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Uzbekistan: Government finally passes law criminalising domestic violence

© AFP via Getty Images

Domestic violence a grave concern in the country with thousands of cases reported

Family unity has often been prioritised over the protection of women

‘The Government has taken a vital step to eradicate gender-based violence’ - Heather McGill

In response to Uzbekistan’s upper house of Parliament passing legislation earlier today that criminalises domestic violence, Heather McGill, Amnesty International’s Central Asia Researcher, said: 

“Today, Uzbekistan finally became the fifth country in Eastern Europe and Central Asia to criminalise domestic violence as a separate criminal offence under the law, after Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and Ukraine.

“The Government has taken a vital step to eradicate gender-based violence, yet much remains to be done to implement the new law, prevent domestic violence and tackle patriarchal attitudes in society. 

“We are concerned that although physical violence has now been criminalised, economic and psychological violence remain unaddressed.” 

Long campaign

After a long campaign from women rights activists and human rights defenders in Uzbekistan for better protection from domestic violence, earlier today the Senate of Oliy Majlisi of Uzbekistan unanimously adopted a package of amendments to the country’s Criminal and Administrative Codes which criminalise domestic violence and provides women and children with additional protection mechanisms. The amendments will come into force after they have been signed by the president.

The amendments establish liability for the harassment and stalking of women, remove the possibility of early release for sexual offenders, and exclude pleas over ignorance of the age of those subjected to sexual offences to avoid harsher criminal punishments.

Family values

Domestic violence and violence against women remain a grave concern in Uzbekistan. From January to November 2021, almost 36,000 cases of violence towards women were reported, including more than 12,000 cases of physical violence. Legal protections in the country are also often undermined by a heavy emphasis on the preservation of the family in domestic violence disputes, with officials prioritising reconciliation and reunification of families rather than the protection of women. Even an official statement on the Parliament’s website hailing the new law speaks of it “strengthening the institution of the family”. 

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