Turkmenistan is not ranked in the 2012 Social Institutions and Gender Index due to missing data for one or more SIGI variables. However, the country note below sets out information and data relating to variables where this is available information.

Turkmenistan is ranked in 102nd place in the 2011 Human Development Index (HDI), with a score of 0.686, but has no gender inequality rating. Turkmenistan is not ranked in the 2011 Global Gender Gap Index.

Discriminatory Family Code: 

Women and men enjoy equal rights under Turkmenistan’s Family Code.[1] The minimum legal age for marriage is 16 years for both men and women, or 18 years in the case of marriage to a foreigner.[2] Up-to-date data on early marriage is not available, but figures from the 2000 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) included in a 2004 United Nations report estimated that 5.9% of girls between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed, .[3]  It would appear that at that time, the median age for marriage was slightly lower in urban areas, and among those who did not have higher education.[4] To be legal, both spouses must enter the marriage of their own free will.[5] Forced marriages occur in Turkmenistan, as does the payment of bride price (kalym) to the woman’s family.[6] The new wife may then be expected to work to reimburse her husband’s family for the kalym.[7]

Polygamy is prohibited by law in Turkmenistan.[8] Although no statistics are available, there are anecdotal reports that polygamy is practised in certain regions without legal repercussions.[9]

By law, men and women have the same rights and responsibilities in relation to their children, including shared parental authority, within marriage and following divorce.[10] In cases of divorce, decisions regarding residency are made in the best interests of the child.[11] In practice, women are confined to the role of mother and homemaker and men assume all other responsibilities as head of the household.[12] In addition, according to a 2010 report, in practice women have fewer rights over their own children than the father’s family.[13]   According to the 2000 DHS, at that stage, 26.5% of households surveyed were headed by women.[14]

By law, men and women have the same inheritance rights in Turkmenistan, but in practice, property is usually left to sons or other male relatives.[15]

[1] CEDAW (2004), p.15; US Department of State (2010) [2] CEDAW (2004), p.52 [3] United Nations (2004), p.351; Gurbansoltan Eje Clinical Research Center for Maternal and Child Health (GECRCMCH), Ministry of Health and Medical Industry, and ORC Macro (2001), p.81 [4] Gurbansoltan Eje Clinical Research Center for Maternal and Child Health (GECRCMCH), Ministry of Health and Medical Industry, and ORC Macro (2001), p.84 [5] CEDAW (2004), [6] Freeman (2006) [7] Freeman (2006) [8] CEDAW (2004), p.50 [9] Freeman (2006) [10] CEDAW (2004), p.50 [11] CEDAW (2006a), p.50 [12] Freeman (2006) [13] IWPR (2010) [14] Gurbansoltan Eje Clinical Research Center for Maternal and Child Health (GECRCMCH), Ministry of Health and Medical Industry, and ORC Macro (2001), p.11 [15] Freeman (2006) 

Restricted Physical Integrity: 

The law prohibits violence against women, including violence against a spouse, but the legislation is apparently not effectively implemented.[16]  There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that domestic violence is common, but according to a report from 2005, victims remain silent, either because they are unaware of their rights and accept the abuse as part of married life, or fear more severe abuse from their husbands.[17]  Economic dependence due to women’s limited employment opportunities also traps women in abusive relationships.[18] Distrust of the police and law enforcement services means few women report abuse.[19] Police are said to be reluctant to intervene in what they consider to be a ‘family matter’, even in cases of repeated or very serious assault.[20]   Only a few cases are brought to trial or featured in the media.[21] One official women’s group in the country’s capital Ashgabat, one independent NGO, and several informal groups in other regions provide assistance to victims of domestic violence.[22] This included a hotline and a series of awareness raising seminars.[23]

Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal in Turkmenistan and punishable by sentences ranging from 3 to 25 years in prison, depending on the extent of the violence involved in the assault.[24]  However few cases are reported, due to the shame that rape victims feel and fears of ostracisation, and the fact that they are often blamed for the attack.[25] There are no services available for victims of sexual violence.[26] There is no law banning sexual harassment.[27]

Trafficking in persons has been illegal in Turkmenistan since 2007, with punishments of up to eight years’ imprisonment. [28] It is thought that the country is a source, transit and destination country for victims of trafficking (both women and men) for forced prostitution and forced labour, but this is unverifiable, as the government does not publicly acknowledge trafficking as a problem and does not monitor trafficking within Turkmenistan.[29]

Women in Turkmenistan have the right to use – and obtain information about – contraception.[30] According to a 2010 UNFA report, 62% of women reported that they were currently using some form of contraception.[31] Data from the 2000 DHS indicates that at that time, 9.3% of women did not have control over their own healthcare (including, presumably, reproductive healthcare), as decisions in that regard were made solely by their husbands.[32] It is unclear how accessible health care in general – and reproductive health care in particular – is in Turkmenistan. Médecins Sans Frontières (the last international humanitarian agency to work in Turkmenistan) pulled out of the country in 2009, warning of a looming health crisis, due to the government’s inability and / or unwillingness to meet the health needs of its population.[33] Abortion is available on demand in Turkmenistan.[34] The abortion rate is said to be very high, indicating that women are unable to access other forms of birth control.[35]

There are no reports to indicate that female genital mutilation is practised in Turkmenistan.

[16] US Department of State (2010) [17] IWPR (2005); Freeman (2006) [18] IWPR (2005) [19] Freeman (2006) [20] IWPR (2010) [21] US Department of State (2010) [22] US Department of State (2010) [23] US Department of State (2010) [24] US Department of State (2010) [25] Freeman (2006) [26] Freeman (2006) [27] US Department of State (2010) [28] US Department of State (2010) [29] US Department of State (2010) [30] US Department of State (2010) [31] UNFPA (2010), p.98. It is not clear when this data was collected [32] Gurbansoltan Eje Clinical Research Center for Maternal and Child Health (GECRCMCH), Ministry of Health and Medical Industry, and ORC Macro (2001), p.31 [33] Médecins Sans Frontières (2009) [34] UNDP (2007) [35] Freeman (2006)

Son Bias: 

Estimates regarding under-five mortality for 2005-2010 included in a 2010 UNFPA report indicate that mortality rates are higher for boys (76 per 1000) than for girls (56 per 1000).[36] No current accurate figures are available as to immunisation rates and malnutrition exist, but as of 2000, there was very little discrepancy between rates for girls (89.8%) and boys (90.4%), and malnutrition rates were slightly higher for boys than for girls.[37] Up-to-date data regarding school attendance rates is not available, but according to the 2000 DHS, gross secondary school attendance rates were 85% for boys and 83.8% for girls.[38] Older girls may be removed from school to work at home, or because parents fear that completing their education may reduce their marriage prospects.[39]

The figures given above would indicate that Turkmenistan is not a country of concern in regard to early childhood care. There may be some preference towards sons, however, in regard to access to education.

As of 2012, the male/female sex ratio for the total population is 0.98.[40] 

There is no evidence to suggest that Turkmenistan is a country of concern in relation to missing women.

[36] UNFPA (2010), p.104. The CIA World Factbook gives lower estimates: 52.1 for boys and 35.1 for girls (CIA (2010)) [37] Gurbansoltan Eje Clinical Research Center for Maternal and Child Health (GECRCMCH), Ministry of Health and Medical Industry, and ORC Macro (2001), pp.122, p.134 [38] Gurbansoltan Eje Clinical Research Center for Maternal and Child Health (GECRCMCH), Ministry of Health and Medical Industry, and ORC Macro (2001), p.15 [39] Freeman (2006) [40] Central Intelligence Agency (2012)

Restricted Resources and Entitlements: 

