Within the first two weeks of 2020, three women were beaten to death by their husbands or partners in Kyrgyzstan. Sadly, these were not isolated incidents. Despite having a domestic violence law in place since 2017, domestic violence is not rare in Kyrgyzstan. In fact, reports of abuse are rising. Since 2011, the number of reported incidents of domestic violence has risen by 400 percent.
Most victims are women and their abusers are usually their husbands.
A group of Members of Parliament (MPs) in Kyrgyzstan’s parliament have made it their mission to stop the violence. They formed the Forum of Women MPs, an all-female, bi-partisan group, set up with the support of NDI in 2011, with representation from all parties with women members in parliament. The group seeks to use its collective voice to take on public issues that have been previously overlooked.
The Forum has played a significant role in introducing and passing legislation to prevent bridal kidnapping and early marriages, ensure that 30 percent of each gender is represented in parliament and local councils, and curb domestic violence.
Since the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence passed in 2017, the Forum has monitored its implementation and effectiveness. It has also convened public meetings in rural areas to hear directly from citizens, who are often cut out of the political process, to identify loopholes and weaknesses in the law.
In the wake of the deadly violence around the new year, members of the Forum held a meeting that drew more than a hundred members of the local community, including women and men, civil society organizations, and local elected officials. The MPs listened as local citizens rose one-by-one to detail their personal experiences with domestic violence, ask questions, and make recommendations on how to better protect women and families.
The Forum used this feedback to draft new amendments to close loopholes that left women vulnerable. Altogether, they submitted amendments to three different laws, including the criminal code. If passed, these revisions would make it easier for victims to seek help by eliminating costly fines that had proved to be a burden on women and families rather than a deterrent to violent abusers. Instead, they would require detention for perpetrators for a period between 48 hours and 15 days. The Forum has also pushed to have perpetrators charged criminally, rather than administratively, which would represent a fundamental shift.
These trailblazing Kyrgyz MPs hope these amendments will keep women and families safer, and that with continued oversight, domestic violence in the country will decline. With support from USAID, NDI continues to work closely with the Forum as it shepherds its amendments through the parliament and consults with communities on the laws’ effectiveness. These women are determined to change the face of politics in Kyrgyzstan, and they are already well on their way.