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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 or redress.

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. 

Victims Speak:
Sharofat, a thirty-eight-year-old woman living in a rural community

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. 

Interview with Mukhabat, a mother of three, who fled to her parents' home
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 days.

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.

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