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Uzbekistan Takes Step To Eradicate Forced Labor

The cotton harvest in Uzbekistan (file photo)
The cotton harvest in Uzbekistan (file photo)

The Uzbek government has issued a decree aimed at completely ending the practice of forced labor in the Central Asian country.

Uzbekistan, one of the world’s leading cotton exporters, for years has mobilized students as well as staff at schools and medical clinics and hospitals to pick cotton. It reportedly stopped using minors in 2015 under international pressure that included boycott campaigns.

Issued on May 10, the decree says that state employees, including teachers and doctors, as well as students at state-run schools, cannot be ordered to perform tasks such as cleaning streets or picking cotton, a common practice in Uzbekistan.

The decree also orders state agencies, including the Prosecutor-General's Office and Labor Ministry, to take all necessary measures to prevent the practice.

Shavkat Mirziyoev has promised reform following more than two decades of repressive rule under Islam Karimov, whose death was reported on September 2, 2016.

Mirziyoev used his UN General Assembly speech in September 2017 to address the problem of forced labor in Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan is the fifth-largest cotton producer in the world. It exports about 60 percent of its raw cotton to China, Bangladesh, Turkey, and Iran. Uzbekistan’s cotton industry generates more than $1 billion in annual revenue, or about one-quarter of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

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