Many cases of violence against women and girls in Central Asia, as elsewhere, stem from patriarchal traditions and harmful practices. Girls in many parts of the region are subject to early and forced marriage and bride kidnapping, which leaves them vulnerable to domestic violence and sexual abuse.
In recent years, some countries have adopted legal and policy frameworks and national action plans aimed at addressing gender-based violence. The Kyrgyz Republic has made great strides in this direction, passing laws on preventing family violence and forbidding underage religious marriages.
Nazira works as a lawyer in Bishkek. She is supported by a UNDP project that provides pro-bono assistance to survivors of gender-based violence. Even though this means she has to work long hours, she is doing all she can to help women who cannot afford legal representation.
“The biggest problem we face is when the victim is too late in asking for legal assistance,” Nazira says, as she reflects on her daily challenges. “They ask for help after they leave their marriage. But then there is no evidence. Criminal proceedings won’t be initiated until bodily injuries are examined. And the perpetrator won’t be taken into custody.”
She hopes better awareness-raising and improvements in legal proceedings will help survivors receive the support they need, though much remains to be done.
Irina, Raykhan and Nazira have not had easy journeys to get where they are today. And their work has just begun. But their passion and perseverance against tremendous odds are signs that a robust movement against gender-based violence, led by women, is slowly taking shape across Central Asia. Governments, international organizations and individuals must do all they can to strengthen and support the efforts of activists and survivors in putting an end to the crime of violence against women and girls.