Header image for news printout

Questions on domestic violence and job segretation raised during Kazakhstan's dialogue with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

Committee on Elimination of Discrimination
against Women 

24 October 2019

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today considered the fifth periodic report of Kazakhstan on how it implements the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  During the interactive dialogue, Experts raised concerns about domestic violence and sought clarification on the impact of recent changes to the penal code.  The existence of a list of jobs prohibited for women, and the resulting job segregation, contravened the Convention, Experts said.

Committee Experts flagged the decriminalization of physical violence in domestic contexts, which went against the Convention and the Istanbul Convention.  Very light punishment was handed down in relation to cases of sexual violence against women and minors.  The State party should restore full criminal responsibility and related punishments for sexual violence.  

Experts, drawing attention to the existence of a list of jobs prohibited for women, asked how the resulting job segregation had impacted the level of social and economic benefits accessible to women.  Had the growth in the economically active population and the increase in the number of women employed in rural areas translated into better safety nets and social buffers for women?  As the Government was developing a new vision on discrimination, it should consider the importance of freedom of access to jobs. 

The delegation of Kazakhstan said it should be noted that the changes sanctioning domestic violence did not exculpate people responsible for domestic violence offences, adding that the Government had never decriminalized violence against minors.  Previously only criminal punishment was stipulated for this category of offenses, and subsequently offences deemed less dangerous and not meeting sufficient grounds for criminal liability were, in practice, not punished, and a victim was solely responsible for gathering evidence.  In this regard punishment for these offences in the form of fines and temporary arrest were added to the administrative code with a view to the full implementation of the State policy of zero tolerance towards domestic violence, especially against women and children.  This change had been made so that the State, rather than victims, would pursue prosecution and this had led to an increase in the number of prosecutions to over 3,000, resulting in the detention of 1,200 individuals.  Delegates added that a new draft law on the prevention of domestic violence was being developed with a view to strengthen practices of prevention and expand assistance to victims.  Furthermore, Kazakhstan was considering the ratification of the European Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. 

On segregation and the pay gap, delegates remarked that wages for women were low because they were often employed in sectors characterized by low wages.  To tackle these issues, it was necessary to have more women and girls in competitive and better paid professions, such as technical professions.  This would lead the pay gap to shrink.  More and more girls were now pursuing technical careers, including in science and mathematics.

In her concluding remarks, Gulshara Abdykalikova, Chairperson of the National Commission for Women, Family and Demographic Policy of Kazakhstan, thanked the Chairperson and the other Experts.  Kazakhstan would continue its comprehensive work to implement the Convention, taking into account the Committee’s recommendations.

Hilary Gbedemah, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue. 

The delegation of Kazakhstan was comprised of representatives of the National Commission for Women, Family and Demographic Policy, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of National Economy, the Ministry of Information and Social Development, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Agency of the Republic for Civil Service, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, the Supreme Court, the Office of the Prosecutor General, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Permanent Mission of Kazakhstan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will next meet in public at 10 a.m. on Friday, 25 October to consider the sixth periodic report of Seychelles (CEDAW/C/SYC/6).

Report

The Committee is considering the fifth periodic report of Kazakhstan (CEDAW/C/KAZ/5).

Presentation of the Report

GULSHARA ABDYKALIKOVA, Chairperson of the National Commission for Women, Family and Demographic Policy of Kazakhstan, said the delegation would present key reforms put in place by Kazakhstan and outline progress achieved at the legislative and institutional levels, as well as measures implementing previous recommendations.

Kazakhstan had made significant progress in the protection of women’s rights and the promotion of gender equality.  In the context of the goals set by the President for Kazakhstan to join the club of the 30 most developed countries by 2050, the Government was implementing the Third Modernization Programme and the Digital Kazakhstan Programme, inter alia.  In 2017, a constitutional reform had provided for a new effective mechanism for the protection of human and civil rights and freedoms.  The Commissioner for Human Rights enjoyed a constitutional status since 2002 and the Children’s Ombudsman position was created in 2016.  By the end of this year, the Government would approve the Vision for the Development of Civil Society until 2025, which would provide for measures to strengthen the role of non-governmental organizations and improve mechanisms for interaction with civil society. 

