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You are the one to blame? How girls in Kyrgyzstan endure harassment

A 16-year-old Olga was killed in Kemin on June 22. She was strangled to death by a 42-year-old local resident, who has prior criminal convictions. According to the investigators, the man molested the minor girl, and when Olga began to resist, he killed her. He took her body to a wooded area and threw away.

On that day in the morning, the girl received a certificate of incomplete secondary education. She was returning home when she met her killer. She was not dressed vulgarly or provocatively, as those who justify violence against women like to say ...

We live with it

This is not the first time a girl has been harassed and murdered. Every day, hundreds of girls, teenagers and women become objects of harassment by men.

Street harassment, greasy jokes and inappropriate compliments have become the norm in the society. There is no punishment for such actions.

It would seem that harmless whistles at girls do not mean anything, but only show the lack culture and education of individual citizens. But there is a huge problem that many girls have to put up with all their lives long.

A journalist Aidai Tokoeva decided that harassment should be dealt with drastically, not just by blaming or shaming men, but punishing them to the fullest extent. The girl wrote a statement to the police against the guy, who slapped her on the butt in the center of Bishkek when she was walking with her friends. Aidai intends to bring the case to court and punish the offender.

She told 24.kg news agency the details of the incident that happened to her.

«The four of us were walking along Bokonbaev Street towards Manas Avenue, three guys were walking towards us. When they caught up with us, one of them slapped me on the butt with all his might. At first I did not understand what had happened, and I fell into a stupor for a second. Then I immediately started calling the police, but no one came. At that moment, my friends caught up with the guy and began to ask him: why did he do this, what made him do it. We were very angry, we spoke obscenely, because this was not the first time .... He made a poker face and said: he just wanted and did it,» Aidai Tokoeva told.

«You are the one to blame»

According to the girl, the guy did not feel guilty at all. He brushed the girls off and left.

«We caught everything on video and decided to post it on social media. First, in order for people to know that harassment can be resisted. Secondly, in order the people to see the face of this person, who lives among us,» the journalist notes.

The video was widely discussed on social media. However, it was not the guy who gets handsy that was criticized, but the girls. Aidai wore shorts, her friends — dresses. Many users said that the girls «provoked» the incident themselves, they said they were dressed provocatively. Someone argued that women should not walk alone so late in the evening.

People simply did not understand the message and the essence of the situation, they attacked us. But there was support as well. Many girls face it, but rarely talk about it.

Aidai Tokoeva

«Sometimes it seems that no one can offend you, especially on the street. Indeed, in our case there were four of us, adult and self-sufficient, we did not think that we could get into such a situation. It turns out to be a kind of false sense of security. Naturally, my abuser picked on the wrong person. The next day I wrote a statement to the police. Apparently, due to the resonance caused by the video on the Web, the investigator was as tactful as possible, understanding, did not grinned. After all, my friends warned me that the police did not take such incidents seriously. However, I hope that my case will be brought to an end,» Aidai Tokoeva said.

Public transport test

From a young age, girls face harassment on the street, at school or in public transport.

«Every girl can face harassment, from kindergarten to adulthood,» Aidai Tokoeva believes.

When I was 11 years old, my mother and I walked around Osh market. Passing through the crowd, I felt a guy touching my butt. Even when you are next to the closest person, you cannot feel safe.

Aidai Tokoeva

Eliza Amanturova, 24, notes that girls often encounter harassment in public transport, mainly in minibuses. She herself became a victim of harassment more than once.

«Sometimes getting somewhere by minibus is a real hell, especially when it is overcrowded. Many times I was pressed against from behind, pushed intentionally. You might think, of course, that this is because of bad roads and a full minibus, but every girl feels when she is being harassed on purpose, and when she is accidentally touched,» Eliza stressed.

Men pester on the streets almost every day. They offer to give a ride, try to make acquaintance, behave persistently. It is customary in society to treat women primarily as sex objects.

Eliza Amanturova

On June 10, a blogger and Bishkek resident Arina Varnak posted a video on her Instagram, showing a taxi driver reproaching her for her short shorts. According to the man, the girl was dressed excitingly and she urgently had to change her clothes.

«He said that girls who dress in such a way should get to hell, and violence against such people is normal, because they themselves provoke. In his opinion, the men are not to blame, these are all girls to blame, who cannot contain themselves and dress openly in the heat. The ride was scary. In Kyrgyzstan, a man, who raped a 13-year-old girl, was acquitted, because he regularly says prayers. It becomes even worse. I’m lost for words, I really want this story to be spread, because I am sure that I was not the only one who faced this. What if a person with such a thinking really takes away somewhere? » the Bishkek resident told emotionally on social media.

I was shocked, at some point I realized that I just had to be silent, because the man thinks it’s okay to rape girls.

Arina Varnak

 After the video was published, the administration of the taxi service reacted to the message and removed the driver from work.

«We strongly discourage such behavior on the part of our employees. From now on, we will take appropriate measures in relation to all our employees,» the girl was answered.

March in shorts

A march in shorts against harassment was held in Bishkek in support of Aidai and Arina. The organizers kept the date and place of the march secret. Having learned from the bitter experience of past years, they disseminated information about the upcoming march only among their acquaintances.

«This is a manifesto in defense of our right to wear what we want. It is important to defend it. The state should pay attention to the protection of women in the country, and not justify the rapists, saying that the girl or woman was dressed provocatively,» the organizers noted.

«Every time some men say that open clothing provokes harassment and violence, I take it as an admission of the brainlessness of an individual, who can not control himself.

I would like to break the stereotype that there is some kind of special clothing for violence. There are several «What were you wearing» exhibitions showing what the victim of violence was wearing. You know, reality shows that the clothes are the most ordinary and, what is most terrible, there are children’s clothes among them. What is the conclusion? According to these men, did the children’s clothes provoke violence?» one of the participants of the march, Salima Kapar, wrote.

Recently, the Ministry of Internal Affairs came up with an initiative to fine or detain men for seven days for annoying harassment of girls. The ministry proposes to rename the law on protection from domestic violence, adding a clause on unmarried women, and expanding its area of validity.

Deputy Head of the Academy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Bakyt Dubanaev explained at a meeting of the Committee on Law and Order of the Parliament that the current law does not protect girls from harassment.

«Therefore, it is proposed to introduce a new subject — girls and women, who are subject to annoying harassment, psychological persecution, and so on. To make this law work, we propose to introduce an article «Violence or threat of violence against women» in the Code of Administrative Offenses. It would provide for the issuance of a protection order to this particular category,» Bakyt Dubanaev said.

It is proposed to punish men for harassment, as well as any actions that cause physical and mental suffering or harm to physical or psychological health. A fine — 10,000 soms or arrest for up to seven days will be introduced as a punishment.

The police believe that such an impact will sober up annoying woman-chasers and will protect the girls from harassment.