Why is it important in Kyrgyzstan to talk about violence against women?
by Alexandra Vasilkova
IN 2019

6,145 cases of domestic violence were registered in Kyrgyzstan, according to the ministry of interior affairs.

Most often, women were the victims of domestic violence — 5,659 reported cases or 92%.
From January to March, law-enforcement bodies of Kyrgyzstan registered 2,319 domestic violence cases. According to the ministry of interior affairs, this figure is 65 per cent more than that in the similar period of 2019.

105 criminal cases were initiated and 2,682 cases qualified under the Code of Violations.

There was eight cases of domestic killings and seven cases of rapes. As to offences, they contain mainly bodily blows and petty crime.

95 per cent of victims are women aged 21 to 50.
we have discussed the reasons of domestic violence with experts
The reality of fear
Altyn KAPALOVA, anthropologist
- Why do women tolerate domestic violence and return to the husbands that beat them? Many people say, "it's her fault." People who think like that have no idea of what violence is. If it were that simple: "he beat me, so I left," we would see much fewer deaths and lives of victims of domestic abusers.

Unfortunately, it is more complicated than just "it's her fault". There are many reasons for that: "what about the kids?", "what will people say?", "what if my mother gets upset?", "where will I live?", "what will I do?", and many other endless questions. So, domestic violence becomes only worse. The blows a women suffers have a significant impact not only on her physical health, but also to her mental health.

She cannot make decisions based on reality. There is no more reality for her; she lives in parallel reality based on fear.
The woman's relatives do not always support her once they learn about abuse because the society has made violence a norm. Many people prefer seeing their daughter dead rather than divorced.
Photo: RFE/RL
Photo: Эржан Бейшеналиев.
I do not have a recipe for the elimination of violence. We need to work with children – where we are trying to help the victims of domestic abuse, there is a new generation of abusers and their victims coming.

We need to do something about our current situation: we need to make law-enforcement bodies work and protect the survivors of domestic violence instead of blaming and mocking them. We need to imprison "kitchen abusers" for longer terms. Little can be done at a private level.

For example, my neighbour used to beat his wife. What else did I do in addition to calling the police? What do the police do? They just yawn lazily because it is not a crime for them, it is just "domestic affairs".
Violence is not a norm
Yelena VORONINA, art observer
Photo: Раиса Сайфутдинова
- It is both complicated and easy for me to explain why some women tolerate domestic violence and return to their husbands who abuse them, not only physically.

I cannot understand it for some reasons. First, I was brought up in a family with no violence. For me, my father, his attitude towards his two daughters and wife were and are the example of marital, father's love, tenderness, safety.

Second, my and our family's environment have never had domestic violence cases. Children in the families of my parents' friends have grown up in love, and I remember my parents as always kissing and hugging each other, as laughing people. I cannot call it a show-off. They did live like that. Today their children, already adults with their own families, live the same – without abuse, harassment and humiliation.

Therefore, I can explain why some tolerate abuse and continue to live in violence, and others do not know what abuse is and live in a family with the abuser.
It all comes from the family, from our childhood. This is a disputable statement, though. We cannot say for sure that if a boy saw father's violence against the boy's mother in his childhood, the boy would become just like his abusive father. Or a girl who saw in her childhood how her father humiliated, beat, oppresses her mother, would copy the behaviour of her mother when she becomes a wife or a mother – she would obey her abusive husband, tolerate and forgive him.
Our behaviour is being influenced my many factors beginning from traditions, culture, myths and stereotypes, which have been collected, retained, accustomed, implanted, and which shaped our concept of family life and relations between a man and a woman in a family. Therefore, what is important is education, instruction, elimination of stereotypes, demonstration of family stories, where the family relies on other pillars – love, mutual respect, mutual support, safety, harmony – instead of the ones that have formed one of the principles of tolerance to violence.

This principle is based on the words that the majority of women hear nowadays: "Endure, daughter. Your grandmother, mother have endured, so should you."
"The Vollard Suite" The Rape.", Pablo Picasso
"Unequal marriage" Vasily Pukirev
"The Fountain of Bakhchisarai", Karl Bryullov
We live in a society that has grown up with violence, has ignored it or, even worse, hushed up facts of abuse.
We have not spoken about the problem of violence against children by parents: psychological, physical, sexual, refusal of care, until children's rights defenders raised this issue. The same happens with the violence against women. Unless women's non-commercial non-governmental feminist organisations start crying about the growth in violence and more calls to shelter and crisis centres from the victims of domestic violence.

Until recently, law-enforcement bodies did not respond to the calls of women who suffered from abusive husbands. Thanks to the activists, lawyers, gender experts, some members of parliament, relevant laws and regulations were adopted in recent years to protect women from abuse.

However, there are many things to be done in legislation. Nevertheless, we, unlike Russia, have a law on the prevention of domestic violence and spousal assault. There is another problem. A woman does not always know how to protect herself and her child from the abuser who is her husband or even relatives. The woman is not always ready to work up the courage and leave the abuser.
Because there is a myth that one needs to forgive and the healthiness of forgiveness, which passes from generation to generation among women in the family.
This is why we have stories about women forgiving their domestic abusers, stories about the return of an abuser to the family, stories about women who withdraw statements from the police and ask not to punish their domestic abusers..

Such women choose domestic abusers, not themselves or a child. This is horrible. Therefore, it is so important to hear the women who openly voice they have been abused and who want to fight violence. Publicity is a powerful tool, a tool to fight for one's right to non-violence.

Our society is not strong enough in this fight, the fight against violence. We need to fight against violence and abusers, but not against the victims of abuse. Otherwise, the society may become abusive.

