Uzbekistan's post-Soviet development, like
that in most of the former Soviet Union, has entailed enormous and disproportionate
obstacles to women's realization of their human rights. During the past
ten years, Uzbekistan's government has attempted to institute some safeguards
for women's rights, mainly in the area of social welfare support. Nevertheless,
domestic violence remains a serious problem, against which the government
has failed to take effective measures. On the contrary, state policies
intended to keep families together and foster community assistance to those
families experiencing conflict have compounded the situation of women facing
abuse in the home, and often prevent them from obtaining either relief
Contrary to the government's assertions
that women in Uzbekistan enjoy broad and effective human rights protections,
Human Rights Watch found that women victims of domestic violence suffer
doubly, both at the hands of husbands who physically and otherwise abuse
them, and at the hands of the state. Local officials routinely refuse to
take violence against women seriously, blaming the victims and blocking
women's attempts to escape brutality and violence in their marriages. Those
who commit physical abuse rarely face criminal prosecution. Instead, local
authorities, under orders from central government officials, attempt to
reconcile married couples, often sacrificing the women's safety for low
divorce statistics. The main aim of these government-directed interventions
is to "save the family." State officials accomplish this goal through coercing
women victims to remain in abusive situations, ignoring violence against
women, and perpetuating impunity for violent husbands.
This report focuses on the problem of domestic
violence in Uzbekistan, with an emphasis on violence in rural communities,
where over 60 percent of the population resides. It is based on detailed
interviews with twenty victims of domestic abuse in four rural districts
of two provinces, and one urban area. To obtain relief from family violence,
each of the women had contacted their local community government organizations,
or mahallas. The mahallas are traditional institutions charged by
law with regulating communal life, and carrying out many state functions,
such as community policing, political surveillance, and distributing social
welfare payments. Human Rights Watch conducted these interviews in May
and June 2000, and also interviewed dozens of women's rights activists,
lawyers, judges, police, doctors, and government officials at the national,
province, district, village, and mahalla level. All of these sources agreed
to tell their stories only under conditions of complete anonymity, in the
case of the victims, for fear of being singled out within their communities,
and in the case of officials, for fear of political repercussions. Therefore,
all information on the location of the interview, including even the province
where the interview took place, is withheld, and all of the names of the
witnesses in this report are given as pseudonyms.
Based on these findings, Human Rights Watch
is making a series of recommendations to the Uzbek government, to Western
governments and multi-lateral donor agencies. These are set out at the
end of this report. In particular, Human Rights Watch is urging the government
of Uzbekistan to take measures to ensure that domestic violence is prosecuted
to the fullest extent of the law, and to pass legislation without delay
to criminalize stalking and marital rape. The authorities should also take
special care to ensure that women subject to or at risk of domestic violence
have full access to community social services and material support, and
to civil remedies, such as divorce.
Sharofat, a thirty-eight-year-old woman
living in a rural community
Interview with Mukhabat, a mother of three,
who fled to her parents' home
I have tuberculosis. In 1983 I
got married.... I had a boyfriend whom I loved, but my mom gave me [in
an arranged marriage] against my will. I could not go against my mother-I
could not go against her will. I had four miscarriages because he beat
me. I had only three children. Now I have only two children because one
died when it was only one and a half years old.
After I left the hospital I did not want
to go back to my husband, but my father told me not to make my children
orphans [render them fatherless; see below] and told me to go back to him.
I went to him, and I had the third child who died.
The beating happened in front of the children.
My oldest son told my husband to stop. He said, "Our mom is sick and we
need her still."...
He beat me so hard that I lost my teeth.
The beatings happened at least one time each month. He used his fists to
beat me. He beat me most severely when I was pregnant.... The first time
he beat me, and I lost the baby. I was in the hospital. The second time
was only a few days before a baby was born, and my face was covered with
bruises. He beat me and I went to my parents. My father refused to take
me to a doctor. He said, "What will I say, `her husband beats her?'" Three
days later I gave birth to the child....
I went to the mahalla committee and asked
them to send my husband home to his family. He went home to his parents
and then he came back to us again. The mahalla committee did not help me
at all. After that I went to the village council [selsovet, the
next administrative rung after the mahalla in some rural areas], and they
made him go to work. He worked ten days but he did not bring even a kopek
home. The family did not see any of that money at all.
My husband has married again, and he lives
with his new family and his new wife. I live in our house. My husband married
a very rich woman.
I don't have an official divorce, but he
remarried anyway and no one asked me for my agreement that he take another
wife. The mahalla committee tricked my brother. My brother signed that
he agreed to the [second] marriage. They promised that I would get alimony
and a charitable benefit payment.
The one thing that I want is alimony. Fine,
let him live with the new wife, but I must take care of the children.
I have a bad memory because my...husband
beat me on the head. I have no memory anymore. He gave me head trauma.
My husband beat me very much. It began
after the baby. Before that I did the housework. But after the baby was
born, I had to take care of the baby, and I didn't finish the housework.
I was busy with the baby. I heard from his brother that my husband complained
that his mother had to do all the housework while I did nothing at all.
The little brother also complained about me.
One day the baby was in the [traditional
cradle], and my mother-in-law said that I could not even do that right.
I asked her to show me how to do it. She began to scream at me, saying
that I was ordering her to do something. She yelled at me so that the entire
courtyard [the center of the multi-family household] heard her. She screamed,
"You make me work!" At that moment my husband came home. He did not even
give me time to explain. He hit me, and I hit the wall and hit my head.
That was the first time.
I did not tell anyone that he beat me.
I did not go to the mahalla committee. I told my parents, and they went
to him and said that he should stop. They asked him to stop. They decided
that we should live separately without my mother-in-law. My parents suggested
that we get a new house.
For a year we were happy...then he began
to beat me again.
He started to beat me on the head, and
I grabbed his hands and tried to stop him. I begged him not to beat me-and
not to beat me on the head. He beat me on my head even more with his fists.
He beat the left side of my head especially.
I did not know what to do. I grabbed my
baby and ran to the street. I had the children with me. I tried to run
away, and he broke the mirror and all the dishes. I saw his sister on the
street, and I ran up to her with the children. I ran, and he followed me
and yelled at me saying I should never come back. His sister looked away
and ignored me.
For three hours I sat on the street. It
was very cold. It was December. I was wearing only a light dress, and the
children were very lightly dressed. The neighbors saw us on the street
and invited us in, but I was afraid that he would make a scandal with the
neighbors if we went into their courtyard. The neighbors brought us warm
clothes for the children...I went home and he was not there.
[He returned] He screamed, "You came back
again?!" He picked one of the little children's toilets and threw everything
that was in it onto me. Then he picked up the teapot full of hot boiling
water and threw it on me too as I was cleaning. He did this from behind.
I did not hear him come back in the house. The neighbors heard this and
came over to stop him. Two men came into the courtyard but I said that
I would not leave. I cannot go back to my parents again with three children.
At that time, my head was spinning, and
I saw spots before me. I lost consciousness, and I cannot remember what
happened to me. My brother's wife made food and tea, but I could not eat
anything. My brother took me to the doctor. My parents did not know, and
we did not tell them. They gave me three shots, and then I felt a little
better. But I got worse again, and they took me back to the hospital. I
told them that my husband beat me. They said that they would call the police.
The policeman did not come to the hospital even though the doctor told
them what had happened. I think that my husband went to the precinct police
station and agreed to something with them. I was in the hospital for seven
Finally, a guy came... and said that someone
from the precinct would come and take a longer statement from me. But no
one ever came. No one asked me anything.