Uzbekistan

Number of reported cases At least 12 How do we calculate the number of cases

Overview

Article 113 of Uzbekistan’s Criminal Code, covering the spread of STIs including HIV, provides for higher penalties for people with HIV who ‘deliberately ‘expose’ or transmit the virus compared to other STIs. Perceived HIV ‘exposure’ or transmission is liable to a sentence of five to eight years’ imprisonment, compared with three to five years for other STIs.

In the context of Article 113, ‘deliberately’ only means that the person was aware of their HIV status and placed another person at any risk of potential transmission, regardless of the actual risk. There is no defence for disclosure leading to informed consent. In terms of punishment, no distinction is made between perceived ‘exposure’ and actual transmission under the law, with both being subject to the same sentence range.

In 2010, a case in which 147 children contracted HIV in Namangan involving alleged negligence by health care providers prompted the government to add an amendment to Article 113 that also makes health care practitioners criminally liable for ‘negligent HIV transmission’. The new provision specifies criminal liability ‘as a result of non-fulfilment or negligence of professional duties.’ This includes failing to keep instruments sterile, and failure to follow proper processes for medical procedures, including blood transfusion.

A 2022 shadow report to the CEDAW Committee by the Eurasian Women’s Network on AIDS and Alliance for Public Health quoted Ministry of Internal Affairs data which recorded 131 criminal offences under Article 113 in 2020, and 100 offences in nine months of 2021. However, it is not clear how many of these recorded offences relate to HIV and how many relate to other STIs as the data in the shadow report is not disaggregated. It is known that, to date, there have been at least seven HIV criminalisation cases, two of which were against health professionals for medical negligence leading to HIV transmission.

This report documents an undated case of a trans woman living with HIV who, following arrest and a 15-day detention involving harassment and torture, was charged under Article 113 (along with Article 120 which criminalises ‘homosexuality’). No transmission was proven, nevertheless, she was sentenced to five years and one month’s house arrest.

In June 2020, a young man was charged with ‘knowingly putting a person at risk of HIV infection’, despite the fact that his partner had been aware of his HIV status before they had sex, HIV was not transmitted, and she did not want him prosecuted. The couple are now married with a child. The accused was given a suspended sentence, however, the man was then vilified in the press after media erroneously reported he had transmitted HIV.

In October 2020, a young woman living with HIV was convicted under Article 113 after her husband contracted HIV. Although this provision carries a penalty of five to eight years’ imprisonment, a range of factors (including her confession, repentance, and testimony of her husband), resulted in the court applying Article 57 (the appointment of a lighter punishment) and sentencing her to two years’ house arrest.

In December 2021, a woman was sentenced to six and a half years’ imprisonment under Article 113 for alleged ‘deliberate’ HIV transmission. Little is known about the case, but media reports claim that the women transmitted HIV through sexual intercourse to over 40 men.

In a similar case in November 2022, a sex worker was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for allegedly transmitting HIV to more than 20 men. It is not clear whether transmission did in fact take place or whether the media erroneously reported cases of ‘exposure’.

In another grouping of cases (not included in the above tally), an investigation related to sex work uncovered the HIV+ status of at least two of five people detained, some of whom were transgender. It appears charges were laid related to a perceived risk of HIV ‘exposure’.

Another aspect of criminalisation in Uzbekistan is that the Ministry of Health maintains a list of professions prohibited for people living with HIV, and people who continue to work in these professions while being aware of their HIV status can be subject to criminal sanction under Article 113, regardless of transmission risk.

For instance, the 2022 shadow report noted above documents the 2020 case of a hairdresser living with HIV who was convicted under Article 113 as her profession is one prohibited for people living with HIV. The woman had an undetectable viral load and took measures to avoid cuts, however the court found her guilty and sentenced her to two years’ probabtion.

Similarly, a case reported in April 2022 involved a dentist who continued to work after receiving a positive HIV diagnosis. A criminal case was opened under Article 113 on the basis that dentistry is a prohibited profession for people living with HIV. There is no suggestion of HIV transmission in the report.

In its 2022 concluding observations on Uzbekistan, the CEDAW Committee called on the government to decriminalise perceived ‘exposure’ to and transmission of HIV through repeal of Article 113.

In September 2022 it was reported that a new law requiring compulsory HIV testing of known sex workers, men who have sex with men, and drug users was being developed by the Interior Ministry, with possible adoption as early as January 2023. The report suggests that this would require testing of anyone suspected of being in these groups, and would not require a crime to be committed.

Laws

Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan - Section 113. Spread of Sexually Transmitted Disease or HIV / AIDS

HIV-specific criminal law (active)
Relevant text of the law

Article 113. Spread of Sexually Transmitted Disease or HIV / AIDS

(Title of Article 113 as amended by the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan dated May 24, 2010 No. ЗРУ-248 – СЗ РУ, 2010, No. 21, Article 161)

  1. The deliberate putting another person in danger of contracting a sexually transmitted disease –

shall be punishable by a fine of up to twenty-five times the minimum wage, or by compulsory community service for up to two hundred and forty hours, or correctional labour, up to one year.

  1. Infection of another person with a venereal disease by a person who knew that he had this disease, –

shall be punishable by compulsory community service from three hundred sixty to four hundred eighty hours or by restriction of liberty from three to five years or by imprisonment from three to five years.

The actions provided for by the first or second parts of this article, committed in relation to:

  1. a) two or more persons;
  2. b) a minor, –

shall be punishable by compulsory community service from three hundred sixty to four hundred eighty hours or by restriction of liberty from three to five years or by imprisonment from three to five years.

  1. Deliberately endangering another person or infecting them with HIV /AIDS – is punished by imprisonment from five to eight years.
  2. Infection of another person with HIV / AIDS as a result of non-fulfillment or improper fulfillment by a person of his professional duties –

shall be punishable by a fine from one hundred to two hundred minimum wages or by compulsory community service from three hundred sixty to four hundred eighty hours or by corrective labour up to two years or by restriction of liberty from two to five years or by imprisonment up to five years.

Further resources

Alternative report on the implementation of the CEDAW concerning women living with HIV by the Republic of Uzbekistan
for the 81st session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
This alternative report identifies the following issues: the harms of institutionalized criminalization of women living with HIV (criminalization of HIV exposure, non-disclosure and transmission); delaying the process of state registration of an association of women living with HIV; access to healthcare; violence issues; and the impact of restrictive measures due to COVID-19.
Submitted by the Eurasian Women's Network on AIDS and Alliance for Public Health - Geneva, Switzerland, 07 – 25 February 2022
The report is available in English and in Russian.

Acknowledgements

Authors: Eurasian Women’s Network on AIDS (EWNA)
Regional HIV criminalisation report that summarises the state of play regarding HIV criminalisation laws and known prosecutions in the EECA region.

This information was last reviewed in January 2022