The Human Truth Foundation

Human Rights and Freedom in Uzbekistan

By Vexen Crabtree 2019

#gender #misogyny #uzbekistan #uzbekistan_gender #women

Republic of Uzbekistan

[Country Profile Page]
StatusIndependent State
Social and Moral Index106th best
Life Expectancy70.86yrs (2017)2

Uzbekistan is amongst the worst places in the world at ensuring human rights and freedom, and it has severe cultural issues when it comes to tolerance and equality. Uzbekistan does better than average for opposing gender inequality3. However Uzbekistan performs less well in most areas. It does worse than average in the rate of gender bias (from 7 indicators)4, commentary in Human Rights Watch reports5, its nominal commitment to Human Rights6, freethought7, speed of uptake of HR treaties8 and in LGBT equality9. And finally, it falls into the worst 20 in terms of supporting press freedom10. Since the death of President Islam Karimov, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev "has taken some steps to improve the country´s abysmal human rights record, such as releasing some political prisoners, relaxing certain restrictions on free expression, removing citizens from the security services´ notorious “black list,” and increasing accountability of government institutions to the citizenry", instigating a cautious "sense of hope" amongst some11, that Uzbekistan may start to climb out of its abusive human rights abyss. For the first time in 7 years, a Human Rights Watch delegation was permitted to visit in 201711.

1. Uzbekistan's Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance

#equality #gender_equality #human_rights #morals #politics #prejudice #tolerance

Compared to Asia (2020)12
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Rank12
1Hong Kong24.3
Asia Avg99.9
Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance (2020)12
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Rank12
World Avg87.9

The best countries in the world at ensuring human rights, fostering equality and promoting tolerance, are Sweden, Norway and Denmark13. These countries are displaying the best traits that humanity has to offer. The worst countries are The Solomon Islands, Somalia and Tuvalu13.

The data sets used to calculate points for each country are statistics on commentary in Human Rights Watch reports, its nominal commitment to Human Rights, speed of uptake of HR treaties, supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms, supporting press freedom, eliminating modern slavery, opposing gender inequality, the rate of gender bias (from 7 indicators), the year from which women could participate in democracy, its success in fighting anti-semitic prejudice, LGBT equality and freethought. The regions with the best average results per country are Scandinavia, Baltic States and Europe13, whereas the worst are Melanesia, Micronesia and Australasia13.

For more, see:

Amnesty International's 2023-23 summary on human rights in Uzbekistan stated:

Security forces used unlawful force to suppress predominantly peaceful protests in the Republic of Karakalpakstan and 22 alleged organizers of the protests faced an unfair trial on politically motivated charges. Legislative reforms encouraged greater participation by civil society in public policy discussions, although the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly remained tightly controlled. Discriminatory gender stereotypes impeded access to protection against violence and justice for women, girls and LGBTI people. Consensual sexual relations between men remained criminalized.

"The State of the World's Human Rights 2022/23" by Amnesty International (2023)14

In the year-and-a-half since Uzbekistan´s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev assumed power following the death of his predecessor, Islam Karimov, he has taken some steps to improve the country´s abysmal human rights record, such as releasing some political prisoners, relaxing certain restrictions on free expression, removing citizens from the security services´ notorious “black list,” and increasing accountability of government institutions to the citizenry.

These moves, coupled with Tashkent´s efforts to improve ties with its Central Asian neighbors, have contributed to a sense of hope in Uzbekistan about the possibility for change not witnessed in many years.

At the same time, Uzbek security services brought fresh charges against journalists [and] it is far from clear if Uzbekistan´s still-authoritarian government will follow up the modest steps it has taken thus far with institutional change and sustainable human rights improvements. Grave rights violations such as torture, politically motivated imprisonment, and forced labor in the cotton fields remain widespread. [...]

Thousands of individuals imprisoned on politically motivated charges remain behind bars and many have experienced torture or ill-treatment. [...]

Uzbekistan´s Federation of Trade Unions... despite its title is governed mainly by representatives from governmentand employers, not workers.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)11

2. Human Rights & Tolerance

2.1. Human Rights Watch Comments


Human Rights Watch Comments
Higher is better5
92=Bosnia & Herzegovina-6
Asia Avg-5.0
World Avg-1.9
Uzbekistan comes 91st in the world in terms of commentary in Human Rights Watch reports.

