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, 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 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. Some women who traveled to Syria or Iraq with promises of marriage were instead sold into sexual slavery. Tajik women and girls are transported to Afghanistan for the purpose of forced marriage, which can lead to sex trafficking and debt bondage. 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 meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government made increased law enforcement efforts, initiating prosecution of 24 suspected traffickers and convicting 10. The government made slow progress in the implementation of its 2014 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. The government offered training for government officials on identifying, investigating, and prosecuting trafficking crimes, but continued to lack procedures to identify trafficking victims proactively 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 increased its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, investigating and prosecuting an increased number of cases in 2015.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR TAJIKISTAN:
While respecting due process, vigorously investigate and prosecute suspected trafficking offenders, including officials complicit in trafficking, and convict and appropriately sentence perpetrators; develop standard operating procedures for identifying trafficking victims; dedicate funding or provide in-kind assistance specifically for combating human trafficking and offering comprehensive victim assistance; protect victims and encourage their assistance in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers; 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 NGOs; train law enforcement to screen men and women in prostitution for signs of trafficking and ensure sex trafficking victims are not penalized for prostitution offenses; improve the collection of anti-trafficking law enforcement data; approve a national action plan and national referral mechanism for assisting trafficking victims; ensure the inter-ministerial commission meets quarterly to continue coordinating governmental anti-trafficking efforts; and provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for diplomatic personnel and other government employees, including law enforcement officers, border guards, and customs officials, to prevent their engagement or facilitation of trafficking crimes.
The government increased its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Article 130.1 of the 2003 criminal code, amended in 2004 and 2008, 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 does not, however, 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 through 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.” In 2015, Tajikistan’s Inter-ministerial Commission to Combat Trafficking in Persons led a working group to harmonize and ensure uniformity between existing legislation and the 2014 law, more clearly delineate interagency responsibilities, enable effective implementation of the 2014 law, and establish a state fund for trafficking victim services.
The government investigated 25 cases, involving 39 suspected traffickers, and prosecuted 13 cases, involving 24 suspected traffickers in 2015, an increase from 28 suspected traffickers investigated and 22 prosecuted in 2014. Courts convicted 10 traffickers, with sentences ranging from six months’ to 12.5 years’ imprisonment and with a median sentence of six years’ imprisonment, compared with one conviction in 2014. Endemic corruption inhibited law enforcement action during the year and facilitated trafficking across borders and through inspection points; 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. The government made slow progress in implementing the 2014 Law on Counteracting Trafficking in Persons and Providing Support to Victims of Trafficking in Persons, enacted during the previous reporting period, which extensively defined human trafficking; outlined victim services and government standards for service delivery among providers, including governmental agencies and NGOs; and created a national referral mechanism. In partnership with NGOs, the government delivered training for officials on victim-centered approaches to identifying, investigating, and providing services to trafficking victims. However, these services will not be available to victims until existing legislation is amended to align with the 2014 law.
Authorities remained without a formal system for identifying and referring victims to assistance during the reporting period, as the referral mechanism remained under review. Officials sometimes temporarily detained sex trafficking victims, but later released and referred them for assistance. Furthermore, as law enforcement officials did not attempt to identify trafficking victims proactively among men and women in prostitution, it was possible officials prosecuted or penalized sex trafficking victims for prostitution crimes. During the reporting period, the government identified and referred eight victims to international organizations for assistance, a decrease from 26 victims in 2014. Civil society groups and international organizations provided protective services to 56 Tajik trafficking victims in 2015, including eight victims of sex trafficking.
The government did not directly provide shelter or services to victims; it relied on NGOs, 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 funded the utilities for two shelters, one in Khujand, which closed in September 2015, and another in Dushanbe. The government provided free basic education and vocational training to trafficking victims through its adult training centers. Despite provisions in the 2014 law for security measures for trafficking victims, the government did not keep victims’ personal information confidential or provide protection for victim witnesses and their advocates. The law provides foreign victims the right to request temporary legal residency, which can be extended for one year following the completion of a criminal case. 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 government continued efforts to prevent human trafficking. The Ministry of Education continued to disseminate letters to local governments highlighting prohibitions against the use of child labor in the cotton harvest and conducted inspections of schools in cotton-growing districts to ensure students remained in attendance. Government-funded campaigns targeted potential victims, local officials responsible for preventing trafficking, and school authorities who had previously mobilized children in the cotton harvest. NGOs monitored the cotton harvest in 17 districts, and did not report any evidence of forced child labor.
The 2014 law established a framework for the government to address human trafficking, and a national anti-trafficking commission tasked with coordinating the government’s anti-trafficking efforts and developing a national plan. In May 2015, the government appointed a chair to the commission, which held its first dialogue in October 2015, after nearly two years of inactivity. The government drafted, but has not yet approved, its 2014-2016 national action plan. 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 continued to conduct anti-trafficking courses for officials, school administrators, and law students. The government supported training on victim identification and protection for consular officers, but did not provide any other anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel. Tajik law requires entities engaged in labor recruitment abroad obtain licenses from migration authorities. The Tajik Migration Service provided migrants with information on the risk of trafficking prior to travel 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. 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.