Tajikistan is a source country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor, and women and children subjected to sex trafficking. Some Tajik men and women are subjected to forced labor in agriculture and construction in Russia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and, to a lesser extent, in Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia. Women and children from Tajikistan are subjected to forced prostitution primarily in the UAE and Russia, and also in Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, and within Tajikistan. These women sometimes transit through Russia and Kyrgyzstan en route to their destination country. Tajikistan also has an internal trafficking problem. There are reports of Tajik children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, including forced begging, within Tajikistan and in Afghanistan. The forced prostitution and debt bondage of Tajik women and girls in Afghanistan sometimes occurs through forced marriages to Afghan men. Some Tajik children and possibly some adults were subjected to agricultural forced labor in Tajikistan – mainly during the fall 2012 cotton harvest – but this exploitation occurred to a lesser degree than in 2011. Seven Tajik trafficking victims were identified in Kyrgyzstan in 2012.
The Government of Tajikistan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government continued to make progress in further reducing the use of forced labor in the annual cotton harvest. However, the government continued to lack procedures to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations and refer them to existing protective services. The lack of adequate victim protection remained a serious problem in the country.
Recommendations for Tajikistan: Continue to enforce prohibition against the forced labor of children in the annual cotton harvest by inspecting cotton fields during the harvest, in collaboration with local government officials and civil society organizations; include the monitoring of adult forced labor in the overall inspection of conditions during the cotton harvest, and expand the monitoring activities to all cotton growing districts; vigorously investigate and prosecute suspected trafficking offenses, respecting due process, especially those involving forced labor, and convict and punish trafficking offenders; develop a formal victim identification and referral mechanism; ensure that sex trafficking victims are not penalized for prostitution offenses; finalize, pass, and implement draft anti-trafficking legislation to strengthen victim protection and clarify the definition of trafficking; strengthen the capacity and awareness of Tajik embassies and consulates to proactively identify victims and refer them to protective services, including via repatriation; work with international organizations and NGOs to develop comprehensive protection and rehabilitation programs for trafficking victims, including psychological care and economic and social reintegration; impose stricter, appropriate penalties on local officials who force individuals to participate in the cotton harvest; help develop and sponsor campaigns in rural areas to raise awareness about all forms of human trafficking; provide victim identification and victim sensitivity training to border guard and law enforcement authorities; provide financial or increased in-kind assistance to existing protection services for trafficking victims, including shelters; work to guarantee the safety of witnesses and victims during the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases; and improve the collection of anti-trafficking law enforcement data.
The Government of Tajikistan continued limited anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Article 130.1 of the criminal code prohibits both forced sexual exploitation and forced labor, and prescribes penalties of five to 15 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Article 167 prohibits the buying and selling of children, prescribing five to 12 years’ imprisonment. The government investigated and prosecuted three trafficking cases under Article 130.1 in 2012. The government did not report any convictions of trafficking offenders under Article 130.1 in 2012, compared with six convictions reported in 2011. The government reported that it took law enforcement action against trafficking crimes under other articles in the criminal code, but did not provide specific information on such cases. The Tajik government compiled law enforcement data across a variety of agencies and may count trafficking cases multiple times. In response to forced child labor cases in the 2012 cotton harvest that were identified through monitoring by IOM, the government levied fines against farms and schools. Officials referred 11 cases to the government’s Inter-Ministerial Commission for Combating Trafficking in Persons (IMCCTP) for further investigation, but the disposition of these investigations is unknown. In partnership with international organizations, the government continued to conduct an anti-trafficking course as part of the Ministry of Interior Academy’s training curriculum for police officials. In 2012, approximately 80 police academy students completed the training. The Government of Tajikistan did not report any investigations or prosecutions of government employees for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses during the reporting period.
The government continued limited efforts to identify and assist trafficking victims during the reporting period. Authorities did not have a systematic procedure for identifying and referring victims for assistance. The government did not formalize victim referral procedures through a working group established in 2010. Because Tajik law enforcement officials did not differentiate between women in prostitution and sex trafficking victims and did not attempt to identify trafficking victims among women found in prostitution, the government likely penalized sex trafficking victims for prostitution crimes. During the reporting period, the government identified and referred eight victims to IOM in 2012, compared with six victims identified and referred in 2011. Civil society groups provided protective services to a total of 74 Tajik trafficking victims in 2012 – including 49 male labor trafficking victims – compared with 85 victims in 2011. Although the national government did not provide financial support to any NGOs or other organizations that assisted trafficking victims in 2012, the government continued to provide funding to cover utilities for two adjacent shelters in Dushanbe as well as a shelter in Khujand. Adult victims could leave the shelters voluntarily and unchaperoned. There was no information whether the government encouraged victims to participate in trafficking investigations and prosecutions.
The Government of Tajikistan continued its efforts to prevent human trafficking during the reporting period, including efforts to raise awareness about forced child labor in the cotton harvest. The IMCCTP again disseminated a directive to local officials on the effective implementation of laws prohibiting the use of forced child labor. For the third year in a row, the government certified NGO representatives to monitor the cotton harvest and appointed a Ministry of Labor official to accompany IOM representatives during the fall cotton harvest to meet local officials in cotton-growing districts to reinforce the prohibition on forced child labor. The IMCCTP continued its quarterly anti-trafficking dialogue meetings attended by representatives of government ministries, international organizations, and local NGOs. However, a lack of communication between government agencies limited their ability to collect, consolidate, and disseminate information. The IMCCTP launched a website in Tajik and Russian intended to serve as an information clearinghouse on anti-trafficking activities. Government officials participated in a program where they met weekly with dozens of youth to discuss trafficking issues and distribute pamphlets. The government has an action plan to combat human trafficking for 2011-2013. The government provided hotlines, operated by civil society groups, that assist female victims of violence, including human trafficking. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts by prosecuting clients of prostitution but those efforts were mitigated by the government’s punishment of women in prostitution without ensuring that they were not victims of trafficking.