According to the US Department of State, women and men enjoy the same rights to ownership of land, and property other than land.[41] Information about ownership rights in practice is scarce, but it appears that women face obstacles in exercising their legal rights. The process of decollectivisation gave households an opportunity to acquire access to land.[42] The authorities will not provide any statistics about the percentage of land allotted to women, although the 2006 CEDAW report states that the number of women leasing state land is growing dramatically.[43] In 2006, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, specifically raised concerns about the negative impact of customs on women’s access to land in Turkmenistan.[44]

Within marriage, men and women have equal property rights.[45] There is no information available on the extent that women enjoy these rights in practice.

There are no legal restrictions on women’s access to bank loans,[46] but there is no data about loan access in general or the proportion of loans granted to women. The 1993 law on commercial banks and banking activities is ‘gender blind’ and contains no specific provisions relating to women.[47]

[41] US Department of State (2010) [42] CEDAW (2004), p.45 [43] CEDAW (2006a), p.9 [44] CEDAW (2006b) [45] CEDAW (2004), p.15 [46] CEDAW (2004), p.47 [47] CEDAW (2004), p.47

Restricted Civil Liberties: 

Women’s civil liberties are restricted in Turkmenistan. The freedom of movement of all Turkmenistan citizens, male and female, is restricted by law.[48] The government is known to keep an updated list of individuals who are banned from travelling outside the country, including journalists, relatives of exiled opposition politicians, and (in 2009 and 2010) students registered at certain universities outside of Turkmenistan.[49]  The 2005 Migration Law forbids anyone who might be at risk of becoming a victim of trafficking from leaving the country, [50] potentially limiting the right of younger women in particular to travel outside the country. Within Turkmenistan, previous official restrictions on freedom of movement for Turkmen citizens were removed by presidential decree in 2007, but are still in place for holders of foreign passports.[51]  A report from 2005 indicated that outside of Ashgabat, the capital, and other urban centres, the practice of prohibiting men and women from associating with each other outside the home is increasingly enforced, limiting women’s freedom of movement in rural areas. [52][53] In 2000, 10.4% of women interviewed for the DHS reported that they were not free to visit friends and relatives without their husband’s permission, indicating limits on their day-to-day freedom of movement.

Freedom of expression is heavily restricted in Turkmenistan, with all printed and electronic media remaining under state control.[54][55] False criminal charges have been levied against civil society activists as a means of silencing dissent, effectively criminalising freedom of assembly and association as well.[56][57]  It is also extremely difficult for NGOs – including those working on women’s rights issues – to obtain the official registration that they need to operate. It is reported that the media in Turkmenistan portrays women in very gender-stereotyped ways.

As of 2009, there were 21 women in the 125-member parliament.[58][59] Women also occupied some prominent government positions.

Employment law grants women and men equal rights in employment, including salaries.[60] However, women are prohibited from working in certain dangerous and environmentally- unsafe jobs, potentially limiting their professional opportunities.[61] In addition, it is reported that stereotypes regarding women’s place in society and prejudice on the part of employers towards women who have children or who are of childbearing age limits women’s professional opportunities. [62] As of 2000, 49.4% of women interviewed for the DHS considered themselves to be in employment, mainly in professional, technical and managerial roles (39.2%) and agriculture (27.7%).[63]

[48] US Department of State (2010) [49] Amnesty International (2010), p.332; Human Rights Watch (2010) [50] US Department of State (2010) [51] US Department of State (2010) [52] IWPR (2005); Freeman (2006) [53] Gurbansoltan Eje Clinical Research Center for Maternal and Child Health (GECRCMCH), Ministry of Health and Medical Industry, and ORC Macro (2001), p.31 [54] Amnesty International (2010), p.332; US Department of State (2010) [55] Freeman (2006) [56] Amnesty International (2010), p.332; Human Rights Watch (2010) [57] US Department of State (2010); Freedom House (2010) [58] Inter-Parliamentary Union (n.d.) [59] US Department of State (2010) [60] US Department of State (2010); CEDAW (2004), p.13 [61] US Department of State (2010) [62] US Department of State (2010); Freedom House (2010) [63] Gurbansoltan Eje Clinical Research Center for Maternal and Child Health (GECRCMCH), Ministry of Health and Medical Industry, and ORC Macro (2001), pp.24, 26 


