UN experts assessed Tajikistan’s compliance with international standards

Two United Nations Committees have recently commented on issues relevant to the situation in Tajikistan. UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) during its 124th session presented the Tajikistan with a list of questions for consideration based on the country’s 3rd periodic report. UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (UN CEDAW) have also issued its recommendations to the Tajikistan authorities after the Committee’s 71st session.

UNHRC inquired about Tajikistan’s plans concerning adoption of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, which should include effective mechanisms for the protection of victims of judicial discrimination. The Committee inquired about the reasons for restricting travel abroad for students and professors, as well as similar bans for opposition activists and members of their families. In accordance with the Committee’s previous recommendations, experts of the UNHRC called upon Tajikistan to provide information on the investigation of the killings and injuries of civilians that had occurred during the secret operations in Khorog in July 2012, including specific information about the investigations that had been launched and compensations to the families of the victims. The government of Tajikistan should provide answers to these inquiries and other questions for consideration of the country’s state report of the UNHRC in July 2019.

UNHRC experts expressed their concern about amendments to the law on public associations, burdensome requirements for registration of NGOs and their operations, frequent inspections and existing restrictions, while they also stressed the importance of the work of NGOs, in particular those dealing with women’s rights and the rights of LGBT. UNHRC experts recommended to revise the changes introduced into the laws, to ensure unimpeded work of NGOs, to guarantee the absence of harassment of human rights defenders and activists, including those defending women’s rights, to stop blaming them for the “destruction of traditional values”.

Taking into account the problem of gender stereotypes and harmful practices, UN experts pointed out to common problems: women who gave birth to girls run the risk of being abandoned by their husbands, girls from rural areas often have to choose marriage instead of education, while women from Pamir ethnic groups (who are more free in choosing studies and jobs) face stigmatization by ethnic Tajiks, who consider their behavior inconsistent with the patriarchal values ​​and standards of woman’s behavior. Anti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial” have previously reported on the problems of ethnic groups that do not have their own statehood in a special report. UN experts recommended the Tajikistan authorities to adopt and begin to implement a comprehensive strategy to overcome gender stereotypes and patriarchal attitudes towards girls and women, as well as to improve preparation of boys and men for family life, and girls and women for public life.

The problem of women’s education, according to UNHRC experts, manifests itself in insufficient number of girls entering schools, especially in remote areas of Tajikistan, as well as high level of expelling of girls from secondary schools and higher educational institutions. Termination of education is commonly caused by early marriages, pregnancy and discriminatory gender stereotypes, which promote education mainly for boys.

Both UN committees have noted a large number of forced and early marriages, as well as common cases of polygamy. Experts called for the end of the practice of compulsory checks, the so-called “virginity tests”, which had been imposed in accordance with the new Family Code and which lead to the increasing number of suicides among brides. They have also required to ensure compliance with the minimum age for marriage and an end to polygamy in religious (“nikokh”) marriages.

Highlighting the difficult situation of victims of multiple discrimination, UN CEDAW members recommended taking measures to protect against exploitation and to improve access to health care, social services, employment and education, participation in public and political life for the vulnerable groups, in particular migrant women, women left by their migrant husbands, widows of migrants, LBTI women, women without citizenship and women refugees, women with HIV and various disabilities.

Numerous violations of LGBTI rights have been noted by experts of both UN committees, who have criticized police brutality, forced detention, blackmail, derogatory treatment and violence in connection with “immoral behavior”, as well as “correctional” rape of women and compulsory HIV testing. UN CEDAW recommended not only to effectively investigating cases of police violence, but also to destroy the existing LGBTI lists, which, according to the results of the special operations of the Tajik authorities in October 2017, included more than 350 people.

While all stateless persons in Tajikistan have problems with housing, access to social services and employment, regularly face the risk of deportation, discrimination and blackmail by government officials, especially due to the lack of identity documents, it is women and children, according to UN CEDAW, who make up the majority of stateless persons in the country. Moreover, every tenth child is not registered at birth, which increases the number of undocumented people. The UN experts recommended to guarantee the receipt of identity documents to stateless persons, to ensure access to registration of children and to all social services, to prevent deportation before identifying the status of these people, and also to give amnesty to undocumented people in order to regulate their status, including women and children.

Considering that migration remains a serious issue in Tajikistan (see the list of issues compiled by ADC “Memorial” in its report to UN Committee on Migrant Workers), UN CEDAW recommended speeding up the adoption of a law on labor migration, which would take into account guarantees for protection of the rights of female migrants, widows of male migrants and women abandoned by their migrant husbands.

UN committees considered lack of adequate assistance and effective protection against gender-based violence as one of the most important problems, while stating that 97% of men and 72% of women in Tajik society believe that for the sake of preserving the family women ought to endure domestic violence. At the same time, most women do not seek protection because of stigma and gender stereotypes, they are discouraged from this not only by relatives, but also by law enforcement officers. Often, the wives of migrant workers living in their husbands’ houses are subjected to various types of violence from the husband’s family. The country‘s authorities were recommended to adopt a law, which would protect women from violence, including domestic violence, marital rape or rape outside of a formal partnership.

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