By Artur Valeev and Ms. Ikbol Yusupova
In May 2018, at the thirtieth session of the Human Rights Council (HRC), Uzbekistan submitted its Third National Report as part of the Universal Periodic Review. Following the consideration of the National Report of Uzbekistan, the HRC Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review published its report , which was approved by Decision of the thirty-ninth session of the Human Rights Council No. 39/11 of September 20, 2018.
This report contained a number of recommendations formulated throughout an interactive dialogue during the thirtieth session of the HRO regarding gender equality, the effective protection of women's rights, in particular in the field of education, labor, and the increasing role of women in political, economic, social and other spheres of life.
It is noteworthy that out of 201 recommendations considered acceptable by the Uzbek delegation, a quarter is devoted to precisely this issue (HRC recommendations 101.161 to 101-201). This in turn served as a sort of guideline for planning further reforms in this direction.
In particular, one of the significant steps was taken in March 2019 with the adoption of an act of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan aimed at further strengthening labor rights guarantees and supporting women's entrepreneurship.
It should be noted that Malaysia and Portugal recommended the adoption of the necessary measures to remove the barriers that impede career development in non-traditional areas. In this regard, the prohibitions on the use of women’s labor in certain sectors or professions were lifted ; instead, a recommended list of industries or professions that could adversely affect women's health was approved.
Egypt recommended that efforts to fully effectuate the rights of women be intensified and that women be better protected. In this regard, in Uzbekistan, from May 1, 2019, when considering cases of violation of the equal rights of men and women in courts, payment of legal services rendered to women by lawyers is covered at their request by the state.
Another significant measure in this direction was the creation of the Commission for the Protection of Gender Equality of Women, headed by the chairman of the Upper House of the Parliament of Uzbekistan Ms. Tanzila Narbaeva, who knows firsthand this issue due to her long work experience in the Federation of Trade Unions and the Women's Committee.
The commission has been entrusted with serious tasks of actively participating in the implementation of state policy aimed at ensuring gender equality and improving the social conditions of women in the country.
The commission will consider appeals from state bodies and other organizations on violations of gender equality of women.
The commission will implement measures on issues of professional segregation, wage differences, increasing the proportion of women among economically active segments of the population.
It should be noted that a number of states (Bulgaria, Great Britain, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Chile, Slovenia, etc.) recommended the adoption of legal acts that would guarantee equal rights for men and women and protection of women from violence.
At the beginning of September,the President of Uzbekistan signed the Law "On guarantees of equal rights and opportunities for women and men".As noted in the heated discussions of members of the Upper House of Parliament, to date, increasing the political, economic and social activity of women, eliminating all forms of discrimination against them, ensuring gender equality is considered not just as a fair attitude to women, but as one of basic prerequisites for further economic growth, stability and comprehensive development of the country. That is why work in this direction is primarily focused on strengthening the legal foundations of gender equality, which this Law is aimed at.
It is very important that for the first time in the history of Uzbekistan, issues related to guaranteeing equal rights and opportunities for women and men are streamlined in a single law of direct action.
The normative legal act gives specific explanations of the fundamental concepts of this area, such as “gender”, “gender legal expertise”, “direct discrimination based on sex”, “indirect discrimination based on sex”, since the lack of definitions previously led to inaccuracies in law enforcement practice.
Speaking on this matters, the Minister of Justice of the Republic of Uzbekistan H.E. Ruslanbek Davletov mentioned that the Gender Legal Expertise in Uzbekistan would concern not only future legislative acts, but also existing ones. He also confirmed that this means that from this day work should begin in this direction.
The document establishes the state guarantees of equal participation in the management of the affairs of society and the state, the electoral process, ensuring equal rights and opportunities in the field of health, education, science, culture, labor and social protection, as well as in other areas of state and public life.
It is envisaged that state statistics bodies, on the basis of gender indicators, collect, process, accumulate, store, synthesize, analyze and publish statistical information that reflects the situation of women and men in all spheres of society.
In addition, the tasks and powers of state bodies such as Parliament, the Government, the specially authorized body, other state bodies and self-government bodies of citizens in the field of ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women and men are specifically defined.
The procedure for appealing cases of discrimination on the basis of sex, compensation for material and moral damage caused as a result of such discrimination, and liability for violation of relevant legislation are provided.
We sincerely believe that the adoption of this Law will contribute to ensuring gender tolerance and equality at the legislative level, which is especially relevant at the present stage of the country's development, since this primarily concerns the successful social realization of a person.
Another noteworthy bill that was signed by the President was the Law on the Protection of Women from Harassment and Violence.
It is noteworthy that at a meeting of the Upper House, figures were voiced indicating the undoubted relevance of issues of protecting women. In particular, only this year, law enforcement agencies recorded many cases of violence against women in Uzbekistan, some of them suffered as a result of the crimes committed. The new law is aimed at preventing such problems, streamlining relations in the field of protecting women from oppression in everyday life, at work, in educational institutions and other places.
With the introduction of the law, the Women's Committee of Uzbekistan, in order to provide information on the mechanism and measures for providing assistance, advice, and the prevention of cases of harassment and violence against women, provides a round-the-clock, free telephone line network (helpline) throughout the Republic.
In order to convince a particular person to comply with the norms and generally accepted rules of behavior in society, to clarify the social and legal consequences of antisocial behavior, as well as warnings about the liability established by law, a preventive conversation is held. A preventive conversation is conducted by a representative of the authorized body that has identified cases of harassment and violence, with persons prone to commit such offenses, in the manner prescribed by law.
The law provides for the issuance and extension of a protection warrant, a protection warrant for victims of harassment, the contents of a protection warrant, as well as the restrictions stipulated by the protection warrant.
The Law defines measures aimed at preventing such cases, as well as responsibility for the commission of such acts. In addition, measures are reflected in the formation of procedural guarantees that provide for the protection of victims, the establishment in society of an atmosphere of an implacable attitude to any form of violence against women.
It should be noted that the Upper House of Parliament also approved an important amendment to the Family Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan, which sets the minimum 18-year age of marriage for men and women.
This issue represents an important step towards the prevention of the problem of early marriage, which was raised in the recommendation of Belgium.
It must be recognized that one of the significant problems in the field of gender equality was the lack of a gender statistics system. This, in particular, complicated the study of the real situation in the field of gender equality.
From now on, in Uzbekistan there is a website gender.stat.uz, where the minimum gender indicators and other information recommended by the United Nations Statistics Commission are posted and constantly updated, consisting of a total of 54 indicators.
In general, Uzbekistan, which claims to be a member of the UN Human Rights Council for the period 2021–2023, is taking consistent and comprehensive measures to fulfill its international human rights obligations, including ensuring gender equality. This is evidenced by both legal and practical steps towards the creation of reliable mechanisms for implementing the goals.