Kazakhstan was successfully developing a national gender policy.  First, there was a unique coordination body, the National Commission for Women, Family and Demographic Policy.  Further, a legal framework had been developed to protect women’s rights.  For the first time, different types of discrimination – namely direct, indirect, latent and positive discrimination – had been defined in a policy paper, the Strategy for Gender Equality in the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2006-2016.  Two important laws had been adopted to implement the Strategy: the Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence and the Law on State Guarantees of Equal Rights and Equal Opportunities for Men and Women.  A draft law on family and gender policy was before parliament.

Maternal mortality had decreased by 22 per cent between 2011 and 2018.  In 2020, the Government would introduce a compulsory social health insurance.  Since the beginning of 2019, all State benefits to families with children had been increased by 5 per cent.  Over the past 10 years, the budget allocated to measures aiming to support families with children had increased fivefold.

Much remained to be done to strengthen the role of women in ensuring peace and security and to foster their empowerment.  Large-scale reforms would be implemented to positively affect the wellbeing of Kazakh women. 

Questions from the Experts

Experts commended efforts made by Kazakhstan to promote and protect women’s rights.  They welcomed Kazakhstan’s ratification of International Labour Organization Convention 183 on maternity and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  The creation of mechanisms to monitor the implementation of gender equality policies was also a positive step.

Regarding the Constitutional reforms, Experts pointed out that they put an end to the automatic applicability of international conventions ratified by Kazakhstan.  Further, the definition of discrimination was not comprehensive.

Experts pointed out that judicial protection did not cover sexual orientation and gender identity.  They expressed concerns about the depenalization of domestic violence.

Could the delegation provide information on how reforms of the courts affected women’s access to justice?

Responses by the Delegation

Delegates explained that the principle stipulating that international agreements had priority over domestic laws remained unchanged. The 2017 Constitutional amendments obliged the legislative body to clearly set national procedures for the implementation of adopted commitments, provided the principle of priority of conventions was observed.  Practice over the past two years had shown that the Government’s approach was appropriate: last year there had been more than 7,000 references to international conventions. 

A special working group had been created by the Government to develop legislation implementing the Convention.  This aimed to create a sufficient basis to reopen cases in courts.  There had been more than 1,000 cases brought forward by women that had resulted in the granting of compensation.  Compensation amounts varied between $ 1,000 to $ 10,000. 

On the decriminalization of domestic violence-related offences and their transfer to the administrative code, it should be noted that the changes did not exculpate people responsible for them.  On the contrary, the range of punishment measures was expanded and included not only criminal liability, but also administrative fines and other administrative measures.  Moreover, the burden of proof now lay not with the victim but with the police.  In accordance with the previous legislation, it was the responsibility of the victim to prove that violence took place.  Practice showed that this approach was ineffective.  Therefore, legislators came to a conclusion on the ineffectiveness of the enforced norms.  Now, as a result of measures adopted, women who were victims of domestic violence no longer had to personally bring the case before a court. 

Adopted changes made it possible to address all acts of domestic violence, no matter what danger to the society they posed, and apply both criminal and administrative procedures.  At the same time, following instructions by the President of Kazakhstan given in his State of the Nation Address on 2 September, Parliament would work to strengthen mechanisms on prevention and punishment of such offences, including a new draft law on domestic violence.  

Kazakhstan was considering the ratification of the European Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence.

Questions from the Experts

Experts commended the State party for its efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, including by introducing gender sensitive budgeting plans.  They requested information on the gender equality strategy.  The new strategy seemed to reinforce the traditional link between women’s affairs and family issues rather that incorporate a component robustly focused on gender equality.

They requested information on civil society’s involvement in the definition of the Vision for the Development of Civil Society.  How did the Government ensure that the Commission for Human Rights was able to discharge its mandate in line with the Paris Principles?  Did it have plans to expand the presence of the Ombudsperson outside the capital?

Turning to special and temporary measures, Experts recalled that they should be eliminated when the aims had been achieved; quotas, for instance, were therefore not considered discriminatory.

Plans on gender equality had not achieved the expected results.  What temporary measures was the Government implementing to meet the objectives laid out in the plan for gender equality and family policy?

