Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan is ranked 57 out of 82 countries in the 2012 Social Institutions and Gender Index.

In 2011, Uzbekistan had a Human Development Index score of 0.641, placing it in 115th place out of a total of 187 countries. UNDP does not provide a gender inequality score for Uzbekistan for 2011.Uzbekistan is not ranked in the 2011 Global Gender Gap Index.

Discriminatory Family Code: 

Under the Uzbekistani constitution and the Family Code, marriages are only legal if they are founded on free consent and equality between the spouses.[1] The minimum legal age for marriage in Uzbekistan is 17 years for women and 18 years for men, but special dispensation can be granted up to one year before this limit if there are “valid reasons or exceptional circumstances” (unspecified). [2]  In 2006, 4.9 percent of girls aged 15-19 were married or in union. [3] According to the 2002 DHS, the marriages of 61.3% of married women aged 15-19 had been arranged without their consultation.[4] Only registered marriages are recognised under Uzbekistani law. More and more couples are not registering their marriages, partly because of the cost of doing so, leaving many married women vulnerable in terms of exercising their rights in the event of divorce or widowhood.[5] The long-standing tradition of paying a dowry prevails, but only in certain areas, according to the 2008 CEDAW report.[6]

Polygamy is prohibited by the Uzbekistani Penal Code, but provisions relate to ‘cohabitation with two or more women on the basis of one household’ causing some confusion as to whether a man can legally have two wives if they live in separate houses.[7] According to the Coalition of Uzbek Women’s NGOs, the number of polygamous families is rising in Uzbekistan, in part because the law is not clear in prohibiting the practice, but also because of increased social acceptance among women and men.[8] There are no statistics available to confirm this.

Men are generally considered to be the heads of families in Uzbekistan, while women are responsible for domestic work and childcare.[9] In more than half of households (57.9%), husbands alone decide about important expenses.[10] Divorce carries stigma for women, however, and in the event of divorce or widowhood, younger women are expected to return to their parents’ home; they are only able to live independently if they already have children.[11] That said, according to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the number of divorces each year is rising.[12] 20.2% of those interviewed for the 2002 DHS were living in households headed by a woman.[13]

Men and women have the same rights to inheritance in Uzbekistan.[14] However, it is common practice for the youngest son to stay at home to look after his parents, and hence, usually inherit the family home.[15] Sisters may often concede their inheritance rights to their brothers, in order to avoid conflict, and ensure the ongoing support of their natal family.[16] 

In addition to the provisions of the Family Code, the country has a system of mahalla  Neighbourhood Committees that deal with day-to-day family matters, provide support to vulnerable families, and mediate in conflicts.[17] While these committees have no legal authority, they can function as obstacles to women’s rights: for example, women are unable to obtain a divorce if their local Neighbourhood Committee has not given its consent. [18] According to the Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs, in many cases, women seeking a divorce are pressured by the mahalla into changing their minds, even in situations where they have been victims of domestic violence.[19]

[1] FAO (n.d.) [2] FAO (n.d.); Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009a), p.6 [3] Multiple Cluster Indicator Survey (2006) [4] Analytical and Information Center, Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan, State Department of Statistics, Ministry of Macroeconomics and Statistics, and ORC Macro (2004), p.196. See also Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009a), p.6 [5] FAO (n.d.) [6] CEDAW (2008), p.83 [7] Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009b), p.40; FAO (n.d.) [8] Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009b), p.40 [9] Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009a), p.3; CEDAW (2008), p.84 [10] Analytical and Information Center, Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan, State Department of Statistics, Ministry of Macroeconomics and Statistics, and ORC Macro (2004), p.203 [11] FAO (n.d.); Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009b), p.13 [12] JICA (2005), p.13 [13] Analytical and Information Center, Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan, State Department of Statistics, Ministry of Macroeconomics and Statistics, and ORC Macro (2004) [14] FAO (n.d.) [15] FAO (n.d.) [16] FAO (n.d.) [17] FAO (n.d.) [18] FAO (n.d.) [19] Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009a), p.5; Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009b), p.40

