Shaxrizoda Mamasolieva

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According to the USAID report on Uzbekistan’s efforts to protect women’s rights, although there are claims in the Constitution that equal rights are guaranteed, the opportunities for men and women are still not equal. Admittedly, women’s rights in Uzbekistan cannot be regarded as equal to the position of men in the socio-economic, political, and health sectors. This blogpost will analyze the extent to which the legislation of Uzbekistan ensures the protection of women’s rights with a particular focus on domestic violence. 

Recent Changes in the protection of women’s rights

Women’s rights advocates and survivors of domestic violence in Uzbekistan saw the first signs of potential progress in 2016. A change in government ushered in a new openness to discussing gender-related issues

Even though Uzbekistan has achieved significant progress because of the implementation of several important reforms in the direction of gender equality of the “Sustainable Development Goals,” there are still several legislative shortcomings in protecting women’s rights and their legal interests. It has been three years since the adoption of the Law “On Protection of Women from Harassment and Abuse” and the Law “On Creating Equal Opportunities for Women and Men.” Unfortunately, these normative documents still need reforms and are failing to legally assist in protecting women’s rights. According to the information of the Senate Committee on Defense and Security Issues, in 2021, protection warrants were issued to 39,343 women who were victims of harassment. This Committee received about 20 appeals regarding cases of sexual and physical violence and mental harassment. In particular, one of the saddest cases is the end of oppression and violence against women, ending with their tragic death. The issue of violence against girls and women, particularly domestic violence, has been a very low priority for many years for the government of/ legislative bodies in Uzbekistan. Culturally, improper treatment of women is still often considered a “personal affair” and not a crime. Due to the return of traditional patriarchal values since independence, ordinary families increasingly impose restrictions on women’s activities outside the home and promote early marriage. 

Domestic Violence: Gaps in Protection of Rights 

First, national legislation does not impose any liability for domestic violence. None of the norms in the Criminal Code and the Codes on Administrative Responsibility establish any punishment or sanctions for domestic violence against women. Article 3 of the Law “On Protection of Women from Harassment and Abuse” defines violence as “an illegal action (inaction) against women, infringing on their life, health, sexual inviolability, honor, dignity, and other legally protected rights and freedoms by applying or threatening to use measures of physical, psychological, sexual or economic pressure .”This law also provides for the issuance of a protection order aimed at protecting women against domestic violence, and these actions are carried out after psychological, economic, and sexual violence has been committed against women. Unfortunately, even this act does not initiate any liability for perpetrators.

 The following norms of the Criminal Code contain elements of family violence in a certain sense. It is a common practice to qualify them with these articles: Article 97 (intentional murder), Article 103 (bringing a person to the level of suicide); Article 109 (intentional bodily injury); Article 110 (torture); Article 112 (death or violence threat) and Article 118 (rape).

Nevertheless, the crimes committed against women within their families are fundamentally different from those against health and life in terms of the elements of the crime: the subject, object, subjective, and objective sides. The subjective side of violence committed in the family is that this act is committed intentionally. On the other hand, crimes against life or health may be committed carelessly and unintentionally. While in the case of crimes against health, the subject is a person who has reached the age of 14, the subject of domestic violence is a husband or mother-in-law who has been living together with the victim during the marriage.

Second, domestic violence against women continues even after stepping on the court’s threshold. After filing for divorce, civil courts give six months for family reconciliation, which is repeatedly extended. Even if there are sufficient grounds for separation, the court does not grant the divorce. As a result, the husband, who could not get a divorce, continues to harass and abuse his wife for a long time. 

Article 41 of the Family Code states that if the court finds that a husband and wife can no longer live together and maintain a family, they will be divorced. Also, in Paragraph 16 of the decision of the Plenum of the Supreme Court, “On the practice of applying the legislation in cases of divorce by the courts,” the attention of the courts should be drawn to the fact that the demand for divorce is only – it should be satisfied only if it is determined that it is impossible for husband and wife to live together from now on and to save the family from the complete breakdown. Temporary disagreements in marriage and disagreements between spouses due to minor accidental reasons, as well as the unwillingness of one or both spouses to continue the marital relationship without serious reasons, cannot serve as sufficient grounds for divorce. The court shall reject the claim if there are no grounds for divorce. The legislation of Uzbekistan does not provide a clear and strict list for marriage annulment, and even the infidelity of the husband or wife cannot be the basis for the annulment of marriage. The phrase “serious reasons” itself is open to broad interpretation. This loophole in the legislation limits the rights and interests of women regarding divorce.

 However, in the legislation of foreign countries that have achieved positive results in protecting women’s rights, the grounds for divorce are clearly and consistently indicated. For example, the UK law specifies five main grounds for divorce, which are: adultery; inappropriate behavior (violence, drunkenness, drug addiction, refusal to pay bills); leaving a spouse in bad faith; living separately for more than two years; living separately for more than five years (in this case, the consent of the husband or wife is not required for divorce). The grounds for divorce are not specified in the legislation of Uzbekistan, which brings about the complexity of the divorce process. That is one of the main reasons for domestic violence. 


The above legal analysis shows that although legal reforms dedicated to ensuring Uzbek women’s rights and interests are implemented in practice, they are insufficient to eradicate domestic violence against women. The main reason could be that courts reject granting divorce without thoroughly analyzing each case, and domestic violence is not considered a crime under Criminal Law. In addition, the government should ensure that the Criminal Procedure Code of Uzbekistan requires that all sexual violence crimes are investigated/prosecuted ex officio (public prosecution) by the State, and the investigation/prosecution does not depend on the complaint of the victim or their legal representative. The future of protecting women’s rights and interests depends on determinant reforms in Criminal and Family Law in the Republic of Uzbekistan.

Cite as:  Shaxrizoda Mamasolieva, “Women’s Rights in Uzbekistan: Legislative Problems and their Solutions”, Uzbekistan Law Blog, 08.03.2023.