News Response stories

Combating violence against women in Tajikistan: a path to change

In Tajikistan, violence against women remains one of the most serious social problems. According to various international and governmental organizations, between 50% and 80% of women and children in the country face this problem. Economic violence is the most common type of violence against women, accounting for 31%, followed by psychological violence (21%), physical violence (20%) and sexual violence (6%). Total control over married women is particularly dangerous.

A 2022 Project Spotlight study found that more than three-quarters of the women surveyed agreed that violence is widespread in society. However, only 45.6% say that violence is prevalent in their communities.

According to a 2023 study by the Eurasian Women’s Network on AIDS, legislation in Tajikistan does not always protect women facing gender-based violence. While there is no prohibition on women living with HIV or using drugs from seeking help, in practice these groups cannot always access shelters when experiencing domestic violence. Nor does the law provide for adolescents to access HIV testing and treatment without parental consent.

Regarding mechanisms for documenting and responding to cases of gender-based violence, according to REAct data for 2023 in Tajikistan 175 women who sought help reported domestic or intimate partner violence, with 342 women who were abused by others. In 2023, in Tajikistan, REActors documented 566 of women’s complaints about stigma, discrimination, and domestic violence.

To improve the situation, an expert on achieving strategic changes or amendments to legislation or procedures to prevent documented violations was engaged and a case study analysis was conducted. Based on this analysis, it became evident that the most common cases documented in the program are manifestations of violence, including domestic violence, against all members of key groups. Several suggestions were made to improve the situation. In particular, to conduct advocacy activities focusing on the problem of limited access of women from vulnerable groups to shelters after incidents of domestic violence. Currently, such women face difficulties in accessing shelters, as well as problems in the area of social benefits and digital security, as well as violations of the digital rights of members of the community of key population groups. In Tajikistan, there is a particular difficulty in effectively punishing perpetrators, as many victims, feeling regret or fear of disclosing their status, are reluctant to file complaints or refuse to file complaints against perpetrators at all. Women do not want criminal penalties for partners so that a criminal record will not affect the family and children in the future. Also, it is necessary to conduct information campaigns among inspection staff on the prevention of domestic violence, for example, as part of the campaign “16 Days Against Violence”, and to hold working meetings. Involved in these activities are employees of public services who work with the prevention of violence and identified cases of violence. Conduct training on violence prevention for key population groups and on crisis counseling for psychologists and lawyers working in public organizations with key population groups. It is recommended to organize shelters and low-threshold service centers in these NGOs to reduce stigma and discrimination against key population groups, as this assistance cannot be fully provided in other organizations.

As a result, the Ministry of Health of Tajikistan also approved a developed Memo for the staff of social service centers (available in Russian) assisting victims of domestic violence, and people in difficult life situations, to prevent the denial of social services for particularly vulnerable groups. The document stipulates that the provision of social services, including services in the conditions of the day or 24-hour centers for victims of all forms of violence, including domestic violence, is justified and considered necessary, and should have the social status of accessibility for all. The existing view, whereupon admission to such centers, people listed in the category of “practicing risky behavior” cannot be recipients of this service, is improper and illegal!

Violence against women in Tajikistan remains a serious problem affecting women and children. Despite the efforts of the government and international organizations, many victims continue to face difficulties in accessing assistance and protection. However, it is important to continue to work towards ensuring that all victims of gender-based violence have access to assistance and protection, regardless of their social status or the nature of the violations, to bring about meaningful change and create a safe and secure environment.

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Tajikistan has taken the first step to protect the rights and eliminate discrimination of citizens living with HIV

The Plenum of the Supreme Court of Tajikistan has adopted a new resolution aimed at humanizing judicial practice under Article 125 of the Criminal Code of Tajikistan on HIV transmission.

The ruling recommends that courts take into account international standards and recommendations in the field of HIV/AIDS, in particular the principle of “Undetectable = Untransmissible” (U=U), which will allow for a more objective approach to assessing each case. This means that people living with HIV, taking ART, and achieving a non-transmissible viral load can no longer be criminalized for putting them at risk of HIV transmission. 

