Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal, but as in previous years, the government failed to enforce the law effectively and rape cases were underreported. Penalties for conviction of sexual assault range from three to eight years’ imprisonment. Prosecutors rarely brought rape cases to court. Statistics on the number of cases or convictions during the year were not available. Police generally regarded spousal rape as an administrative offense.
While the law specifically prohibits domestic violence and spousal abuse, violence against women and girls remained a significant problem, yet was underreported. Penalties for domestic violence convictions ranged from fines to 15 years’ imprisonment, the latter if abuse resulted in death. HRW catalogued a range of violent forms of domestic violence and found that the government did not sufficiently investigate and prosecute cases, provide services and support for survivors, pursue protection, and penalize perpetrators. In the small number of reported cases reviewed by courts, many charges were considered administrative offenses rather than crimes, thus carrying a lesser punishment. The Ministry of Internal Affairs reported registering 1,819 cases of domestic violence during the first six months of the year. According to the ministry, it issued 1,578 temporary protection orders, opened 118 criminal cases, and brought administrative charges against 1,004 individuals based on these complaints.
Many crimes against women went unreported due to psychological pressure, economic dependence, cultural traditions, fear of stigma, and apathy among law enforcement officers. There were also reports of spouses retaliating against women who reported abuse.
Several local NGOs provided services to victims of domestic violence, including legal, medical, and psychological assistance, a crisis hotline, shelters, and prevention programs. Organizations assisting battered women also lobbied to streamline the legal process for obtaining protection orders. The government provided offices to the Sezim Shelter for victims of domestic abuse and paid its expenses. According to the shelter, its hotline received 546 telephone calls during the first six months of the year. Women made 96 percent of the calls, 32 percent of which involved domestic violence. The shelter provided consultations, advocacy, and shelter services to 1,100 individuals.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Although prohibited by law, the practice of kidnapping women and girls for forced marriage continued. According to NGOs Kyz Korgon and the Women’s Support Center, an average of at least 32 women and girls were kidnapped daily. Previous independent studies estimated that as many as 50 percent of all marriages in the country involved bride kidnapping.
The Sezim Center reported approximately 50 percent of its clients were in unregistered marriages, which do not have legal force. Observers reported there was a greater frequency of early marriage, polygamy, and bride kidnapping in connection with unregistered religious marriages. This also affected data availability on such marriages.
Some victims of bride kidnapping went to the local police to obtain protective orders, but authorities often poorly enforced such orders. Although in 2012 the government strengthened the penalty for conviction of bride kidnapping to a maximum of 10 years in prison, NGOs continued to report no increase in the reporting or prosecution of the crime.
Sexual Harassment: According to the local NGO Shans, sexual harassment was widespread, especially in private-sector workplaces and among university students, but it was rarely reported or prosecuted. The law prohibits physical sexual assault but not verbal sexual harassment.
Reproductive Rights: By law couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. National health regulations require that family planning counseling and services be readily available through a range of health-care professionals, including not only obstetricians and gynecologists but also family doctors, paramedics, and nurse midwives. At the level of primary health care, regulations require that women who request contraceptives receive them regardless of ability to pay.
National health-care protocols require that women be offered postpartum care and counseling on methods and services related to family planning. The government offered special programs to meet the needs of vulnerable target groups, such as adolescents, internally displaced persons, urban migrants, persons in prostitution, and the very poor. In many remote villages, however, reproductive health-care services were nonexistent. Where remote services were available, the rugged terrain, inadequate roads, or lack of transport made them nearly inaccessible.
Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women and men. Women have the same rights as men, including under family law, property law, and in the judicial system, but because of poor enforcement of the law, discrimination against women persisted. The National Council on the Issues of Family, Women, and Gender Development, which reports to the president, is responsible for women’s issues.
Data from NGOs working on women’s issues indicated women were less healthy, more abused, less able to work outside the home, and less able than men to determine independently the disposition of their earnings. According to the UN Development Fund for Women and domestic NGOs, women did not face discrimination in access to credit or owning businesses.
The annual government-sponsored media campaign to combat violence against women took place in December. According to NGOs, the campaign helped to coordinate the efforts of groups combating violence against women and give them a greater voice.