Human Rights Watch comments concentrate mostly on negative issues, however, they also make positive comments for those countries that engage in human rights defence around the world, or who make improvements at home. By adding up positive and negative comments (including double-points for negatives that involve large scales and crimes against humanity), the Social and Moral Index turns HRW commentary into quantified values. Some countries may be unfairly penalized because HRW have not examined them, and, some countries "get away" with abuses if they manage to hide it, or if it goes unnoticed - a negative point has been given for those countries in which HRW specifically state that access to investigators has been barred. The points were limited to a minimum of -10 because there are some points at which things are so bad, with abuses affecting so many, it is difficult to be more specific about the depths of the issues.

2.2. Nominal Commitment to HR


Nominal Commitment to HR
Higher is better6
2=Costa Rica23
126=Sri Lanka13
Asia Avg12.7
World Avg15.1
Uzbekistan comes 112nd in the world in terms of its nominal commitment to Human Rights.

There are many international agreements on human rights, and, many mechanisms by which countries can be brought to account for their actions. Together, these have been the biggest historical movement in the fight against oppression and inhumanity. Or, putting it another way: these are rejected mostly by those who wish to oppress inhumanely. None of them are perfect and many people object to various components and wordings, but, no-one has come up with, and enforced, better methods of controlling the occasional desires that states and peoples have of causing angst for other states and peoples in a violent, unjust or inhumane way. Points are awarded for the number of human rights agreements ratified by the country, plus the acceptance of the petition mechanisms for disputes. The maximum possible score in 2009 was 24.

2.3. HR Treaties Lag

#human_rights #international_law #micronesia #politics #small_islands

HR Treaties Lag
Lower is better8
Avg Yrs/Treaty8
164San Marino13.63
165Saudi Arabia13.73
Asia Avg10.97
World Avg10.02
Uzbekistan comes 161st in the world with regard to speed of uptake of HR treaties.

Human Rights (HR) Treaties Lag is a count of how long it took each country to sign each of 11 key HR treaties. From the date of the first signatory of each treaty, all other countries have one point added to their score for each day they delayed in signing. Results are presented as average time in years to sign each one. The lower a country's score, the more enthusiastically it has taken on international Human Rights Treaties - which are, of course, minimal standards of good governance. The slowest are the countries of Micronesia, Melanesia, Australasia and Polynesia all lagged by over 12 years per treaty. The best regions are The Americas, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean.

For more, see:

2.4. Press Freedom

#democracy #freedom #Freedom_of_Speech #Good_Governance #mass_media #politics #UK

Press Freedom
Lower is better10
161Sri Lanka5659
162Saudi Arabia5688
165Equatorial Guinea6720
Asia Avg4378
World Avg3249
Uzbekistan ranks 16th-worst in the world in terms of supporting press freedom.

The freedom to investigate, publish information, and have access to others' opinion is a fundamental part of today's information-driven world, and is linked with Freedom of Speech and Good Governance. Scores on the Press Freedom Index are calculated according to indicators including pluralism - the degree to which opinions are represented in the media, media independence of authorities, self-censorship, legislation, transparency and the infrastructure that supports news and information, and, the level of violence against journalists which includes lengths of imprisonments. The index "does not take direct account of the kind of political system but it is clear that democracies provide better protection for the freedom to produce and circulate accurate news and information than countries where human rights are flouted". The rankings are used as one of the datasets of the Social and Moral Development Index15

It must be noted that press freedom is not an indicator of press quality and the press itself can be abusive; the UK suffers in particular from a popular brand of nasty reporting that infuses several of its newspapers who are particularly prone to running destructive and often untrue campaigns against victims. The Press Freedom Index notes that "the index should in no way be taken as an indicator of the quality of the media in the countries concerned".

The media is highly controlled, although in 2017 some small elements of independent criticism of the previous President (Karimov) were aired, and one or two stations "have acquired a reputation for more critical reporting, and thegovernment indicated it would invite the BBC´s Uzbek service to base a correspondent in Tashkent"11.

On September 27, Uzbek security services detained Bobomurod Abdullaev, an independent journalist, in Tashkent, for “attempts to overthrow the constitutional regime.” He has been denied meaningful access to a lawyer, nor has his family been granted access, and he faces up to 20 years in prison.

On the same day, police also detained Nurullo Muhummad Raufkhon, an Uzbek author, at Tashkent airport, after he arrived from Turkey following two years of exile. He was charged with extremism for his book Bu Kunlar (These Days), which criticizes Karimov. He was released on October 1, but still faces charges. On October 20, security services arrested another journalist, Hayot Nasreddinov, on extremism charges.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)11

2.5. Slavery

#burundi #eritrea #france #human_rights #indonesia #slavery

Lower is better
% Victims16
98Sierra Leone0.50
Asia Avg0.79
World Avg0.65
With regard to eliminating modern slavery, Uzbekistan ranks 99th in the world.

