COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS CONSIDERS REPORT OF TURKMENISTAN
21 November 2011
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has considered the initial report of Turkmenistan on that country’s implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Introducing the report, Batyr Arniyazov, First Deputy Minister of Justice, said new legislation in Turkmenistan relevant to the implementation of the Covenant included a Labour Code, Education Code, Criminal Code and laws on equality of women and combating trafficking. An Interdepartmental Commission ensured fulfilment of obligations under human rights conventions and international law by coordinating Government bodies at all levels. The National Programme of Turkmenistan aimed to transform social and economic development in cities, villages and the entire country, and encompassed health, sports, child development, provision of safe drinking water, sanitation, free primary and secondary education for all, and development of pharmaceuticals to create cheaper medicines. Over 70 per cent of State expenditure was spent on social services. Turkmenistan had the lowest priced petrol and fuels in the world, citizens were entitled to free gas, electricity, water and salt, and housing rent levels were token. Turkmenistan was a welfare state with a market economy. It had a high level of State-owned property and State involvement in the economy, and aimed to ensure well-being for all people at all levels of society, while protecting the most vulnerable.
Committee Experts asked questions about implementation and public awareness of the Covenant, and also on plans to open a national human rights institution. Experts requested information on the GDP, unemployment rates, gender discrimination and stereotypes, the situation of ethnic minorities, judicial independence and how the national budget was divided up. Education, vocational training, access to clean water and sanitation, the health service and drug and tobacco addiction were other issues raised, in addition to human trafficking, access to the Internet and cultural opportunities for ethnic minorities.
In concluding remarks, Ariranga Govindasamy Pillay, Committee Chairperson, said the Committee had encountered difficulties assessing the initial report due to the lack of relevant statistics, and hoped the next report would include disaggregated and relevant data. While the State party was undergoing substantive reforms, it should fully take into account its obligations under the Covenant when it implemented them.
Also in concluding remarks, Mr. Arniyazov thanked the Committee for their recommendations and critical comments, and expressed appreciation for the even-handed and constructive dialogue, which would be carefully analyzed and taken on board.
The Turkmenistan delegation consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the Committee on the Economic and Social Policy of the Parliament, the Ministry of Economy and Development, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, the Ministry of Health and the Pharmaceutical Industry, the Ministry of Culture and TV Broadcasting, the National Institute of Democracy and Human Rights and the Permanent Mission of Turkmenistan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The next public meeting of the Committee will be at 3 p.m. on Monday, 21 November when it will begin consideration of the combined second and third periodic reports of Cameroon
The initial report of Turkmenistan (E/C.12/TKM/1) states that Turkmenistan acceded to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1996. In 2007 a permanent Interdepartmental Commission was established on compliance with Turkmenistan’s international human rights obligations. Turkmenistan declared independence in 1991, and the 1992 Constitution declared that Turkmenistan was a democratic, secular State based on the rule of law, in the form of a Presidential republic. The economy is based on market principles, and Turkmenistan determined its financial policy, monetary and banking systems and military policy independently. The national and cultural re-emergence of the Turkmen people is promoted, and the Government ensures the State language is Turkmen. The Constitution prohibits all forms of discrimination, provides the rights and freedoms available to citizens to all aliens and stateless persons present in Turkmenistan, and extends the right of asylum to foreign citizens and stateless persons. The principle of gender equality is an integral part of the legal system, and the 2007 Women’s Equality Act aims to eradicate all forms of discrimination against women.
In 2007 the Social Security Code was adopted, which provides social security to the elderly, sick, disabled, large families, orphans, veterans and other parties. Turkmenistan is a socially orientated State whose domestic policies include the provision of free gas, electricity, water, table salt, medical care and free primary, secondary and higher education. There are token charges for municipal services, telephone services and public transport. Much importance is attached to providing accommodation to people; rents for State housing are a token amount, loans are provided to house builders and the Government is building more State housing. There are large-scale construction projects to build more healthcare facilities, and under the Constitution citizens have the right to health protection, including the use of healthcare centres. All citizens have the right to freedom of artistic, scientific and technical creation and the State promotes the development of science, culture, art, folk art, sport and tourism, while the President is currently reforming the activities of the media, especially radio and television, and the national opera, cinema, library network and the State Circus, including rebuilding of the State Circus building in Ashgabat.
