Human trafficking in Uzbekistan
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Uzbekistan is a source country for women and girls who are trafficked to the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), Kazakhstan, Russia, Thailand, Turkey, India, Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan and Costa Rica for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Men are trafficked to Kazakhstan and Russia for purposes of forced labor in the construction, cotton and tobacco industries. Men and women are also trafficked internally for the purposes of domestic servitude, forced labor in the agricultural and construction industries, and for commercial sexual exploitation. Many school-age children are forced to work in the cotton harvest each year.
The Government of Uzbekistan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, though it is making significant efforts to do so. Uzbekistan is placed on the Tier 2 Watch List for its failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking over the previous year. Specifically, the government did not amend its criminal code to increase penalties for convicted traffickers, and did not provide financial or in-kind assistance to NGOs, providing assistance to victims during the reporting period.
The government did not take steps to end forced child labor, during the annual cotton harvest. However, in March 2008 Uzbekistan adopted ILO Conventions 138 (on minimum age of employment) and 182 (on elimination of the worst forms of child labor) and is working with ILO on implementation. The Government of Uzbekistan also demonstrated its increasing commitment to combat trafficking in March 2008, by adopting a comprehensive anti-trafficking law. The law establishes a coordination mechanism for government ministries, responsible for various anti-trafficking efforts. The law promises that state funding will be used to provide victim protection and assistance, ensuring that victims will not be punished for acts committed as a result of being trafficked. U.S. State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons placed the country in "Tier 3" in 2017.
Uzbekistan reported that improved law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking were effective, but many traffickers served no time in prison during the reporting period. Uzbekistan’s current laws do not criminalize all forms of trafficking in persons. Some articles of the government’s criminal code are used to prosecute sex trafficking cases and some labor trafficking cases, though current laws do not adequately criminalize all forms of forced labor. Penalties prescribed under the trafficking-related statutes of the criminal code range from five to eight years. However, convicted persons who are given sentences of less than 10 years are often amnestied, and may not serve time in prison. This practice is commensurate with punishments prescribed for others grave crimes, such as rape. Also, first-time female traffickers are more likely to be amnestied than male traffickers due to Uzbek cultural beliefs. Many trafficking offenders are therefore not adequately punished.
In 2007, the police reported 273 trafficking investigations involving 303 suspects, compared with 250 investigations involving 268 suspects reported in 2005, the most recent year available for trafficking data. Authorities prosecuted and convicted 185 suspects for trafficking in 2007, compared to 148 convictions in 2005. As of January 2008, at least 66 traffickers were serving sentences of six months’ to three years’ imprisonment. There were 272 police officers dedicated to combat trafficking in persons, including 118 who worked exclusively on the issue. Anti-trafficking training was added to the curriculum for young officers at the Ministry of Interior training academy in 2007. There were unconfirmed reports of government officials who were involved in trafficking-related bribery and fraud. In March 2008, a member of the lower house of parliament resigned over sex trafficking allegations. There was no government investigation into the allegations at the time of this report.
The government demonstrated modest improvement in its victim assistance and protection efforts during the reporting period. NGOs reported that growing trafficking awareness and sensitivity towards victims among law enforcement officials. Police, consular officials, and border guards referred women returning from abroad who appeared to be trafficking victims to IOM for assistance. NGOs reported a need for additional victims’ shelters in two other regions of the country. The two existing trafficking shelters in Uzbekistan were funded by foreign donors, but the shelters received no financial or in-kind assistance from the government during the reporting period.
In 2007, NGOs reported assisting 497 victims trafficked for sexual and labor exploitation, compared to 681 reported victims in 2006. While 40 victims assisted law enforcement in trafficking investigations in 2007, many victims remain afraid to provide testimony or information for fear of retribution by their traffickers, and the government provided no victim-witness protection. The new comprehensive anti-trafficking law requires increased protection for victims who are cooperating with investigations. Repatriated victims are asked to sign documentation confessing to their illegal departure from Uzbekistan; however, NGOs reported that identified victims of trafficking were not punished for acts committed as a result of being trafficked.
The government continued its prevention efforts during the reporting period. In 2007, the government provided free office space to an anti-trafficking NGO in Jizzakh. More than 200 Uzbek law enforcement officials in all 12 provinces received anti-trafficking training conducted by NGOs in 2007, increasing awareness about the issue among lower-level officers. The government’s inter-agency working group on trafficking met five times in 2007 and drafted comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation, which was adopted by Parliament in March 2008 and signed into law by President Islam Karimov.
In 2007, the government reported that there were 360 anti-trafficking articles printed in newspapers and magazines, police officers participated in 184 radio speeches, and 793 television segments on trafficking were aired throughout the country. Most items in the media addressed trafficking for sexual exploitation, although there was limited coverage of labor trafficking as well. The government gave extra scrutiny to unaccompanied young women traveling to recognized trafficking destination countries. Uzbekistan has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
- "Uzbekistan". Trafficking in Persons Report 2008. U.S. Department of State (June 4, 2008). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
- "Trafficking in Persons Report 2017: Tier Placements". www.state.gov. Retrieved 2017-12-01.