Members of Kazakhstan’s lower chamber of parliament, Mazhilis, on February 21, approved in the first reading a bill that would allow life imprisonment for individuals convicted of pedophilia and/or the murder of children.

The Kazakh parliament’s press center says the bill comes after President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev ordered in his address to the nation in September 2023 that such legislation was needed, the parliament's press service said.

The bill also toughens the punishment for assaulting and beating children and “helpless” people.

The Astana Times reports that life imprisonment becomes a non-alternative punishment for the murder of a minor or acts of pedophilia. 

The legislation reportedly reinstates criminal liability for causing minor harm to health, with penalties including fines of up to 200 monthly calculation index (MCI), equivalent to US$1,631, or community service for up to 200 hours or 50 days of arrest.

Assault carries penalties of fines up to 80 MCI (US$652.42), community service for up to 80 hours, or 25 days of arrest.

Courts are empowered to mandate psychological assistance in medical organizations for persons who commit administrative or criminal offenses against minors or in the field of family and household relations.

In addition, authorized agencies have been given the ability to promptly respond to media reports in order to identify and address cases of violence.

Incitement or inducement to suicide is proposed to carry a prison sentence of five to nine years, with a new criminal liability introduced for promoting suicide, punishable by a fine of 200 MCI (US$1,631).

Administrative liability is introduced for bullying and cyberbullying of minors, with a penalty of a fine of 10 MCI (US$81.55).

The amendments introduce criminal liability for sexual harassment of children under the age of 16.

Following its approval in the Mazhilis, the law proceeds to the Senate for consideration and, if approved, to the President for signing.

Tokayev initiated the bill amid an outcry by human rights groups about a rise in domestic violence in the country.