reconcile. Human Rights Watch interview with a senior government official, name withheld, Bishkek, November 2005.
239 Human Rights Watch interview with members of an aksakal court, place withheld, November 2005.
240 Ibid. For the most part, the aksakal members with whom Human Rights Watch spoke responded to questions about domestic violence by referring to scandals and arguments, and in this way downplayed the seriousness of these conflicts.
242 Human Rights Watch interview with rights defender Aziza Abdurasulova, Bishkek, October 30, 2005.
243 Human Rights Watch interview with Taalaygul Isakunova, expert, the Presidential Council on Women, Family, and Gender Development, Bishkek, October 31, 2005.
244 Human Rights Watch interview with members of an aksakal court, place withheld, November 2005.
245 Human Rights Watch interview with Nargiza Eshtaeva, Ailzat, Osh, November 8, 2005.
246 Human Rights Watch interview with Dimira D., November 2005.
247Human Rights Watch interview with Nargiza Eshtaeva, Ailzat NGO, Osh, November 8, 2005.
248 Human Rights Watch interview with Jamila Kaparova, affiliated with Diamond, Osh, November 8, 2005.
250 Human Rights Watch interview with Aleksandra Eliferenko, Bishkek, Chance, October 28, 2005.
251 Human Rights Watch interview with Mamat Momunov, ombudsmans office, Bishkek, November 14, 2005.
252 Human Rights Watch interview with a senior police officer, name withheld, Osh Province Police Department, Osh, November 10, 2005.
253 Human Rights Watch interview with a volunteer, name not available, Alai district in Jalal Abad province, November 9, 2005.
254 Human Rights Watch interview with Zhanna Saralaeva, Association of Women Leaders of Jalal Abad and Kaniet Crisis Center, Jalal Abad, November 10, 2005.
255 Human Rights Watch interview with Jamila Kaparova, affiliated with Diamond, Osh, November 8, 2005.
256 Human Rights Watch interview with organization psychologist, Association of Women Leaders of Jalal Abad and Kaniet Crisis Center, Jalal Abad, November 10, 2005.
257 Human Rights Watch interview with Dinara D., November 2005.
258 Human Rights Watch interview with Nurzat N., November 2005.
259 Human Rights Watch interview with a senior police officer, name withheld, Osh Province Police Department, Osh, November 10, 2005. Womens councils were established in Central Asia and elsewhere during the Soviet period to instill communist ideas among women. They continue to operate in some countries, including Kyrgyzstan. See, Human Rights Watch, The Human Rights Watch Global Report on Womens Human Rights, (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1995), Discrimination against Women Workers in Russia, footnote 120.
260 Human Rights Watch interview with organization psychologist, Association of Women Leaders of Jalal Abad and Kaniet Crisis Center, Jalal Abad crisis center, November 10, 2005.
261 Human Rights Watch interview with a government human rights official, name withheld, Bishkek, November 2005.
262 Human Rights Watch interview with Aleksandra Eliferenko, Bishkek, October 28, 2005.
263 Human Rights Watch interview with Nargiza Eshtaeva, Ailzat, Osh, November 8, 2005.
264 Human Rights Watch interview with Bubusara Ryskulova, Sezim, Bishkek, October 28, 2005.
265 Human Rights Watch interview with Lydia L., November 2005.
267 Human Rights Watch interview with Nargiza Eshtaeva, Ailzat, Osh, November 8, 2005.
268 Human Rights Watch interview with Zhanna Saralaeva, Association of Women Leaders of Jalal Abad and Kaniet Crisis Center, Jalal Abad, November 10, 2005.
