Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, which is punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment. There is no separate statute for spousal rape. The government was unable to provide statistics on the number of cases or convictions. Law enforcement officials usually advised women not to file charges but registered cases on insistence of the victim. Most observers believed the majority of cases were unreported because victims wished to avoid being stigmatized.
Violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a widespread problem. Between a third and a half of women experienced physical, psychological, or sexual abuse by husbands or other family members. Women massively underreported violence against them, fearing reprisals or because of inadequate response by the police and judiciary, resulting in virtual impunity for the perpetrators. Domestic violence was widely justified as a “family matter” by the authorities wishing to promote traditional gender roles. Women and girls were even more vulnerable to domestic violence because of early and unregistered marriages and an increased early drop-out rate from school.
There was one police station fully equipped to work with domestic violence victims. The station was one of the five nationwide staffed with police officers trained, also with OSCE support, to respond to family violence cases and address the needs of victims in a gender-sensitive manner. There was one comprehensive shelter for victims of domestic violence in the country, supported by the OSCE and operated by an NGO in Khujand. The government and NGOs operated additional crisis centers and hotlines for women in rural areas, where women could seek guidance on domestic violence problems and legal assistance, but many centers lacked funding and resources. Local governments donated the premises for three of the shelters. The Committee for Women’s Affairs (within the government) had limited resources to assist domestic violence victims, but local committee representatives referred women to the crisis shelters for assistance.
There is no comprehensive law against domestic violence. The government took some steps to conduct public information campaigns and collect information on domestic violence, but most cases of domestic abuse went unreported. Authorities seldom investigated reported cases, and few alleged perpetrators were prosecuted. By law police cannot act without a written complaint from the victim, even if there were other witnesses, and police often gave only warnings, short-term detentions, or fines for committing “administrative offenses” in cases of domestic violence.
In some rural areas, officials observed a continued trend of female suicide; domestic abuse by in-laws or labor migration may have been contributing causes.
Sexual Harassment: There was no specific statute banning sexual harassment in the workplace. Victims often did not report incidents because of fear of social stigma.
Reproductive Rights: The government did not interfere with the rights of individuals and couples to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. According to the Ministry of Health, 26.7 percent of women between ages 15 and 49 used modern forms of contraception and 76 percent of births were attended by skilled personnel. The ministry also reported in November that 80.6 percent of women received postpartum care and that the maternal mortality rate was approximately 37 per 100,000 births.
Women were increasingly vulnerable to HIV infection because of social taboos on discussion of sex education issues and popular sentiment against the use of condoms. Women remained a minority of those infected with HIV, although their incidence of infection was increasing. According to the government’s National Center on HIV, under the Ministry of Health, 989 new cases (707 men and 282 women) of HIV infection were detected during the year. The total number of officially registered HIV cases in the country was 3,846 individuals-- 2,987 men and 859 women.
Discrimination: Women were underrepresented in decision-making processes at all levels of political institutions. Female representation in all branches of power was less than 30 percent. The country had no female ministers or ambassadors. The 2004 Council of Ulemo fatwa (religious edict) prohibiting women from praying in mosques remained in effect.
Amnesty International noted gender segregation in employment, “with the vast majority of the working female population (86 percent) working in the low-paid sectors, such as agriculture (75 percent), public health services, and education. Wages in these branches are approximately four to seven times lower than in other spheres (as in industry, construction, transportation, and communication). Furthermore, a significant number of women of employable age are engaged in housekeeping or in the informal sector of the economy.” The law provides that women receive equal pay as men for equal work, but cultural barriers continued to restrict the professional opportunities available to women. According to the World Bank’s Women, Business, and the Law report, women and men have equal ownership rights to property, although in practice women owned significantly less property than men. There was no specific statute prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace. Victims often did not report incidents because of fear of social stigma.
The law protects women’s rights in marriage and family matters, but some female minors were pressured to marry against their will. NGOs estimated that up to 10 percent of men practiced polygamy, although it is illegal. Women in polygamous marriages often were married in religious ceremonies but not registered with the government. Husbands who simply repeated a phrase in front of two witnesses could easily divorce unregistered wives. Inheritance laws do not discriminate against women, although in practice some inheritances passed disproportionately to sons.