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AKIPRESS.COM - The Government of Turkmenistan does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so, says 2017 Trafficking in Persons report prepared by the U.S. State Department.
Despite the lack of significant efforts, the government took some steps to address trafficking, including the continued implementation of its national action plan for trafficking in persons, adoption of a new anti-trafficking law in October 2016, and amending its criminal code to criminalize trafficking in persons. The government also allows for free legal assistance to those applying for recognition as trafficking victims.
However, the new criminal code provision defines the crime of trafficking in a manner not fully consistent with international law and has not yet been implemented. Further, the government continued to use the forced labor of reportedly tens of thousands of its adult citizens in the harvest during the reporting period. It actively dissuaded monitoring of the harvest by independent observers through harassment, detention, penalization, and, in some cases, physical abuse. The government did not fund any victim assistance programs, despite being required to do so under domestic law.
Turkmenistan is a source country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Forced labor constitutes Turkmenistan’s largest trafficking problem; in 2016, an ILO Committee of Experts’ report noted “with deep concern the widespread use of forced labor in cotton production.” To meet government-imposed quotas for the cotton harvest, local authorities require university students, private-sector institutions, soldiers, and public sector workers (including teachers, doctors, nurses, and others) to pick cotton without payment and under the threat of penalty. Government officials threatened public sector workers with dismissal, reduced work hours, or salary deductions. Authorities threatened farmers with loss of land if they did not meet government-imposed quotas. In addition, the government compulsorily mobilized teachers, doctors, and other civil servants for public works projects, such as planting trees. Workers in the construction sector are vulnerable to forced labor. Turkmen men and women are subjected to forced labor after migrating abroad for employment in the textile, agricultural, construction, and domestic service sectors.
Turkmen women are also subjected to sex trafficking abroad. Turkey, Russia, and India are the most frequent destinations of Turkmen victims, followed by other countries in the Middle East, South and Central Asia, and Europe. Residents of rural areas in Turkmenistan are most at risk of becoming trafficking victims, both within the country and abroad.