Violence Against Women in Turkmenistan
Tunkmenistan
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Violence Against Women in Turkmenistan
 
Map source: Human Rights Watch
Population of women: 2,626,000/5,170,000
Life expectancy of women (at birth): 69
Women's adult literacy: 99%
Women engaged in economic activity: 46%
 
Source: U.N. Statistics Division, Social Indicators, updated December 2012
 
last updated August 2013
 

Domestic violence against women is reported to be common.[i] Although the law prohibits spousal abuse, the government has not enforced it effectively.[ii] The problem is not usually discussed in society, and the majority of the victims of domestic violence keep silent, because they are either unaware of their rights or afraid of increased violence from their husbands and relatives.[iii]  The U.S. Department of State reports in 2012 there were few court cases and little reference to domestic violence in the media.[iv] There was one official women’s group in Ashgabat and several informal groups in other regions that supported victims of domestic violence.[v]

According to Article 134 of Turkmenistan’s Criminal Code, rape is illegal.[vi] However, reports from December 2002 state that authorities raped and sexually molested relatives of prisoners implicated in a November 2002 attack against then President Niyazarov.[vii] Cultural bias against reporting rape makes it difficult to determine the frequency of rape.[viii]

Article 18 of the Turkmen Constitution provides equal rights for women and men and imposes legal liability for violation of the provision.[ix] However, sexual harassment exists in the workplace and there is no law that specifically prohibits it.[x] Recent legal provisions have been aimed at eliminating discrimination against women.  These provisions appear to guarantee liability for violation of these provisions.  In 2007, the Turkmenistan government passed the State Guarantees for Gender Equality Act, which, on its face, helps promote gender equality and prohibit gender discrimination.[xi] However, it is unclear to what extent the new provisions are being practiced.  For instance, the legislation stipulates the creation of state programs to facilitate the implementation of the Gender Equality Act, but concrete results have not been seen.[xii]

Prostitution is a growing problem due to the few educational and employment opportunities for women.[xiii] The Criminal Code punishes prostitution by two years' imprisonment or hard labor.[xiv] Involving a minor in prostitution or using force, threat, or blackmail to involve someone in prostitution is punishable by three to eight years in prison.[xv] Articles 140, 141, and 142 of the Criminal Code prohibit prostitution-related activities, including keeping a brothel and pimping with punishment of imprisonment for up to 5 years and possible confiscation of property or expulsion for the same period.[xvi] Article 143 punishes sexual intercourse with a person less than 16 years of age by imprisonment of two to five years.[xvii]

According to the U.S. Department of State, there were unconfirmed reports of women traveling to Turkey to work as prostitutes.[xviii]  In 2007, Turkmenistan passed Act No. 155-III of 2007 on the fight against trafficking in human beings.  The law sets forth a definition for trafficking, discusses a set of measures to prevent trafficking that should be undertaken by the state, and establishes the roles of special institutions to support victims of human trafficking.[xix] Although the Turkmen Government cooperates with the International Organization for Migration in educational efforts, there was no law punishing trafficking in persons or programs to counter the situation until 2010.[xx] In July of 2010, the Turkmenistan government outlawed all forms of human trafficking through Article 129 of its criminal code.[xxi]

According to the U.S. Department of State 2012 report, there were only two officially registered women’s groups, one of which was headed by the Deputy Chairperson of the Mejlis and dedicated in honor of the late President Niyazov’s mother.[xxii] The Union of Women coordinates a network of NGOs throughout the country.[xxiii] According to the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, this network functions under the control of the Ministry of Education and most women are unaware it exists.[xxiv] Only a small number of independent women’s NGO’s exist, and most of them are not registered and lack resources to engage in any broader range of activities.[xxv]

In October 2003, a new law on public associations was adopted (in Russian), making the registering procedure, as well as the day-to-day operations of NGOs, much more difficult.[xxvi] Registration made it possible for the government to interfere in the affairs of NGOs.[xxvii] Non-Turkmen citizens are no longer allowed to found public organizations or to become members of such organizations.[xxviii] According to the law, an NGO must have between 50 to 500 members to register.[xxix] The authorities can close down an NGO if it fails to submit specific data for registration, but the government is not obliged to specify what kind of violation has taken place.[xxx] If an NGO wants to sign an agreement with foreign colleagues, it needs permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.[xxxi]  Due to the government restrictions on freedom of speech, press, and association, it is extremely difficult for international organizations to investigate and criticize publicly the Government’s human rights abuses.[xxxii] According to the U.S. Department of State, in 2012 there were no independent international human rights NGOs with a permanent presence in the country.[xxxiii]

Resources:

Turkmenistan: The Making of a Failed State, International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, 2 April 2004.

 

2012 Country Report on Human Rights Practices: Turkmenistan, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, 2012.



[i] Turkmenistan: The Making of a Failed State, International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, 2 April 2004.

[ii] See 2012 Country Report on Human Rights Practices: Turkmenistan, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, 2012.

[iii] See 2004 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Turkmenistan, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, 28 February 2005; and See generally Comm. On the Elimination of Al Forms of Discrimination against Women, Rep on its 53rd Sess., Oct. 1-19, 2012.

[iv] See 2012 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, supra note 2.

[v] See id.

[vi] Id.

[vii] 2003 Country Report on Human Rights Practices: Turkmenistan, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, 2003.

[viii] See 2012 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, supra note 2.

[ix] The Turkmenistan Constitution, Embassy of Turkm ., http://turkmenistanembassy.org/the-turkmenistan-constitution-%E2%80%A2-articles-1-56/ (last visited July 15, 2013).

[x] 2004 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices supra note 3.; and See generally Integration of the Human Rights of Women and the Gender Perspective - Violence Against Women, Addendum 1, Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 27 Feb. 2003. (PDF, 435).

[xi] Women: Turkmenistan’s Second-Class Citizens, infra note 22.

[xii] See id.

[xiii] See generally 2004 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, supra note 3.

[xiv] Coomaraswamy, supra note 10.

[xv] Id.

[xvi] See generally id.

[xvii] Criminal Code, art. 143 (Turkm).

[xviii] United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Turkmenistan, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30c884e.html.

[xix] Act No. 155-III of 2007, International Labour Organization, 1 January 2008. 

[xx] Coomaraswamy, supra note 10.

[xxi] United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report, supra note 18.

[xxii] See 2012 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, supra note 2.

[xxiv] Id.

[xxv] See generally id.

[xxvi] Id.

[xxvii] See generally 2004 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, supra note 3.

[xxviii] Women: Turkmenistan's Second-Class Citizens, supra note 22.

[xxix] International Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Human Rights in the OSCE Region: Europe, Central Asia and North America, Report 2003 (Events of 2002): Turkmenistan, citing Human Rights Watch, World Report 2003: Turkmenistan.

[xxx] Id.

[xxxi] Id.

[xxxii] See 2012 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, supra note 2.

[xxxiii] Id.