Central Asia’s sexual violence legal guidelines are out of step with worldwide norms rooted within the recognition of consent as central to sexual relations, argues a brand new report from Equality Now. Equality Now could be non-governmental group that advocates for the safety and promotion of the human rights of ladies and ladies.
The lately launched report critiques sexual violence legal guidelines in 5 Eurasian international locations — Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Given our focus right here at Crossroads Asia, I’ll spotlight the findings associated to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, however you’ll be able to entry the complete report here.
Within the felony codes of the three Central Asian states, three most important kinds of sexual violence are addressed: rape, assault of a sexual nature, and compulsion or coercion into acts of a sexual nature. In dividing these crimes, nevertheless, governments decrease some kinds of sexual assault, and not one of the three international locations incorporates the idea of consent into their authorized frameworks.
As Equality Now’s report notes, “The crime of rape in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan is understood to only cover penile-vaginal penetration, rather than other orifices of another person’s body with any bodily part or object which that person has not consented to.” All three felony codes additionally revolved largely round violence, the specter of violence, or abusing the helpless situation of the sufferer.
The Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Uzbek felony codes additionally discuss with “assaults of a sexual nature,” which depends on the identical violence framework however frames such assaults with derogatory terminology — for instance, Kyrgyz and Kazakh legislation references “sodomy, lesbianism or other acts of a sexual nature in a perverted form” and the Uzbek felony code refers to “satisfaction of sexual need in an unnatural form.” Typically, these crimes carry the identical sentences as these deemed “rape” however are separated out.
Lastly, “compulsion/coercion” is roofed by further articles within the three international locations. Rape or assault of a sexual nature, as outlined elsewhere, that has been dedicated utilizing blackmail, “or the use of the material or other dependence of the victim” falls into this class in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The Uzbek felony code references “where the victim was in official, material or other dependence on the perpetrator.”
“This offense,” Equality Now writes, “is classified as a ‘less serious crime’ and carries lower penalties, despite being classified as rape under regional and international standards.”
“The problematic assumption behind these definitions is that if an act is not committed using physical violence or serious threats to life and health, it cannot amount to rape and could only be criminalized as a minor crime,” the report additional states.
The variations are stark. In Uzbekistan’s felony code, for instance, the crime of rape — the definition of which is acknowledged as “sexual intercourse with the use of violence, threats or using the helpless state of the victim” is roofed by Article 118 and carries sentences of seven to 10 years, with aggravated types involving victims underneath 18, “ close relatives” (although not normally interpreted to imply spouses), and “causing serious consequences” entailing sentences of 10 to fifteen years. Article 119 — “Satisfaction of sexual need in an unnatural form with the use of violence” — is analogous.
However in the case of “Forcing a woman to have sexual intercourse,” Article 121 reads: “Forcing a woman to have sexual intercourse or to satisfy a sexual need in an unnatural form by a person in respect of whom the woman was in official, material or other dependence… shall be punishable by compulsory community service up to 300 hours, or correctional labor up to two years.”
This distinction is mostly mirrored in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan (although there’s some variation on the penalties), however once more violence — within the bodily understanding of the phrase — is the primary distinction between rape and “forcing a woman to have sexual intercourse.” This give attention to bodily violence, Equality Now writes, “leaves a vast number of sexual violence acts to continue to go unpunished.”
This slim understanding of violence is one which places the onus on the sufferer to battle and passes judgment on the sufferer’s actions (or lack thereof) somewhat than these of perpetrator. For instance, think about a state of affairs wherein a lady wouldn’t battle to withstand a rape as a result of she believes that doing so could lead to her dying.
Equality Now’s suggestions for the governments of Eurasia to deliver their sexual violence legal guidelines into line with fashionable worldwide norms heart on incorporating consent into their authorized frameworks. In current legal guidelines, “the lack of consent on the part of the victim is not considered the constituent element of the crimes, even though it is specifically required by regional and international standards.” As well as, current legal guidelines don’t cowl the complete vary of circumstances “which could prevent a victim from being able to express their consent, such as an abuse of trust and authority and situations of dependence.”
Till the area’s legal guidelines are up to date, the present provisions could be interpreted extra actively to offer justice for victims that’s extra in keeping with worldwide requirements. For instance, Equality Now writes that girls who’re additionally victims of home abuse “could be considered ‘helpless’ for the purposes of these provisions as a victim is unable to give consent genuinely in such a coercive environment.”
This, nevertheless, would require those that handle justice — specifically the police and courts — to assume extra broadly and extra compassionately about victims of sexual violence.