Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, which is punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment. There was no separate statute for spousal rape. The government did not provide statistics on the number of cases or convictions. Law enforcement officials usually advised women not to file charges but registered cases at the victim’s insistence. Most observers believed the majority of cases were unreported because victims wished to avoid humiliation.
Domestic violence does not have its own statute in the criminal code. Violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a widespread problem. According to a survey conducted by the National Statistic Committee in 2015, 19 percent of women between ages 15 and 49 reported they experienced physical violence since age 15. Women underreported violence against them due to fear of reprisal or inadequate response by police and the judiciary, resulting in virtual impunity for the perpetrators. Authorities wishing to promote traditional gender roles widely dismissed domestic violence as a “family matter.” Women and girls were more vulnerable to domestic violence because of early and unregistered marriages.
Five police stations were fully equipped and staffed with police officers trained, with OSCE support, to respond to family violence cases and address the needs of victims in a gender-sensitive manner. In rural areas the government and NGOs operated additional crisis centers and hotlines where women could seek guidance on domestic violence problems and legal assistance, but many of these centers lacked funding and resources. Local governments donated the premises of 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.
In 2012 the government adopted a law on domestic violence that is in line with internationally accepted standards; however, the implementing mechanism was inadequate. The Ministry of Internal Affairs lacked the capacity and training to implement the law, although it worked with the international community to increase capacity. In May 2014, the government adopted an action plan to implement domestic violence law. The plan calls for law enforcement, court officials, the prosecutor’s office, and representatives of relevant government bodies to receive training on their responsibility to combat domestic violence. The plan also calls for greater cooperation between law enforcement officials and local leaders to change societal attitudes towards domestic violence. The government took some steps to collect information on domestic violence, but many cases of domestic abuse went unreported. In April the government adopted official implementing instructions for the Ministry of Internal Affairs on how to refer and register cases of domestic violence, while not having a particular criminal statute to draw from to do so. Domestic violence incidents were registered under general violence and hooliganism, with a special notation in paperwork indicating a distinction for domestic violence.
Authorities seldom investigated reported cases of domestic violence, and they prosecuted few alleged perpetrators. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is authorized to issue administrative restraining orders, but by law police cannot act without a written complaint from the victim, even if there were other witnesses. Consequently, police often gave only warnings, short-term detentions, or fines for committing “administrative offenses” in cases of domestic violence.
Physical and psychological abuse of wives by mothers-in-law was widespread. In some rural areas, officials observed a continued trend of female suicide in which independent observers considered such abuse to be a contributing cause.
Sexual Harassment: No specific statute banned sexual harassment in the workplace. Victims often did not report incidents because of fear of social stigma. Authorities often perceived sexual harassment as female fabrications. Women reporting sexual harassment faced retaliation from their employers as well as scrutiny from their families and communities.
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; to manage their reproductive health; and to have the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Traditional stereotypes prevented women and girls from obtaining information on reproductive health and access to services. According to UN data, 87 percent of births were attended by skilled health personnel and 31 percent of women of reproductive age used a modern method of contraception in 2016. An estimated 22 percent of women reported an unmet need for family planning.
Discrimination: Although the law provides for men and women to receive equal pay for equal work, cultural barriers restricted women’s professional opportunities (see section 7.d.). According to the World Bank report, Women, Business, and the Law 2014, women and men have equal ownership rights to property, although women owned significantly less property than men. The extensive number of male migrant workers to Russia and other parts of Central Asia, many of whom failed to send remittances or return home, exacerbated economic pressures on women, who had to provide for themselves and their children, and resulted in a significant gender imbalance in the population.
Due to family pressure, young women, especially adolescent girls, often dropped out of school to marry. The law protects women’s rights in marriage and family matters, but families often pressured female minors to marry against their will. Religious marriages were common substitutes for civil marriages, due to the high marriage registration fees associated with civil marriages and the power afforded men under religious law. In cases of religious marriages not registered with the government, husbands simply repeated a phrase in front of two witnesses to divorce their wives. Husbands also used these officially unregistered religious marriages to prevent wives from accessing family assets and other rights in the event of divorce. The practice of men divorcing their wives by sending text messages declined after the 2011 Council of Ulema fatwa (religious edict) declared the practice unacceptable.
The 2004 Council of Ulema fatwa prohibiting Hanafi Sunni women--constituting the vast majority of the female population--from praying in mosques remained in effect. Religious ceremonies also made polygyny possible, despite the illegality of the practice. NGOs estimated that up to 10 percent of men practiced polygyny. Many of these polygynous marriages involved underage brides. Unofficial second and third marriages were increasingly common, with neither the wives nor their children having legal standing or rights.
Inheritance laws do not discriminate against women, although some inheritances passed disproportionately to sons. In addition, many men hid their assets with their parents or other family members, so that if divorce occurred, they could claim no wealth and become exempt from paying child support or other restitution to the former wife.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs supported programs to increase the representation of female officers in law enforcement.