Committee on the Elimination of
Discrimination against Women
507th Meeting (PM)
UZBEKISTAN RESPONDS TO OVER 100 QUESTIONS AS WOMEN'S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION
COMMITTEE CONCLUDES CONSIDERATION OF ITS REPORT
The national women’s rights mechanisms played an important role in promoting new gender approaches in Uzbekistan, a member of that country’s delegation told the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this afternoon as it concluded its consideration of Uzbekistan's initial report.
The Committee, which monitors States parties’ compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, first began consideration of the situation of women in Uzbekistan on 25 January (for details, see Press Release WOM/1256). That country ratified the Convention in May 1995.
Responding to over 100 questions posed by the Committee’s 23 experts last week, the head of the National Centre for Human Rights and Chairman of the Committee for Democratic Institutions, Non-Governmental Organizations and Citizens’ Self-Governance Bodies of the Parliament of Uzbekistan, Akmal Saidov, provided detailed information regarding national efforts to improve the situation of women.
He said that after the ratification of the Convention, the Government had adopted a conceptual policy on women’s matters. Efforts were being made to promote the role of women as active participants in the economic and social life of the Republic. While all citizens were equal, women also enjoyed additional benefits under the national law of Uzbekistan. Economic policies adopted in the country had a positive impact on the situation of women, who now accounted for
42 per cent of the country’s workforce.
Also responding to questions was the head of the Department on Social Security of Family, Maternity and Childhood of the Cabinet of Ministers of Uzbekistan, Tanzilya Narbayeva, who described various national institutions for the advancement of women, addressed particular programmes directed at elimination of discrimination and explained the country’s health, education and family policies.
Several experts spoke on various aspects of treatment of women under the Convention, including violence against women and equal opportunities for both sexes, and thanked the delegation for its comprehensive report.
Following consultations in working groups on Wednesday and Thursday, the Committee is expected to conclude its current session at 3 p.m. Friday,
AKMAL SAIDOV, Head of the National Centre for Human Rights and Chairman of the Committee for Democratic Institutions, Non-Governmental Organizations and Citizens’ Self-Governance Bodies of the Parliament of Uzbekistan, said that more than 100 questions had been posed to his delegation on its first report at its initial presentation on 25 January, and he would try to answer them today.
Under the country’s Constitution, the Convention had precedence over national legislation, he said, which had been harmonized with international standards. There was no definition of the concept of discrimination in the Constitution, but that did not mean that the concept was not applied within national legislation.
Currently there were no plans for developing a law on equal opportunities, but he agreed with the experts that such a law would be a useful tool for the implementation of the Convention. While all citizens were equal, women also enjoyed additional benefits under the national law of Uzbekistan. Information about international legal standards and norms was being distributed in the country. In 1997, a book of 37 international treaties and conventions had been published in the country, and several collections of United Nations documents on human rights had been distributed among the population.
Efforts were being made to combat domestic violence and stereotypical attitudes towards women, he continued. Since 1996, the Committee of Uzbekistan’s Women was carrying out work to prevent domestic violence in cooperation with the American Bar Association. Systematic training was being provided for judges and law enforcement personnel. School programmes also contained information on the issue, and centres were being established to assist victims of violence.
Regarding violence against women in general, he said that in the year 2000, there had been 520 reported cases of rape under article 118 the country’s Criminal Code regarding forced sexual acts. Over 400 offenders had been found guilty of rape. No State statistics were available on domestic violence, however. As most violent crimes followed from family conflicts, a comprehensive prevention programme had been carried out. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were playing an active part in those efforts.
In 1995, Uzbekistan had become the first country in Central Asia to establish the post of Ombudsman. The decisions of the Ombudsman were of a consultative nature, he said. Nearly 60 per cent of complaints received by that office came from women.
In order to reduce poverty, especially among rural women, a national programme had been developed, which included such measures as privatization of land, provision of micro-credits and development of small-size businesses. The Government was also using the potential of entrepreneurs’ associations, which took an active part in the programme. After the ratification of the Convention, the Government had adopted a conceptual policy on women’s matters. Work was continuing to protect the role of women as active participants in economic and social life. Economic policies adopted had a positive impact on the situation of women. They now accounted for 42 per cent of the labour force in Uzbekistan.
Turning to the participation of women in political life, he said that political parties did not establish quotas for women, but women accounted for a significant number of members of parties, such as the National Democratic Party (over 40 per cent). About 50 per cent of all voters who took part in the
1999 parliamentary elections were women. The parliament attached great importance to gender aspects. The committees on family matters and on employment monitored the implementation of the Convention in their respective fields. Nearly 70 legislative acts had been reviewed from the gender point of view.
Under the Family Code, polygamy and incest were forbidden, he said. According to the statistics, in the year 2000, 41 cases of polygamy had been reported in the country. Most of those cases had been investigated and those guilty had been punished under the law. Recently there had been a decrease in the number of divorces. The reasons for divorces were being studied in order to prevent the breakdown of families in the future. Upon divorce, the interests of women were taken into account. The Family Code also provided for criminal prosecution of those who organized brothels.
He went on to say that women were represented in the diplomatic corp, and 38 of the country’s ambassadors were women. To overcome marginalization of women, a system of quotas had been introduced. In 2000, about 130,000 jobs had been reserved for women at 6,614 institutions and offices. Over 90,000 jobs had been filled as a result of those efforts. Parents of young children constituted 22.7 per cent of those employed. Parental benefits under the Labour Code applied to fathers, as well as mothers, of children.