So far, we have seen the opposite: no protection (I don't mean legislative norms here), but blame from some part of the society, derision of the victims, stereotypic thinking, incorrect statements about people who openly speak about the domestic violence problems.
I want to remind all those who condemn women that openly speak about violence, who want to silence their problem and to hide behind myths of the Constitution of the country they live in. The Constitution reads that "no one should be exposed to violence".
According to the first months of coronavirus pandemic, all women in the world staying at home during isolation turned out to be fully exposed to domestic abusers. The first statistical reports look quite pessimistic.

In France, the number of domestic abuse cases increased by 32 per cent in average in the first month of isolation. In the UK, the number of calls to domestic abuse helpline jumped by 65 per cent per week. The calls to the Spanish helpline rose by 12.5 per cent in the last two weeks. In Cyprus, the number rose by 30 per cent. Kyrgyzstan is not an exception.

See also: Authorities of Kyrgyzstan Speak of Rise in Domestic Violence during Lockdown

We read about the increased number of questions about shelters and crisis centres in the media; women want to escape domestic abuse. As far as I know, there is no exact statistics, but it should not stop us and we should not think there is no abuse in families today. Unfortunately, a lot of women and children find home a place of fear and maltreatment during self-isolation. The importance of this problem can be seen on the social media pages of our crisis centres, women's non-profit organisations, activists and concerned Kyrgyzstanis. Otherwise, it would be more difficult and take more time to treat our society.

In France, amid strict measures imposed during the lockdown, women's organisations, crisis centres, human rights defenders urge the police officers not to fine women staying on the streets alone or with children without permit, but to find out first if this violation is caused by domestic abuse.

Therefore, Kyrgyzstan needs to take urgent measures to ensure protection and assistance to women and children suffering from domestic abuse during the lockdown.
According to Yelena Voronina, in order to understand the causes of problems related to women's violence deeper, one should read "Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That? Encouragement for Women Involved with Angry and Controlling Men" by Lundy Bancrof and "Toxic People: Decontaminate Difficult People" by Marsha Petrie Sue.
They do not know another life
Aigul YSYKEEVA, psychologist, gestalt therapist
Photo courtesy of Aigul Ysykeeva
- The reason why the victims of domestic violence are being blamed is that today there are many people who support violence. They support it because they lived in such families.

Let's get back to the question of why women don't leave abusive husbands. The victims know very little. They do not know another life, they are used to being a victim.

Moreover, the reason may be insensibility to pain, in particular. I had a client who told me his pain threshold became low because his father used to beat him. This was the way his body and mind protected themselves from violence. Such people who are insensible to pain are called alexithymics.

We should understand that there are people who are called abusers. At first, they charm the partner and create an attractive image. After they get power over the partner, abusers being to mix violence and tenderness. It's very difficult for the victim to get rid of such relationship because it's always hard to ignore all the good things in such relationship.
Factors mitigating violence
Isolation and boycott

Violence means control. One of the ways to do it is to isolate the victim from their supportive environment. Another way is to ignore the feedback of the partner. One of the form can be boycott or denial of the partner, including sexual.
Deformed perception

Critical thinking in victims is deformed and it is hard for them to know when to stop, when to say "no" to abuse.
But if a person has an internal feeling of guilt from childhood, the abuser will always encourage it. Finally, the so-called Stockholm syndrome will develop. The victim begins to justify the abuser and feels empathy to them.
Financial dependence

If there is financial dependence, the woman is more exposed to abuse. Especially, if she has children. She does not know what to do and remains in this relationship.
Some women who learn there is another side of family life – violence free – just leave. However, they need to have internal force, readiness to fight for herself and outer support.
The society wants you to wash dirty linen at home
Reina ARTUROVA, sociologist
Photo courtesy of R.Arturova
- Domestic violence against women is common for many developing countries as women are not protected in terms of economy and social life. The patriarchal society imposes the format of relations on us when women take care of their families and have no stable work. Our women work and combine it with household chores.
The women that suffer from domestic abuse have limited resources to live alone or to take care of children. This situation compels them to get back to husbands who can support the family.
However, according to studies, violence can be committed not only against socially vulnerable women. Women that have fixed income are being stopped from leaving by social stereotypes that make domestic abuse a norm. Also, the woman fears to be stigmatised as a divorced woman that would make her life difficult. There is also pressure from the public. Both women's relatives and husband's relatives can exert pressure on the woman and persuade her to return to her husband.

Gender-based violence studies point at a certain type of a victim of domestic violence. This is a so-called victim syndrome or Stockholm syndrome. The victim develops a psychological alliance with the abuser and does not see itself in any other relationship. It even has empathy to the abuser when they are in good mood.
The society does not accept open talks about abuse and blame the victim for it. It blames the victim for washing dirty linen in public, which is unacceptable in their opinion. Victims of sexual abuse are often blamed for provoking the abuser. All these stereotypes are imposed by the patriarchal society.
I think the reason is the stigma that domestic abuse is a norm in the society. But the law does not specify it as a norm. Our law has stricter punishment for domestic abuse than some other countries. However, in fact, the majority of cases do not come to trial because the victim either withdraws her police report or fails to file such a report.

The reason why the victim's relatives do not protect her and persuade her to stay is dependence on public opinion. For a girl and her family, especially rural ones, it would be a shame to get divorced. Moreover, if a girl has a good family, she cannot visit her relatives often because it is considered a shame.
These are deep and wrong statements that people have in their heads. They prevent women from normal adaptation within the society. Moreover, we all grow up and live in such environment.
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