Presentation of the Report
BATYR ARNIYAZOV, First Deputy Minister of Justice, said as a result of far-sighted reforms introduced by the President of Turkmenistan since 2007 human rights were a priority and the State Party aimed to fully implement all rights enshrined within the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Economic, social and cultural rights were enshrined in the constitution of Turkmenistan and legislated for in the law. New legislation included the Labour Code, Education Code, Criminal Code and laws on equality of women and combating trafficking. The Interdepartmental Commission, which was established in 2007, ensured fulfilment of obligations under human rights conventions and international law by coordinating Government bodies at national, regional and local levels. In the last 20 years of independence Turkmenistan had seen great economic success and GDP had grown threefold, to approximately $16,000 per capita. That translated to a growth in wages, employment, industrial and social development, for example the huge amounts of construction work creating new infrastructure, such as roads and housing.
The National Programme of Turkmenistan, which ran until 2020, aimed to transform social and economic development in cities, villages and the entire country. Within the national programme were sub-programmes focused on areas such as health, sports centres, child development, clean and safe drinking water, sanitation and development of pharmaceuticals to create cheaper medicines. In March 2007 the Code on Social Security was adopted, which created a more progressive pensions system, and measures to protect pensioners, veterans, invalids, mothers and children. Over 27,000 people in Turkmenistan received social benefits. In October 2008 Turkmenistan ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol: the social policy provided for an economic climate which allowed everyone to be an active member of society.
The economic policy of Turkmenistan concentrated on achieving high growth rates, high employment, high investment in innovative economies and a stable macro-economic climate. Turkmenistan was a welfare state with a market economy. It had a high level of State-owned property and State involvement in the economy, and aimed to ensure well-being for all people at all levels of society, while protecting the most vulnerable. More than 70 per cent of State expenditure was spent on social services. Turkmenistan had the lowest priced petrol and fuels in the world and its citizens had free use of gas, electricity, water and salt, while housing rent levels were purely token. Free secondary and primary education for all was guaranteed. The national health services focused on mothers and children, reducing child mortality (including a World Health Organization vaccination programme), protecting maternal health, strengthening family ties and improving medical services. Malaria had been fully eliminated, while other diseases have been radically reduced. New family doctor and voluntary medial insurance systems had been successful. An independent, neutral Turkmenistan continued to progress but looked forward to hearing – and implementing – the recommendations of the Committee.
Questions from Experts
An Expert noted that Turkmenistan had succeeded to the Covenant in 1996 but only presented its initial report 12 years later, which was ten years late. He asked about how the Covenant had been implemented so far, and what steps had been taken to increase public and official awareness of the Covenant, including within ethnic minorities in their native languages?
Why had some recommendations from the last Universal Periodic Review of Turkmenistan not been supported by the State party, especially when they were in line with economic, social and cultural rights? One recommendation was to change the Propiska system of residence permits, which severely restricted people’s access to housing, health care and other benefits. What was Turkmenistan’s attitude to international recommendations?
Was there a national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles, and had the Commission mentioned in the delegation’s opening speech replaced the human rights department in the President’s Office?
Reports said that the independence of the judiciary was not guaranteed, and the President had a lot of sway when it came to judicial rulings, or was even playing the role of the judiciary himself. Problems of corruption had also been identified. What was the real state of affairs? The President pardoned many people following a proposal from the national human rights committee to grant a pardon, which seemed unthinkable. Was that true? Could the delegation comment on the situation of political detainees?
An Expert asked about minorities that had been relocated from their homes. He said there was a new word to describe discrimination of ethnic minorities in Turkmenistan: Turkmenization, which meant policies of forced assimilation. The Expert said that alarmed him, and clearly breached rights contained in the Covenant, such as the rights to equal treatment, work, education and cultural identity.
On women’s equality, without fighting against the strong gender role stereotypes it was impossible for women to enjoy equal economic rights. Was the Government aware of the gender stereotypes in society and what were they doing to address them?
Were emergency powers or martial law available to the Government of Turkmenistan, and could they suspend the economic, social and cultural rights of people? Was Sharia law reflected in the national law?
