Press Release: Kazakhstan moves closer to strengthening its laws and policies to combat violence against women


22 December 2020 – Senior national leaders, including the deputies of the Parliament of Kazakhstan, joined experts, representatives from civil society and international organizations to discuss Kazakhstan integrating key international conventions designed to eliminate violence against women and girls into existing laws and policies. During the meeting participants discussed the prospects for integrating the Istanbul convention and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The participants also exchanged views on approaches and strategies for how such norms and standards could be implemented in the future.

The National Commission for Women, Family and Demographic Policy under the President of Kazakhstan, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Republic of Kazakhstan, with the support of UN Women, organized this important consultation.

“Kazakhstan is taking comprehensive measures to protect the rights of women and children. By joining the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Beijing Declaration, Kazakhstan, thereby, confirmed its commitment to protect women's rights. And, today we discussed the importance of the Istanbul Convention, what measures we need to take to join it, the harmonization of legislation, and our next steps,” said Elena Tarasenko, Deputy Chairperson of the National Commission for Women, Family and Demographic Policy under the President Republic of Kazakhstan.

In 2019, at a regional review meeting for the Asia and Pacific region on the 25th anniversary of the landmark Beijing Declaration and International Conference on Population and Development Nairobi Summit, Kazakhstan’s official delegation announced the Government’s intention to join the Istanbul Convention. On 22 April 2020, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe decided to invite Kazakhstan and Tunisia, as the first non-member states, to accede to the Istanbul Convention.

“Even before COVID-19 broke out, violence against women and girls had reached pandemic proportions. Last year, 243 million women and girls worldwide experienced intimate partner violence. Meanwhile, less than 40 percent of women who have experienced violence reported or sought help. As countries introduced isolation measures to stop the spread of the virus, violence against women, especially domestic violence, increased - in some countries, hotline calls have quadrupled. According to estimates by the United Nations Population Fund, every three months of quarantine leads to new victims - an additional 15 million women,” said Nargis Azizova, Coordinator of UN Women Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia. She added that it is now more important than ever that governments take concrete action to protect and assist victims of violence in line with international norms and standards.



On 7 April, 2011, a new Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence – the Istanbul Convention – was adopted. Based on the language used by the United Nations in its general recommendation CEDAW 19 (1992) and the Declaration (1993), the Convention defines “violence against women” as “a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women”. This includes “all acts of gender-based violence, which result or may lead to physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering for women, including threats to commit such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether in public or private life”. The Istanbul Convention contains detailed, comprehensive and legally binding standards for government action to eradicate violence against women.

The document aims at zero tolerance for such violence and is a major step forward in making Europe and beyond a safer place, free from gender-based violence. Governments that have ratified the Convention are obliged to change their laws, introduce practical measures to prevent violence and support victims, and allocate resources to effectively prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence. It requires the criminalisation of a broad range of forms of violence against women, child and forced marriage, forced abortion and forced sterilisation. It obliges states to prevent offences, protect victims, and prosecute perpetrators, as well as to develop integrated policies through criminal and civil law provisions, improve service delivery, resource allocation, and adopt culturally transformative measures. 

The Istanbul Convention has been ratified by 34 countries and signed by 11 countries.