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Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women considers Tajikistan's report

Committee on Elimination of Discrimination
  against Women       

31 October 2018

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today considered the sixth periodic report of Tajikistan on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Presenting the report, Yusuf Rahmon, Prosecutor General of Tajikistan, said that the Government had adopted a national plan of measures to implement the Committee’s recommendations and to strengthen legal measures to prevent domestic violence, enhance the role of women in the country, combat trafficking in persons, and educate and place women in senior positions.  The Government had also come up with a family development concept, it had ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention, amended the laws on land ownership, and introduced a quota for the education of girls from rural areas.  In November 2014, the Government had allocated additional staff and resources for the Committee on Women’s Affairs.  An expert council for gender analysis had been set up for the monitoring, follow-up and implementation of gender-related policies.  Combatting trafficking in persons was an important part of the Government’s gender policy.  Prostitution was only punishable as an administrative offence, and administrative sanctions applied to those who purchased prostitution services.  The National Strategy for Empowerment of Women 2011-2020 had set as a goal the achievement of gender equality in leading positions in the executive and legislative branches.  Many heads of the executive apparatus were women.

Noting that women’s rights were the pillar of development, Committee Experts inquired about the coordination of the implementation of the Convention with the Sustainable Development Goals.  While stressing that social inclusion had to be at the heart of the protection of women’s rights, the Experts pointed out that minorities in Tajikistan still had some difficulties in ensuring their rights.  The Experts welcomed the adoption of the Health Code and the Plan of Action for Sexual and Reproductive Health in 2017, as well as the drop in the rate of maternal mortality and the provision of budgetary resources for contraceptives.  Nevertheless, they were concerned about the high number of women living with HIV/AIDS.  Committee Experts also flagged the poor level of gender sensitivity among civil servants, the prevalence of gender stereotypes, particularly in rural areas, gender segregation in the labour market, the persistent gender pay gap, and the problem of early and forced marriages.  Experts also inquired about the political representation of women, compensation and legal assistance provided to women victims of domestic violence, trafficking in persons, plans to decriminalize prostitution and discourage demand for prostitution, citizenship and birth registration, school attendance by girls, women’s access to credits and loans, women in prisons, and the minimum age of marriage.

In concluding remarks, Mr. Rahmon noted that since its independence in 1991, Tajikistan had sought to build a democratic, lawful and secular State, with guarantees for the rights of women and their participation in the economic, social and political life.

Dalia Leinarte, Committee Chairperson, commended the State party for its efforts in the implementation of the Convention and she encouraged it to address the various recommendations of the Committee.

The delegation of Tajikistan consisted of representatives of the Office of the Prosecutor General, the Statistics Agency, the Committee on Women and Family Affairs, and the Permanent Mission of Tajikistan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will next meet in public on Thursday, 1 November, at 10 a.m. to consider the sixth periodic report of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (CEDAW/C/MKD/6).

Report

The sixth periodic report of Tajikistan can be read here: CEDAW/C/TJK/6.

Presentation of the Report

YUSUF RAHMON, Prosecutor General of Tajikistan, informed that the Government of Tajikistan had adopted a national plan of measures to implement the Committee’s recommendations and to strengthen legal measures to prevent domestic violence, enhance the role of women in the country, combat trafficking in persons, and educate and place women in senior positions.  The Government had also come up with a family development concept, and had ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention, amended the laws on land ownership, and introduced a quota for education of girls from rural areas.  The Prosecutor General highlighted that the authorities had carried more than 300 outreach events to disseminate the texts of international legal acts in the sphere of the elimination of discrimination against women, and gender themes were part of the school curricula.  Discrimination was defined as any exclusion or restriction on the grounds of gender.  That concept was identical to the definition of discrimination against women as stipulated in article 1 of the Convention.  Indirect and direct discrimination were distinguished under Tajikistan’s laws.  Currently, a separate law on non-discrimination was being developed.  In November 2014, the Government had allocated additional staff and resources for the Committee on Women’s Affairs.  An expert council for gender analysis had been set up for the monitoring, follow-up and implementation of gender-related policies.  In August 2015, the Government had adopted a plan of action for enhancing the role of women and it systematically adopted temporary special measures to achieve genuine gender equality in all fields.  It had allocated stipends to gifted girls from rural areas to study in secondary schools and universities.  Women received additional points upon recruitment in the civil service, and between 40 to 80 grants had been given for female entrepreneurship.