The report gave a clear picture of where Turkmenistan was going, especially after the breakdown of the Soviet Union. An Expert said the Government had to transfer its income from oil and gas exports into real social advancements for the country. He asked the delegation to clarify their calculations of GDP, including current levels.
Response from the Delegation
Responding to these questions and comments, a member of the delegation said that Turkmenistan was a full member of the United Nations and the international community, and wanted a constructive dialogue with the Committee. Since 2007 the Government had had the task of bringing national legislation into line with international legislation, and a working group attached to the Parliament oversaw that. Turkmenistan had every respect for the recommendations of international treaty bodies, analyzed them, were delighted to receive international help and did try to implement recommendations.
The National Institution for Democracy and Human Rights, which was attached to the President’s Office, carried out many activities, including making recommendations, but it gave particular attention to applied scientific research, application of democracy and the legislation of rights. It was not a human rights institution but a scientific research unit.
The institute dealt with publishing literature on human rights, both in Turkmen and Russian, such as documents on women’s rights and copies of all international treaties entered into by Turkmenistan. An example of programmes that the Institution had carried out was a current one, with the United Nations Fund for Children (UNICEF), to review and improve the rights of children with disabilities in the country. The Institution also ran workshops, awareness-raising seminars and information campaigns on the Covenant and rights therein, not just in the capital city but throughout the country, which included training new teachers who could go out and hold workshops themselves.
The Propiska system was an essential way of knowing where people resided. There was compulsory military service, and the Government needed to know where every conscript lived. People were free to live where they liked, but by being registered they had access to many social benefits such as healthcare and education. Also there may be complaints lodged on the basis of a person’s place of residence, such as in a divorce case.
Turkmenistan’s doctrine was to align legislation with international law. It was a secular State. The norms of Sharia law were not reflected in national legislation.
There was a law which prohibited any discrimination against women in any sphere of human life, a principle inherent in many other laws, such as the Labour Law. For example refusing to hire a woman for a job on the grounds that she was pregnant was prohibited. If an employer discriminated against a woman, such as by unjustified refusal to hire a woman, or unjustified firing of a pregnant woman, they would be held criminally liable. Regarding political representation, 17 per cent of Members of Parliament were women, the Speaker of Parliament was a woman, and women were represented at all levels of Government.
In 2009 a new law said that judges should be independent, subject to the law and guided by their internal convictions. Judges were not subject to anybody else’s authority. The President of the Supreme Court was appointed by the proposal of the President, but the parliament had to agree to that appointment. Other judges were also appointed by the President, but first had to be assessed as to their professional background, ethical merits and work experience before they could be proposed to the President.
There was equality regardless of ethnic origin, and that was a major feature of the Labour Code and employment and social security laws. There were no statistics on minority recipients of benefits, although the census showed the breakdown of persons by ethnicity and the ethnic breakdown of regions of Turkmenistan. The next census, due in 2012, would provide updated information.
Regarding the question on political detainees and trials, there were no political prisoners in Turkmenistan. All persons serving sentences had been found guilty by a court, according to due process, of criminal offences. All court proceedings were open, hearings in camera were only provided for in specific cases, and all court decisions were proclaimed in public. The use of military courts were prohibited, there were only civil and criminal courts.
A new law on the legal situation of citizens in Turkmenistan also governed labour rights of foreign nationals, who enjoyed the same rights as provided in the Constitution.
The rights of citizens of Turkmenistan may be temporarily suspended in an emergency or military situation, according to the Constitution.
Follow-Up Questions from Experts
An Expert asked if the State party could provide employment statistics, broken down by gender, age, ethnicity and also for the long-term unemployed. He said that the International Labour Organization (ILO) said there were no statistics disaggregated by gender. A report stated that unemployment of working-age population was 50 per cent, which was very high.
The prohibition of women from working in many jobs was a concern. There may be good intentions, as the State party referred to jobs entailing harmful working conditions, transporting heavy objects or arduous or night work, but prohibiting such jobs to women went against ILO regulations and the Covenant. Restrictions including not allowing women who had young children to work, because they should be caring for their children. What about the fathers of young children? The Soviet Union had prohibited women from over 400 jobs. Since independence had there been a public discussion on overturning those prohibitions?