Benefits provided for working women applied equally to those who worked in both private and public sectors. The Labour Code also set the minimal working age at 16 years. Minors were not allowed to work under harmful conditions. People under 18 were not allowed to move or carry heavy loads. Under article 224 of the Labour Code, it was forbidden to refuse to hire pregnant women or to reduce their pay.
Regarding the division of property upon divorce, he said that all jointly acquired property was divided equally, unless there was a pre-marital agreement to the contrary. Both partners had equal rights to property even if only one of them worked during marriage. Each spouse was entitled to the property he or she had possessed prior to marriage. Not many women could combine a career with taking care of children and household chores, and the legal regime defended the rights of non-working women.
TANZILYA NARBAYEVA, head of the Department on Social Security of Family, Maternity and Childhood of the Cabinet of Ministers of Uzbekistan, said that as a result of the high birth rate, a significant percentage of women stayed home to take care of children. However, a persistent decrease in the birth-rate was obvious in the country. About 75 per cent of women over 30 did not want to have children. Work was being done to ensure that the population had access to safe contraceptive methods.
Training was being provided to unemployed women in order to make it easier for them to find jobs, she continued. The Women’s Committee of Uzbekistan provided significant assistance to women. Established in 1992, it was a mass social organization, represented in 14 regions of the Republic. It was a legal entity, registered by the Ministry of Justice of the country. It was financially supported by the State. Under the 1991 Presidential decree, the Chairperson of the Committee was appointed at the level of Deputy Prime Minister.
The Gender and Development Office had been active in the country since 1997. Its activities were primarily directed at increasing the potential of women and providing additional opportunities available to them. The year
1998 was devoted to the Year of the Family. Its programme included actions to improve the Family Code, to study the problems of the family and to provide practical recommendations on improving the situation of women.
He went on to say that in 1999, a Year of the Woman was proclaimed in the country, during which the working week had been reduced from 40 to 35 hours for women with children under the age of three; the retirement age for women was reduced by one year; and a system of quotas was introduced for women with children. Last year was devoted to the healthy new generation, and this year, the Government had allocated substantial resources for the programme within the framework of the Year of Mother and Child.
The national mechanism for the promotion of women’s rights played an important role in promoting new gender approaches in the country. It monitored the implementation of the Beijing Programme of Action and took measures to improve social security directed at women and children. The Government had provided financing for the national programme of action until 2005.
Among important actors were the country’s trade unions and mass media, which also took part in the promotion of the new image of women as leaders, citizens, managers and mothers. Over 36,000 seminars had been conducted in order to explain gender issues to the population. Over 1.5 million women took part in those seminars. Men were also involved in that work. In order to promote women’s political participation, a network of training programmes was functioning in Uzbekistan.
Compulsory 12-year education had been introduced in the country, she said. As a result of the increase in the minimum age of marriage, the number of girl students had grown in the country, and at present about 60 per cent of university students were women.
No statistical data was available regarding the difference in wages between men and women, she continued. The country’s Labour Code did not differentiate between men and women as far as wages were concerned. However, in order to provide support for single women and elderly people, the Government had introduced certain benefits for those categories of the population. This year, the Government was planning to increase wages for those in the financial sphere. There was no special programme devoted to rural women in Uzbekistan, and she agreed with the experts that it was necessary to strengthen the Government’s efforts in that respect.
Turning to the health issues, she said that lately, as a result of the introduction of all-encompassing medical checkups, there had been a decrease in the incidence of cardiovascular diseases among women. In 2000, there were
7,513 reported cases of alcoholism among women. Since 1998, pregnant mothers were being screened in order to lower the number of birth defects and hereditary diseases. If a pathology was found, the parents could come to a decision to terminate the pregnancy.
Mr. SAIDOV agreed that there was need for consistent examination of the situation of women and their reproductive rights. It was important to provide legal procedures to protect the rights of woman and then, more importantly, to implement those laws. He agreed the Government needed to further improve its national legislation to ensure gender equality. It would be working to establish a law on equal opportunities.
Uzbekistan, he said, attached great significance to maintaining stability within the country. The role of NGOs was enormous in preventing indirect discrimination against women. He considered the examination of the report a good example of constructive engagement.
Comments by Experts
An expert said the Committee was asking for an application of article
11, which said that equal pay should be given for work of equal value. Sometimes a period of economic transition created opportunities. She urged the Government to reconsider the salaries in female-dominated sectors.
One expert wished that all the promises that had been given would be accomplished. She hoped that Uzbek women would be granted a high level of education so they could realize the harmonious development of their country. Conserving tradition was important, but it was equally important to enter modern life. Another expert asked that the next report include more statistics on national mechanisms for the advancement of women.
Mr. SAIDOV said the experts' recommendations would be used as a basis for the second report. He agreed with experts that it was easy to give promises but carrying them out was very hard. He was not able to expand on the present circumstances of the national mechanisms for the advancement of women. The Government of Uzbekistan had taken the first step in a long journey and had a strong desire to work with the Committee in the future.
Comments by Experts
In her concluding remarks, the Acting Chairperson, AYSE FERIDE ACAR of Turkey thanked the delegation for its exhaustive oral presentation. The Committee was gratified that the Government of Uzbekistan would be considering a law on equal opportunities, thereby taking care of indirect and direct discrimination against women. Violence and the law on violence deserved further serious consideration. She urged the Government to utilize local and community support for the treatment of violence against women, both outside the home and in domestic situations. The Committee was looking forward to the second report.
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