UZBEKISTAN (Tier 2 Watch List)

Uzbekistan is a source country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically conditions of forced labor, and women and girls in forced prostitution. Uzbek men are forced to labor in Kazakhstan and Russia in the construction, cotton, and tobacco industries. Women and girls are subjected to forced prostitution in the U.A.E., India, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkey, Thailand, Israel, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, China, Indonesia, and also within Uzbekistan. Men and women from Uzbekistan are subjected to involuntary domestic servitude and forced labor in the agricultural and construction industries in Russia. Domestic forced labor remains prevalent during the annual cotton harvest, when many school-age children, college students, and adults are forced to pick cotton. During the 2009 fall harvest, school children were forced to pick cotton in at least 8 of 14 regions in the country.

The Government of Uzbekistan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these efforts, Uzbekistan did not work to eliminate the use of forced child and forced adult labor in the annual cotton harvest, however, and did not make efforts to investigate, prosecute, or convict government officials complicit in the use of forced labor during the harvest; therefore, Uzbekistan is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the third consecutive year. The government continued to set a quota for national cotton production and paid farmers artificially low prices for the cotton produced; making it almost impossible for Uzbek farmers to pay wages that would attract a consenting workforce. Provincial governors were held personally responsible for ensuring that the quota was met; they in turn passed along this pressure to local officials, who organized and forced school children, university students, faculty, and other adult government employees to pick cotton to ensure that the national quota was met. The Government of Uzbekistan made strides in addressing transnational sex and labor trafficking, greatly increasing the number of criminal prosecutions in this area and conducting comprehensive awareness campaigns about the dangers of trafficking. The government also opened a shelter to assist victims of both sex and labor trafficking in November 2009 and increased the number of victims identified.

Recommendations for Uzbekistan: Take substantive action to end the use of forced labor during the annual cotton harvest; use Article 135 to prosecute, convict, and criminally punish government officials who force children and adults to pick cotton during the annual harvest; allow international experts to conduct an independent assessment of the use of forced labor during the annual cotton harvest; investigate, prosecute, convict, and sentence government officials complicit in trafficking; provide financial or in-kind support to anti-trafficking NGOs to provide assistance and shelter for victims; take steps to establish additional shelters outside of Tashkent; consider requiring officials from the Ministry of Labor and Social Responsibility or the Ministry of Education to monitor school attendance and ensure that schools are not closed during the harvest as means to avoid the forced labor of school children; ensure that victims are not punished for acts committed as a result of being trafficked; and continue efforts to improve the collection of law enforcement trafficking data.


The government reported improved law enforcement efforts; however, it did not demonstrate efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, or criminally punish government officials complicit in trafficking, particularly those who forced children and adults to pick cotton during the 2009 harvest. Article 135 of the criminal code prohibits both forced prostitution and forced labor, and prescribes penalties of 3 to 12 years' imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In 2009, law enforcement agencies reported conducting 1,978 trafficking investigations, compared with 900 investigations involving 670 suspects reported in 2008. Authorities prosecuted 815 trafficking cases in 2009. Authorities reported convicting approximately 1,198 trafficking offenders in 2009, compared with 400 in 2008. The government reported that 960 convicted trafficking offenders were sentenced to an average of six years' imprisonment, compared with approximately 300 convicted offenders sentenced to some time in prison in 2008. In 2009, 238 convicted offenders served no time in prison compared with approximately 100 convicted trafficking offenders in 2008. The government did not effectively enforce Article 135 to prohibit the use of forced labor of children and adults during the annual cotton harvest.

The government did not investigate, prosecute, convict, or criminally punish any government officials for their involvement in forcing children and adults to work the fields during the annual cotton harvest. There were reports of border guards and low-level police officers involved in the fraudulent issuance of exit visas and individual police officers accepting bribes from traffickers. In 2009, the government reported that one government official was investigated for trafficking complicity; however, he received an administrative rather than a criminal penalty.


The government continued to improve assistance and protection for victims of trafficking. In November 2009, the government opened its first shelter for trafficking victims in Tashkent and assisted 48 victims during the reporting period. Privately-funded NGOs ran two additional shelters in the country. Local observers described a need for additional trafficking shelters in Karakalpakstan and the Ferghana valley. The government identified 4,660 victims – including 4,016 men and 644 women, a significant increase from 2,941 victims identified in 2008. NGOs and the government assisted at least 459 victims in 2009 – including 337 women 99 men, and 23 children – with services and repatriation, compared with 342 victims assisted by NGOs in 2008. The 2008 comprehensive anti-trafficking law and the 2008 anti-trafficking national action plan both mandate that victims receive immediate and long-term assistance; victims assisted at the new government shelter are allowed to stay up to 90 days. Although local governments are tasked with providing longer-term reintegration assistance, in general they did not have the resources to provide this care. NGOs reported improved government efforts to refer victims for assistance. The government reported that a significant number of identified victims assisted law enforcement in trafficking investigations in 2009; however, many unidentified victims were still afraid to provide information or cooperate with law enforcement out of cultural shame or fear of retribution by their traffickers, and the government did not have a victim-witness protection program. Per Uzbek law, however, these victims are supposed to be immune from prosecution under charges related to the trafficking. Some identified Uzbek victims were punished for illegal migration offenses.


The Uzbek government sustained its transnational labor and sex trafficking awareness efforts; however, it did not make significant efforts to prevent the use of forced labor of adults and children during the annual cotton harvest. Although the government made some efforts to condemn the use of forced child labor during the annual harvest – including the Ministry of Education's request of school directors to certify they would not force students to participate in the harvest – school closings were reported in a majority of districts. Additionally, the government did not take measurable steps to reduce adult forced labor in the cotton sector. The government did not respond to the international community's calls for an independent assessment of the use of forced labor during the 2009 cotton harvest, although it permitted UNICEF to conduct some monitoring of forced child labor during the fall harvest. State-run media that focused on other forms of trafficking included television broadcasts, public service announcements on television and radio, articles in newspapers, billboards, and posters displayed in towns throughout the country.


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