by Khushnazar Jurayev
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October 3, 2021

A new Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations was adopted on July 5, 2021, in Uzbekistan. It has replaced the previous Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations, which was adopted on July 1, 1998. This blog post will look at the differences between these two laws, the advantages and disadvantages of the new Law, and the comparative analysis of the Law with other international legal documents.

Comparison and changes

According to the officials, more than 700 proposals were received from the public, international organizations, and local experts during the discussions on this particular Law. The most important alterations in the new Law will be listed below along with our opinion and the comparison of this Law with other international regulations:

Firstly, one of the most important changes is the removal of the ban on citizens walking in prayer clothes in public places. It was mentioned that this is because the concept of “a dress of worship” does not have a legal definition in the current legislation. We are convinced that this is contrary to the norms of our Constitution and international law. We want to point out that the alteration is completely contrary to the norms of Article 25 (freedom) and Article 31 (freedom of conscience) of the Constitution of Uzbekistan. The reason was that the restriction of walking in the dress of worship, on the one hand, was an obstacle to the right to liberty as well as the perseverance to the belief in one’s religion. As for the norms of international law, Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) guarantees the freedom to practice or not to practice one’s religion. Also, Article 5 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) states the same fundamental right in the following form:

… without distinction as to race, color, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the Law, notably in the enjoyment of the following rights:

“The right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion”

Secondly, the following procedures have been simplified and abolished in the new Law:
-the requirement for religious educators to obtain special approval from the central body;
-the procedure for submitting notarized documents for registration of a religious organization;
-the requirement to obtain the consent of mahallas in establishing a religious organization.

Thirdly, the number of initiators for the establishment of a religious organization is reduced from 100 (one hundred) to 50 (fifty) people (Article 17). As a result, the establishment of a religious organization has become much easier than before.

Fourthly, the period of consideration of documents submitted for the registration of a religious organization has been changed from 3 (three) months to 1 (one) month (Article 21).

Finally, the number of documents to be submitted to register a religious organization has been decreased. For instance, the requirement to have a “document confirming payment of the registration fee” has been taken away.

Developments and flaws

On one hand, careful analysis of the new Law reveals the following developments:

Firstly, a fully electronic system of public services was created during the registration of a religious organization. If a group of individuals wants to register a religious organization, they go through all the necessary steps and documents in a full online form through the single electronic system, which is quite convenient (Article 15).

Secondly, the legal basis to refuse to register a religious organization was defined clearly which was a shortcoming of the previous Law and caused many misunderstandings. As a result, this shortcoming was eliminated by the new Law.

Thirdly, the addition of a completely new chapter to the Law which is “Suspension and termination of the activities of a religious organization” and the establishment that the suspension and termination of the activities of a religious organization can be carried out only by a court decision was an important step in ensuring the Rule of Law (Article 25).

Lastly, another important clarification has been added in the new Law, which also applies to religious organizations. Article 12 of the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations deals with the rights and obligations of a religious organization. A clear provision of these rights and obligations is proof that the organizations’ rights will be guaranteed.

On the other hand, a number of imperfections can be found if the Law is studied in detail. They are:In the 8th Article of the Law, it is mentioned that “The inclusion of religious subjects in the education system’s curriculum (except for religious educational institutions) is prohibited”. However, it is unclear what kind of subjects can be considered as “religious”.

In addition, there is mentioning the views of the Information Service of the Committee on Religious Affairs, “In accordance with other applicable legislation, the requirements for employees’ dress in public organizations and institutions are regulated by their internal documents”. In this case, the question naturally arises, on the basis of which legal documents of the Republic of Uzbekistan this kind of norm can be established. In fact, this norm is not given in the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations. Importantly, in public schools, it is prohibited to wear a religious dress – “hijab”; even some secondary-school pupils were not allowed to sit through final exams due to this clothing restriction. Consequently, it may be noted that this particular piece of legislation is affecting the quality of education. The above example shows that this problem requires an immediate solution.

Furthermore, it is not clear what religious education constitutes in itself according to the new Law. For example: is teaching the Arabic language considered as religious education or as teaching a foreign language? It is not a secret that special religious professional education is required to teach Arabic in private educational centers. If there is no document confirming the teacher/tutor’s level of education, the education services provided by him/her will be considered illegal.

It is known that religious organizations are legal entities. Their obligations are set out in the second part of Article 12 of the Law. When reading this article, one can see how limited are the rights and freedoms of religious organizations and how big their responsibility is. In particular, “the judiciary shall be notified of the change in the composition of the governing body within one month from the date of this decision and shall inform the judiciary annually of its activities in the prescribed form”. In our opinion, the obligation of a simple legal entity to provide the judiciary with information about the change of its head and information about its annual activities is a complex and time-consuming process with an illogical and bureaucratic obligation.

In the third part of Article 25 of the Law, it is stated that “The procedure for suspending a religious organization in the event of a state of emergency shall be determined by law”, but it was not clear which Law specifically regulates it. This is also an aspect that needs to be revisited/covered and its applications can lead to particular uncertainties.

It should be noted that the new Law still recognizes private religious education as an illegal religious activity. Because of this topic, the officials and the society are placed into two different ends. One of these groups is supporting private religious education, while the other is against it.

Further in this writing, I want to share some of the world’s experiences related to private religious education. For example, in Japan, there are many Christian schools and universities with mandatory religious education. Any religious education at any private middle and/or high school requires the teacher to be accredited in accordance with the standards of the university’s religious education. This means there are private religious educational schools in Japan. Another clear example can be the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, Catholic schools and the Catholic Church of England (in England only) and Jewish schools have long been supported by the state system, with all other state-funded schools having a duty to provide compulsory religious education.

It is a noteworthy and recent fact that it was allowed for schoolgirls to wear headscarves and skullcaps. More precisely, the Minister of Public Education of Uzbekistan Sherzod Shermatov, during an open dialogue on September 4 answered the question of whether there will be changes in the requirements for school uniforms in the new academic school year. According to him, girls will be allowed to go to school as an exception, wearing white and light-colored scarves and skullcaps. The scarf should be wrapped around the back. Alternatively, this can be considered as another further step in ensuring full religious freedom in Uzbekistan.


In conclusion, the main purpose of this blog post was to analyze the new Law on Religious Freedom and Religious Organizations from the legal point of view and attempt to link with international legal documents on a similar topic. I  am convinced that the new Law will strengthen the guarantees of freedom of conscience, provide the legal mechanisms to ensure the right of everyone to believe or not to believe in any religion, as well as improve the state policy on religion. Although several modifications, simplifications, and innovative points were introduced through this new Law,  I believe that it would be a bit wrong to call the new Law “perfect” as it still has a number of limitations that have been described in this writing.

Cite as: Khushnazar Jurayev, “New Law on Religious Freedom: Its Analysis and the Response of International Law”, Uzbekistan Law Blog, 03.10.2021.