The taking of slaves has been an unwholesome feature of Human cultures since prehistory17. Private households and national endeavours have frequently been augmented with the use of slaves. The Egyptian and Roman empires both thrived on them for both purposes. Aside from labourers they are often abused sexually by their owners and their owners' friends18. The era of colonialism and the beginnings of globalisation changed nothing: the imprisonment and forced movements of labour continued to destroy many lives except that new justifications were invented based on Christian doctrine and the effort to convert non-Christians. By 1786 over 12 million slaves had been extracted from Africa and sent to colonial labour camps, with a truly atrocious condition of life19. But they were not the only ones to blame; in Africa internal nations such as the Asantes sold and bought tens of thousands of slaves20.

The abolition of the slave trade was a long and slow process. Until a relatively modern time, even philosophers, religious leaders and those concerned with ethics justified, or ignored, the problem of slavery21. The first abolitionists were always the slaves themselves. Their protests and rebellions caused the industry to become too expensive to continue. After that, it was the economic costs of maintain slave colonies that led the British to reject and then oppose the slave trade globally. Finally, the enlightenment-era thinkers of France encouraged moral and ethical thinking including the declaration of the inherent value of human life and human dignity22. A long-overdue wave of compassionate and conscientious movements swept across the West, eliminating public support for slavery, until the industries and churches that supported it had no choice but to back down.

'Modern slavery' includes forced labour (often of the under-age), debt bondage (especially generational), sexual slavery, chattel slavery and other forms of abuse, some of which can be surprisingly difficult to detect, but often target those fleeing from warzones and the vulnerable.23. Some industries (diamond, clothing, coal) from some countries (Burundi24, Eritrea24, Indonesia25) are a particular concern. The Walk Free Foundation, say that in 2016, 40.3 million people were living in modern slavery26.

For more, see:

Uzbekistan does poorly in protecting the vulnerable from forced labour. The nominal efforts that it does are often undermined by a failure to follow-through with checks that anti-slavery measures are being effective.

Workers stay at a former school in a village in Tashkent region, hours from their hometown. The building is dilapidated, cold and ruined. They sleep on the floor and eat breakfast in the former gym having been forcibly mobilized to pick cotton. Forced labour has been a regular feature of cotton harvests in post-Soviet Uzbekistan. However, in mid-September 2017, the Uzbek President referred to ending forced labour in a speech to the United Nations and the government recalled school children and state workers from the fields. While this is great progress, implementation needs to be supported and carefully monitored. NGO monitors revealed that even as workers are being brought back from the fields, some local officials are extorting funds from businesses and individuals to pay for "replacement" workers. Activists trying to monitor the situation also report being threatened and harassed.

"Global Slavery Index" by Walk Free Foundation (2018)27

Forced labor in Uzbekistan´s cotton sector in 2017 remained systematic, both during the spring weeding season and the fall cotton harvest. The government issued a public decree prohibiting the forced mobilization of public sector workers, including teachers, medical personnel, and students into the cotton fields in August, and re-iterated the ban in September, which resulted in many forced laborers returning to their homes and places of work and study. However, various authorities continued to mobilize public sector workers and students to pick cotton on threat of punishment or loss of employment, despite the public decree. In various regions, such as Bukhara, public sector workers were forced to sign forms that they would “voluntarily” pick cotton [or] to conceal their actual professions. [...]

Global corporations have engaged closely on the issue of forced labor in Uzbekistan´s cotton sector, with over 300 companies, as of June, pledging not to knowingly source Uzbek cotton in their supply chains until the government endsforced labor.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)11

3. Gender Equality

Uzbekistan is on the way towards ending gender inequality but women are still in an unfavourable position much of the time.


3.1. Gender Inequality

#gender #gender_equality #human_rights #misogyny #women

Gender Inequality
Lower is better
Asia Avg0.36
World Avg0.36
Uzbekistan is positioned 57th in the world regarding opposing gender inequality.

The UN Human Development Reports include statistics on gender equality which take into account things like maternal mortality, access to political power (seats in parliament) and differences between male and female education rates. Gender inequality is not a necessary part of early human development. Although a separation of roles is almost universal due to different strengths between the genders, this does not have to mean that women are subdued, and, such patriarchalism is not universal in ancient history. Those cultures and peoples who shed, or never developed, the idea that mankind ought to dominate womankind, are better cultures and peoples than those who, even today, cling violently to those mores.

For more, see:

3.2. Gender Biases

#gender #gender_equality #prejudice #women

Gender Biases
Lower is better
2New Zealand34.429
59S. Africa97.128
Asia Avg94.24
World Avg83.93
Uzbekistan comes 61st in the world in terms of the rate of gender bias (from 7 indicators).

