On September 28, the feminist group KAZFEM organized a rally for women's rights, gender equality and against violence against women in Almaty in the park behind the Sary-Arka cinema.
According to the organizers of the rally, KAZFEM had filed 36 previous applications for rallies for gender equality and against domestic and sexual violence, but all requests were refused by Almaty city authorities. Similar requests in other Kazakhstani cities were also refused and banned by the authorities. In Kazakhstan, permission must be granted for public assemblies, as opposed to other formats where authorities must simply be informed of plans for large-scale public action. This, according to human rights organizations, violates the Constitution of Kazakhstan, UN pacts and international laws on the observance of basic democratic freedoms, ratified by the Republic of Kazakhstan.
Some speakers criticized the lack of freedom of assembly and the “permission-based” format of rallies in Kazakhstan. Activist Arina Osinovskaya said from the stage: “It’s not normal that we are standing here instead of walking down the street somewhere in the center of the city. I think that next time, this should change!”
KAZFEM had held previous civil and art events for gender equality and against violence against women. Some KAZFEM participants also participated in actions of solidarity and support for civil and art activists who were detained and arrested in the spring and summer of 2019 in Almaty, Astana and other cities of Kazakhstan.
Dozens of people came to support the KAZFEM rally, including participants in various civic, democratic and art groups and organizations. Notable figures in the activist community present at the rally included Aidana Aidarkhan, Aigul-Viola Nurbolatova, Alnur Ilyashev, Temujin Duysen and others.
Speeches were given in Russian and Kazakh about recognizing the basic principles of gender equality and ensuring the safety of women and girls, as well as addressing influential cases related to the murders of women and girls, and numerous cases of domestic and sexual violence against women and children.
At the end of the rally, representatives of KAZFEM read aloud their resolution, which voiced demands for respect for gender equality, security for girls and women, including the requirement to return beatings to the criminal code of Kazakhstan, the abolishment of the option “reconciliation of the parties” in legal cases of rape, and other items providing safety for women and guaranteeing punishment for criminals. Speakers also raised issues of domestic violence and manifestations of obscurantism, spoke about the problems of women in the prisons, and spoke out for the decriminalization of prostitutes. The requests were addressed to the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the President of Kazakhstan, Akimat and Maslikhat of Almaty.
“Today in Kazakhstan, according to official statistics, four women and one child will be raped... And this is only official data, that is, we can’t say how true it is. Perhaps it’s twice as much, or three, or dozens. And this is really scary, ”
— Veronika Fonova, one of the members of the KAZFEM group, speaking from the stage.
The September 28 rally was the first "authorized" feminist rally in the entire 28-year history of independent Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan is the leader among the post-Soviet countries in the number of recorded crimes related to sexual violence against women and children. According to UN Women, about 400 women die every year in Kazakhstan as a result of domestic violence. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the number of domestic and family-related crimes in 2018 increased by 103.7%. According to the General Prosecutor's Office of the Republic of Kazakhstan, statistics on violence against women have increased in Kazakhstan. Compared to 2015, crime against women and children increased by 90%.