INTERVIEW | Chairman of the Senate of Uzbekistan: for us, women’s rights are the main issue of state policy

ИНТЕРВЬЮ | Председатель Сената Узбекистана: для нас права женщин – главный вопрос государственной политики

Chairman of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis of Uzbekistan Tanzila Narbaeva. INTERVIEW | Chairman of the Senate of Uzbekistan: for us, women’s rights are the main issue of state policy Women

Uzbekistan was the first Central Asian country to criminalize domestic violence. Other measures are being taken at the legislative level to ensure women’s rights. The head of the Uzbek delegation at the 68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, Chairman of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis Tanzila Narbaeva spoke about this in an interview with Nargis Shekinskaya from the UN News Service.

Tanzila Narbaeva is also the chairperson of the Commission on Improving the Role of Women in Society, Gender Equality and Family. By the way, the interlocutor of the UN News Service is the first woman to head the Senate of the Parliament of Uzbekistan.

NS: What did the delegation of Uzbekistan bring to the 68th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women?  

Tanzila Narbaeva:Over the past five or six years, the issue of ensuring equal opportunities for women and men has been placed at the forefront of our entire government policy. Last year we updated our Constitution. The Constitution declares Uzbekistan a secular state, a social state. And issues of ensuring women’s rights are also reflected in our updated Constitution. Therefore, the topic of the 68th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women is very interesting to us. It is about creating the conditions, especially the economic conditions, to overcome inequality. Over the past five or six years, our country has adopted more than 40 legal acts that ensure the rights and interests of women.

We also adopted two main laws. This is a law on equal opportunities for women and men in Uzbekistan and a law against violence; we have criminalized domestic violence. These issues are relevant not only for Uzbekistan; we see that they have not lost their relevance for developed countries either.

We came primarily to provide our experience. And secondly, we came to listen to other countries and learn from them. In addition, we also came not only as a separate country, like Uzbekistan. We also speak on behalf of the countries of Central Asia, because on the initiative of Uzbekistan, the Dialogue of Women Leaders of Central Asian Countries was created in 2021, which included all five Central Asian states. Before our trip to New York, we held consultations with the Central Asian states, and Azerbaijan also joined them. And we came with our specific proposals, which I voiced here not only on behalf of Uzbekistan, but also on behalf of all Central Asian states and the Republic of Azerbaijan.

NS: I would like to dwell a little on the law on domestic violence. I know that many countries in the region use Uzbekistan as an example with this law. It must have been difficult to accept him?

TN:You are absolutely right. Because, you know, for many years in our countries, in the Central Asian countries of the post-Soviet space, we can say that this topic was taboo. In general, there was a closed topic that was attributed to our national traditions, mentality, that this perhaps corresponds to the character of the peoples of Central Asian or Muslim countries, so to speak. But in recent years, of course, people’s worldview has changed, and women began to really demand that their rights be respected. And the most important thing is that the leadership of our states perceive our appeals very positively and absolutely everyone in the leadership agrees that women and men should have equal rights and equal opportunities.

But Uzbekistan was the first in the Central Asian region to criminalize domestic violence. Now, of course, we are happy to share our experience with other countries. We hear that such a law is also being adopted in Kazakhstan. Such legislation is being considered in other states. But the adoption of this law is only half the battle. The most important thing is its implementation.

Of course, it was very difficult to pass this law. We, the working group, worked on it for a whole year. And, of course, people who sit in certain positions, male leaders, some of them did not want to accept these norms. But, nevertheless, everyone had to understand and accept what we put forward. Therefore, this law was adopted in April last year, and it is already in effect.

We carry out extensive propaganda and explanatory work among the population. Concepts such as physical violence existed before. But issues of economic violence, issues of psychological violence were not reflected in our legal acts. These concepts have been introduced, and appropriate explanatory work is being carried out among employers and in families.

You probably know about the institutions of “makhalla” (institutions of local self-government – editor’s note). We have 9442 mahallas in our country. That is, the entire population, 37 million people, lives in such mahallas. And they have created structures that receive wages from the budget and are responsible for issues, first of all, of the well-being of each family, ensuring employment, for working with women, with youth, and for ensuring law and order. Through these structures we are doing a lot of work to clarify our legislative norms and on issues of violence.

The employment of our population and the employment of women is also a top priority. If women want to work in the public or private sector, they can find a job at will. But, besides this, in our traditional families, many women themselves want to work close to home, sometimes at home. And today very great opportunities are provided for these women. Literally on the eve of March 8, our President Shavkat Mirziyoyev announced that 15 trillion soums (more than a billion dollars – editor’s note) are being allocated to ensure the employment of women.

NS: The UN also talks a lot about the fact that women themselves should participate in decision-making, that is, occupy leadership positions. And you are a shining example. What would you say to young girls who are now embarking on this path and want, say, to succeed in the political or economic spheres?

TN:In Uzbekistan, there used to be a lag in this matter. 6-7 years ago, only 15 percent of parliament members were women, but today the figure is 32 percent, which is the result of deliberate work to prepare women for leadership. And we don’t want to stop at this indicator.

We have changed our legislation – previously only a third of the party list in elections had to be made up of women, today political parties must ensure that women make up at least 40 percent.

And, of course, the voice of women should be heard during the resolution of some controversial situations, during the distribution of budget funds, resources, and during the discussion of other socially significant issues.

NS: Another painful topic for our region is early marriage. How is this situation in Uzbekistan?

TN: In general, yes, this problem exists, and not only in our Central Asian states. This phenomenon exists in many countries around the world. In our country, the legal age of marriage for girls was previously 17 years, and for boys – 18. But just a few years ago, we made changes to the legislation and raised the age for girls to 18 years.

In addition, previously mayors and local authorities were allowed to lower the age of marriage under certain circumstances. But now this issue has been reconsidered. The most important thing is that it is not just legislatively revised, people’s thinking is changing. Parents of girls used to believe that it was not necessary for a girl to be given a good education or profession; anyway, she would go to another family. The most important thing is the boy, the breadwinner of the family. This stereotype has taken root in people’s thinking, but in recent years the situation has been changing, as people see successful women, they see examples of the fact that women can work and study on an equal basis with men.

Now the average age of marriage for boys is already 26-27 years old, for girls – 23-24 years old. We see from statistics that there is growth. But, of course, we would not want, as in some completely developed countries, girls not to think about marriage, about starting a family. We believe that this age – after 20 years and before 30 years – is the most optimal for starting a family and having children. And our state is working in this direction.


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