Tajikistan is a source and, to a lesser extent, destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor, and a source country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking. Extensive economic migration exposes Tajik men, women, and children to exploitation. Tajik men and women are subjected to forced labor in agriculture and construction in Russia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and, to a lesser extent, Afghanistan and Central Asia. Women and children from Tajikistan are subjected to forced prostitution primarily in the UAE and Russia, and also in Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, and within Tajikistan. These women sometimes transit through Russia, Kyrgyzstan, or Azerbaijan en route to their destination. Reports indicate an increase in kidnappings and transport of Tajik women and girls to Afghanistan for the purpose of forced marriage, which can lead to forced prostitution and debt bondage. Women are increasingly vulnerable to trafficking within the country and abroad after they are informally divorced from their absent migrant husbands and then need to provide for their families. Women engaged in prostitution in Tajikistan are vulnerable to exploitation by traffickers. There are reports from previous years of Tajik children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, including forced begging, within Tajikistan and in Afghanistan. Some Tajik children and some adults were potentially subjected to agricultural forced labor in Tajikistan—mainly during the fall 2013 cotton harvest—but this exploitation occurred to a lesser degree than in 2012. Afghan and Bangladeshi citizens are vulnerable to forced labor in Tajikistan.
The Government of Tajikistan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government continued to make progress in further reducing the use of forced labor in the annual cotton harvest. However, it continued to lack procedures to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations and refer them to existing protective services. The lack of adequate victim protection remained a serious problem in the country; budget limitations and high turnover in public jobs requiring specialized knowledge constrained such efforts.
Recommendations for Tajikistan:
Develop standard operating procedures for identifying trafficking victims, incorporating members of civil society into the process; improve interagency communication regarding human trafficking cases; dedicate funding or provide in-kind assistance specifically for combating trafficking in persons and victim assistance; protect victims of severe forms of trafficking in persons and encourage their assistance in the investigation and prosecution of such trafficking, including provisions for legal alternatives to their removal to countries in which they would face retribution or hardship; include NGOs in the drafting process of the national action plan; continue to enforce the prohibition against the forced labor of children in the annual cotton harvest by inspecting cotton fields during the harvest, in collaboration with local government officials and civil society organizations; vigorously investigate and prosecute suspected trafficking offenses, respecting due process, especially those involving forced labor, and convict and punish trafficking offenders; develop a formal victim identification and referral mechanism; ensure that sex trafficking victims are not penalized for prostitution offenses; finalize, pass, and implement draft anti-trafficking legislation to strengthen victim protection and clarify the definition of trafficking, ensuring that it fully covers child trafficking in the absence of buying and selling of victims; strengthen the capacity and awareness of Tajik embassies and consulates to proactively identify victims and refer them to protective services, including via repatriation; work with international organizations and NGOs to develop comprehensive protection and rehabilitation programs for trafficking victims, including psychological care and economic and social reintegration; impose stricter penalties on local officials who force individuals to participate in the cotton harvest; help develop and sponsor campaigns in rural areas to raise awareness about all forms of human trafficking; work to guarantee the safety of witnesses and victims during the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases; and improve the collection of anti-trafficking law enforcement data.
The Government of Tajikistan continued limited anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Article 130.1 of the criminal code prohibits both forced sexual exploitation and forced labor, and prescribes penalties of five to 15 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Article 167 prohibits the buying and selling of children, prescribing five to 12 years’ imprisonment. The law does not reach all forms of child trafficking; for example, crimes that do not include a financial transaction for the sale of a child may not come within the prohibition. The law may also include cases beyond the scope of trafficking; for example, if the purchase of a child is not undertaken for the purpose of exploitation. Some suspected trafficking offenders were investigated under the non-trafficking statute Article 132, prohibiting the recruitment of people for sexual or other exploitation; this article does not contain force, fraud, or coercion as a necessary element of the crime. In December 2013, the Tajik parliament added several amendments to the Criminal Code of Tajikistan that somewhat expanded the scope of prohibitions of trafficking crimes: Article 1302, “Use of Slavery”; Article 241.1, “Production and turnover of materials and products with pornographic pictures of children”; and Article 242, “Use of children (minors) with the purpose of production of pornographic materials and products.”
