Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, and penalties range from three to 10 years in prison. Rape of a victim younger than age 14 is punishable by 10 to 25 years in prison. A cultural bias against reporting or acknowledging rape made it difficult to determine the extent of the problem.
The law prohibits domestic violence, including spousal abuse, through provisions in the criminal code that address intentional infliction of injury. Penalties range from fines to 15 years in prison, based on the extent of the injury, although enforcement of the law varied. Anecdotal reports indicated domestic violence against women was common; most victims of domestic violence kept silent because they were unaware of their rights or afraid of increased violence from husbands and relatives.
Sexual Harassment: No law specifically prohibits sexual harassment, and reports suggested sexual harassment existed in the workplace.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: By law women have full legal equality with men, including equal pay, access to loans, the ability to start and own a business, and access to government jobs. Nevertheless, women continued to experience discrimination due to cultural biases, and the law was not consistently enforced. The government restricted women from working in some dangerous and environmentally unsafe jobs. The government did not acknowledge, address, or report on discrimination against women.
Birth Registration: By law a child derives citizenship from his or her parents. A child born to stateless persons possessing permanent resident status in the country is also a citizen.
Education: Education was free, compulsory, and universal through grades 10 or 11, depending on what year a child started school. There were reports that, in some rural communities, parents removed girls from school as young as age nine to work at home.
Child Abuse: In 2015 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child called on the government to improve its collection of data on children’s rights, remove restrictions on civil society organizations working on children’s rights, provide for children’s access to internet and international media, create a mechanism to which children deprived of liberty in all areas can address complaints, consider creation of a centralized system for registration of adoptions, and ratify the Optional Protocol of the Convention of the Rights of the Child.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18. According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2017 report, 6 percent of women ages 20-24 years old were first married before they were 18.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The legal age of consent is 16. The law forbids the production of pornographic materials or objects for distribution, as well as the advertisement or trade in text, movies or videos, graphics, or other objects of a pornographic nature, including those involving children.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.
There is no organized Jewish community in the country. In 2016 it was estimated that 200 to 250 Jews resided in Ashgabat. There were no reports of anti-Semitic activity.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, and the provision of state services in other areas. Despite the law, persons with disabilities encountered discrimination and denial of work, education, and access to health care and other state services because of strong cultural biases.
The government provided subsidies and pensions for persons with disabilities, but the assistance was inadequate to meet basic needs. The government considered persons with disabilities who received subsidies as being employed and therefore ineligible to compete for jobs in the government, the country’s largest employer.
According to Chronicles state doctors were unofficially instructed not to extend disability status of individuals. Reportedly, the main reason was to decrease government expenditures on social welfare benefits. Chronicles reported that those with disabilities were asked to wait until 2018 for their disability status to be extended. Individuals with disabilities had to pass through a special commission on an annual basis for their disability status to be extended, unless they were born with the disability or had passed the commission review for 10 consecutive years.
Some students with disabilities were unable to obtain education because there were no qualified teachers or accessible facilities.
Although the law requires new construction projects to include facilities that allow access by persons with disabilities, compliance was inconsistent and older buildings remained inaccessible.
The law provides for equal rights and freedoms for all citizens.
The law designates Turkmen as the official language, although it also provides for the rights of speakers of minority languages. Russian remained prevalent in commerce and everyday life in the capital, even as the government continued its campaign to conduct official business solely in Turkmen. In 2017 the government required ministry employees to pass tests demonstrating knowledge of professional subjects in Turkmen, and the government dismissed employees who failed the examination. The government dedicated resources to provide Turkmen instruction for non-Turkmen speakers only in primary and secondary schools.
Non-Turkmen speakers in government noted that some avenues for promotion and job advancement were not available to them, and only a handful of non-Turkmen occupied high-level jobs in government. In some cases applicants for government jobs had to provide information about their ethnicity going back three generations.
Minority groups tried to register as NGOs to have legal status to conduct cultural events, but no minority group succeeded in registering during the year.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
By law sexual contact between men is illegal under Article 135 of the criminal code, with punishment of up to two years in prison and the possible imposition of an additional two- to five-year term in a labor camp. The law also stipulates sentences of up to 20 years for repeated acts of pederasty, same-sex acts with juveniles, or the spread of HIV or other sexually transmitted infections through same-sex contact. The law does not mention same-sex sexual contact between women. Enforcement of the law was selective. Antidiscrimination laws do not apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons. Society did not accept transgender individuals, and the government provided no legal protection or recognition of their gender identity.
There were reports of detention, threats, and other abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Social stigma prevented reporting of incidents affecting members of the LGBTI community.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
There were reports of discrimination and violence against some religious minority groups, many of which the government officially referred to as “sects,” including Jehovah’s Witnesses. The government generally perpetrated or condoned these actions.