269 Human Rights Watch interview with Nargiza Eshtaeva, Ailzat, Osh, November 8, 2005.
270 Human Rights Watch interview with a person close to the case, name withheld, October 2005.
271 Human Rights Watch interview with Nargiza Eshtaeva, Ailzat, Osh, November 8, 2005.
272 Others remained in violent marriages at the time the research was conducted.
273 Human Rights Watch interview with Elmira E., November 2005.
274 Human Rights Watch interview with Keres K., November 2005.
275 Human Rights Watch interview with Tursunai T., November 2005.
276 Human Rights Watch interview with Dimira D., November 2005.
277 Human Rights Watch interview with Gulzat G., November 2005.
278 Human Rights Watch interview with Feruza F., November 2005.
279 Human Rights Watch interview with Burul Sopieva, KCHR, Bishkek, November 2, 2005.
280 Human Rights Watch interview with Gulzat G., November 2005.
282 Human Rights Watch interview with Farida F., November 2005.
283 Human Rights Watch interview with Nurzat N., November 2005.
284 Human Rights Watch interview with Dimira D., November 2005.
285 Human Rights Watch interview with Nurgul Asylbekova, Soros Foundation-Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, November 15, 2005.
286 Human Rights Watch interview with Asel A., November 2005.
287 Human Rights Watch interview with Keres K., November 2005.
289 Human Rights Watch interviews with Gulnara Baimambetova, United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), Bishkek, November 17; and Nargiza Eshtaeva, Ailzat, Osh, November 8, 2005.
290 Human Rights Watch interview with Elmira E., November 2005.
291 Human Rights Watch interview with a senior official, name withheld, Osh Province Prosecutors Office, Osh, November 8, 2005.
292 Human Rights Watch interview with Asel A., November 2005.
293 Human Rights Watch interview with Nargiza Eshtaeva, Ailzat, Osh, November 8, 2005.
294 See above, Womens escape stories. Human Rights Watch interview with Gulzat G., November 2005.
295 Human Rights Watch interviews with Dinara D. and Nurzat N., November 2005.
296 Human Rights Watch interview with Svetlana Sayakbayeva and Erkin Asanaliev, Tendesh, Naryn, November 5, 2005.
299 Human Rights Watch interview with Keres K., November 2005.
300 Human Rights Watch interview with Tursunai T., November 2005.
301 Human Rights Watch interview with Elmira E., November 2005.
303 Human Rights Watch interview with Tursunai T., November 2005.
304 Human Rights Watch interview with Dimira D., November 2005.
305 Human Rights Watch interview with Nurzat N., November 2005.
306 Human Rights Watch interview with Elmira E., November 2005.
307 The Family Code of the Kyrgyz Republic was adopted on August 30, 2003, and last amended on June 20, 2005.
308 Human Rights Watch interview with Olga Klementieva, lawyer, Chance, Bishkek, October 29, 2005.
309 Human Rights Watch interview with Dimira D., November 2005.
310 Human Rights Watch interview with Keres K., November 2005.
311 Article 11 of the Family Code says that spouses rights and obligations are recognized only following registration of a marriage with the state registry (ZAGS). The implication is that unregistered marriages are not recognized as legal by the state. Unregistered marriages are particularly common when men marry second wives.
312 Some NGO activists point out that it costs 350 som [about $9] to register a marriage. Human Rights Watch interview with Svetlana Sayakbayeva and Erkin Asanaliev, Tendesh, Naryn, November 5, 2005.
313 Human Rights Watch interview with Nargiza Eshtaeva, Ailzat, Osh, November 8, 2005.
314 Ibid., and Human Rights Watch interview with Bubusara Ryskulova, Sezim, Bishkek, November 1, 2005.
315 Email from Human Rights Watch consultant, Sardar Bagishbekov, based on his telephone interview with Bubusara Ryskulova, Sezim, Bishkek, June 29, 2006; and Human Rights Watch interview with Gulnara Baimambetova, UNIFEM, Bishkek, November 17, 2005.
316 Human Rights Watch interview with Nurzat N., November 2005.
317 Human Rights Watch interview with Nazgul N., November 2005.
319 Human Rights Watch interviews with Dinara D. and Altinai A., November 2005.
320 Human Rights Watch interview with Svetlana Sayakbayeva and Erkin Asanaliev, Tendesh, Naryn, November 5, 2005.
321 Human Rights Watch interview with Ainura A., November 2005.
322 Human Rights Watch interview with Shoira S., November 2005.
323 Human Rights Watch interview with Zarina Z., November 2005.
324 Human Rights Watch interview with Nurzat N., November 2005.
325 Human Rights Watch interview with Feruza F., November 2005.