The Government attached great importance to the elimination of gender-based stereotypes.  Domestic violence was unacceptable, as well as early marriages.  The authorities provided training for girls and boys on family life, and through the media and television they systematically distributed material on gender equality.  The registration of marriages was mandatory.  There was criminal liability for girls receiving education from family members, and for early marriage and polygamy.  The police were authorized to apply preventive measures to combat domestic violence.  There was statistical data collection on violence against women in Tajikistan, and the Ministry of the Interior had treated 927 such cases.  Liability for sexual harassment in public places was defined as a “breach of peace” and carried a punishment of administrative arrest for up to 15 days, and more serious cases could carry criminal liability.  Combatting trafficking in persons was an important part of the Government’s gender policy.  Prostitution was only punishable as an administrative offence, and administrative sanctions applied to those who purchased prostitution services.  The law enforcement forces had brought 129 cases on charges of trafficking in persons, and the authorities had developed comprehensive procedures for assisting victims of trafficking.  Female victims could receive special adult training courses, while for child victims it was mandatory for them to receive further education.

The National Strategy for Empowerment of Women 2011-2020 had set as a goal the achievement of gender equality in leading positions in the executive and legislative branches.  Many heads of the executive apparatus were women.  The leading positions in the Ministry of the Interior were held by women, as well as in the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  At the local government level, women held 26.1 per cent, whereas in Parliament they made up 21.1 per cent.  Out of 39 judges in the Supreme Court, 10 were women (25.6 per cent), whereas in the judiciary in general they held 15 per cent of the positions.  In 2016, some 150,000 women had received micro credits for entrepreneurship.  The number of small-holder farms headed by women had increased more than five times in the period between 2012 and 2017.

Questions by the Committee

Starting with the definition of discrimination against women, an Expert noted that Tajikistan completely prohibited all forms of discrimination.  Did the Government plan to introduce legislative articles on direct and indirect discrimination against women in national legislation?  How many laws had passed official gender expertise?

Noting that women’s rights were the pillar of development, an Expert inquired about the coordination of the implementation of the Convention with the Sustainable Development Goals.  What steps had been taken to disseminate the Committee’s concluding observations?  How did civil society participate in the implementation of the Convention?  The Expert recalled that a 2015 law had created conditions for the registration of non-governmental organizations.

Was the mandate of the Office of Human Rights to be consolidated in terms of women’s rights?  Was the independence of the judiciary compatible with the Law on Lawyers?  Social inclusion had to be at the heart of the protection of women’s rights, but it seemed that minorities in Tajikistan still had some difficulties in ensuring their rights.  

Did the State party plan to accelerate the development of a law against all forms of discrimination?  What budgetary measures did it plan to take to strengthen action against impunity?  Often laws were not understood or applied in rural areas.

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation explained that the will to improve legislation had led to the creation of a working group to eliminate gender stereotypes and domestic violence.  The working group had looked into about 50 laws in that endeavour.  In 2013, Tajikistan had adopted a law to prevent domestic violence and in 2014, the Government had adopted a State programme to prevent domestic violence.  Likewise, in 2013, Tajikistan had been elected through the Economic and Social Council as a member of the Commission on the Status of Women until 2018.

As for monitoring and assessment of gender equality, together with the United Nations Development Programme, the Government carried out the monitoring of State laws on gender equality and equal opportunities.  Every two years, the Statistical Agency of Tajikistan published a bulletin on the situation of women and men in the country.  The next bulletin would be published in December 2018.  All of that data was processed through gender lenses.  The authorities also had a project with UN Women to improve gender statistics.

