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People in Kazakhstan report more cases of domestic violence during quarantine

1 May 2020

People in Kazakhstan report more cases of domestic violence during quarantine

In Kazakhstan the number of reports of domestic violence have continued to rise during quarantine. But this is in no way a unique feature of this country. To the contrary, with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and the imposition of quarantine rules in many countries, practically all nations started reporting more cases of domestic violence. For instance, in the UK one of the biggest helplines for victims of domestic violence Refuge reported a daily increase in calls by 700 percent. In China’s Hubei province  domestic violence reports to police during quarantine more than tripled.  In France only within a week of lockdown reports of domestic abuse to police jumped 32 percent.  This has also prompted the Secretary-General of the UN to make a recent appeal for “peace in homes” around the world.  

 “People of various ages call to the helpline”

Human rights advocate, activist and leader of “Ne molchi” (Don’t be Silent) movement Dina Smailova says that before the lockdown her organization’s helpline (8 705 151 0000) used to receive mainly calls relating to sexual violence. She points out that reports of domestic violence were there, but not as many as now.

“There are situations when a woman is all covered in bruises but cannot obtain a protective order to have her abuser isolated from her. Despaired, she comes to the police on her own only to be sent back home and told that she can’t walk around during quarantine. At the same time, we see that quite decisive legal actions are being taken against people violating lockdown rules. I think that the same decisive measures should be taken against domestic abusers,” says Dina. “If the media publish stories, including photos, of domestic abusers receiving a fair punishment, then the violence perpetrators will think twice and women will feel safer.”  

According to Dina Smailova people of various ages call to her helpline, including women and children. Reports are coming in through the telephone and WhatsApp. Dina has shared a few of the recent complaints:

«...I am 20 and my young brother is 10. The matter at hand is, as usual, my father... He drinks too much. I’ve seen him beat mum ever since I was born. ...Recently he started beating my young brother when no one is at home. Because of fear my brother started stuttering. My mum is a vendor, but she isn’t working during quarantine. How can I solve the problem with the apartment? If I go to court, will they accept my report? My mum has filed for divorce several times. Then once my father came home and beat her up so badly that she couldn’t get up for a few days”.

“Good afternoon, I am locked out of house with children after an argument with my husband. I called the police but no one picks up the phone. They say that everything is closed due to quarantine... Where can I go? ».

Dina Smailova says that the best solution during lockdown would be to isolate an abuser for the entire duration of quarantine like is being done in some other countries already. “If this is done, then at least we can be sure that victims don’t have to be at home with their abusers all the time,” she says.

To help victims of gender-based violence and people under risk the National Commission for Women, Family and Demographic Policy under President of the Republic of Kazakhstan has launched a number of initiatives including with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UN-Women in Kazakhstan. Among the different initiatives, the agencies have collected different types of information including a step-by-step referral system on what to do if a person is in a situation of violence (leaflet). We’ve collected the telephone numbers from all regions of the country where people can turn to for help and shelter,” said UNFPA National Coordinator on Population, Development and Gender Gaziza Moldakulova.

UNFPA also supports national authorities to create a system of multi-sectoral response to gender-based violence. Recently the Fund within the sub-regional project entitled “Strengthening national capacities to improve prevention of, and responses to Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in Central Asia” with financial assistance from the UK Government updated standard operating procedures (SOPs) for healthcare, social care and the police to reflect the needs of people with disabilities.

UN Women and UNFPA are also conducting a rapid gender assessment which will soon provide additional insights on how the current Covid-19 pandemic is having an impact on women and girls in different spheres.

New heroes

UNFPA is also actively promoting the crucial role that husbands and fathers can play in the family and is supporting discussions, trainings and disseminating information and encouragement to families during the lockdown period.

“A hero used to be someone who hunted and provided for the family. Now during lockdown it’s time to show one’s heroism in a different way – one has to help their family, their wife, share the burden of housework and really show that family is not something that’s only the care of a woman, but that it’s a matter of importance for everyone,” said Almas Siranov who featured in the video calling on men to protect their families. – “A man is called a man because he can do any work, such as helping around the house, looking after children, doing homework with them, helping his wife with the chores. And by doing that the status of a man isn’t any less – in fact, even more – because being together with one’s family is the most important thing in a person’s life”.  

During the lockdown UNFPA and the National Commission for Women, Family and Demographic Policy under President of the Republic of Kazakhstan have conducted a communications campaign. Messages encouraging to show friendliness, love and family values were needed to people more than ever to have patience and be families where there is no place for violence.

“Stability in the family comes not only from the absence of violence, but also from the positive contribution that men can make,” said UNFPA’s National HIV coordinator in Kazakhstan Yuliya Lyssenkova. – “From our trainings and conversations with fathers and husbands we realized that men do want to play an active part in their families, only some of them don’t always know how to do it. Meanwhile, it is known that men significantly contributing to the upbringing of their children tend to be more satisfied with their lives and with themselves and have a higher self-esteem”.  

Picture credits to doidam10.