By: Umberto Bacchi
MILAN (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A video of a man abusing his wife as she stands with her hands tied behind her back has provoked outrage in Kyrgyzstan, where women’s rights campaigners called for urgent reform of domestic violence laws.
A 52-year-old man has been arrested and charged with torture since the footage, which shows a man slapping his wife and pouring buckets of water on her head, appeared online last week. Two tires weighted down with bricks are tied around her neck.
Hillary Margolis, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said domestic violence was classed as a misdemeanor in Kyrgyzstan, meaning it does not carry jail time, only fines that can impact the entire family.
“It is indescribable how upset we all, as society, are,” said Janna Araeva, spokeswoman for women’s rights group Bishkek Feminist Initiatives.
“We are only hopeful that those people with high positions will FINALLY notice this problem in our society,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by email.
Lawmakers in the central Asian country debated legislation to toughen punishments for abusers and other legal changes on Thursday, days after the clip emerged.
The bill is designed to increase the effectiveness of state policy on combating domestic violence, said Ishak Pirmatov, the lawmaker who initiated the legislation.
But women’s rights advocates said previous efforts to strengthen laws in the former Soviet republic of 6 million had brought little change.
They said the situation was deteriorating amid a resurgence of right-wing ideology, citing multiple cases of forced marriage and domestic violence.
Women often face pressure from family members and authorities to reconcile with their partners and withdraw any complaints they might have filed with police, said Margolis.
“There seems to still be this sense in society … that women shouldn’t talk about family problems, that it is kind of airing dirty laundry,” she said.
Reports are sometimes not thoroughly investigated and women’s shelters are short of places, she said.
The interior ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
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