At the online conference “Responsibility for sexual harassment: what we don’t say”, which was held on November 13, 2020, national and international experts discussed problems related to sexual harassment in Kazakhstan.

Harassment is the first step to violence. But unfortunately, due to the lack of criminal and / or administrative responsibility for harassment in Kazakhstan, the victims do not have the opportunity to seek justice and address to law enforcement and judicial authorities for protection and to hold the investigator responsible. Hence the lack of any state-legal statistics on sexual harassment.

According to the lawyer Kundyz Utebekova, only few victims of sexual harassment are ready to defend their rights in court. Kundyz proposed to introduce an article to the Code of Administrative Offences and article to the Criminal Code, as criminal offense. Since criminal offenses are not shown in the criminal record certificate, additional measures will also need to be introduced in the future to prohibit those involved in sexual harassment from engaging in certain activities (for example, teaching).

“According to official statistics of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the article “Compulsion to sexual intercourse, sodomy, and lesbianism or other actions of sexual nature” of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan is very rarely used in practice. In 20 years, between 1998 and 2018, only 87 cases were registered” human rights lawyer Khalida Azhigulova said.

Defense lawyer, conference participant, Zhangeldy Suleymanov, also suggests introducing liability for sexual harassment. “First of all, we need to determine the definition. It is more correct to use the word harassment without translation, because the phrase “сексуальные домогательства” distorts the whole meaning. Also, for a civilized country, Kazakhstan needs to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. Definition in foreign jurisdictions is given slightly different than in the Kazakhstani draft law” Zhangeldy Suleymanov suggested.

According to activists, article in the criminal code that would protect people from sexual harassment is really needed in Kazakhstan. The state is obliged to provide its citizens with a system of protection against sexual harassment. Activists have created a petition calling for a legal ban on sexual harassment.

In support of the introduction of responsibility for harassment in Kazakhstan, the following speakers addressed the conference:

– Almat Mukhamedzhanov, Director of Public Fund “NeMolchi”

– Nargis Azizova, representative of the UN Women’s Regional Office in Turkey

– Aigerim Shadeeva, feminist, blogger

– Leyla Makhmudova, representative of the Feminist Fund “FemAgora”

– Dastan Akkozha, Cabar Asia journalist

– Bauyrzhan Azanov, defense lawyer

– Asselina Sailaubekova, blogger, eco-activist

– Kundyz Utebekova, defense lawyer

– Khalida Azhigulova, international lawyer, PhD

– Moldiar Ergebekov, feminist, lecturer at SDU

– Zhanar Temirbekova, adviser to the President of AlmaU

– Madina Dzhunusova, IPPA researcher at the University of Central Asia

– Ekaterina Tyagay, defense lawyer of Daria Varakina, Russian Federation

To watch a Russian version of the conference click the Youtube link.

More information about the project can be found here.

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