UZBEKISTAN: Over 2 million children are forced to work in the cotton fields

UZBEKISTAN (Central Asia)                                 

Population: 28.39 million

Fertility Rate:  6.5 children born/woman (1970) vs. 2.4 children born/woman (2010)

Life Expectancy:  63 years (1970) vs. 68 years (2010)

Infant mortality:  21.2 deaths / 1000 live births

Male/Female Ratio:  1.06 male/female

Major Religions:  Islam

– Abortion is available on demand, and it remains an accepted method of fertility control.

– 67% of women use contraceptives. IUD is the most common method used.

– Polygamy, although illegal, is socially acceptable.  

– Uzbekistan has one of the world’s lowest divorce rates because of a deliberate effort by the government to make divorce difficult rather than create programs to improve family life.

– Uzbekistan is considered to be a source country for the trafficking of women for sexual exploitation to Kazakhstan, Russia, the Middle East and Asia, and of men for forced labor to Russia and Kazakhstan.

– Under the Uzbek religion law, worship meetings and all other religious activities are illegal for unregistered religious groups.  The law criminalizes unregistered religious activity; bans the production and distribution of unofficial religious publications; prohibits minors from participating in religious organizations; and forbids the wearing of religious clothing in public by anyone other than clerics.

– In 1998, the Uzbek government closed down some 3,000 of the 5,000 mosques.

– Cotton is a crucial cash crop for Uzbekistan, the world’s fifth largest producer and second largest exporter.  Over 2 million children, some as young as seven, are forced annually into the cotton fields, where they face 10-hour work days, exposure to harmful pesticides, and risk physical harm or expulsion from school if they fail to pick a quota of up to 100 pounds of raw cotton per day.  

– Child labor accounts for approximately half of all cotton picked during harvest season in Uzbekistan.  Compulsory work in agriculture requires school children to miss as many as 3-4 months of study each year.

– Over 60 of the world’s leading clothing retailers, from Gucci to Wal-Mart, have joined an industry boycott against cotton from Uzbekistan until the government stops using slavery.  To date, Zara, flagship of the world’s leading fashion group, has yet to join this boycott. 



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