Central Asian sexual violence laws are out of step with international norms rooted in the recognition of consent as central to sexual relations, claims a new report from Equality Now. Equality Now is a non-governmental organization that advocates for the protection and promotion of the human rights of women and girls.
A recently published report outlines sexual violence laws in five Eurasian countries: Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Here at Crossroads Asia, we focus on findings related to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, but you can access the full report. here.
The criminal laws of three Central Asian countries deal with three main types of sexual violence: rape, sexual assault and coercion or coercion into sexual activity. However, in dividing these crimes, governments have minimized some forms of sexual assault, and none of the three countries have incorporated the concept of consent into their legal frameworks.
As the Equality Now report points out, “The crime of rape in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan is a crime of other openings in another person’s body containing body parts or objects to which that person has not consented. It is understood to cover only vaginal penetration of the penis and not the corpus.” All three penal codes revolve primarily around violence, the threat of violence, or the exploitation of the victim’s helplessness. I’m here.
The Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Uzbek penal codes also refer to “assault of a sexual nature”, which rely on the same framework of violence but frame such assaults in derogatory terms. Uzbekistan’s criminal law refers to “unnatural fulfillment of sexual desires”. Generally, these crimes are sentenced the same as crimes considered “rape”, but they are separate.
Finally, “coercion/coercion” is covered by additional articles in three countries. In Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, rape or assault of a sexual nature committed using extortion, “or substance use or other dependence of the victim” falls into this category. Uzbekistan’s criminal code refers to “where the victim was in an official, material or other dependent relationship with the perpetrator”.
Equality Now wrote, “Despite being classified as rape by local and international standards, this crime is classified as a ‘less serious crime’ and carries a lighter sentence.”
“The problematic assumption behind these definitions is that if the act is not committed using physical violence or a serious threat to life and health, it does not amount to rape and is considered a minor crime. only can be criminalized,” the report further states.
The difference is clear. For example, Uzbekistan’s Penal Code defines rape as “sexual intercourse by force, intimidation, or exploitation of the victim’s helplessness,” which is subject to article 118 and carries a penalty of seven to seven penalties. increase. 10 years, aggravated with a sentence of 10 years to her 15 years for victims under the age of 18, “close relatives” (not usually construed to mean a spouse), and “causing serious consequences” format. Article 119 — “Unnatural Satisfaction of Sexual Needs with Violence” — is similar.
However, regarding “forcing a woman to have sexual intercourse”, Article 121 states: Material or other dependence… shall be punishable by up to 300 hours of compulsory community service, or up to two years of correctional labor. ”
This difference is generally reflected in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan (there are some differences in punishment), but here again violence in the physical understanding of the word is seen as rape and “forcing a woman to have sexual intercourse”. ‘ is the main difference. Because of this focus on physical violence, “huge numbers of acts of sexual violence go unpunished,” writes Equality Now.
This narrow understanding of violence places the burden of struggle on the victim and makes judgments about the victim’s behavior (or lack thereof) rather than that of the perpetrator. Imagine a scenario where you don’t.
Calling for Eurasian governments to align sexual violence laws with contemporary international norms, Equality Now’s recommendations focus on building consent into the legal framework. Existing law states that “lack of consent on the part of the victim is not considered a constituent of a crime, despite being explicitly required by local and international standards.” The law does not cover all situations “that may prevent the victim from expressing consent, such as situations of abuse of trust and authority or dependence.”
Until the laws in the region are updated, existing provisions can be interpreted more positively to provide victims with justice in line with international standards. For example, Equality Now notes that women who are also victims of domestic violence “are ‘powerless’ for the purposes of these provisions because they are unable to truly give consent in such a coercive environment.” It could be considered as,” he wrote.
But this requires those who administer justice – the police and the courts – to think broader and more compassionately about victims of sexual violence.