From Mon Jul 16 22:32:53 2001
Date: Sun, 15 Jul 2001 17:48:59 -0500 (CDT)
From: Human Rights Watch <>
Subject: Uzbekistan Turns its Back on Battered Women
Article: 122856
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Uzbekistan Turns its Back on Battered Women

Human Rights Watch, 10 July 2001

Uzbek Women Forced to Remain in Violent Marriages

(New York, July 10, 2001) Uzbek women battered by their husbands have little hope of protection from the government, Human Rights Watch charged in a report released today.

Rather than protect them from violence, Uzbek authorities routinely force women to remain in violent marriages, blocking their access to divorce and strong-arming them to return to their husbands.

The 57-page report, Sacrificing Women to Save the Family?: State Response to Domestic Violence in Uzbekistan, is based on interviews conducted in May and June 2000 with victims of domestic violence, women's rights activists, along with dozens of lawyers, judges, police, doctors, and government officials at the national, province, district, village, and mahalla (local community government) levels. Researchers focused on rural areas, where more than 60 percent of the population lives.

The report documents the Uzbek government's utter failure to investigate and prosecute domestic violence against women. State policies intended to save the family and suppress divorce rates have left women unable to depend on police or other officials for protection from violence and exacerbated their vulnerability to continued beatings in the home.

Women simply can't escape the violence, said Elizabeth Andersen, director of the Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights Watch. Beaten, raped, and humiliated by their own husbands, they turn to community authorities to protect their rights. But those officials condone the violence by telling the women that they themselves are to blame, and that they should just go home to their violent husbands.

Human Rights Watch found that Uzbek officials rarely criminally prosecute husbands who beat their wives. Instead, local authorities, under orders from central government officials, attempt to reconcile married couples, often sacrificing the women's safety and rights for low divorce statistics.

Batterers enjoy near impunity for their violence, often facing criminal penalties only if their victims commit suicide. In one of the cases documented in the report, a twenty-year-old woman committed suicide by drinking vinegar concentrate.

Women suffer doubly, said Andersen, first at the hands of their husbands, and then at the hands of the state. This has to stop. Human Rights Watch called on the Uzbek government to prosecute cases of domestic violence vigorously, to introduce criminal penalties for stalking and marital rape, and to ensure that women who report domestic violence have ready access to the courts and to social services.