The government investigated and prosecuted four trafficking cases in 2013 under Article 130.1, an increase from the previous year. The government also reported one conviction of a trafficking offender who was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment under Article 130.1 in 2013, compared with no convictions in 2012. In January 2014, a court in the Sughd region sentenced a woman to five years’ imprisonment for “recruitment of people for exploitation” in violation of Article 132.3 of the Criminal Code; the woman was arrested in September 2013 after two women were removed from a flight to Dubai at Dushanbe airport on suspicion that they were victims of sex trafficking. The Tajik government compiled law enforcement data across a variety of agencies and might count trafficking cases multiple times. In response to forced child labor cases in the cotton harvest that were identified through monitoring by IOM, the government levied fines against farms, but did not take law enforcement action.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs continued to conduct an anti-trafficking course at its training academy. The Ministry of Education and Science conducted anti-trafficking courses for school administrators at its training center and the State University Law Department conducted anti-trafficking courses for law students. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking.
The government continued limited efforts to identify and assist trafficking victims. Authorities did not have a formal system for identifying and referring victims for assistance. The process to develop a formal, national referral mechanism, initiated by a working group in December 2011, remains incomplete. Because Tajik law enforcement officials did not differentiate between women in prostitution and sex trafficking victims and did not attempt to identify trafficking victims among women found in prostitution, the government likely penalized sex trafficking victims for prostitution crimes. During the reporting period, the government identified and referred 17 victims to the IOM for assistance in 2013, an increase from eight victims identified and referred in 2012. Civil society groups provided protective services to a total of 67 Tajik trafficking victims in 2013—including 48 victims of forced labor and 19 victims of sex trafficking—compared with a total of 74 victims in 2012. In July 2013, after an international organization and an NGO identified 15 Bangladeshi victims of forced labor, the Investigation Department of the Ministry of the Interior initiated a criminal case against the recruiter and the government facilitated visa extensions for the victims. The government indicated that benefits were not linked to whether a victim participated in a trial or whether there was a successful prosecution.
Although the national government did not provide financial support to any NGOs or other organizations that assisted trafficking victims, it continued to provide funding to cover utilities for two adjacent shelters in Dushanbe and a shelter in Khujand. Adult victims could leave the shelters voluntarily and unchaperoned. The government provided visa extensions to 15 victims of forced labor from Bangladesh.
The Government of Tajikistan continued its efforts to prevent human trafficking, including efforts to raise awareness about forced labor in the cotton harvest. The Tajik interagency anti-trafficking commission, in collaboration with Tajik NGOs, held roundtables and workshops on trafficking issues. The State Committee on Women and Family Affairs conducted an informational campaign that educated 3,700 school principals and deputy principals on the illegality of child labor in the cotton harvest. In summer 2013, the Ministry of Education disseminated letters to local governments stating that the use of child labor in the cotton harvest was unacceptable. Government-funded campaigns targeted potential victims, local authorities responsible for preventing trafficking, and school authorities who previously had organized the use of children in the cotton harvest. For the fourth year in a row, the government certified NGO representatives to monitor the fall cotton harvest and appointed a Ministry of Labor official to accompany IOM representatives during the harvest to meet local officials in cotton-growing districts to reinforce the prohibition on forced child labor.
The Committee for Youth, Sports, and Tourism and the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ anti-trafficking department jointly operated hotlines to receive calls from female victims of violence, assault, exploitation, and trafficking, as well as those reporting suspected cases. The anti-trafficking commission continued its quarterly anti-trafficking dialogue meetings attended by representatives of government ministries, international organizations, and local NGOs. However, a lack of communication between government agencies limited their ability to collect, consolidate, and disseminate information. The government provided Tajik diplomats posted abroad with guidance on combatting human trafficking and updates from the anti-trafficking commission regarding legislation and government decrees. Prostitution is illegal in Tajikistan and the government took efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex by investigating and prosecuting consumers of commercial sex.