For the second year in a row, Uzbekistan has been placed in the lowest ranking possible in this year’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report released by the United States Department of State. Uzbekistan has not demonstrated to the U.S. government that it is making a significant effort to change its noncompliance with minimum trafficking standards. As a result, it faces possible punishment of sanctions.
This ranking sends a message to Uzbekistan that even though forced labor of children under the age of 16 has largely been eradicated, more must be done to dismantle the system of that forces a million of its own citizens to harvest cotton every year.
“While the decision is an important step to curb forced labor, further pressure will still be needed,” said Nadejda Atayeva, president of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia. “Tashkent’s well-established pattern of breaking its international commitments means that the Obama administration should be ready to follow through with the consequences set out in the legislation, including travel restrictions on Uzbek officials who organize and profit from forced labor.”
Pressure must continue to be applied from a multitude of sources. The United States government recognizes the atrocities happening in Uzbekistan and is taking action to demonstrate practices by the Uzbek government are unacceptable. It is time for retail companies, consumers, investors, and lending institutions to take similar actions. It is of utmost importance that retail companies understand from where their cotton originates to be certain it was not picked from forced hands in the fields of Uzbekistan.