Turkmenistan - Social development

Turkmenistan's current social security system was created in 1991, and provides old age, disability and survivor pensions to employed persons. A social pension is provided to those not eligible for employment-related pensions. Old age pensions are provided at age 62 for men who have 25 years of covered employment and at age 57 to women with 20 years of employment. The social security program is financed by 30% contributions from employers, and a voluntary contribution of 4% or more from employees. Unemployment benefits are provided for up to one year. Sickness and maternity benefits and workers' compensation were introduced in 1998. Maternity leave at full pay is provided for 112 days. Woman are entitled to equal rights as men under the law, however due to societal constraints the woman's role is primarily that of homemaker and mother. Opportunities for education and careers outside the home are limited. Violence against women, including domestic violence, is not discussed and victims keep silent. Women are underrepresented in management positions in most state economic enterprises. Despite constitutional provisions, Muslims often follow religious practices giving men precedence over women in property and inheritance matters.

There are no international or domestic human rights monitoring groups operating in Turkmenistan. The government funds almost all print media and completely controls television and radio. Academic freedom and publishing are restricted. All forms of religious expression are controlled by the government.

According to most observers, Turkmenistan's humans rights record is extremely poor. The US State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2001 states that the government severely restricts political and civil liberties. Arbitrary arrest, detention, unfair trials, and interference with citizens' privacy and correspondence are reported. Security forces beat and mistreat suspects and prisoners. The government demolishes large numbers of private homes, and many displaced homeowners are not compensated for their loss. The government severely restricts freedom of speech and completely controls and censors the media, forbidding the expression of criticism of the government. In signing the Helsinki Final Act in 1992, Niyazov stated that human rights are defined and limited by Turkmen national interests, namely, law and order and political stability. On 14 September 1999, he denied that there have been political prisoners in Turkmenistan during his rule. According to the State Department's Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 2001 , Turkmenistan severely represses religious minorities. On 24 October 1999, Niyazov reported that Turkmenistan in 1998–99 had confiscated tens of thousands of "illegally" imported religious books and expelled "dozens of foreign visitors… for attempting to turn our people against our sacred beliefs." Suppression has included Christian faiths and others.

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