Responses by the Delegation

There were clear goals outlined in the framework for gender equality and family policy.  A special body, the National Commission for Women, Family and Demographic Policy, played an important role in that regard, and it had regional offices.  On the basis of the plan, these regional commissions took measures to achieve the goals outlined in it. 

This year, with the collaboration of the United Nations, the Government had been implementing gender-sensitive budgeting, as a part of a four-year process which would focus, inter alia, on education.  Measures were being taken to use the gender indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals to assess the situation in Kazakhstan.

There were more than 500 women-focused non-governmental organizations in Kazakhstan.  Over the last three years, there had been an increase in grants for non-governmental organizations.  This year, 133 projects on gender had been funded.

A series of amendments had been drafted to impose fines when quotas were not respected. 

The Government was currently considering a civil society proposal to set up regional Ombudsperson offices. 

The creation of a mechanism had been proposed to closely monitor the implementation of temporary special measures.  Collaboration with higher education institutions and human resources centres would be established to this end.  Delegates added that a draft bill to amend the law on special measures had been developed which would concern all economic sectors.

While the Constitution did not refer to the Convention directly, it mentioned all international agreements which were applied directly.  The Convention had been cited in several cases recently.  Courts had cited articles 5, 6 and 15 of the Convention while reviewing cases on matters such as libel, workers’ rights, domestic violence, etc.

The Government had been training judges across the entire range of issues covered by the Convention; 1,200 seminars, round tables and training sessions on the Convention had been held over one year.

Questions from the Experts

Experts said it was praiseworthy that the State party encouraged the positive involvement of fathers in family affairs.  The Committee had received information to the effect that families favoured boys – this reflected a mentality that should be addressed through policies.  Did teachers and the media engage in awareness-raising on such sexual discrimination?

The negative impact of early marriages had to be reduced, Experts noted, requesting information on steps taken by the State party on this matter.  They expressed concerns about the decriminalization of physical violence in domestic contexts, which went against the Convention and the Istanbul Convention.  Very light punishment was handed down in relation to cases of sexual violence against women and minors.  The State party should restore full criminal responsibility and related punishments for sexual violence.  Would the Government increase budgets for shelters?

Did transgender women, women who engaged in prostitution and women without identification have access to shelters?  Were they treated equally by the police?

Experts requested information on the State party’s efforts to tackle human trafficking.

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said efforts to foster the involvement of fathers in bringing up their children had been guided by the Committee’s recommendations.  The Government had supported the efforts of non-governmental organizations in that regard.  In 2018 there had been 43,000 cases of fathers taking childcare parental leave, as compared to only 100 a few years earlier.  The success of the Government’s efforts on that matter was self-evident.

On gender stereotypes, up to 3,000 teachers underwent mandatory training every year on gender equality.  Training focused on fostering pupils’ self-esteem and self-fulfilment.  In high education establishments, including teaching schools, gender was mainstreamed.  A teacher leaving a teacher training institution would have been trained on gender issues.

Forced marriage amounted to a criminal offence and the Government was conducting awareness-raising campaigns in the media on this issue.  Forcing someone under 16 to enter a marriage was criminally liable, the delegation stressed. 

The system of criminal and administrative liability in Kazakhstan was different from that in the West.  Therefore, changes in legislation could not be considered as the decriminalization of violence.  The changes had led to improvements, ensuring the proper safety of children and women in the home.  It should also be noted that perpetrators could be kept away from the home and put in detention pursuant to the new measures.

For several years, the Government had implemented legislation to increase liability for trafficking.  A series of preventive measures were being pursued and the Government was providing financial and other kinds of assistance to non-governmental organizations working on human trafficking.

A group of lawmakers was drafting new legislation to address domestic violence.  The National Commission had conducted a very substantial awareness-raising campaign throughout the country on this matter.  This campaign had been supported by United Nations agencies.  Stress had been laid on prevention.  The Government was also seeking to establish an early warning system.

On trafficking and labour migrants, the delegation acknowledged that Kazakhstan was a destination for labour migrants.  The Government had developed standards to support victims of trafficking.  Centres had been created in 10 regions, and $ 60 million had been allocated to them.  Victims’ rights, including their right to legal counsel, were upheld.

