Kazakh lawmakers have endorsed a draft law providing for toughening punishment for rape, according to Fergana news agency.

Now any sexual violence will be classified as a grave crime and reconciliation of the parties is impossible,” Kazakh parliament speaker  Nurlan Nigmatulin said. 

Punishment for child sexual abuse is also toughened. 

The draft law that was worked out to further improve the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure includes amendments to toughen liability for intentionally committing certain types of serious and grave crimes.  For example, liability for committing a crime that violates sexual integrity will be increased – rape and sexual assault, even without aggravating circumstances, will be categorized as grave crimes,” he said.

Recall, Article 120, which concerns punishment for rape, was at the center of an urgent nationwide conversation about rape and sexual assault this summer after a judge passed down a light sentence on two train conductors who beat and raped a passenger in November 2018.

Although prosecutors requested six years prison for the defendants, the court on July 26 decided each man would get two and a half years behind bars. 

In his September 2 state of the nation address, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev called for toughening penalties “for sexual violence, pedophilia, drug trafficking, human trafficking and other serious crimes, especially those against children.”

“We have moved away from excessively repressive measures and harsh punitive practices. However, numerous serious crimes still occur in the country. We got carried away with the humanization of legislation, having lost sight of the fundamental rights of citizens,” he said.  

Kazakhstan’s lawmakers first made rape illegal in 1997, when they introduced Article 120 into the legal code. At the time it was adopted, Article 120 penalized rape as a “serious” crime.  Not long after, however, lawmakers amended the rule and reduced rape to a crime of “moderate” severity.

Many have criticized Article 120 for its characterization of rape as anything less than a serious crime.