The Government of Uzbekistan demonstrates a strong commitment to addressing women’s issues. The Constitution guarantees equal rights to women and men, and other laws (e.g., Family, Labor and Criminal Codes) also contain non-discrimination clauses.
Uzbekistan takes active part in international initiatives, including the Beijing Platform. The country was the first among the Central Asian states to join the UN Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, as well as ILO conventions On Protection of Motherhood and On Discrimination in Employment and Occupation. The government has adopted the national platforms and the action plan to promote the status of women.
There are many laws protecting women’s rights, including prohibition of certain types of dangerous work. There are also maternity-related work rules (restrictions on night work, overtime, work on days off, and travel assignments; additional leave; preferential working conditions, etc.) that equally apply to men if they are raising children alone.
By Presidential Decree of March 2, 1995, the Government adopted a program to Increase the Role of Women in State and Public Construction to include monitoring the implementation of the internationally adopted norms on protection of interests of women, maternity, and childhood. Pursuant to this decree, women are appointed as deputies to the administrative heads in hokimiats (local administrations) at all levels.
The Women’s Committee of Uzbekistan was established in 1991 to provide the Government with recommendations on women’s policy. It has branches in every region of Uzbekistan and is funded from the State budget. One unique feature of this national agency is that its chairperson also holds the position of the Deputy Prime Minister for Social Protection of the Family, Maternity and Childhood. This entitles the Committee to coordinate a social partnership between State bodies and civil society organizations and NGOs.
The role of women is enhanced through the self-government bodies (local communities), where the women’s councils locally address the problems of women and their families. There are about 12,000 women advisors in the Women’s Councils of each of the mahallahs (neighborhood associations).
Currently, 67 percent of Uzbekistan’s small businesses are owned by women. Business education has been targeted to women through the Business Women’s Association, which has assisted many women in starting a business. Similarly, the Women’s Committee operates Republican Centers for the Adaptation of Women, where business planning trainings are offered free of charge.
The national legislation ensures the guaranteed representation of women in all branches of government. Today there are 1,131 women, including 48 senators and legislators of Oliy Majlis, who are represented at all levels of government. There were 21 women in the 120-member lower chamber of the parliament and 15 women in the 100-member Senate. The number of deputies was increased to 150 in late December 2008. Currently, about 332,000 women are involved in political activities.
Besides the government, more than 40 NGOs support women and protect their interests through implementation of various programs in Uzbekistan. Particular attention is paid to informing women about small businesses and private entrepreneurship benefits. Training workshops have been held in all regions of the country this year with the active participation of girls – college graduates¬ – willing to start their own businesses. In addition, the Business Women’s Association began to support women farmers. Women currently run about ten percent of all farms operating in the country. Today, the association has more than 8,000 members. The center offers courses in economy and law, and renders consulting services on business development.
A great deal of attention is paid to advancing women’s professionalism and competence. Currently four million women study in the education system out of more than 7.5 million students. Over the years of independence, 320 of 1,733 of all doctoral dissertations were defended by women (18.5 percent). Out of a total of 8,459 Ph.D. dissertations defended, 3,081, or 36.4 percent, were from women. A total of 888 women received the approval of the Higher Attestation Commission of Uzbekistan as candidates of science. Women consist of 40 percent of scientists and researchers.
Prenatal centers are actively developing as well. As a result, the maternal mortality ratio declined from 33.1 to 19.7 per thousand, and the infant mortality rate from 18.9 to 10.1 per thousand over the past ten years; the number of children with congenital and hereditary diseases was almost halved. The Law “On prevention of micronutrient deficiency in population” adopted in 2010 also aims to improve women’s and children’s health.
The National Action Platform consolidates the efforts undertaken by the government, parliament, civil society institutions, NGOs, and the private sector to improve the role of women in the development of a democratic society. The National Action Platform has stipulated the following national priorities:
- Improving women’s health, and the development of family services;
- Educating and advancing professional literacy among women;
- Improving the economic status of women;
- Mitigating the impact of environmental degradation;
- Strengthening the participation of women in the political process;
- Establishing special programs to support girls;
- Developing a new image of the Uzbek woman in the mass media;
- Ensuring equality for women and the elimination of discrimination;
- Conducting gender-speciﬁc surveys;
- Developing and strengthening the role of women within NGOs; and
- Enhancing national mechanisms for improving the status of women.