The Government allocated a lot of resources to tackling labour exploitation and sexual exploitation of women in Kazakhstan. 

Questions from the Experts

Experts requested information about the different strategic frameworks developed by Kazakhstan.  The goals for women’s representation had been reviewed and reduced.  Why? 

They also requested information on measures taken to boost the representation of women amongst ministers, ambassadors, army and executive officials.  While the chair of the upper chamber in Parliament was a woman, there were only 10.6 per cent women elected to this body.  It was important to have women on the top of electoral lists.

Aggregated figures had been provided on the representation of women.  What steps had been taken to collect disaggregated data?

Experts asked about the representation of women in the governance of political parties. 

Unfortunately, gaps remained regarding birth registration and the prevention of statelessness at all levels.  The State party had not acceded to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, and related domestic legislation could be improved.

Birth registration was not allowed if the parents did not have identification documents and acquisition of nationality for stateless women.  This did not seem to be in line with the Constitution.  Could the delegation comment on planned improvements and current gaps?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation explained that in the Gender Policy Strategy implemented until 2016, a goal had been set to have women’s representation standing at up to 30 per cent.  The new strategy had a different, broader approach.

Currently, Kazakhstan had one female minister and 17 female vice-ministers.  There had been up to four female ministers at the same time in the past.  There used to be only one female ambassador, whereas now there were five female ambassadors and one female permanent representative.

On birth registration, children could be registered within three days from their birth, including online registration.  If this deadline was missed, registration could be done though court procedures.  Children after their birth could be registered in medical clinics, pre-school institutions and were entitled to social assistance.  In case of the non-registration of children, clear procedures to address this issue were in place.  Cases of non-registration were few and State authorities strove to promptly address them.  However, problems remained with regard to children of stateless parents.  Parliament worked on amendments related to children of stateless parents on the basis of the understanding that children’s rights should be comprehensively protected in accordance with Constitutional guarantees. Kazakhstan made the relevant pledge at the UNHCR Executive Committee meeting in October 2019. 

There were about 900 women and 300 girls in Kazakhstan who were stateless.  Over 1,000 women had been granted Kazakh nationality this year, mostly through an accelerated procedure.  People with stateless documentation enjoyed most of the same rights as other Kazakhs, except the right to stand for election.  They could not vote, serve in the armed forces, and work in the civil service; and however, they enjoyed the same economic and social rights.

Questions from the Experts

Experts noted that the proportion of school-age children who were not enrolled in secondary education was lower than one per cent.  How many children were not enrolled in schools?  How was the Government ensuring that all school-age girls received education and how did it tackle child marriage as an obstacle to teenagers accessing education?  They asked if school curricula included modules on gender equality.

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that most of the children were covered by public education and the authorities endeavoured to encourage them to continue their studies.  The children who did not go to school were few.  Some of them were ill or studied at home.  A draft bill had been prepared to provide for remote schooling.  Internet was broadly available and provided an opportunity for education.  All the school curricula were online on governmental websites.

The percentage of girls covered by the primary education system stood at 99.7 per cent for 2018.  In 2011, it was 98.7.

All school curricula content, including pictures, fostered gender equality.  There were pictures in school books that depicted women politicians and female heroes.

Questions from the Experts

Experts asked if it was a priority for the Labour Inspectorate to work on harassment.  Professional segregation remained a problem in the country, despite efforts on the part of the Government.  As the Government was developing a new vision on discrimination, it should consider the importance of freedom of access to jobs.  There was also a form of vertical segregation, and additional efforts were needed to achieve pay equality, reassessment of salaries and fostering work-life balance.

Responses by the Delegation

Various surveys had been conducted on ethics in the workplace by the Government which notably encouraged employees to report instances of sexual harassment.  According to the Labour Code, any employer who allowed discrimination could be sanctioned.  For that to happen, all an employee had to do was lodge a complaint, which would be reviewed by the competent bodies.

On segregation and the pay gap, the delegates remarked that wages for women were low because they were often employed in sectors characterized by low wages.  To tackle this issue, it was necessary to have more women and girls in better paid professions, such as technical professions.  This would lead the pay gap to shrink.