 

Restricted Physical Integrity: 

To date, there is no specific law addressing domestic violence in Uzbekistan.[20] It appears to have wide social acceptance, even among women: 69.6% of women questioned in the 2002 DHS agreed with at least one of a list of five ‘reasons’ that justified a man beating his wife (as did 59.4% of men).[21] Moreover, in official discourse, the term ‘family conflict’ is used instead of domestic violence, meaning that women experiencing violence cannot recognise or name it as such, and state institutions can justify inaction on the grounds that ‘family conflict’ should be resolved within the family concerned.[22] There are few convictions because the police often discourage victims from pressing charges against their husbands, in the interests of keeping crime figures low.[23] There is said to be a high incidence of suicide among women who have suffered domestic violence (according to groups working with victims of domestic violence), but as most cases are not recorded it is very difficult to assess the scope of this issue.[24] In certain cases, mahallas may step in to settle disputes between spouses, however this often results in women being pressured to return to violent husbands or abusive mothers-in-law. [25]  Some assistance is provided to women who have been victims of violence in state-run shelters and crisis centres.[26] 

Rape is punishable by law in Uzbekistan, but spousal rape is not specifically prohibited under the criminal code.[27] Shame and fear of stigma often discourage victims of sexual violence from speaking out.[28] One of the shadow reports submitting to the CEDAW committee in 2009 alleges that rape, or the threat of rape, is widely used in detention.[29] In 2009, Amnesty International gained reports from an Uzbek human rights organisation of two sisters who had apparently been raped by police officers while in custody.[30]

There are no reports that female genital mutilation is practised in Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan is considered to be a source country for the trafficking of women for sexual exploitation to Kazakhstan, Russia, the Middle East and Asia, and of men for forced labour to Russia and Kazakhstan.[31] To date, the government has shown little inclination to take measures to address the problem, although a new law on combating human trafficking was introduced in 2008. [32][33]  This law includes provision for providing services to victims of trafficking, in the form of accommodation and emergency psychological and medial assistance.

According to the 2002 DHS, 91% of women were aware of contraception, while 67.7% of married women and 53.1% of sexually active unmarried women reported using contraception on a regular basis; figures given in a 2010 UNFPA report are similar.[34] This included a high proportion using ‘modern’ methods.[35] Women’s access to reproductive healthcare may be restricted, however, by husbands and in-laws, as younger married women have very little autonomy within their husband’s household: [36][37] Abortion is available on demand in Uzbekistan, and remains an accepted method of fertility control.[38] in the 2002 DHS, only 24.6% of women reported that they were free to make their decisions regarding their own healthcare.

[20] Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009a), p.4 [21] Analytical and Information Center, Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan, State Department of Statistics, Ministry of Macroeconomics and Statistics, and ORC Macro (2004), pp.211, 212 [22] Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009a), p.4; Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009b), p.13 [23] Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009b), p.13 [24] Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009a), p.4 [25] Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009a), p.4 [26] CEDAW (2008), p.86 [27] US Department of State (2010) [28] US Department of State (2010) [29] Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009a), p.4 [30] Amnesty International (2010), p.349 [31] CIA (2010) [32] CIA (2010); CEDAW (2008), p.87 [33] CEDAW (2008), p.88 [34] Analytical and Information Center, Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan, State Department of Statistics, Ministry of Macroeconomics and Statistics, and ORC Macro (2004), pp. 53, 57; UNFPA (2010), p.98 (no data source provided) [35] Analytical and Information Center, Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan, State Department of Statistics, Ministry of Macroeconomics and Statistics, and ORC Macro (2004), p.57 [36] Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009a), p.5 [37] Analytical and Information Center, Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan, State Department of Statistics, Ministry of Macroeconomics and Statistics, and ORC Macro (2004), p.203 [38] Analytical and Information Center, Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan, State Department of Statistics, Ministry of Macroeconomics and Statistics, and ORC Macro (2004), p.63