On the Sustainable Development Goals, Tajikistan was overcoming social inequalities with a mid-term programme until 2020.  Inequalities prevented economic growth and equal opportunities, and the Government had thus set up a series of priorities in terms of gender equality, incorporating the Sustainable Development Goals in all national policies.

YUSUF RAHMON, Prosecutor General of Tajikistan, said that during the reporting period there had been no complaints on violations of the right to equality.

The judiciary was an independent branch and it carried out its procedures on the basis of the Constitution and national laws which were in accordance with international law.  In 2014, 23 persons had been charged with violence against women and children, 15 in 2015, 76 in 2016, whereas eight persons had been charged in 2017.

According to the latest census in 2010, there were 100 nationalities living in Tajikistan.  The State language was Tajik, and Russian was the general language of cross-community communication.  Women made up some 49 per cent of the overall population, out of which 15.9 per cent were women of nationalities other than Tajik.  There was no discrimination on the grounds of ethnic origin, or any other grounds.

Questions by the Committee Experts

Was the expert council to carry out a gender analysis of draft laws also responsible for the gender analysis of national policies?  Who carried out such analysis at the local level?  Had the Government provided all offices and staff working with the Committee with relevant training?  According to an alternative report, there was a poor gender sensitivity among civil servants.

It seemed that the Office of the Ombudsperson did not plan any activities on gender equality.  How many complaints of gender-based discrimination had it received?

Turning to temporary special measures, the Experts commended quotas for the higher education of girls from rural areas.  However, they were not used in agriculture, civil service, and involving women in decision-making.  Did the State party plan to introduce better opportunities for the political representation of women?  Were there mechanisms for temporary special measures in the country’s strategic documents on development?

Replies by the Delegation

The national law defined discrimination against women and it was geared towards the prevention of gender-based discrimination and ensuring gender equality in all economic and social spheres.  As for stepping up the role of women in society, the Government and civil society had conducted measures to enhance women’s involvement in the civil service.  The authorities had set up 33 crisis centres to prevent domestic violence, together with medical assistance cabinets for women and child victims of violence.

As for gender sensitivity of civil servants, the delegation noted that another 16 academic hours had been added on preventing domestic violence.  The Ministry of the Interior carried out such training in cooperation with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.  In 2016, the Government had allocated 18 grants to girls from remote and rural areas.

Tajikistan had adopted the necessary measures to eliminate discrimination against women in rural areas and to ensure their access to health services and agricultural credits.  The Government had considered six reports on women’s access to land.  In 2017, 19 per cent of all small-holder farms were headed by women.  The authorities sought to step up the social involvement of rural women through the stimulation of their education and by encouraging them to take up scientific and engineering education.

YUSUF RAHMON, Prosecutor General of Tajikistan, reiterated that the expert council on gender analysis was also charged with the implementation and monitoring of laws and acts.  In 2017 and 2018, it had discussed the implementation of State policies and strategies to enhance the role of women in Tajikistan.

The Office of the Ombudsperson considered gender to be a priority issue, especially gender-based and domestic violence.  It carried out regional monitoring on an annual basis.  The majority of complaints that the Ombudsperson received came from women.  

Questions by the Committee Experts

Experts pointed out the prevalence of gender stereotypes in Tajikistan, such as the preference to giving birth to boys in rural areas.  Perhaps the problem was in the lack of a vision being translated into comprehensive strategies to combat those stereotypes.  What measures had been taken to combat those stereotypes through the media, especially in rural areas?

Studies showed that 97 per cent of men and 72 per cent of women in Tajikistan believed that women had to tolerate violence in order to keep the family together.  What training courses on domestic violence were provided to the relevant officials?  What compensation and legal assistance was provided to female victims of domestic violence?

As for trafficking in persons, the Experts inquired about the existing anti-trafficking legislation, policies and programmes for women who were victims of trafficking.  Victim support largely depended on support by donors.  What efforts had been taken to amend the existing legislation on trafficking to bring it in line with the Palermo Protocol?  Had enhanced training and capacity-building for law enforcement and judicial officials been organized in order to prosecute cases in a gender sensitive manner?

With respect to prostitution, the Committee remained concerned that women working in prostitution faced detention, extortion and sexual violence by law enforcement forces.  What were the State party’s plans to decriminalize prostitution?  What were efforts to discourage demand for prostitution?
 
Replies by the Delegation

YUSUF RAHMON, Prosecutor General of Tajikistan, underlined that there was no practice of forcing women to give birth only to boys.  Between 2016 to 2018, 105 criminal cases had been brought for trafficking in persons, and some 70 per cent of victims were women.  There was a broad legislative framework to prevent trafficking in persons and to assist victims.  Working with the International Organization for Migration, Tajikistan had adopted a draft law on amending the legislative framework on trafficking.  Thirty-four centres provided support to trafficking victims, such as social and psychological help.

As for the decriminalization of prostitution, the Prosecutor General reminded that prostitution was an administrative offence in Tajikistan.  The delegation noted that women working in prostitution were provided with all the necessary social and medical services.  The Government cooperated with the diplomatic staff abroad and civil society in order to fight trafficking of women for the purpose of prostitution.

The National Gender Strategy incorporated Tajikistan’s international obligations for ensuring equal opportunities, preventing all forms of violence against women and girls, gender budgeting, improvement of gender statistics, reduction of social inequalities, and the creation of a favourable environment for children, the delegation noted.  In the past 15 years, Tajikistan had achieved very good rates of poverty reduction and the poverty rate nowadays stood at 29.5 per cent.  The National Strategy on Poverty Reduction of 2013 provided targeted social assistance for vulnerable groups.

Tajikistan had organized courses on the prevention of domestic violence for the staff of the Ministry of the Interior.  In many cases victims did not submit complaints because police officers were male.  Accordingly, the authorities had increased the number of female inspectors.  Vulnerable families were registered for further assistance.

Questions by the Committee Experts

An Expert commended the State party for having established a special unit for the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations and for having organized leadership schools for women.  Nevertheless, the representation of women in politics and public administration remained very low.  There were no temporary special measures for the promotion of women in politics.

Did the State party plan to introduce incentives for political parties to promote women to senior positions within party structures, to increase the visibility of female candidates, and to strengthen women’s wings in political parties?  Were strategies planned to ensure relevant media reporting and to eliminate the stereotypes about the role of women in society?  Was the use of disrespectful and stereotyped language referring to women monitored?  Did the State party plan to collect data on sexism in politics in order to better understand and address the issue?

On citizenship, the Experts drew attention to many stateless women and children in rural areas, which hampered their access to social and health services, and employment opportunities.  The level of birth registration in Tajikistan remained the lowest in Central Asia.  How did the State party ensure the rights of stateless women and children?  What was being done to increase the level of birth registration?

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation explained that women received benefits during their initial period of appointment in the civil service.  The Government had adopted a State programme for the placement of talented girls and women in senior positions in the civil service.  As of 2014, the Council of Female Students had been set up.  Every year the Committee of Excellence in Higher Education granted stipends to female students.  The National Civil Service Agency in 2016 had held 35 training courses for 33 per cent of female civil servants.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, some citizens of the Soviet Union had not received Tajik nationality but had continued to live there.  Those people had not bothered to apply to receive Tajik citizenship and documents.  Some had moved to neighbouring countries and had then returned to Tajikistan.  The draft Citizenship Law, which was currently being considered, aimed to resolve that situation.  In 2010, there were 1,364 stateless persons in the country.

The authorities had set up a single registration system for refugees and asylum seekers, who numbered about 2,200, out of which 700 were women.  Refugees and asylum seekers held the same rights to education, employment and medical assistance as other citizens of Tajikistan.

In 2017, there was a 16 per cent increase of women in the business sector (both private and public).  The Government had implemented a special programme for improving women’s leadership skills.  The President of Tajikistan was personally working on ensuring that women were leaders.

