The number puts the country on track to match the more than 10,100 cases of domestic abuse recorded last year, which was a 30 percent increase from 2020.
More than 100 Kyrgyz women were killed by their husbands in the past seven years, 21 of them in 2020 alone. In the most recent case, a 24-year-old woman from the southern town of Kochkor-Ata was stabbed to death by her ex-husband on August 26, police said.
He first beat me when I was five months pregnant with our first child. I lost the baby as a result.”
But the official figures are just the tip of the iceberg in a society where many still believe men can resort to violence against their wives if they disobey, Kyrgyz activists say.
Thousands of cases of abuse and physical violence go unreported, with women fearing societal pressures and economic implications if they leave their husbands. Others don’t believe police or the courts would help them resolve their problems.
In the rural district of Alamudun in northern Chui Province, it took one woman enduring 11 years of physical violence from her husband to finally leave him and seek a divorce.
The woman, whose name is not given to protect her privacy, lost hearing in one ear due to a beating.
“He first beat me when I was five months pregnant with our first child. I lost the baby as a result,” she told RFE/RL. “I wanted to leave him after that incident, but he promised he would never beat me again. We went on to have three children. He didn’t keep his promise and instead got increasingly violent.”
The woman said her husband had also beaten their children since they were toddlers.
“He would tell our daughters that a woman must live the way her husband tells her,” she said. “He told the girls that in the future they must tolerate their husbands’ beatings and not come back to their parent’s home complaining.”
The children called for help recently during one of his violent outbursts, said Bubusara Ryskulova, the head of the Sezim Crisis Center, which provides support for victims of domestic violence.
“In that incident, the woman’s husband was beating her with a belt,” Ryskulova told RFE/RL. “We went to their home along with the police and got the mother and the children out of the house.”
Ryskulova said the children all bore marks of beatings, including a “lacerated wound on the lips” of the couple’s son.
RFE/RL tried to contact the woman’s husband and his relatives to get his side of the story but was unable to talk with them.
On August 25, the Alamudun district court ordered a $610 fine and 100 hours of community work for the husband.
Many experts and activists in Kyrgyzstan say police and courts are often too lenient toward men accused of committing domestic violence.
In some cases, the perpetrators are sentenced to a few days in custody for beating their wives. Experts say the victims in such cases dread their abusive husband’s return and the repeat of the abuse.
Muhayo Abduraupova, a family lawyer in the southern city of Osh, said many victims don’t know their rights or have no financial means to seek justice and compensation when they’re unhappy with the way police or courts handle their complaints.
The lawyer also criticized what she described as the unprofessional attitude of some law enforcement officers, which has eroded women’s trust in the police.
“Investigators and prosecutors often refuse to accept complaints filed by domestic violence victims,” Abduraupova said. “In some cases, police officers violate the rules themselves by being very rude to the victims or by trying to flirt with them. All of these things discourage women from seeking help from the police.”
Abduraupova believes the widespread practice of questioning the victim and her abuser together in the same room must change because it puts unnecessary pressure on the woman.
Statistics from 2019 show that 86 percent of women withdrew their abuse complaints.
Women in Kyrgyzstan also face other dilemmas in a society that often blames a woman for the breakup of her marriage.
According to UN figures, about 90 percent of the victims of domestic violence return to their abusive husbands due to family or societal pressures or because of a lack of economic opportunities to be financially independent.
The government says it’s been training more female police officers to handle domestic violence cases following suggestions that women and children who are victims of domestic abuse expressed more trust in female officers.
This week, Kyrgyz rights activists called on the government to set up a special hotline to provide more support and protection for victims of violence seeking help.