 

Son Bias: 

Up-to-date data regarding infant and under-five mortality is not available, but as of 2002, rates were slightly higher for boys than for girls.[39] This was also the case for child malnutrition.[40] Gender-disaggregated data regarding immunisation rates is not available, but overall, these appear to be very high.[41] As of 2002, 91.1% of women aged 20-24 questioned in the DHS had completed secondary school (or higher), compared to 93.4% of men in the same age bracket.[42]

The figures above do not indicate that Uzbekistan is a country of concern in regard to son bias in early childhood care.

In regard to education, while the difference between the number of women and men with secondary or higher education is currently small, in other countries in the region, women and girls are actually more likely than boys and men to have completed secondary and / or higher education. As such, as one report on the gender gap in the former Soviet Union states, these figures represent the ‘growing disadvantage’ of girls in regard to accessing secondary education, seen as a poor investment when girls will later marry out of the family.[43] Also, while many young women may register on university courses, drop-out rates are much higher for women than men, as once women marry, they are unable to combine study with their responsibilities as daughters-in-law and raising young children.[44]

The male/female sex ratio for the total population in 2012 is 0.99.[45]

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

[39] Analytical and Information Center, Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan, State Department of Statistics, Ministry of Macroeconomics and Statistics, and ORC Macro (2004), p.83 [40] Analytical and Information Center, Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan, State Department of Statistics, Ministry of Macroeconomics and Statistics, and ORC Macro (2004), p.109 [41] UNICEF (2007), p.113 [42] Analytical and Information Center, Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan, State Department of Statistics, Ministry of Macroeconomics and Statistics, and ORC Macro (2004), pp.28-29 [43] Rokicka (2008), p.18; Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009b), p.28. See also Eurasianet (2006); JICA (2005), p.22 [44] Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009b), p.29 [45] Central Intelligence Agency (2012)

Restricted Resources and Entitlements: 

Technically, all land is owned by the state in Uzbekistan, but individuals can be granted leases to manage land and benefit from the produce of that land.[46]   Current legislation has officially removed all legal obstacles that previously prevented Uzbekistani women from leasing land, and women have the same rights as men to obtain long-term leases on land, which come with inheritance and mortgage rights.[47] Yet the proportion of women who actually have access to land is relatively low; in the 2002 DHS, only 1.6% of women reported that they leased land in their own right.[48] Rather, land titles are usually registered to the name of the oldest male in the household, and women gain access to land through membership of a household.[49]

Under Uzbekistani law, men and women have the same rights to ownership of property other than land. [50][51] Property acquired during marriage is considered to be joint property, unless otherwise provided for by law or by marriage contract.[52] In addition, each spouse retains individual ownership of property that they acquired before the marriage, and women’s rights to their equal share of joint property in the event of divorce is protected at article 23 of the Family Code.[53] It appears, however, that the rights of married women are insufficiently protected, particularly in the event of divorce, when divorce courts sometimes disregard women’s right to joint marital property.[54]  Article 2 of the Family Code (1998) provides that a husband and wife have equal personal property rights.

Uzbekistani law guarantees the right of women to have access to credit.[55] Because so few women lease land in their own right, they are unable to access bank loans as they have nothing to offer as guarantee.[56] 

[46] FAO (n.d.) [47] FAO et al (2004), p.48 [48] Analytical and Information Center, Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan, State Department of Statistics, Ministry of Macroeconomics and Statistics, and ORC Macro (2004), p.208 [49] FAO (n.d.) [50] FAO (n.d.); CEDAW (2008), p.119 [51] FAO et al (2004), p.48 [52] FAO et al (2004), p.48 [53] FAO et al (2004), p.48; FAO (n.d.) [54] JICA (2005), pp.18, 42 [55] CEDAW (2008), p.136 [56] FAO (n.d.); Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009b), p.35