The Alliance for Public Health applauds the country’s intentions towards HIV decriminalization, in fact, in the first and second cycle of the regional #SoS_project, many interventions focused on advocacy activities as well as direct assistance to those affected by repressive HIV policies. 

“The depressing legacy of the Soviet Union in many post-Soviet countries is essentially discriminatory legislation. Under Article 125 of the Criminal Code, women are mostly prosecuted, while today women living with HIV, taking treatment, and giving birth to healthy children, all people with HIV live as long as without it. Families where partners with different HIV statuses do not transmit the disease to each other live happily, and this is happening not only somewhere in the world, but in neighboring countries like Tajikistan.” – said Tеtiana Deshko, Director of the International Programs Department, Alliance for Public Health.

The decisions adopted at the Supreme Court Plenum also mark Tajikistan’s first step in improving the justice system, which will allow for a fairer interpretation of existing laws. That said, it has yet to establish new humane laws and the Criminal Code of Tajikistan still criminalizes putting people at risk of HIV transmission.

“Therefore, human rights defenders in Tajikistan have a lot of work to do together to advocate for further legislative changes and we regularly provide the evidence base to REAct, the largest community-based monitoring tool in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, to achieve our goals,” – summarized Tеtiana Deshko.

Since 2020, REAct in Tajikistan has registered more than 2,700 referrals from people living with HIV and people at risk. Due to the criminalizing laws in place, people are constantly subjected to discrimination and stigma. The most frequent violators of victims’ rights are the close environment (family, relatives) – 66%, law enforcement, and judiciary – 15%, and medical and health care workers – 10%.  These figures demonstrate the pervasive and all-encompassing stigma that people from vulnerable groups face at every turn, often from those closest to them. It is the threat of criminal prosecution for having HIV that is the main reason for violence and humiliating treatment of victims.

In addition, women are particularly vulnerable, as they are the first to find out their status (often during medical examinations in connection with pregnancy) and the first couple to be prosecuted under Article 125 of the Criminal Code of Tajikistan. On average, every third woman who applied to REAct suffers from physical violence from her close environment (husband, sexual partner, relatives). It is often the HIV status that is the main cause of violence and at the same time the main obstacle to seeking protection from the police. 

In 2023 alone, REAct human rights defenders registered more than 40 cases from people accused under Article 125. Of these, 15 cases under Article 125, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of Tajikistan became strategic and were taken for support by REAct lawyers and partner organizations. Unfortunately, despite the professional work of lawyers and appeals to the international standards of WHO, only 3 cases ended in favor of the accused, the rest were sentenced to imprisonment from 6 to 18 months.

REAct human rights activists shared their stories

Punishment without crime. 

HIV-positive single mother Nikora (name changed) was sentenced to 1.5 years in prison under Part 1 of Article 125. She was given a suspended sentence until her child reached the age of eight. The fact that the court gave Nikora a real criminal sentence without taking into account the negative HIV test results of all “victims” and the absence of claims against Nikora from their side is egregious. 

In the court case, the woman was accused of putting four men with whom she had unprotected sex over the past four years at risk of contracting HIV because she had failed to report her registration with the AIDS Center since 2015. 

A court without a victim 

A female resident, who injected drugs, worked as a volunteer in an NGO. A criminal case was initiated on **.**.2018 under part 1. of article 125 of the Criminal Code of RT. The victim in this case was a man. During the trial, the man stated that he did not agree with the fact that he was recognized as a victim. After the criminal case was initiated, based on the conclusion of a commission examination, it was found that the man did not have HIV. At the trial, the woman’s lawyer asked: “Did the defendant offer to use a condom during sexual contact?”, to which the man replied: “Yes, but I refused. I know that she has this disease, but I love her, I will live with her, and I have no claims or demands against her.”

The legislation of the Republic of Tajikistan refers Article 125 part 1 to cases of private-public prosecution, which means that these cases are initiated on the application of the person who suffered from the crime, but in case of reconciliation, the proceedings on them are not subject to termination. Thus, the defendant was sentenced – 1 year and 2 months of imprisonment under part 1 of article 125 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Tajikistan.

“The diversity and wide range of appeals about violations of the rights of people living with HIV in Tajikistan is striking. We see that literally at every step, whether it is home, school, polyclinic, or civil registry office – HIV status is a verdict. Surprisingly, it is in Tajikistan that we record the highest level of response to human rights violations. Thanks to the effective support of peer counselors and paralegals (REActors) from nongovernmental organizations, more than 70% of appeals are resolved positively for the victim/s through medical and social support, legal advice, and direct intervention by the reactor in the situation. In a country with repressive legislation, the only thing left for human rights defenders is to educate perpetrators about HIV to practically reduce stigma towards HIV-positive people and explain ways of HIV transmission and prevention.” – shared Victoria Kalyniuk, Regional Coordinator of REAct in EECA countries.

This Supreme Court decision is an important step in the overdue reform of laws and practices related to people living with HIV in Tajikistan. It is important that this decision becomes part of routine practice on the ground and leads to changes in the situation for people with HIV. The abolition of Article 125 of the Criminal Code should follow and permanently change outdated norms and practices.

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Improving the Effectiveness of HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis Control Measures in Tajikistan: Event Report

On October 23, 2023, an important event was held in the Republic of Tajikistan – a meeting of the technical working group on monitoring and evaluation in the field of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria prevention. The main objective of the event was to review in detail the implementation and scale-up of the Community-Led Monitoring (CLM) method in the country with the participation of community-based organizations.

This important meeting was attended by key representatives and decision-makers working to improve the quality and accountability of programs aimed at combating HIV/AIDS and TB in the Republic of Tajikistan. Mr. Avgonov, Executive Secretary of the National Coordination Committee for AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, shared important reports and initiatives.

In addition, presentations were given at the meeting, including “Overview of community monitoring and current status of CLM implementation in Tajikistan” by Ms. Boltaeva, Consultant. The results of the Tajik Network of Women Living with HIV regarding CLM implementation were also presented by Ms. Khaidarova.

It should be noted that this meeting focused on the introduction and expansion of the CLM method in the Republic of Tajikistan. This method, based on the active participation of community organizations, plays an important role in monitoring and evaluation of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria prevention programs and is a priority for the development of the strategy to combat these diseases.

This technical working group meeting provided a unique opportunity for participants to discuss topical issues and share experiences in the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in Tajikistan. The focus on the introduction and expansion of the CLM method emphasized the importance of the involvement of community organizations in this process and the development of strategies for future actions in this area. These efforts are expected to contribute to improved results and increased effectiveness in the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in the Republic of Tajikistan.

Also read:

ECOM: Invisible Voices: Regional report on violations of the right to health of LGBT people in the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia in 2022

Through the lens of REAct’s work: PrEP in the context of human rights, key populations, and access challenges

Response stories

Protecting the rights of transgender women in Tajikistan

In modern Tajikistan, as in many countries, transgender people face serious violations of their rights, including discrimination and harassment. In this context, we consider a case that illustrates the struggle of the LGBT community in Tajikistan for their rights and freedom.

The story of Renata (name changed) provides an important example. Renata decided to return to her home country from Russia, where she was working and living, in order to change her gender status in a new passport. However, her plans were seriously disrupted upon arrival. Police officers took an interest in her personal life when Renata went to the police station to support her friend who had been detained. After the law enforcers learned that she was transgender, obsessive intense interrogation activities began and her cell phone, which contained many personal details, was seized. Although Renata was subsequently released, they did not return her phone to her and continued to monitor its contents. The client was subsequently invited back to the station and accused of sending pornography, which was actually pictures of the breast surgery process sent to her by her friend.

REActors were able to provide Renata with legal protection by finding a lawyer willing to take on her case and defend her rights. Moreover, Renata did not have sufficient financial means to leave the country, as she did not believe in a positive outcome of the trial. As a consequence, the transgender woman decided to leave her phone and seek help in finding financial means to leave the country. REActors decided to express official support on behalf of the community organization and sent a letter to friendly non-governmental organizations, including ECOM. In response, they expressed their willingness to provide financial support in the amount of 750 USD, which made it possible for Renata to purchase a ticket and leave Tajikistan.

Thanks to the funds received, Renata was able to start a new life in St. Petersburg. Two months later, the case against her was closed and her personal belongings were returned to her and mailed back to Russia. REActors are proud to have been able to help Renata overcome the difficulties she faced and to protect her right to freedom and self-expression according to her own wishes. This case highlights the importance of protecting the rights of transgender people and supporting them in their struggle for equality and freedom.

Renata is currently in Russia, but her life here has become much more difficult due to the introduction of new laws concerning the LGBTQ+ community. These laws create unacceptable conditions for transgender people and members of the LGBTQ+ community in general. In an effort to ensure her safety and a favorable psychosocial state, Renata is looking to relocate to another country where she can live and express herself fully.

Renata expressed her deep gratitude for the support provided by the REActors during difficult moments in her life. This support was crucial for her and enabled her to start a new chapter in her life, protecting her right to freedom and self-expression. Currently in search of a better place for her life, Renata remains in contact with the organization, which continues to support her from afar and stands by her side during this important transition period.

This case highlights the importance of continuing to fight for the rights and freedom of the LGBTQ+ community in different countries, as well as the need to support and protect those who face discrimination and persecution because of their gender and sexual identity.

Also read:

Triumph of Law in Tajikistan: Rustam’s story of fighting for justice

Tajikistan: Overcoming stigma and restoring family relationships

Response stories

Tajikistan: Overcoming stigma and restoring family relationships

Vasfiya (name changed) came to REActor for help. She was 38 years old and living with her husband, both of whom are PLHIV. She found out about the paralegal through an infectious disease doctor who provided contact information. The woman told her story: she had been living with her husband for only 6 months and this was her second marriage. It turned out that her husband, too, had known about his status since 2011, but had not started taking antiviral medication for fear of being judged.

The couple’s lives changed when the husband was sent to prison in 2012, and it wasn’t until 2018, after his condition worsened, that he began treatment. In 2022, he was released and met his wife at the AIDS Center. Since then they got married and for six months they have been living in his parents’ house, where unfortunately there are constant scandals, humiliation and insults.

Vasfiya said that during her husband’s absence, his parents died and his sister registered the house in her name. However, the husband is still registered there and has the right to inherit. His sister lives in the house and constantly stigmatizes, insults and humiliates them. She tells them that they are both drug addicts and PLHIV, that he brought home an equally “wife with AIDS”. The woman does this on purpose, saying her insults loudly in the yard for all the neighbors to hear.

Vasfiya suggested that her husband contact the district police officer, but he was unwilling to pursue this option. They turned to a REActor in the hope of finding a peaceful solution to the problem.

The paralegal took up the cause and began to take action. First, she invited the woman and her husband to a counseling session to discuss all possible solutions. A series of meetings were held, during which they were given a plan of action.

The first step was to make a written statement in which they described all the insults and humiliations committed by their relative. The REActor helped them to formulate the statement correctly so that it would be as informative and effective as possible. It was then submitted to the local police department.

At the same time, the REActor recommended that they contact the AIDS Center, which had psychological support and counseling specialists. They could provide assistance with stress management and advice on how to resolve the conflict peacefully.

The next step was to engage with the husband’s sister. The paralegal decided to hold a mediation meeting to try to resolve the conflict peacefully. In this meeting, she acted as a mediator between the couple and the relative to establish a dialog and help them find a compromise solution.

During the mediation meeting, discussed all the grievances, concerns and frustrations of each party. The facilitator helped them to express their emotions and empathize with each other. Through this meeting, it became clear that the root cause of the conflict was stigmatization and misunderstanding. The husband’s sister was not sufficiently informed about HIV/AIDS and her fear and aggression were based on lack of awareness.

The paralegal provided them with educational materials about HIV/AIDS and shared success stories and examples of overcoming stigma. As a result of this meeting, all parties expressed their willingness to change their attitudes and start cooperating.

Gradually, the husband’s sister became more tolerant and understanding. She stopped stigmatizing and humiliating the client and her husband. Together they worked on realizing and overcoming stereotypes related to HIV/AIDS.

After a while, family relations began to improve. Vasfiya said that her relative began to show more sympathy and even helped them in domestic issues. She stopped talking about insults and began to interact with them in a more friendly and respectful manner.

This success story emphasizes the importance of seeking support and not saying no during difficult times. By working with professionals, it was possible to overcome stigma and make a positive difference in the lives of clients.

Also read:

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Response stories

Triumph of Law in Tajikistan: Rustam’s story of fighting for justice

Rustam (name changed), who worked as a pediatric infectious disease specialist at a local polyclinic, suddenly encountered an extremely unpleasant situation that changed his life. Representatives of the law enforcement agencies came to his workplace and, without explaining, forcibly took him to the crime control department. During this unexpected delay, they seized Rustam’s cell phone and began asking obscene questions about his personal life and activities. He was forced to spend seven hours in this department, after which he was told to return the next day at 10 am.

Finding himself in such a difficult situation, Rustam turned to REActors for help. From the very beginning of his interaction with them, he felt care and attention, and the first question he heard was about the presence of pornography on his phone and its distribution. Rustam confidently assured that he had not sent any pornographic material, but acknowledged the presence of porn files in which he had been a participant. He was immediately referred to a lawyer for counseling and was advised to contact those who had detained him to confirm the time and date of the next meeting.

Two weeks later, Rustam was charged under Article 241 of the Criminal Code of Tajikistan, and the REActors began a joint effort to find out more details with the investigator in charge of the case. The first meeting with him did not bring the expected results, as the investigator showed reluctance to cooperate. Nevertheless, the lawyers did not give up and met with him again, carefully explaining that the files in Rustam’s phone had not been sent to anyone and that the actions of the law enforcement agencies violated the law. It was suggested to him that if there was no change in their attitude, an appeal to the Prosecutor General’s Office would be filed. However, even these persuasive arguments did not lead to changes in the situation.

Nevertheless, just three days after this last meeting, the investigator contacted Rustam and invited him to his department. There they discussed the situation again, returned his phone to him, and announced that the case was closed. Today, Rustam is feeling much better and the REActors remain in touch with him, providing the necessary support. Rustam decided to go to his parents to recover from the stress he had experienced.

Rustam’s story was a model of a successful struggle for justice, made possible through cooperation with REActors. They were on his side, provided him with legal support, and protected his interests, which led to the closure of the case. This case emphasizes the importance of legal aid and the principles of justice in society.

Also read:

Combating Discrimination Against Children with HIV in Kazakhstan Educational Institutions

Problems of HIV-positive prisoners in Azerbaijan

Response stories

A REActor in Tajikistan spoke out against violence and lynching

During an evening walk in the city of N, by a river, a crowd of four young men who were trying to drag a young girl into the water attracted attention. She cried out desperately for help but was powerless against their violence. Witnessing this offense was a REActor who could not remain indifferent to what was happening and decided to intervene to protect the girl.

He approached the boys and asked what was going on. They stated that they were trying to “punish” the girl for her previous behavior. The paralegal was threatened and warned that he too would be in trouble if he continued to intervene. However, the paralegal could not get past what was happening and decided to call the police, and specified that without immediate intervention of law enforcement, the consequences could be fatal. After that, he again actively confronted the guys, trying to explain to them that it is unacceptable to judge and punish anyone outside the law and that any conflict can be resolved peacefully.

But the offenders continued to insist that the girl was “disgracing” the neighborhood with her behavior. Finally, police officers arrived on the scene. The guys tried to escape punishment by throwing themselves into the river and swimming downstream. The REActor pulled the girl out of the water and the police officers began chasing the fugitives along the shore. While authorities were busy apprehending the boys, REActor talked to the girl to find out what had happened. She said that one of the attackers was her ex-boyfriend, who found out that she had provided services to a client for a fee and decided to retaliate out of jealousy.

The REActor and the girl filed a police report against her ex-boyfriend and all those involved in the attack. The detained young man pleaded guilty and revealed the names of the other participants. After that, a manhunt for them began.

This story was an example of a successful response to violence and vigilante justice in the neighborhood. The REActor’s decisive actions saved the girl and brought her justice. It became a symbol of intolerance to violence and showed that one person can change the course of events and protect those in need of help. This case also reaffirmed the importance of cooperating with the police and using legal means to bring offenders to justice.

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Response stories

Against discrimination and stereotypes of society: how REActors defend the rights of sex workers in Tajikistan

On November 9, 2018, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDOW) issued recommendations to Tajikistan, noting that contrary to the Committee’s proposal to abolish punishment for sex work, reports of intimidation, harassment, and violation of the rights of sex workers have increased. These women are being repressed for their work because of the “undermining of traditional values”. Moreover, administrative responsibility for this activity was also toughened (fines increased or arrests up to 15 days) as a necessity for the “fight against prostitution” and against the spread of HIV.

Society does not want to open its eyes to the fact that this is nothing more than a stereotype – according to the National Program to Combat the HIV Epidemic for 2017-2020 HIV prevalence among female sex workers was only 3.5%! And the main route of transmission of the virus in the country is heterosexual sexual intercourse (in some regions, the proportion of such cases has reached 70%). But for most law enforcement officials, medical center employees, and even acquaintances and relatives, sex work is a stigma and an evil that brings problems, and it should be punished. And the methods chosen for this, at times, turn out to be far beyond the legal field.

However, even given such unfavorable conditions, REActors in Tajikistan manage not only to record the facts of violations but also successfully help sex workers overcome the problems that have arisen and assert their rights.

“We all know about you!”

In January, one of the REActors received a call from Aziza (name changed). The girl was previously a sex worker, but at the time of the conversation she no longer provided services, lived in a hostel with a small child, and earned money by cleaning houses. One evening, two police officers came to them and asked the watchman to call Aziza. When the client asked what they needed, law enforcement officials began to intimidate the girl, saying that they knew about her positive HIV status and what she had been doing before. Further, blackmail began – either publicity or work for them and revealing the names of other sex workers. Aziza said that she had not provided sex services for a long time and could not know anyone. Then the police began to interrogate where and from whom she got infected, and who was her former clients. The client said she did not know this and was not going to talk to anyone. In response, threats followed, up to the initiation of a case for prostitution and deprivation of child custody. Not surprisingly, the next day, the girl took her daughter and ran away from the hostel. Having recorded everything, the REActor asked for the telephone number of the policemen who had come and called them. Introducing himself, he explained that he could follow their similar actions. Initially, they behaved aggressively, also threatening to be held accountable for aiding and concealing data. But when the paralegal said that they, too, had justice through complaints and statements to the Prosecutor and the police chief, they asked for a meeting. Then there were threats again, but the REActor insisted on his own. Hearing this, the self-defense method worked for the employees of the authorities, and they offered to call Aziza to meet all together and discuss further actions. On the spot, the client and the policemen gave their word that they would no longer interfere in her life and would not disturb the girl.

“I want to be with you so much…”

The REActors hotline received a call from Gesu (name changed). The girl asked for help – she was publicly beaten for being engaged in commercial sex. In a personal meeting, the client said that she had recently been with a young man. He liked her, and the guy offered to be with him all the time but was refused. Repeated attempts to again attract the girl to intimacy also turned out to be fruitless. One day the guy saw Gesa with another young man. After that, choosing the moment when she was returning home from her friend alone, he, along with a friend, blocked the path and the men began to pester her. The client asked to be released and tried to run away, but they started beating her. A woman was walking nearby, saw this, and called her neighbor, a district police officer in another territory. Upon arrival, the policeman smelled alcohol, began to separate them, but blamed Gesa for everything! Instead of detaining the rapists and fixing the violation, a law enforcement representative reproached that she had already been caught by the police once. Then he asked everyone to disperse and warned the girl that if this happens again, he will take her to the department.

The girl left in tears and beating. And then her call to the REAct hotline sounded. The paralegal immediately offered Gesа his help, contact the forensic examination and remove traces of beatings. He agreed. Together they underwent an examination in a forensic medical examination, took a conclusion, and then went to the police station and wrote a statement. He was registered, and at the same time, the client gave testimonies against the district police officer, who ignored the fact of the offense. The next day, Gesa was summoned to the police department. They drew up a protocol and opened a criminal case against the rapists. And the situation with the district police officer was taken under control by those responsible for the internal investigation.

Said, REActor, Tajikistan: “By proving the correctness of clients and the wrongdoings by the police, you become an experienced and authoritative defender of the rights of key groups. But you must remember that you need to speak with representatives of the authorities in the language of substantiated facts, then you can agree. The REActor must understand the differences between offenses and ordinary cases – I will not hide that each policeman, before starting a substantive conversation, first assesses the level of my knowledge. But for myself, I made a rule: once you start to defend, then fight to the end. Otherwise, you will lose both trust and authority.

Sex work is an activity like any other that requires acceptance and respect. And its representative – respect for the rights and non-discrimination to himself/herself and his/her choice.

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Response stories

Change for the better: how REActors and government agencies in Tajikistan are jointly changing the situation with human rights violations in the country

The HIV epidemic in Tajikistan is usually divided into three phases: the first lasted from 1991 to 2000, during which time only 37 cases were registered in the country. The second, from 2000 to 2011, is considered to be a period of escalation, when the number of officially registered HIV cases increased by 77 times. The third phase, stabilization, lasted from 2011 until the end of last year, when the growth in distribution increased by 3.3 times. However, if the issue of HIV today can be named controlled, then the level of stigma, non-recognition and discrimination of key groups by the society, until recently, remained extremely high. So far, thanks to the joint efforts of officials and activists, the situation was changed.

The system is hard to change. But you can.

“The case when in front of everyone in line for an analysis, a doctor could shout to a person: “Do you have HIV? Come quickly!”, alas, was not rare. And this is just one of many like it.” – says Farishtamokh Gulova, national coordinator of the REAct system in Tajikistan. According to her, the situation with the violation of the rights of vulnerable groups of the population by medical personnel was extremely difficult: the status of people was disclosed, personal data was transferred to third parties, there was neglect and contempt, especially towards representatives of LGBT and MSM communities. Activists registered these cases, tried to “reach out” to medical staff, including at a higher level, however, the desired reaction did not follow. Until the moment when a new leadership came to the AIDS Center of Tajikistan. Deputy Director – Mr. Alijon Soliev, previously worked in projects himself, was engaged in volunteering, therefore, when he learned about such cases, he immediately showed readiness to cooperate with civil society and determination to stop such offenses by medical personnel.

Let’s act together!

In June of this year, REActors were able to discuss the most common situations with Mr. Soliev. So, one of them took place in the area of republican subordination, the city of Tursunzade. The wife of a person living with HIV received a call and was told, “Your husband has the virus, you should come with your children and get tested. You need to understand whether you have HIV or not.” At that time, the woman did not know about his status – he was in migration. Upon his return, the man talked to his wife, but the infectious disease specialist continued to call her and bother her with demands to come. This made husband very angry; he did not want his wife to be told about HIV in such a tone and decided to find out everything himself. Upon arrival at the local AIDS Center, there was a conflict: instead of an apology, the epidemiologist got rude to the man. He fixed everything and turned to the REActor for help. According to Farishtamokh, she told Mr. Soliev about this case on Saturday, and on Sunday he gathered all the doctors for an online meeting. As a result, the doctor who created a conflict situation and disclosed the man’s HIV status was reprimanded.

Another case of status disclosure involved a trans person from the Khatlon region. She returned from Russia in July, got registered in Dushanbe, received ARV therapy for three months and left to work in Turkey. The family did not know about her HIV status and would have remained so if the laboratory assistant at the AIDS center had not been a relative and had not recognized her. For disclosure of the status of the client, and negligence, the employee was reprimanded. Of course, such cases help to improve activities in the regions and increase the level of information on all sides of the situation. Lack of experience and mentality play an important role in ALL patient care cycles in AIDS centers.

“Mr. Soliev asked to be immediately reported if even the slightest offense is recorded: refusal to issue certificates or certificates, negligent attitude to tests, rude treatment when issuing ARV drugs…” Farishtamokh adds. “We are well aware that top management cannot control everything – there are 66 AIDS centers in the country, but thanks to the work of REActors, it has become possible to identify and correct the situation.”

“Obviously, civil society in Tajikistan is now being heard and seen. We are invited, we are consulted – it means a lot.” – Pulod Jamolov, head of the SPIN Plus organization, comments on the situation. “And I can confidently say that such cooperation between the authorities, represented by representatives of medical structures and civil society, together with REActors, really changes the situation within the country.”

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