Kazakhstan Convicts Female Activists For Women’s Day Protest

A court in Kazakhstan recently prosecuted and convicted two female activists for peacefully protesting during this month’s International Women’s Day. The women, Arina Osinovskaya and Fariza Ospan, were found guilty of petty hooliganism for burning a funeral wreath in a public place and convicted for violating the law on organizing and holding peaceful protests.

The women were penalized with fines, of which they plan to appeal. On March 8th, they, along with others, protested against gender-based violence and inequality, including domestic violence which is currently not criminalized as a stand alone offense in the country. 

The Kazakh law restricts public demonstrations and protests. Feminists groups opted to work with officials in Almaty city, the central location for the protests. But officials denied requests with the groups to coordinate protest routes and assure safety. 

Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch Hugh Williamson said of the government, “Instead of protecting its citizens’ fundamental freedoms, the Kazakh government is using the judicial system to repress and convict women activists who were standing up for the rights of all women.” He continued, “The Kazakh authorities should immediately halt the prosecution, vacate the conviction, and stop using the law to stifle freedom of assembly and expression.”

In February of this year, a new draft law which would allow “organizing and conducting peaceful meetings in Kazakhstan,” has been criticized by human rights groups because the law’s language remains restrictive and continues to give authorities complete autonomy over events, whether or not events can take place, the size of the event, as well as the event’s location and times.

Williamson believes the Kazakh government should revise the draft law to line up with International standards of not prosecuting participants. 

The Realist Woman’s take:

A government report found 17% of women ages 18 to 75 have experienced physical or sexual violence or both by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Some of the factors contributing to the abuse include one-third of women reporting they’ve experienced one act of controlling behavior from an intimate partner in their lifetime and little to no help from authorities.

Historically and traditionally, men have the authority in Kazakhstan, leading to inequality and violent behavior that is socially acceptable as the laws don’t protect women. The laws also don’t support the freedom to protest. 

The women of Kazakhstan deserve the right to assemble without being arrested and convicted. It takes sacrifice to bring about change, especially in a culturally male-dominated stagnant environment. These women are up for the challenges that come with being the driving force behind change in their society and I admire them for it.

woman holding megaphone