It was difficult to see what the minimum wage was, and did it apply to all workers? Did plans to increase wages include equalizing wages for men and women? Was there an informal labour sector not included in the statistics? The report stated that a National Centre for Trade Unions had been set up. The Soviet Union had left many legacies, including one trade union for all workers. Did the Government now allow different types of trade unions, including confederations, and also the right to strike?
Response from the Delegation
The population census of 1995 was the first to be held in a country member of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Following the experience of running that census the Government decided to prepare the next one much more carefully, to ensure it met all United Nations recommendations. Officials were sent to study best practice in other countries, and international guidelines were being studied.
A member of the delegation spoke about plans to set up Technoparks to attract new and innovative technological business, with aspirations to export products to the global market.
There were currently 128 religious organizations registered with the Government: 104 Islamic organizations, both Sunni and Shiaa, 13 Orthodox, and other denominations included the 7th Day Adventists, the Evangelical Christian Baptists, the Krishna Society, the Church of Christ the Evangelist, the Church of the Great Benefactor, the Evangelistic Light Church, the Apostolic Church and the Roman Catholic Centre. Those organizations worked with the authorities, for example holding training courses, inviting foreign faith leaders from abroad and leasing premises for events.
The law held explicit sanctions for persons guilty of discriminating against women in the workplace, such as a fine or demotion. A delegate confirmed there was no gender discrimination in terms of salaries in Turkmenistan; wages were just paid on the basis of a person’s qualifications.
Forcing people into sexual relations was criminalized, along with blackmail, destruction of material and property, corrective labour or deprivation of freedom up to a year.
Spouses had equal rights in marriage, and the Family and Marriage Code established that all citizens had an equal right in family relationships. The marriageable age was 16, while citizens marrying foreigners or stateless persons had to wait until they were 18. The Government was currently drafting a new law to raise the age of marriage to 18 for all, which would be adopted by the next parliament.
There was public awareness of the debate surrounding gender discrimination and stereotyping, but much work still needed to be done. The Government was taking appropriate steps to change social and cultural behaviour patterns among men, and women, in order to eradicate prejudice and dispel old ingrained beliefs that one gender was superior to the other. The Government were especially targeting the young, from a very early age, to ensure they were taught about the important role mothers played in society and that responsibility for bringing up a child lay with both the mother and the father. There were measures to ensure men had the opportunity to play active roles in raising their children. Social organizations did an enormous amount of work in that field, and the media had been very involved. For example, a magazine called The Soul of Women published Government articles on women’s rights.
There were many household workers, for example in childcare, food preparation, cleaning, gardening, chauffeurs, and a section of the Labour Code was devoted to people working in that sector. There was a decree calling for social security of household workers, particularly for them to have pensions.
Unemployed people had to meet certain criteria in order to be considered as ‘unemployed’. If a person was out of work for over three months and had no other source of income he may be given unemployed status. Official statistics on unemployment were being analyzed and would be presented to the Committee at the next report. Training the unemployed was very important, and measures were being taken to provide it. Not many people left to work overseas because so many jobs were available in Turkmenistan, particularly in the field of exporting energy resources to the world market. There were enormous job opportunities at home, not just for Turkmenistani citizens but for foreigners as well.
The Government planned to increase wages twofold within the next five years, but they were already increased annually by 10 per cent. In the public sector wages were set by the President. The Constitution guaranteed the right to work, the right to health and safety at work, and no discrimination based on race, gender, nationality, ethnic origin or others was allowed. In order to create new entrepreneurships and jobs, in August 2009 the Government adopted legislation to support small and medium-sized enterprises, which included enhancing the competitiveness of national producers and creating an environment in which those businesses could thrive.
Follow-Up Questions from the Experts
A Committee Expert asked the delegation to clarify whether or not they had a minimum wage, as it was unclear. Was the 10 per cent annual increase in wages linked to inflation or was it in addition to inflation?
An Expert said there was no reason why taking care of babies, which required an extremely gentle and sensitive manner, should be paid less than other jobs. The Committee believed in equal pay for equal work of equal value: perhaps the State party needed to rethink the value of childcare? What was the position of children with disabilities in Turkmenistan?
