TAJIKISTAN: Tier 2
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, in neighboring Central Asian countries. Women and children from Tajikistan are subjected to sex trafficking primarily in the UAE and Russia, and also in Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, and Afghanistan, as well as within Tajikistan. Women are increasingly vulnerable to trafficking after they are informally divorced from their absent migrant husbands and need to provide for their families. Reports indicate Tajik women and girls are transported to Afghanistan for the purpose of forced marriage, which can lead to sex trafficking and debt bondage. Reports from previous years indicate Tajik children are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, including forced begging, in Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Tajik children and adults may be subjected to agricultural forced labor in Tajikistan—mainly during the fall cotton harvest. 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. In 2014, the government adopted a new law, Counteracting Trafficking in Persons and Providing Support to Victims of Trafficking in Persons, which created a legal framework for designating a person a “victim of trafficking” and established programs to protect and provide services to such victims. However, the government continued to lack procedures to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations and remained unable to provide adequate victim protection services. In particular, budget limitations and high turnover of officials with the necessary specialized knowledge to assist trafficking victims constrained such efforts. Nonetheless, the government modestly increased its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, investigating and prosecuting an increased number of cases in 2014.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR TAJIKISTAN:
Develop standard operating procedures for identifying trafficking victims; vigorously investigate and prosecute suspected trafficking offenses, respecting due process, and increase convictions of traffickers; dedicate funding or provide in-kind assistance specifically for combating trafficking in persons and offering comprehensive victim assistance; continue to enforce the prohibition against the forced labor of children in the annual cotton harvest by inspecting fields during the harvest, in collaboration with local officials and civil society organizations; protect victims and encourage their assistance in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers; train law enforcement to screen women in prostitution for trafficking victimization and ensure sex trafficking victims are not penalized for prostitution offenses; improve the collection of anti-trafficking law enforcement data; ensure that the inter-ministerial commission meets quarterly to continue coordinating governmental anti-trafficking efforts; and provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for diplomatic personnel to prevent their engagement or facilitation of trafficking crimes.
The government modestly increased its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Article 130.1 of the 2004 criminal code prohibits all forms of trafficking, including the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced labor. The article 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 130.1 fails, however, to criminalize the prostitution of minors as trafficking without regard to the use of coercive means, as required by international law. Article 132 criminalizes recruitment for sexual or other exploitation if done by fraud—but not if done by coercion—and carries a maximum penalty of five years. Contrary to international law, it also does not criminalize child sex trafficking in the absence of force, fraud, or coercion. Article 167 prohibits the buying and selling of children, prescribing five to 15 years’ imprisonment; this provision goes beyond the scope of trafficking as it does not require that exploitation be the intent of the transaction. Several other amendments to the criminal code include trafficking crimes, for example, article 130.2, “Use of Slave Labor,” and article 241.2, “Use of minors with the purpose of production of pornographic materials and products.”
The government investigated 28 and prosecuted 22 cases under Article 130.1 in 2014, an increase from four cases investigated and prosecuted in 2013. Trafficking cases may have also been investigated and prosecuted under other penal code articles. There was one conviction under Article 130.1, the same number of convictions as in 2013, with a sentence of eight years’ imprisonment. The government compiled law enforcement data across a variety of agencies and may have counted trafficking cases multiple times. The government reported levying fines in 2014 against three farms for forced child labor during the cotton harvest, but did not take law enforcement action. Endemic corruption inhibited law enforcement action during the year; however, the government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government continued modest efforts to identify and assist trafficking victims. In July 2014, the government adopted a new law that provided an extensive definition of trafficking and other concepts, some of which appear unrelated to the crime of trafficking as addressed in the criminal code, which may create confusion regarding victim identification. The law also outlined victim services, government standards for service delivery among providers, including governmental agencies and NGOs, and a national referral mechanism. Authorities remained without a formal system for identifying and referring victims for assistance during the reporting period, as the referral mechanism remained under review. As law enforcement officials did not attempt to proactively identify trafficking victims among women in prostitution, it was possible officials detained or penalized sex trafficking victims for prostitution crimes. During the reporting period, the government identified and referred 26 victims to international organizations for assistance, an increase from 17 victims in 2013. Civil society groups provided protective services to a total of 78 Tajik trafficking victims in 2014, including 53 victims of forced labor, 23 victims of sex trafficking, and two victims subjected to both.
The government did not directly provide services to victims; rather it relied on civil society organizations, which provided medical and psycho-social care, legal and vocational training and assisted in family reunification. Although the government did not provide financial support to any organizations assisting trafficking victims, it continued to fund the utilities for two shelters in Dushanbe and one shelter in Khujand. The 2014 law does not link victim benefits to a victim’s participation in a trial and provides victim services regardless of legal status or prior consent to participate in trafficking activities. The law also provides that foreign victims have the right to request temporary legal residency, which can be extended for one year following the completion of a criminal case. The government continued to conduct anti-trafficking courses for officials and school administrators, respectively.
The government continued efforts to prevent human trafficking. The Ministry of Education (MOE) disseminated letters to local governments highlighting prohibitions against the use of child labor in the cotton harvest. Government-funded campaigns targeted potential victims, local officials responsible for preventing trafficking, and school authorities who had previously mobilized children in the cotton harvest. The Committee on Women and Family Affairs continued to conduct informational campaigns to educate school administrators on the illegality of child labor in the cotton harvest and the MOE conducted inspections of schools in cotton-growing districts to ensure students remained in attendance. Due to lack of funding from traditional foreign government sources, non-governmental entities did not monitor the cotton harvest for forced child labor, which had been the standard practice for the previous four years.
The 2014 law established a framework for the government to address trafficking in persons, including establishing a national anti-trafficking committee and directing the committee to develop a national plan. The government drafted, but has not yet approved, its 2014-2016 national action plan. The inter-ministerial commission, tasked with coordinating governmental anti-trafficking efforts, has not met since September 2013 and, from June 2014 through the end of the reporting period, its chairmanship remained vacant, hindering its oversight of national efforts and ministerial cooperation. The Committee for Youth, Sports and Tourism and the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ anti-trafficking department jointly operated a hotline to receive calls from female victims of crime, including trafficking. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel; however, the government provided officials updates from the anti-trafficking commission regarding legislation and government decrees. Tajik law requires that entities engaged in labor recruitment abroad obtain licenses from migration authorities. The government did not fine or revoke the licenses of companies using fraudulent recruitment practices. The Tajik Migration Service provided migrants with information on migration and the risk of trafficking prior to their departure abroad. In partnership with the migration service, lawyers employed by an international organization provided legal consultation on migration and trafficking for victims at migration service support centers. Prostitution is illegal in Tajikistan and the government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex by investigating and prosecuting consumers of commercial sex. The government did not report any efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor.