Stopping sexual violence impunity in KazakhstanParticipants at a UN Women event – Life free from fear: Stop rape impunity – provide law makers with concrete steps to end sexual violence in Kazakhstan.
Attendees to a recent advocacy event urged decision-makers to end sexual violence in Kazakhstan by promoting zero tolerance for sexual violence with tougher laws and punishments, prosecutions, providing free legal, psychological, safe shelter and rehabilitation services for survivors, and nationwide rape prevention and awareness-raising campaigns.
“Rape is a violation of basic human rights and failure to prevent it and bring perpetrators to justice shifts responsibility to the state,” said Mr. Norimasa Shimomura, UN Resident Coordinator in Kazakhstan. “The effective response to sexual assaults requires political will and coordinated efforts by lawmakers, law enforcement and the judiciary, and medical and social services that focus on prevention, adequate and effective response and protection of sexual assault survivors.”
“Justice delayed is justice denied. Impunity for sexual violence crimes undermines trust in the legal system and law enforcement, and potentially endangers peace and security,” said Mr. Shimomura.
Organized by UN Women MCO Kazakhstan, Life free from fear: Stop rape impunity and held 25 August in Astana to commemorate Orange Day, which is 25th of every and each month proclaimed by the United Nations Secretary-General’s Campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women to raise awareness of and take action to end violence against women and girls and support the Facebook campaign #НеМолчи.KZ! (Don’t Keep Silent!), a national movement to combat sexual violence. Attendees included lawyers and survivor advocates and representatives from law enforcement, medical and social services, NGOs, media and the UN system.
Participants recommended to the General Prosecutor's Office and the Ministries of Internal Affairs, Health and Social Development, Education, and Culture and Information that they:
- Integrate work on rape in a national programme to combat gender-based violence against women;
- Make legislative changes, clarify definitions, toughen punishments;
- Provide comprehensive, adequately funded free legal, psychological and safe shelter services for survivors and their families;
- Develop specialist sexual violence courts and criminal justice system advocates for survivors;
- Train police, prosecutors, judges and criminal justice system personnel to more speedily prosecute sexual violence cases;
- Conduct awareness-raising campaigns in schools on women’s rights and the wrongs of sexual violence;
- Pay special attention to cases involving LGBT and HIV-positive people, as they are most vulnerable and cases are usually not reported.
Sexual violence survivors at the Life free from fear: Stop rape Impunity event told their stories. “I have been through hell for months, fighting to get my husband punished. He burned me and took my children: Where is the justice? I don’t want to be a victim. I want the Government to protect me,” said Ms. Akerke Baigaziyeva.
“There are many cases of sexual violence in the LGBT community, almost none of them reported. Many survivors must cope with a strong sense of insecurity and disempowerment because of their sexual orientation,” said Ms. Zhanar Sekerbayeva, an activist from the Feminita LGBT group.
The Don’t Keep Silent! campaign began when Ms. Dina Smailova, a well-known Kazakh producer, joined with the Union of Crisis Centers of Kazakhstan to tell how she was sexually assaulted by a group of classmates at a wedding 25 years ago. Ms Smailova and the Union then started an online flash mob. Thousands wrote Dina to tell their stories, of sexual assaults in their teens or childhood they’d never spoken about until now.
“As a survivor of sexual violence, I call upon decision makers to take this seriously,” said Ms. Smailova. “Make changes in legislation, punish perpetrators not only for 5-8 years as it is now but for 10-20 years – even lifelong punishment if it was a group rape – and increase funding for shelters, psychological and legal support for survivors.”
Supported by UN Women MCO Kazakhstan’s Ending Violence against Women programme, the Don’t Be Silent campaign has revealed the horrifying magnitude of sexual violence in Kazakhstan, the depth of social stereotypes and the lack of effective legislative, law enforcement and medical support to survivors.
Now a national movement against sexual violence, Don’t Keep Silent! provides sexual assault survivors with psychological and legal support, organizes group therapy sessions and informs the public as new cases arise.
UN Women has helped Don’t Keep Silent! draft a strategic plan, provided best practices on rape prevention and response, and supported sexual violence awareness raising events such Orange Day the 25th of each month and helped arrange meetings with members of Parliament to advocate legislative changes.