Response from the Delegation
A member of the delegation confirmed that the President agreed, in January 2011, to bring in a minimum wage. It would be based on a ‘minimum consumer budget’ – a metaphorical basket of food and non-food goods and services citizens used – and be affected by inflation levels. It had not yet been implemented. The Government was looking at the increase in food prices, which was a worldwide problem, and the 10 per cent (or higher) increase in wages was meant to cover seasonal fluctuations on food and import prices.
Women’s health must be protected and respected, particularly during pregnancy. Thus the Government was responsible for protecting women’s well-being during pregnancy. Children with disabilities were mostly brought up in a home, if not with their parents, then with close relatives. Children with disabilities were often educated in special schools, or if not they could follow a special remote-learning programme from the home. Generally they went to school just like other children, and knew no differences there.
Questions from the Experts
The first ‘Standard of Living’ survey was carried out in 1998, with the World Bank. Was there any follow-up to that survey, and if so, what were the results?
Concerning the right to water and sanitation, 90 per cent of Turkmenistan was desert, which posed serious problems to having enough water, and good sewerage centres. Water was taken from the irrigation canals, which were polluted by agricultural and other wastes, which in turn caused serious diseases, such as Hepatitis and Dysentery. What steps were being taken by the Government to prevent that?
Apparently many public hospitals outside the capital city had been closed. What was being done to provide access to essential healthcare in rural areas? Doctors and nurses often demanded bribes (baksheesh) in order to provide the most basic health treatment and medicines. What was being done about that?
What was the difference between the public and private health systems? Who was covered by the public health system, what services were provided and who were covered?
There was a lack of statistical data on certain diseases, HIV/AIDS; tuberculosis – particularly the untreatable forms - and sexually transmitted diseases. It was not clear if the HIV/AIDS Prevention Centre would be or had been dismantled. Would the Board for Infection Diseases be able to effectively take over the important functions of that Centre? AIDS still seemed to carry the old stereotypes, such as a sense of shame. What awareness-raising was being carried out?
There was a serious tobacco problem. The State party was congratulated for ratifying the World Health Organization (WHO) convention on tobacco addiction, but what was being achieved, what were the results of teaching and awareness-raising campaigns on tobacco use?
An Expert asked about the prevalence of child marriages. She also asked about trafficking in persons, what the penalties were for it under the criminal code and how many cases had been brought to court.
An Expert asked about access to the Internet. Was there free access in the full sense of the word? Was there Internet censorship?
What budgetary resources were available for housing needs, and how much new housing was for persons in need?
Response from the Delegation
A delegate confirmed that much of Turkmenistan was desert, and part of the country was in the Kara Sea zone, so there was a lot of concern about water. New legislation on provisions of drinking water was passed in 2011, and there were a growing number of plants producing bottled drinking water. Water was continually tested, both randomly and as required.
There was a National Strategy for preventing and combating Tuberculosis between 2008 and 2015, based on the WHO programme ‘Stop Tuberculosis’. Data on morbidity, new outbreaks, treatment and effectiveness of treatment was collected annually. The data showed a drop in cases. In 2012 it was planned to computerize tuberculosis records. There were particular efforts to reduce Tuberculosis rates in prisons.
A ban on smoking and the sale and consumption of tobacco based goods had been put in place, covering public buildings such as schools, ministries and healthcare centres. It was illegal to sell tobacco without a license, or to children under the age of 18. There was a nationwide campaign to combat tobacco use, mainly by providing information to the public on the harmful effects of both smoking and passive smoking, and the press was very cooperative on that issue.
The HIV/AIDS Prevention Centre was closed when a new building was opened that housed six institutions aimed at preventing diseases including HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and others. However there was still a dedicated organization working towards combating HIV/AIDS.
Voluntary medical insurance was recently introduced and covered around 95 per cent of the population, who paid two per cent of their income. Those insured had a 90 per cent discount on health and medical services, including diagnostics, preventive treatment and medical treatment. People could choose their own doctor, and certain diseases merited free treatment. The list of medicines available was reviewed annually.
There was a provision for women in prison to look after their children in the prison, or for pregnant women prisoners to be allowed out of prison at the time of the birth, and to remain out of prison for up to three years, so long as they did not try to escape.