Formerly part of the Soviet Union, Turkmenistan is an insular, isolated one-party state, which became independent in 1991.[66]   Turkmenistan has considerable natural gas and oil reserves, although these remain underdeveloped.[67]  Turkmenistan is classed as a lower-middle income country by the World Bank.[68] The dominant religion is Islam, although all religious practice is heavily regulated by the state.[70]

During the Soviet period, women entered education and employment in huge numbers, although for the most part their lives at home remained unchanged[71]. It is difficult to obtain gender-disaggregated statistics on Turkmenistan[74] or accurate analysis of the situation in regard to gender inequality and women’s rights in Turkmenistan.   Since 1991,  cuts to public services – the two sectors where women were previously concentrated – have combined with the reassertion of conservative gender norms to push many women out of the public sphere and back into the home and dependence on their husbands or male relatives.[72] 

Article 18 of the Constitution of Turkmenistan upholds the principle of equality between men and women and prohibits all forms of discrimination.[75] Turkmenistan ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1997, and the Optional Protocol on violence against women in 2009.[76]

[66] CIA (2010); US Department of State (2010) [67] CIA (2010) [68] World Bank (n.d.) [69] Freedom House (2010) [70] CIA (2010); US Department of State (2010) [71] IWPR (2005) [72] IWPR (2005); IWPR (2010) [73] US Department of State (2010); IWPR (2010) [74] Rokicka (2008), p.33 [75] CEDAW (2004), p.13 [76] United Nations Treaty Collection (n.d.)



Amnesty International (2010) Amnesty International Report 2009, State of the World’s Human Rights, London: Amnesty International. http://thereport.amnesty.org/sites/default/files/AIR2010_EN.pdf (accessed 8 November 2010)

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (2010) World Factbook: Turkmenistan, online edition, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/tx.html (accessed 7 January 2011)

Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Factbook: Sex Ratio, available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2018.html (accessed 29 February 2012)

Committee on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (2004) ‘Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women Combined initial and second periodic reports of States parties Turkmenistan’, CEDAW/C/TKM/1-2, CEDAW, New York.

CEDAW (2006a) ‘Responses to the list of issues and questions for consideration of the combined initial and second periodic reports Turkmenistan’, CEDAW/C/TKM/Q/5/Add.1, CEDAW, New York.

CEDAW (2006b) Concluding comments of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Turkmenistan, CEDAW/C/TKM/CO/5, CEDAW, New York

Freedom House (2010) Freedom in the World Country Reports: Turkmenistan, http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=363&year=2010&country=7938 (accessed 7 January 2011)

Freeman, Marsha A. (2006) ‘Country Report: Turkmenistan’, (prepared for submission to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, 35th session, May 2006), International Women’s Rights Action Watch, University of Minnesota, http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/iwraw/publications/countries/turkmenistan.htm (accessed 3 February 2011)

Gurbansoltan Eje Clinical Research Center for Maternal and Child Health (GECRCMCH), Ministry of Health and Medical Industry, and ORC Macro (2001) Turkmenistan Demographic and Health Survey 2000, Calverton, Maryland, USA: GECRCMCH and ORC Macro. Available at http://www.measuredhs.com/pubs/pub_details.cfm?ID=348&ctry_id=69&SrchTp=ctry&flag=sur&cn=Turkmenistan (accessed 7 January 2011)

Human Rights Watch (2010) World Report2010: Turkmenistan, New York: Human Rights Watch, http://www.hrw.org/en/node/87526 (accessed 7 January 2011)

Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) (2005), “Turkmen Women Suffer in Silence”, 20 November 2005, www.iwpr.net/?p=rca&s=f&o=238807&apc_state=henirca2005 (accessed 7 January 2011)

Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) ‘Equality Laws Fail to Ensure Turkmen Women’s Rights’, 24 December 2010, http://iwpr.net/report-news/equality-laws-fail-ensure-turkmen-women%E2%80%99s-rights (accessed 7 January 2011)

International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), (n.d.), country profile: Turkmenistan, http://ilga.org/ilga/en/countries/TURKMENISTAN/Articles (accessed 7 January 2011)

Inter-Parliamentary Union (n.d.) TURKMENISTAN: Mejlis (Assembly), http://www.ipu.org/parline-e/reports/2325_A.htm (accessed 7 January 2011)

Médecins Sans Frontières (2009) ‘Médecins Sans Frontières closes programs in Turkmenistan after ten years’, press release, 18 December 2009, http://www.msf.org.au/media-room/press-releases/press-release/article/medecins-sans-frontieres-closes-programs-in-turkmenistan-after-ten-years.html (accessed 7 January 2011)

Rokicka, Magdalena (2008) ‘Gender gap in the CIS region’, CASE Network Studies and Analyses no.376/2008, CASE, Warsaw, Bishkek, Kyiv, Chisinau, Minsk

United Nations (2004), World Fertility Report 2003, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, New York, NY

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (2006) World Population Prospects_2006, downloaded from http://www.devinfo.info/genderinfo/ (accessed 8 November 2010)

United Nations Development Programme (2011) Human Development Report 2011, available at http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_2011_EN_Complete.pdf (accessed 29 February 2012)

UNDP (2007)’World abortion policies’, data downloaded from http://www.devinfo.info/genderinfo/ (accessed 7 January 2011)

UNDP (2010) Human Development Report 2010: Turkmenistan, online edition, http://hdrstats.undp.org/en/countries/profiles/TKM.html (accessed 3 February 2011)

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) (2010) State of the World’s Population 2010. From conflict and crisis to renewal: generations of change, UNFPA, New York

United Nations Treaty Collection (UNTC) (n.d): Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women, countries ratified. 

-          CEDAW: http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-8&chapter=4&lang=en (accessed 7 January 2011)

-          Optional Protocol: http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-8-b&chapter=4&lang=en (accessed 7 January 2011)

US Department of State (2010) ‘2009 Country Reports on Human Rights: Turkmenistan’, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/sca/136095.htm (accessed 7 January 2011)

World Bank (n.d.) Data: Turkmenistan, http://data.worldbank.org/country/turkmenistan (accessed 7 January 2011)

World Economic Forum (2010) ‘The Global Gender Gap Index 2010 rankings’, http://www.weforum.org/pdf/gendergap/rankings2010.pdf (accessed 22 November 2010)

World Economic Forum (2011) The Global Gender Gap Report 2011, available at http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GenderGap_Report_2011.pdf (accessed 2 March 2012) 

Discrim. Fam. Code Rank 2012: 
Discrim. Fam. Code Value 2012: 
Legal Age of Marriage: 
Early Marriage: 
Parental Authority: 
Rest. Phys. Integrity Rank 2012: 
Rest. Phys. Integrity Value 2012: 
Violence Against Women (laws): 
Female Genital Mutilation: 
Reproductive Integrity: 
Attitudes Towards Domestic Violence: 
Missing Women: 
Rest. Resources & Ent. Rank 2012: 
Rest. Resources & Ent. Value 2012: 
Access To Land: 
Access To Property Other Than Land: 
Access To Bank Loans And Credit: 
Rest. Civil Liberties Rank 2012: 
Rest. Civil Liberties Value 2012: 
Access To Public Space: 
Political Participation: 
Political Quotas: