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UN experts examine Tajikistan’s women’s rights record – NGO report documents pervasive problem of domestic violence

UN experts examine Tajikistan’s women’s rights record – NGO report documents pervasive problem of domestic violence
UN experts examine Tajikistan’s women’s rights record – NGO report documents pervasive problem of domestic violence

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) will review and assess Tajikistan’s record on women’s rights at its session in Geneva, which begins on 29 January 2024. Public Foundation Notabene, Vash Vybor (Your Choice) and International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) have submitted a joint report for the review on the topic of domestic violence against women in Tajikistan.

CEDAW will examine Tajikistan’s seventh periodic report on its implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

When assessing the situation in Tajikistan, the Committee will also draw on information received from civil society organisations.

Our joint report covers the following major issues:

Despite some positive steps taken to combat domestic violence (DV) since the last CEDAW review, DV against women remains a pervasive problem in Tajikistan.

10 years after the adoption of the Law on the Prevention of Violence in the Family many survivors of DV remain without effective protection and support.

Despite the massive scale of the problem, the authorities have not adopted a victim-centred approach and there are many obstacles to justice for victims, including the failure to classify domestic violence as a separate crime and to ensure perpetrators are prosecuted.

According to women’s rights activists, underreporting is a serious problem as most DV victims do not trust the police. In cases where victims do report their experiences, the authorities often do not support them in taking action against perpetrators but advise them to reconcile with the abuser, thereby prioritising family unity over women’s safety. DV victims do not receive free legal aid during court hearings, and judges have not yet been adequately trained on domestic violence. As a result, perpetrators are rarely successfully prosecuted and impunity for DV is the norm.

The state prosecutes only those DV offences which result in serious injury, leaving DV victims with less serious injuries to pursue complaints as private prosecutions. In these cases, they have to find and pay for a lawyer to file a complaint with court and gather the necessary evidence themselves, including medical examination records and witness statements. This difficult process discourages victims from fighting for justice.

Another key problem is that an integrative, coordinated victim response is still lacking and most services for DV victims are not funded from the state budget.

There are a woefully insufficient number of shelters for victims of DV; and most victims don’t have access to psychosocial and legal counselling and other vital services.

IPHR, Notabene and Vash Vybor call on the Tajikistani authorities to step up their efforts to respect, protect, fulfil and promote the rights of women to lead a life free of violence. To this end, they should as a matter of priority:

  • Swiftly amend and adopt the draft Criminal Code featuring a separate article criminalising DV, ensuring that the penalties foreseen are proportionate to the crime committed and recognise DV as a criminal offence which must always be prosecuted ex officio by the public prosecutor’s office rather than at the initiative of individual victims.
  • Enshrine a victim-centred approach in the Criminal Procedure Code – ensuring that victims are informed of their rights, the progress of their complaint and are supported throughout the judicial process.
  • Amend the Law on Legal Aid to provide for the right of DV survivors to receive free legal aid in all cases. Ensure that medical examinations are free of charge for DV victims.
  • Adopt guidelines for the investigation of criminal offences related to DV. Improve police infrastructure and equipment (including by providing vehicles) to ensure adequate emergency responses to DV cases and the effective enforcement of restraining orders.
  • Amend national legislation to protect children from DV by listing children as separate legal subjects in this context.
  • Set up an interagency body to coordinate state responses to DV and develop a clear and effective referral mechanism for victims.
  • Introduce protective restraining and emergency orders in accordance with UN standards, ensuring that they afford effective protection to victims.
  • Allocate sufficient state funding for the implementation of the state Action Plan to Combat DV and make resources available to civil society actors who support victims.
  • At both investigation and trial stages, introduce a ban on mediation aimed at reconciling the victim and the perpetrator in DV cases.
  • Provide women and children who have suffered from DV and other forms of gender-based violence with a range of free rehabilitation services, compensation for moral and material damage and safe and affordable housing.
  • Conduct systematic training for all specialists providing services to victims of gender-based violence.
  • Carry out a nationwide, prominent “Zero Tolerance” campaign against DV across state TV and radio, featuring strong, public messages by high-level officials.

For more information, download the full report submitted by IPHR, Notabene and Vash Vybor for the review.

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