Trafficking in people was criminalized under a specific article in the Criminal Code, it covered the sale or exploitation of people in any form, and carried a standard ten year prison sentence that could be extended to 25 years.
Regarding criminalization of domestic violence, crimes such as grievous bodily harm, murder with intent, and other violence crimes could be applied to instances of domestic violence within the family.
In 2008 a new programme began on sex education for children, which included retraining teachers on how to teach the subject. Children were given that education – on how to live a healthy life – from their earliest years, while older children learnt about sex and reproductive issues.
Questions from the Experts
An Expert said he was very pleased to read the initial report and noted the efforts being made by the Turkmen State in the field of education, particularly for young people who were the basis of the economic and social development of any country. Turkmenistan was a rich country, with hydrocarbons, and that made it possible to finance good educational programmes.
The State Party did not provide statistics on how many children were in school, or on the drop-out rate. What professional or vocational training courses were available for young people to help them enter the labour market? There was no information in the report.
There had been no specific reply to whether the State Party covered schooling costs other than the registration fee. The delegation talked in generalities but were not giving specific answers.
An Expert said that, with respect to cultural subjects, not only was there no data in the report, but there was no reference to ethnic groups. It was very important to have that data, and to know how the Government recognized cultural and ethnic groups.
There were restrictions on the use of religious documents, both for registered and non-registered religious organizations. The freedom of expression, opinion and belief must prevail and be exercised freely. That did not mean subversive documents, which were intolerant of the State’s cultural system, but when something did not correspond to the official view there seemed to be a degree of censorship in Turkmenistan. The State party said it was secular, but was there a policy of assimilation in the country? Could there be more information on the practice of ‘Turkmenization’?
The provision of pre-school kindergartens was not good. While the numbers of students in secondary schools were increasing, the numbers of schools – the actual buildings – were decreasing. The Committee had heard there was corruption in the university entrance process, with people paying up to 40,000 manats as a bribe for a university place. Was it based on the old Soviet system? How many people accessed university education?
Response from the Delegation
In 2010 the wording of the new Criminal Code of Turkmenistan was changed to redefine human trafficking and better allocate responsibility of perpetrators. The crime of trafficking a minor carried an eight to 15 year prison sentence. Measures taken to prevent trafficking included analyzing information and detecting links between international terrorist organizations and the organized criminal groups responsible, while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and its Embassies and Consulates abroad worked to ensure the safety of Turkmenistan citizens living abroad who may be victims of trafficking. So far 11 persons have been sentenced for trafficking crimes. Victims in those and all cases were helped with social re-integration, which included legal, medical, psychological, vocational assistance and help finding jobs, as well as anonymity if they were still at risk. If a foreign citizen or a stateless person was a victim or witness of human trafficking, under the Criminal Code, they could not be expelled from Turkmenistan until the relevant trafficking case was fully resolved.
There were drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation facilities for drug addicts. The International Committee of the Red Cross recently visited such a facility and noted the satisfactory conditions there. Drug use, including heroin, opium and marijuana had declined as a result of new tactics to tackle narcotic abuse.
Questionnaires and studies of religious groups showed that there was freedom of religion and belief in Turkmenistan, particularly in contrast to the period of Soviet times and Soviet Socialism. There were 128 religious organizations officially registered in Turkmenistan, consisting of 24 different religious schools. In 2004 alone, groups including Evangelical Christians, Protestant Christians, Ba’hais and Hare Krishnas were registered with the Government.
Regarding poverty levels, the final results of a nationwide survey would be available in April 2012, and that data would be presented to the Committee at the next report.
Concerning State budgetary allocations; education received 39.1 per cent of the national budget, health received 12.8 per cent, culture received a 5 per cent share and 11.6 per cent was dedicated to sports and tourism development. All of those areas had received a 10 per cent increase in their budget allocations compared to 2010 figures.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) had assisted the Reproductive Health Services in opening 402 Women’s Consultative Centres, in urban and rural areas, which provided midwife, gynaecological and family planning services, including free contraception and pregnancy testing. UNFPA helped with the storage and distribution of contraception, and on implementing a system of reproductive and sexual healthcare for adolescents and men. The mass media carried out campaigns in that field, and the Government had organized national awareness-raising events.