The Government also sought to address the gender pay gap through its general agreements with employers and employees.

Questions from the Experts

Experts noted that the price of contraceptives was the most expensive in the region.  Contraceptives, mainly condoms, were only provided free of cost to selected high-risk groups.  They asked what steps the State party would take to provide subsidized or free contraceptives to vulnerable groups.  How would the Government train healthcare providers on gender sensitive topics to ensure adequate quality care in youth centres?

They inquired about measures implemented to address the persisting unmet family planning needs, which remained high among women and girls with disabilities.  Why was abortion amongst women with disabilities eight times higher than in the general population?

Responses by the Delegation

Delegates explained that there had been a 35 per cent reduction of abortions, while pregnancies amongst adolescents had been halved.  To prevent undesired pregnancies amongst rural women, there were clinics that provided services on reproductive health, notably to vulnerable segments of the population.

There was also the widespread practice of seeking consultation in youth health centres.  They were financed by the Government.

Turning to women with disabilities, the delegation explained that they sometimes had partial or complete contraindication for pregnancies.  With their consent, services were provided to them accordingly.  The number of medical abortions for women with disabilities was different from the population in general due to their health.  However, termination of pregnancy was only conducted with the concerned woman’s consent.

Human resources had been declared a priority by the President, and the curricula had been subsequently updated to foster the development of skills.  Regarding career orientation, there were all kinds of projects in place to help children choose a career based on their capabilities and priorities.  At the core, there was the idea that the child chose for himself or herself, without any discrimination.  More and more girls were now pursuing technical careers, including in science and mathematics.

Fifty-five per cent of people working in associations and 65 per cent of people employed by unions were women.  The Ministry of Labour worked closely with trade unions to encourage women to take up decision-making posts.

There had been a 13.5 per cent increase in access to micro-loans.  There were over one million small- and medium-size entrepreneurs, 43 per cent of whom were women.  While there was always room for improvement, the women of Kazakhstan were participating very actively in the social, economic and political life.

Responses by the Delegation

Experts, drawing attention to the existence of a list of jobs prohibited for women, asked how the resulting job segregation had impacted the level of economic and social benefits accessible to women.  Had the growth in the economically active population and the increase in the number of women employed in rural areas translated into better safety nets and social buffers for women?

The Experts requested information on the results yielded by schemes such as the Damu-Kemek Project Fund and the Women in Business programme.

About 7,000 women had received loans totalling $ 3 million as part of schemes promoting entrepreneurship among rural women.  Measures were being taken to make sure that additional funds were available for female entrepreneurs. 

There were about 4 million Kazakh women in rural areas and they had been granted a priority status by social programmes.  Entrepreneurship courses were attended by 13,000 women.  The majority of women were in rural areas and had several children.  Low-income mothers with children also received significant benefits from State programmes.  There were between 4,000 and 10,000 such women.

The President had also promoted a new initiative to reduce the debt burden of women and other citizens.  Many women, particularly in rural areas, had debt.  This would make women more competitive and help them find jobs in rural areas.

Questions by the Delegation

Experts asked about the percentage of equity share that had to be held by women for a given business to benefit from governmental grants aiming to stimulate female entrepreneurship; measures in place to promote women and girls’ involvement in sports; housing schemes; the situation of vulnerable groups, including women from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex communities; mandatory sex-reassignment surgery; the HIV prevalence rate amongst trans women; hate crimes against trans women and other members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex communities; and attacks against human rights defenders trying to defend the rights of members of these communities.

HILARY GBEDEMAH, Committee Chairperson, said the delegation could provide answers to these questions in writing within 48 hours.

Concluding Remarks

GULSHARA ABDYKALIKOVA, Chairperson of the National Commission for Women, Family and Demographic Policy of Kazakhstan, thanked the Chairperson and the other Experts.  Kazakhstan would continue its comprehensive work to implement the Convention, taking into account the Committee’s recommendations.

HILARY GBEDEMAH, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue.

__________

For use of the information media; not an official record

Follow UNIS Geneva on: Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube |Flickr