Recommendations of the UN CEDAW to Tajikistan: to stop persecution of women – human rights defenders and journalists, to ensure the women’s right to work without discrimination

After reviewing the state report of Tajikistan at the 87th session, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women published recommendations to the country’s authorities.

The Committee is concerned about the obstacles that the authorities of Tajikistan are putting up to civil society, human rights violations and restrictions on the legitimate activities of female human rights defenders, journalists, activists, including representatives of ethnic and religious minorities. During the dialogue with the delegation of Tajikistan at the session, the Committee’s experts asked particular questions about the persecution of Pamiri activist Ulfathonim Mamadshoeva, who was sentenced to a long term.

In its Concluding Observations, the Committee points out such negative facts as the closure of a large number of NGOs, including those headed by women; arrests of women activists and their sentences to long prison terms without due legal procedure; forced emigration of women human rights defenders due to the risk of reprisals by security agencies; reports of torture and ill-treatment, intimidation, harassment and violence against women human rights defenders, journalists and bloggers and their families.

The UN CEDAW recommends that Tajikistan “take immediate steps to ensure that all women can exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and association without interference, and that it further strengthens the rule of law. The Committee reminds the State party that any erosion of such rights constitutes a violation of the Convention and other human rights treaties and that freedom from torture and ill-treatment are non-derogable rights and should be held accountable under law.

It also urges the State party to:

  • (a) Without impunity, investigate, prosecute and appropriately punish all acts of human rights violations against women human rights defenders, journalists, and online activists, and their families including when committed by police officers and other public officials, and provide victims with effective remedies;
  • (b) Prohibit and punish the arbitrary and extra judicial arrest, detention, prosecution and unfair trial of women human rights defenders, journalists and other political dissenters, nor or employ other means of dissuading or discouraging them from exercising their rights to dissent;
  • (c) Ensure the right to free speech and information and freedom of expression by news agencies and non-governmental organizations, especially those headed by women.”

The UN CEDAW has paid serious attention to the right of women to work without discrimination.

ADC Memorial, conducting its #AllJobs4AllWomen campaign, calls for the abolition of the so-called “lists of prohibited professions” that prevent women from employment in well-paid sectors recognized as “harmful” to their reproductive health. Shortly before the consideration of the state report of Tajikistan by the Committee, the authorities announced a reduction in the “list of prohibited professions” – following such countries as Russia and Belarus, which followed this palliative path instead of removing a discriminatory article from the Labor Code and canceling the list entirely (as, for example, happened in Kazakhstan).

The Committee considers the “protective” provisions in Tajikistan legislation excessive and rooted in gender stereotypes (meaning Article 35 of the Constitution – prohibition of women working underground and “in harmful conditions”; the “list of prohibited professions”, now shortened).

The Committee recommended that Tajikistan bring labor legislation in line with the new law on equality and non-discrimination and immediately cancel the list where about 150 professions remain banned. The experts recommend reviewing this ban in the light of technological progress and taking measures to improve working conditions for both women and men.

The Committee also recommended improving the employment of women in the formal economy and reducing the gender pay gap through the following measures:

ensuring continuous education for women, including online, educating employers about gender equality, taking temporary special measures for women’s equal participation in the labor market; extend social protection to women who perform domestic and other unpaid work; increase access to employment for women with disabilities; ensure flexible working hours, promote equal distribution of household and family responsibilities between women and men, introduce mandatory family leave and parental leave, increase the number of affordable quality childcare facilities; strictly observe the principle of equal pay for work of equal value; ensure quotas for women in an innovative economy.

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