Since 2010 laws had been passed on protecting and publicising breastfeeding; ensuring the quality and safety of children’s food products; and on radiation safety, in addition to Government guidance on standards for children’s food in childcare establishments; preventing and combating anaemia; programmes to reduce maternal mortality; and ideal facilities for childbirth. The maternal mortality rate dropped from 15.5 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2005 to 6.9 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010, mostly due to universal access to healthcare and an analysis of the causes of maternal mortality. In 2010, 99.8 per cent of women received medical assistance during birth by qualified medical personnel. Abortions could be carried out on request of the woman until 12 weeks of pregnancy, and until 23 weeks of pregnancy for medical reasons or personal reasons with the special authorization of a local doctor. All abortions were carried out free of charge by doctors in medical institutions. Artificial insemination of embryos was possible for women who had trouble conceiving a baby naturally, whether they were single or married. Illegal artificial insemination procedures carried criminal liability.
From 2000 to 2010, when the Millennium Development Goals were adopted, infant mortality has dropped from 21.3 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2000 to 12.1 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2006. With the assistance of United Nations Fund for Children (UNICEF) systematic targets, events and activities were in place to continue reducing infant mortality, taking place in child-friendly hospitals and birth assistance units. Newborn babies were given a vaccination passport, which tracked their vaccinations throughout childhood until the age of 25. Vaccinations included Rubella, Measles and Mumps, and annual coverage was 98 per cent.
In other areas of girls and women’s healthcare, mammograms for breast cancer, HPV (cervical cancer) vaccinations and other screening tests, such as for osteoporosis and diabetes, were available, and had resulted in greater identification of health risks. In 2010 a genetic laboratory, which allowed for earlier diagnosis of genetically inherited diseases, was opened.
Men and women were detained in gender separate prisons, but all received healthcare, including regular medical check-ups.
Regarding new educational measures, the Government took part in the ERASMUS programme which enabled students to study abroad in foreign universities, ran special schemes for gifted and talented students, invested heavily in vocational training, and conducted an annual international exhibition on educational developments. Vocational education was seen to be a priority area in educational policy. There were 63 State Vocational Schools, which ran 12 to 18 month-long courses teaching disciplines including communications, the chemistry and petrochemical industries, the textiles, oil and gas industries and the agriculture, water and trade economies, all aimed at giving students the skills to work in industry. The Vocational Schools were open to the unemployed, and courses were funded by the State.
School was obligatory until 16, so student enrolment was high. Drop-out only happened when students were ill or family circumstances prevented them from going to school. The Government was working on achieving full enrolment. Children from poor families received special benefits to help them go to school. Schooling and text books were free and food was provided in school cafeterias for token sums. For the first time, in 2011, all new school students received a free ‘Netbook’ laptop. When students finished their ten years of compulsory education they took a final, competitive exam to go on to university. Students with disabilities were exempt from taking that exam.
Everyone in Turkmenistan had access to the World Wide Web. The public could go online in Internet cafes and the National Library of Turkmenistan. Any person with an Internet-enabled mobile phone could access the Internet through cellular networks.
Work to preserve and strengthen the culture of ethnic and national minorities in Turkmenistan included establishment of a National Institute for the Beluga persons, a Department for the Culture of Minority Groups living in Turkmenistan, frequent exhibitions, singing and dancing events, cultural days, creative activities and an annual competition. Cultural establishments had been opened in rural areas and villages, such as museums, libraries and clubs all equipped with modern facilities.
The Government believed that mothers should be the primary carer of children, but there were many cases where men took paternity leave. Increasingly employers made working hours flexible for mothers, and shift work was very popular in Turkmenistan.
BATYR ARNIYAZOV, First Deputy Minister of Justice, thanked the Committee for their recommendations and critical comments, and expressed appreciation for the even-handed and constructive dialogue, which would be carefully analyzed and taken on board.
ARIRANGA GOVINDASAMY PILLAY, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for attending the dialogue on their first report. He said he hoped the dialogue would be enhanced in the future, and that Turkmenistan would provide their subsequent reports in time. The Committee had encountered difficulties assessing the initial report due to the lack of relevant statistics, and hoped the next report would include disaggregated and relevant data. While the State party was undergoing substantive reforms, it should fully take into account its obligations under the Covenant when it implemented them.
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