The Gender Social Norms Index (GSNI) looks at gender biases across seven criteria; the % given here is for the total people who are biased across any of those criteria. By subtracting the value from 100%, you can see that those who do well on this index, you are seeing a count of those who do not appear to be biased against women in any of the criteria, and so, doing well on this index is a very positive sign for any country.

The data was included in UN (2022) with full results in Annex table AS6.7.1; their data stems for ranges between 2005 and 2022, depending on the country in question.

3.3. Year Women Can Vote

#christianity #gender_equality #human_rights #politics #women

Year Women Can Vote
Lower is better
1New Zealand1893
43Myanmar (Burma)1935
46Dominican Rep.1942
Asia Avg1907
World Avg1930
Uzbekistan is 45th in the world regarding the year from which women could participate in democracy.

Women now have equal rights in the vast majority of countries across the world. Although academic literature oftens talks of when a country "grants women the right to vote", this enforces a backwards way of thinking. Women always had the right to vote, however, they were frequently denied that right. The opposition to women's ability to vote in equality with man was most consistently and powerfully opposed by the Catholic Church, other Christian organisations, Islamic authorities and some other religious and secular traditionalists.

For more, see:

4. Prejudice

4.1. LGBT Equality

#equality #homosexuality #human_rights #ICCPR #intolerance #sexuality #tolerance

This trouble country also goes to the effort to needlessly criminalize homosexuality between men, filling prisons with convictions of up to three years11 for consensual and private behaviour that ought not be the state's business.

LGBT Equality
Higher is better
Asia Avg-02.1
World Avg12.6
In terms of LGBT equality, Uzbekistan comes 21st-worst in the world.

Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) folk is rife across the world. Legal restrictions co-exist alongside social stigmatisation and physical violence31. LGBT tolerance and equal rights have been fought for country-by-country across the world, often against tightly entrenched cultural and religious opposition. Adult consensual sexual activity is a Human Right, protected by privacy laws32. Despite this, homosexual activity is outlawed in around 80 countries31. The Social & Moral LGBT Equality Index was created to compare countries and regions, granting points to each country for a variety of factors including how long gay sex has been criminalized and the extent of LGBT legal rights. Graded negative points are given for criminality of homosexuality, unequal ages of consent, legal punishments and for not signing international accords on LGBT tolerance. The signs in many developed countries are positive, and things are gradually improving. Europe is by far the least prejudiced region (Scandinavia in particular being exemplary). The Middle East and then Africa are the least morally developed, where cultural bias goes hand-in-hand with state intolerance, all too often including physical violence.

For more, see:

4.2. Freedom of Thought

#europe #freedom_of_belief #freethought #human_rights #netherlands #religion #religious_tolerance #secularism #the_enlightenment

Freedom of Thought
Lower is better
149Myanmar (Burma)3.8
Asia Avg3.7
World Avg3.0
Uzbekistan comes 146th in the world when it comes to freethought.

Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Belief are upheld in Article 18 the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights33. It affirms that it is a basic human right that all people are free to change their beliefs and religion as they wish34. No countries voted against this (although eight abstained). This right was first recognized clearly in the policies of religious toleration of the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe in the post-enlightenment era35 of the 19th century. In democratic countries, freedom of belief and religion is now taken for granted36. In 2016 a study found that over 180 countries in the world had come to guarantee freedom of religion and belief37. The best countries at doing so are Taiwan, Belgium and The Netherlands7,38 and the worst: Afghanistan, N. Korea, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia7,39.

Long-term studies have shown that religious violence and persecution both decrease in cultures where religious freedom is guaranteed40. Despite this, there still are many who are strongly against freedom of belief34, including entire cultures and many individual communities of religious believers. Their alternative is that you are not free to believe what you want and they often state that you cannot change religion without being punished (often including the death penalty): this is bemoaned as one of the most dangerous elements of religion41 and "the denial of religious freedoms is inevitably intertwined with the denial of other freedoms"42 and the solution is, everywhere, to allow religious freedom and the freedom of belief.

For more, see:

5. Freedom of Belief and Religion

#religion_in_uzbekistan #uzbekistan

"Uzbekistan maintains some of the world´s most restrictive policies on the exercise of worship or belief"11 and sociologists Grim & Finke place Uzbekistan into the worst category, along with just 13 other countries43. It is dangerous for religious folk to congregate even in private; in 2017 April for example, "four Protestant men were sentenced to short prison terms on charges of meeting for worship in ahome"11.