Area: 447,400 sq km
Date of independence: September 1, 1991
Ethnic minorities: Russian (14 %) and Tajik (4 %), others (7.7%)
Religion: Islam (88% of population)
Uzbekistan is the only country at the heart of Central Asia, neighboring with all the other four Central Asian countries. Its territory is nearly the size of Sweden with vast diverse terrain from Tian Shan Mountains in the southeast and Kyzylkum Desert in the north and fertile lands of the Fergana valley in the east from Kyzylkum. Uzbekistan is home to more than thirty million people, making up the biggest population of Central Asia.
The territory of present-day Uzbekistan was conquered by Russia in the late 19th century, while the Uzbek Socialist Republic was established in 1924. Uzbekistan was the main producer of cotton, which was achieved at the cost of water supply depletion that left lands and Aral Sea degraded and dried certain rivers.
Uzbekistan has gained its independence in 1991 and was ruled by the authoritarian leader, Islam Karimov who was atop of the power since 1989 until his death in 2016. In 2016, after the death of Islam Karimov, the former Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev took over the office. Mirziyoyev took concrete steps to improve the country’s human rights record. He also improved relations with neighbors and introduced wide-ranging economic, judicial, and social reforms. As a result, the economy of Uzbekistan became slightly diversified and its dependence on the cotton monoculture was decreased. Despite the new president’s attempts to bring about positive changes the country, human rights violations, torture, politically-motivated prosecutions, and forced labor still remain prevalent.
As of 2020, the total number of registered civil society organizations in the country exceeded 10,000. Most of these NGOs were created by the state, which allows a rigid control of NGOs’ activities. Local community members are obliged to become members of state-funded NGOs, while being led by state appointed officials. Self-initiated NGOs do not have sufficient organizational capacity and resources to function. International funding is tightly controlled and only a number of self-registered NGOs working with local communities manage to receive funding from the outside. The number of existing NGOs and high associational level among the population allows Uzbekistan to fulfill certain criteria of international organizations that Uzbekistan is part of.
Gender-based violence is frequently occurring in Uzbekistan, placing women and girls in a very vulnerable position. A law incriminating gender based violence was adopted in August 2019 (and signed in September of the same year), however, the patriarchal norms in the society in Uzbekistan have an important role in mainstreaming gender based violence, often downplaying the importance of testimonials of such, as well as blaming gender based violence on women or girls for provoking a man, either by the type of clothing worn or for questioning male authority. The society in Uzbekistan is further marked by traditional values and norms, where women and girls are perceived as passive actors subject to male authority. An example of this is the reconciliation period which is in place when a woman seeks a divorce, which in practice means that the authorities in Uzbekistan coerce women into staying with their husbands for a period of three months before a divorce may be approved. Arranged marriages are almost universal practice in Uzbekistan, which are often carried out within tight-knit communities with religion leaders involved. It is often the case that marriages are considered legitimate only if they are bound by nikkah ceremony, while ignoring the legal procedures of it. This puts women in extremely vulnerable situation since they are not usually entitled for any inheritance from their families, while the new family usually refuses to have any bonding contacts or agreements.
Uzbekistan ratified CEDAW in 1995, while the optional protocol to the convention was never signed. In practice CEDAW does not have a strong effect on the situation of women in Uzbekistan – with, or without the optional protocol to the convention. On the 2nd of September, 2019, the president of Uzbekistan signed the law on protection of women in Uzbekistan. In September of the same year, he also signed a law that guarantees equal rights and opportunities for men and women. The latter law is said to be counter-effective to the law on protection of women in Uzbekistan in a way that it allows the state authorities to justify their inaction when women file cases. As for the representation in state agencies, women composed only 3.9% of the cabinet of ministers, 12% of the Senate of Uzbekistan, 20% of the legislative chamber of Oliy Majlis (the Parliament of Uzbekistan).