 

Restricted Civil Liberties: 

Freedom of movement is restricted for all Uzbek citizens. Official permission is required to move between towns in Uzbekistan, and exit visas are required to leave the country.[57] There are no specific legal restrictions on women’s freedom of movement, but it appears that many women in Uzbekistan face restrictions on their day-to-day movement, imposed by their husbands or mothers-in-law: in the 2002 DHS, 58.8% of women reported that they could not visit relatives without permission, and 55.1% said they needed permission to visit friends.[58] In the same survey, 15.7% of women reported that they were not allowed to visit the market, health centre, or neighbours unaccompanied.[59] 

Freedom of speech is severely limited in Uzbekistan, both in the media and in everyday life.[60] The mahalla committees (mentioned above in the context of family law) function as a day-to-day system of community-level surveillance and control.[61] Media outlets tend to reinforce existing stereotypes regarding gender roles, portraying ‘good women’ as obedient and submissive, rather than providing space to challenge them.[62] The right to freedom of association and assembly is also routinely violated in Uzbekistan.[63] It is extremely difficult for civil society organisations to gain official registration needed to operate.[64] Groups working on women’s rights and / or gender equality issues have to obtain an official letter of support from the Women’s Committee of Uzbekistan, which works under the strict control of the government.[65]

33 of 150 members of Uzbekistan’s Legislative Chamber are women (22%), as are 15 members of the senate (15%).[66] Overall though, women are poorly represented in political and other decision-making bodies in Uzbekistan.[67]  For instance, very few women are chairs of the mahalla committees. [68] Women are active in the NGO sector, although operate under the same restrictions as all other civil society groups. Women’s rights organisations have worked to raise awareness among women of their rights (e.g. in regard to land), and providing services to victims of domestic violence and trafficking.[69]

Pregnant women are entitled to 126 days of paid maternity leave in Uzbekistan, and discrimination in employment on the basis of gender is banned under the Labour Code.[70] According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), 23% of women work in agriculture, most often as unpaid labourers on household or collective agricultural plots.[71] Even women who are also employed elsewhere are often expected to work in the fields as well.[72]

 

[57] Freedom House (2010); Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009b), p.36 [58] Analytical and Information Center, Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan, State Department of Statistics, Ministry of Macroeconomics and Statistics, and ORC Macro (2004), p.203. See also Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009b), p.36 [59] Analytical and Information Center, Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan, State Department of Statistics, Ministry of Macroeconomics and Statistics, and ORC Macro (2004), p.207 [60] Freedom House (2010) [61] Freedom House (2010); Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009b), p.33 [62] Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009a), pp.3-4; Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009b), p.18 [63] Amnesty International (2010), pp.348-350; Human Rights Watch (2010) [64] Human Rights Watch (2010); Freedom House (2010); Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009a), pp.2-3 [65] Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009a), p.2 [66] Inter-Parliamentary Union (n.d.-a); Inter-Parliamentary Union (n.d.-b) [67] Rokicka (2008), p.51 [68] Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009a), p.5 [69] FAO (n.d.); CEDAW (2008), p.89 [70] ILO (2009); FAO (n.d.) [71] FAO (n.d.) [72] FAO (n.d.) [73] ILGA (n.d.) [74] ILGA (2010)

 

Background: 

Formerly part of the USSR, Uzbekistan became independent in 1991, and since then has been governed by Islam Karimov.[75] The country has significant oil and natural gas reserves, and is the world’s second largest exporter of cotton.[77] The dominant religion in Uzbekistan is Islam, but all religious practice is heavily regulated by the state.[78]

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, women in Uzbekistan have faced both increasing rates of unemployment and there are reports of the re-assertion of conservative social norms in regard to acceptable gender roles.[79] As a result, in rural areas in particular, women’s employment options outside the home and / or family agriculture plot have been drastically reduced, while the control of husbands and in-laws over women has increased.[80] In this context, according to one of the shadow reports submitted to the CEDAW committee in 2009, promoting protection from domestic violence, non-discrimination and gender equality are all seen as attacks on traditional Uzbek society.[81]

Article 47 of the Constitution of Uzbekistan states that men and women have equal rights.[82] Uzbekistan ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1995, but has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol on violence against women.[83] As of 2009, it appeared that legislation ‘On equal rights and opportunities for men and women’ was under discussion.[84]

Uzbekistan is classed as a lower-middle income country by the World Bank.[85] In 2011, Uzbekistan had a Human Development Index score of 0.641, placing it in 115th place out of a total of 187 countries.[86] UNDP does not provide a gender inequality score for Uzbekistan for 2011.[87] Uzbekistan is not ranked in the 2011 Global Gender Gap Index.[88]

[75] CIA (2010); Freedom House (2010) [76] See Amnesty International (2010), pp.348-350; Human Rights Watch (2010) [77] CIA (2010) [78] CIA (2010); Amnesty International (2010), p.350; Human Rights Watch (2010) [79] Eurasianet (2006) [80] See Kandiyoti (2002), pp. 41-63 [81] Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009a), p.2 [82] FAO (n.d.) [83] United Nations Treaty Collection (n.d.) [84] Coalition of Uzbek Women’s Rights NGOs (2009a), p.6 [85] World Bank (n.d.) [86]United Nations Development Programme (2011) p.128 [87]United Nations Development Programme (2011) p.141 [88] World Economic Forum (2011)

 

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Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (2010) World Factbook: Uzbekistan, online edition, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/uz.html (accessed 10 January 2011)

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

 

Coalition of Uzbek women's rights NGOs (2009a) ‘Women’s rights in Uzbekistan Briefing note to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)’, CEDAW Pre-session, Geneva, February 2009. Available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/cedaws45.htm (accessed 10 January 2011)

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Committee on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (2008) ‘Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women Fourth periodic report of States parties Uzbekistan’, CEDAW/C/UZB/4, CEDAW, New York

Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) (n.d.) ‘Gender and land rights database. Country report: Uzbekistan’, http://www.fao.org/gender/landrights/report/ (accessed 10 January 2011)

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), International Land Coalition(ILC) (2004), ‘Rural Women’s Access to Land and Property in Selected Countries: Progress Towards Achieving the Aims of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women’, FAO Gender and Population Division, IFAD Technical Advisory Division, and ILC, Rome. http://www.landcoalition.org/pdf/cedawrpt.pdf (accessed 4 December 2010)

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Data
Discrim. Fam. Code Rank 2012: 
58
Discrim. Fam. Code Value 2012: 
0.4045
Legal Age of Marriage: 
1
Early Marriage: 
0.049
Parental Authority: 
0.5
Inheritance: 
0.25
Data
Rest. Phys. Integrity Rank 2012: 
96
Rest. Phys. Integrity Value 2012: 
0.9041
Violence Against Women (laws): 
0.75
Female Genital Mutilation: 
0
Reproductive Integrity: 
0.78
Attitudes Towards Domestic Violence: 
0.636
Data
Son Bias Rank 2012: 
65
Son Bias Value 2012: 
0.571642
Missing Women: 
0
Fertility Preferences: 
0.506627
Data
Rest. Resources & Ent. Rank 2012: 
46
Rest. Resources & Ent. Value 2012: 
0.3473
Access To Land: 
0.5
Access To Property Other Than Land: 
0
Access To Bank Loans And Credit: 
0.5
Data
Rest. Civil Liberties Rank 2012: 
28
Rest. Civil Liberties Value 2012: 
0.3086
Access To Public Space: 
0.5
Political Participation: 
0.192
Political Quotas: 
0