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Equality Now and Our Partners Welcome the Recommendations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women on Tajikistan

In December 2023, Equality Now,  Women Lawyers for Development, and the Your Choice Public Foundation submitted information on sexual violence against women and girls in Tajikistan to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Last month, the Committee published it’s recommendations, which were in line with a number of recommendations we made in our joint submission.

Tajikistan’s definition of rape doesn’t meet international standards 

We drew the Committee’s attention to the fact that while international standards indicate that the definition of rape should be based on the absence of free and voluntary consent, in Tajikistan, only acts where the aggressor used violence, threatened to use violence, or abused the helplessness of the victim are recognized as rape. Also, in Tajikistan, rape by a husband or partner is not explicitly criminalized by the Criminal Code and is not considered an aggravating circumstance. 

Addressing barriers to justice for victims of sexual violence 

Because of the stigma faced in society by girls and women who have been subjected to sexual violence, as well as flawed societal perceptions of marital duty, women and girls rarely report sexual violence to the police. They remain in abusive relationships for years because of societal and family pressure.

Women from vulnerable groups and victims of sexual violence face even more significant obstacles in accessing justice. 

Harmful practices such as child and forced marriages remain a serious problem in Tajikistan. According to a World Economic Forum report, the rate of early marriage (the percentage of girls aged 15-19 who are or have ever been married, divorced, widowed, or in an informal union) is 14.30%.

The CEDAW Committee’s Recommendations to Tajikistan 

During the 87th session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in Geneva, a delegation from Tajikistan, led by the Minister of Justice, presented the national periodic seventh report of Tajikistan on the implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Having considered the report of Tajikistan, the reports of women’s rights defenders, and having heard women’s rights defenders in Geneva, the Committee published its recommendations in February 2024 that are binding on the authorities of Tajikistan. 

Among others, the Committee indicated that the authorities of Tajikistan should:

  • Review the draft Criminal Code to criminalize all forms of gender-based violence against women, amend articles 138, 139, and 140 of the Criminal Code to base the definition of rape on the absence of free and voluntary expression of consent only, and explicitly criminalize marital rape;
  • Provide training to law enforcement, judicial, and other justice and judicial system officials on gender equality and gender-sensitive procedures for responding to gender-based violence against women and girls;
  • Provide or adequately fund support services and shelters (including non-governmental) for survivors of gender-based violence against women that are accessible and responsive to the needs of women in all their diversity, including women with disabilities;
  • Promptly develop, adopt, and implement a comprehensive strategy to eliminate gender stereotypes and patriarchal attitudes towards women and girls and conduct awareness-raising campaigns in collaboration with religious leaders to prevent child marriage;
  • Eliminate any exceptions to the minimum age of marriage of 18 years, and keep a record of all birth certificates in civil registry offices, and require civil registration of marriages for religious wedding ceremonies;
  • Regularly collect, analyze, and publish detailed statistical data on gender-based violence against women.

We welcome the recommendations made to Tajikistan by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and will continue our work to help Tajikistan implement them.

To learn more about sexual violence laws across Eurasia, read our 2019 report, Roadblocks To Justice: How The Law Is Failing Survivors Of Sexual Violence In Eurasia.