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Kyrgyzstan tries to solve domestic violence problem
The government is calling upon civil society to help with measures to prevent such abuses, primarily by educating women about their rights.
By Bakyt Ibraimov
OSH – Six years ago, 21-year-old Malika married a divorced man and eventually bore two children with him. They never registered their union at the Osh office of vital statistics.
"A 'nikah' [Islamic] wedding ceremony took place, after which we lived as husband and wife," she said. "In recent years, my husband began beating me. Recently, he beat me so severely that he injured me, after which I decided not to go back to him."
Malika was forced to return to her parents' home. She doesn't know whether she has a claim to the property that remains in the house of her unofficial spouse.
"Such cases occur quite often because many young married women don't know their rights," Orunbek Samidinov, an Osh attorney, told Central Asia Online.
Preventing domestic violence is becoming a government priority, and it is calling upon civil society to play a role in tackling the problem.
From the government and crisis centres' point of view, it is highly important to increase the ability of local communities to fight domestic violence, Samidinov said.
"For women, especially villagers, it is essential to hold seminars and conferences to raise their legal awareness and to inform them of family law," he said. "On such occasions, women can trade stories about building up their leadership skills."
A problem that seldom reaches courts
Kyrgyz authorities recorded 2,351 cases of domestic violence in the first 11 months of 2013, only 120 of which became judicial matters, according to the Ministry of Social Development (MSR).
Physical beatings figured in 66.3% of those 2,351 cases, the MSR said.
Therefore, the government, along with civic organisations, intends in 2014 to implement a project aimed at launching a dialogue at national level and laying the foundation for helping women suffering from spousal abuse.
"In its 12 years of operation, 10,598 girls and women in difficult situations have come to us from throughout Kyrgyzstan," Darika Asilbekova, director of the Ak Jurok (Kind Heart) crisis centre in Osh, told Central Asia Online. "All of them received psychological and legal assistance."
Centre managers and Osh Oblast government officials in 2009 signed a memorandum of understanding, leading to the opening that year of a shelter with space for 12 individuals needing skilled medical and psychological-social assistance, she said.
"Оver the last five years, 205 women have stayed in this shelter," Asilbekova said. "Violence against [them] took various forms – physical, sexual and emotional."
Men to receive help too
This year, Ak Jurok intends to also help men with domestic problems, she said. The expansion of duties became possible after the MSR allocated 556,000 KGS (about US $11,000) to the crisis centre, which won a contest among purveyors of community projects in southern Kyrgyzstan.
"Last December alone, 11 men abused by their wives ... appealed to our psychologists and lawyers," she said.
Almost 90% of abused husbands become alcoholics and end up homeless, the MSR said.
"On January 30, men's crisis centres opened in Chui Oblast and in Osh," the MSR said. "They'll give psychological and social assistance to men."