YUSUF RAHMON, Prosecutor General of Tajikistan, explained that when female candidates were not hired for positions in the civil service, they were considered for other positions.

Questions by the Committee Experts

What measures had the Government taken to improve school attendance by girls, which still fell below expectations in rural areas?  What was being done to help girls who had dropped out to return to school?  What measures were envisaged to reverse the trend of girls not taking up science and engineering education?  Were there any programmes on sexual education in schools?

The Experts pointed out to gender segregation in the labour market, with women taking up traditional female areas of occupation.  Women in informal employment and home-based work were much more vulnerable than men.  Women with disabilities and pregnant women were heavily discriminated against in employment, and there remained a problem of gender pay gap.  How did the State party encourage employers to hire women from the most vulnerable groups?

What was the percentage of women teaching in higher education?  Was it true that the allowance for persons with disabilities would be withdrawn if they lost their jobs?  Did the State party plan to introduce temporary special measures to increase the number of women in managerial positions?

The Experts welcomed the adoption of the Health Code and the Plan of Action for Sexual and Reproductive Health in 2017, as well as the drop in the rate of maternal mortality and the provision of budgetary resources for contraceptives.

Nevertheless, the Committee was concerned about the high number of women living with HIV/AIDS.  How did the State party plan to address that situation and to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to child?  Women and girls living with HIV/AIDS faced discrimination and ostracism in receiving treatment and medicines, and they also suffered domestic violence.

Despite a recorded decrease in the rate of maternal and child mortality, their levels nevertheless remained high.  How did the State party plan to tackle that issue?  As for mental health, there were reports of violence towards persons with mental illnesses.  What was the level of health services provided to rural women?  There were reports that the mandatory health insurance was not effective.

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation explained that young people who could not finish their secondary education could complete their education remotely.  The Ministry of Education was taking all measures to ensure that young women could complete their education.  There were annual school quotas for rural girls and boys under the presidential decree of 1997.  Each of them received a monthly grant to adequately cover their educational expenses.  There was a centre for gender training whose mission was to support the concept of gender equality at all levels of education.  The higher education institutions had optional subjects on the gender policy of Tajikistan, gender tolerance, and on the ethics of family life.

There were only 35 girls and boys who were out of school in the country, and the authorities were working to get them back to school.  Women and girls could freely choose their own profession and area of study.  The school gender parity in rural areas was higher than in urban areas.  There was a lot of State and private sponsorship for the refurbishment of some 30 to 40 schools annually.  Children with disabilities could access inclusive education and they received assistance in accordance with their needs.

Turning to women’s employment, the delegation agreed that women tended to work more in the sectors of education and healthcare.  Tajikistan tended to have large families which meant that women had more domestic responsibilities.  Nevertheless, the Government aimed to increase the proportion of women working in high technology industries.  There was a problem of gender pay gap due to the fact that women worked shorter hours and there were more men in management positions.  In addition, women tended to work in lower paying sectors.

YUSUF RAHMON, Prosecutor General of Tajikistan, noted that children living with HIV/AIDS received a monthly allowance.  The authorities carried out practical measures to prevent transmission from mother to child, such as free-of-charge provision of milk formula, and the universal screening of pregnant women for HIV/AIDS since 2011.  The Prosecutor General clarified that persons with disabilities received an allowance regardless of their work status, and he added that there was no ban on girls living with HIV/AIDS from receiving education.

The delegation stated that women made up 32.9 per cent of the higher education teaching staff.  There was very strict monitoring by the Ministry of Education of girls’ attendance of schools and universities.  About 51 per cent of students in natural sciences were girls, but they made up only 11 per cent of students of engineering studies.  The rate of maternal and child mortality was not ideal but there had been an improvement.  The authorities had improved the availability of health services and facilities in rural areas, as well as of reproductive health services for adolescents.  There were 5,000 midwives working in the country, including in the rural areas.

Questions by the Committee Experts

An Expert observed that the achievement of social welfare in Tajikistan during the Soviet era seemed to have been lost, and that there had been a resurgence of traditional patriarchal values.  Could the delegation elaborate on the State party’s welfare system?  How did it protect families, single mothers, elderly women, and women and girls with disabilities?  Were there obstacles to women accessing credits and loans?  What were the possibilities for women to enjoy leisure time and to be active in sports?

Turning to rural women and girls, the Experts inquired about their situation compared to men.  What were their needs and did they know their rights?  Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons suffered from multiple forms of discrimination, especially by law enforcement officials.  What awareness raising activities were planned to change the mind set of people on these communities?

The Experts asked about the institutionalization of girls with disabilities, accessible infrastructure for them, and employment possibilities.  Women were often sentenced to prison sentences for minor crimes and the prison conditions for them were “horrible.”

How did the State party deal with the reality of “sex for sale”?  How did the State party intend to help to change the prevention of transmission of HIV/AIDS and stigmatization of HIV/AIDS patients?  What was the role of opium poppy in Tajikistan’s economy?

Replies by the Delegation

YUSUF RAHMON, Prosecutor General of Tajikistan, said that the fact that the Experts had called Tajikistan an “authoritarian country” with problems of law enforcement was disrespectful, noting that Tajikistan was a democracy with separate branches of Government.  There was no discrimination against persons living with HIV/AID at the legislative level or in everyday life.  Women could enjoy a wide range of sports and leisure activities in cities, such as martial arts, boxing, gymnastics, and football.

The delegation informed there had been a significant increase in salaries and pensions.  Female entrepreneurs enjoyed certain tax exemptions and had access to credits and loans under permissible conditions.  Fifty per cent of holders of credit cards and deposit accounts were women.  Extreme poverty had been more than halved and there had been a significant drop in the number of migrant workers from Tajikistan to the Russian Federation.  Another improvement was a drop in the number of women working in the informal sector.

Women from rural areas received State support in finding employment and developing their entrepreneurial skills.  The Committee on Women and Family Affairs visited women in prisons on an annual basis and provided them with funds to set themselves up upon release.  Women in prisons received more favourable treatment than men.  For example, they could not be sentenced to life imprisonment or the death penalty.  Pregnant women received amnesty and their sentence was deferred if they had children below the age of 8.

Same-sex unions were legal in Tajikistan and no violence had been reported against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.  There were some 10,000 persons living with HIV/AIDS.  Transmission from mother to child made up less than one per cent of cases.

Questions by the Committee Experts

Experts noted that the problem of early and forced marriages persisted in Tajikistan.  What mechanisms were in place to identify such marriages and eliminate the phenomenon?  Had the Supreme Court conducted an investigation into the proposal that the legal marriage age be reduced by one year?

How many court decisions on the recovery of child support alimony had been made during the reporting period?  How was the introduction of mandatory virginity tests for future brides compatible with the Convention provisions?  In recent years, the number of traditional marriages had increased.

Replies by the Delegation

The Family Code stipulated that the legal marriage age was 18 instead of the previous 17.  The authorities had adopted a law on parental responsibility to educate their children about early marriages and outreach work had been conducted at schools and labour unions, and through the media.  As the level of education of girls was increasing, there were fewer cases of violations of that law.  The delegation stated that mandatory virginity tests did not exist in Tajikistan.

Concluding Remarks

YUSUF RAHMON, Prosecutor General of Tajikistan, thanked the Committee for a constructive approach and favourable atmosphere.  Since its independence in 1991, Tajikistan had sought to build a democratic, lawful and secular State, with guarantees for the rights of women and their participation in the economic, social and political life.  Mr. Rahmon assured the Committee that the Government would study its conclusions very carefully.

DALIA LEINARTE, Committee Chairperson, commended the State party for its efforts in the implementation of the Convention and she encouraged it to address the various recommendations of the Committee.  She informed that the Committee would select several issues for immediate follow-up.
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