Policies for gender equality in modern Uzbekistan Part I

Policies for gender equality have become a priority branch of state policy in Uzbekistan. The President of the country has duly noted that guaranteeing the rights, freedoms, legitimate interests of women will constitute the core of such policies along with strengthening the women’s role in public life and government work.

Photo: Akmal Saidov, Director of the National Centre of the Republic of Uzbekistan for Human Rights, Member of the National Commission on Gender Equality

Recently, information on Uzbekistan’s experience in ensuring women’s rights and freedoms in the framework of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was disseminated to UN Member States as an official document of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly A/75/773.

In this regard, the experts of the UN and the InterParliamentary Union (IPU) emphasize that the trends observed in Uzbekistan in this area are in line with the global processes of increasing the representation of women at the highest levels of government, eliminating gender inequality, increasing the number of women in parliament, government, and the judiciary.

Historical turn in the fight for gender equality came in January of 2021 when UN Women (the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls) and IPU’s annual report “Women in Parliament” announced that the global share of women in national parliaments accounted for more than a quarter – 25.5% – members of parliaments around the word. As for Uzbekistan, the country achieved higher goals in the aftermath of elections at the end of 2019 where 32% of the deputies of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis and 25% in the Senate were of the female gender.

According to this indicator, Uzbekistan is among the top 50 countries in the world (out of 190), ahead of almost all post-Soviet countries, and this indicates fundamentally new approaches and trends in the organization of the activities of the Uzbek parliament.

Enhancing the role and status of women, protecting and implementing their rights and freedoms

Within the framework of the implementation of the Action Strategy, as well as in order to organize consistent work on the implementation and achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals for the period up to 2030, Uzbekistan has developed nine targets aimed at ensuring gender equality and empowering all women and girls.

In accordance with the targets of the fifth UN SDG, by 2030, it is necessary to end all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere, to ensure gender equality, the full and effective participation of women and equal opportunities for them to lead at all levels of decision-making in political, legal, socio-economic, cultural and humanitarian life. Besides, the SDGs provide for the most complete implementation of the principles of gender equality in the decision-making process of government programs at different levels of government.

In the New Uzbekistan work in fundamental role of women in social, political and business life of the country are carried out in the following directions.

Improving the legal framework for gender equality

To this day, Uzbekistan has adopted all major international treaties protecting legal, social, and economic rights and freedoms of women as well as protecting them from all forms of discrimination and harassment. Gender-oriented laws “On guarantees of equal rights and opportunities for women and men”, “On protection of women from harassment and violence”, “On protection of reproductive health of citizens”, “On Amendments and addenda to art. 15 of the Family Code”, “On Amendments to the Labor Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan” – on the removal of restrictions related to women’s choice of previously prohibited forms of labor activity and other gender-asymmetric provisions of labor legislation. Experts from such UN entities as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the International Organization for Migration and the International Labour Organization also participated in their development.

More than 20 decrees and resolutions of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan and Government resolutions have also been adopted. A number of changes and additions have been made to strengthen efforts to prevent violence against women and domestic violence, and to combat outdated customs and practices. Mandatory gender-legal expertise of legislative acts has been introduced in practice, aimed at eliminating the inconsistency of the provisions of normative legal acts with the principles of gender equality, identifying possible risks of a discriminatory nature in the process of their application.

In this regard, Natalia Gherman, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Central Asia, the Head of the UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia noted that the international community positively assesses Uzbekistan’s efforts in the field of gender equality. The adoption and implementation of these laws contributes to an increase in the proportion of women to 33% in managerial positions and 45% in the total working-age population. This also shows a noticeable increase in the representation of women politicians and women leaders in all spheres, and the country’s consistent progress towards achieving gender equality.

Strategy for achieving gender equality in the Republic of Uzbekistan until 2030 is being developed, aimed at ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women and men in all spheres, in public life, in the process of socio-economic reforms being implemented in the country. Alanna Armitage, Director of UNFPA’s Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia stressed that as a result of the implementation of this Strategy, “more women leaders will appear in Uzbekistan, and urbanization will take place in a sustainable manner. Sustainable socio-economic development will be ensured, new opportunities will be created, especially for young girls who will become current and future great leaders, and their full potential will be realized, and a healthy lifestyle culture will be formed in society”.

Institutional framework

The field of gender equality has been the focus of continuous measures with the aim of improving the role of the Parliament to better the legislation and law enforcement:

  • firstly, a Commission on Gender Equality has been established under the leadership of the Chairperson of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis (Parliament);
  • secondly, the Upper House of Parliament has established a Committee on Women and Gender Equality, whose main task is to develop proposals for the implementation of State policies aimed at ensuring gender equality, improving legislation and exercising parliamentary control in this area. The Committee monitors the implementation of legislation in this area. Effective parliamentary control is exercised over increasing the role of women in society, ensuring gender equality, women’s rights, freedoms and legitimate interests, solving their problems, preparing girls for adulthood, supporting women in difficult social situations, as well as promoting their employment, and developing the sphere of culture and art. It has become a practice to regularly hear reports from the heads of responsible departments on these issues;
  • thirdly, a systematic work of the Parliamentary Commission on Monitoring the Implementation of the National Sustainable Development Goals and Targets for the period up to 2030 has been organized, where the fifth goal is dedicated to achieving gender equality. Its main tasks include monitoring the implementation of legislation, conducting a critical analysis of the development of those areas that are included in the National Sustainable Development Goals, carrying out parliamentary and public control over the implementation of the SDGs, preparing proposals for the development of draft laws and other normative legal acts;
  • fourthly, the Republican Public Council of Women, headed by the Chairperson of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis, has been established, one of the main tasks of which, along with the full support of women and girls, is to coordinate issues related to the implementation of the provisions of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the National Action Plan.

The public council is made up of female leaders who boast rich life experience and impeccable socio-psychological record. The women are very well-aware of the recurring problems of the society and are equipped with tools to deal with such issues that have been plaguing their compatriots. Agenda of the council is carried out by a team of gender equality enthusiasts led by mayor advisers on issues related to gender equality. Activities of the council is funded by republican and regional funds for the support of women which are transferred to the council;

  • fifthly, the Ministry for the Support of the Neighborhoodand the Family has been established, one of the priorities of which is the comprehensive support of women, as well as the Fund for the Support of Women and the Family, designed to provide all possible support to women, to facilitate their participation in the organization of family and private entrepreneurship, handicrafts, and to gain knowledge and skills in professions in demand on the labor market;
  • sixthly, the Federation of Trade Unions of Uzbekistan and the Ministry for the Support of the Neighborhood and the Family have established a special Republican Working group that studies and identifies women’s life problems in all regions, organizes work to reduce poverty and improve the well-being of the population. To address them, a completely new system has been introduced – the “women’s notebook”.

This makes it possible to determine more precisely who really needs help, and on this basis to organize targeted work with vulnerable segments of the population, as well as to provide them with more than 30 types of social services in electronic form. Through this system, 527 thousand people were employed. Only in the last 3 months, the Republican Commission has managed to solve the problems of 80 thousand women, 32 thousand of those who find themselves in a difficult life situation and need social support are provided with work. Systematic approach to solving issues related to specific layers and groups of population has born new mechanisms whereby problems and challenges of each woman is studied and resolved within the context of each neighborhood and each family.

Currently, the responsible departments, banks and town council, the newly established women’s advisory councils in the neighborhoods under the leadership of the Federation of Trade Unions, are thoroughly studying the problems of more than 6 million women through household rounds. Judging from the outcome of the research, database of women in need of help is updated and the process of looking for existing and newly discovered continues.

…..Read more about it in the Part II publication…..

Photo: Embassy of Uzbekistan