In 2009, Coram International started a Girls’ Support Service in Tajikistan, aimed at girls between the ages of 10 and 18 who have been, or who are at risk of being sexually abused, trafficked or exploited. The lack of services for these girls came to Coram International’s attention through our work on juvenile justice reform in Tajikistan. Girls were being detained in the boys’ detention centre in the capital, although their only “crime” was having been found, through the state sanctioned virginity test, to be sexually active. The girls were labelled as ‘prostitutes’, regardless of whether the girls had been raped or exploited. The Girls’ Support Service provided hundreds of vulnerable girls with educational, medical, psychological, and social support. The project also included training for over 200 local authority, law enforcement and NGO representatives who are mandated to care for girls in the target group. The project sought to combat impunity for perpetrators of abuse by building capacity of local prosecutors, judges and police. The project was implemented in partnership with the Tajik Government’s National Committee for Women and Family Affairs and a local partner, the Child Rights Centre. Following the three years of donor support, the Tajik government committed to the continued development and implementation of the Girls’ Support Service, ensuring that no girl is ever left in the boys’ prison again and that those who experience sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking are supported and awarded justice.

From 2009 to 2011, Coram International engaged in groundbreaking research into the administrative detention of children, globally. The research involved extensive desk review of documents, including reports from the treaty monitoring bodies, as well as the development of qualitative questionnaires that were completed by UNICEF and NGO offices across the world, and, in-country field research in selected case study countries, including Bahrain (focusing on detention of girls for social rehabilitation), Burundi (focusing on the detention of children in the juvenile justice system), Guatemala (focusing on the detention of children living and working on the streets) and India (focusing on the detention of children for welfare purposes). The report itself focused on a number of key issues in administrative detention, including the administrative detention of children in need of care and protection, administrative detention for security purposes, administrative detention for immigration reasons, administrative detention within the juvenile justice system and administrative detention of children for health purposes. Other case studies were also developed through desk-based research, including Guantanamo Bay, immigration detention in the UK, administrative detention of girls in the MENA region and administrative detention of children in Tajikistan. The report was published and is available here.

In 2008, Coram International completed a comprehensive analysis of the child protection system in Tajikistan and provided recommendations to the Government on the reform of law, policy and practice. Coram International also provided technical assistance to the Government in developing legislation to strengthen gate keeping mechanism in order to prevent unnecessary institutionalisation of children. In 2005, the Centre undertook a comprehensive evaluation of UNICEF’s deinstitutionalisation programme in order to inform its development. During this time Coram International also delivered training to staff working in homes for children with disabilities in Dushanbe, to develop their capacity to work effectively and appropriately with children with additional needs. Over the course of these institutional agreements with UNICEF Tajikistan, the team also supported the Tajik government to draft its State Party Report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

In 2008, Coram International hosted a delegation of parliamentarians for a study visit on child protection and child welfare. The main objective of this study tour was to raise awareness among Parliamentarians of children’s rights and the need to ensure that existing and new laws comply with international standards and the Constitution of Tajikistan. In particular, the National Committee for Women’s and Family Affairs (NCWFA) requested that the programme focused on child welfare and child protection in light of the fact that the NCWFA had assembled a working group on reform of these systems.

Between 2005-2009, Coram International provided technical assistance to the National Expert Group on Juvenile Justice to produce a detailed analysis of the system for children in conflict with the law; this involved examining law, policy and practice relating to children above and below the age of criminal responsibility. Based on this analysis, a series of recommendations were provided to the Government for reform of the system. Coram International was then contracted to provide technical assistance to the Government to implement these recommendations. This included:

  • Training on child rights and juvenile justice standards for police prosecutors and judges
  • Designing and supporting the implementation of a diversion and alternative sentencing scheme for children in conflict with the law (the was the first of its kind in central Asia, and has since been replicated in other districts in Tajikistan as well as in Azerbaijan and Georgia)
  • Reforming closed detention centres, through redrafting regulations; training staff; providing legal services to detainees; establishing rehabilitation and reintegration programmes; renovating and refurbishing buildings
  • Providing technical assistance for the review of the Criminal Procedure Code

Between 2005-2009, Coram International established and supported local child rights NGOs in Moldova and Tajikistan, after identifying a lack of legal services for vulnerable children, and civil society advocacy for reform within children’s law. The local NGOs provided legal information, advice and representation to children, young people, their parents or carers. The NGOs also provided technical assistance to UNICEF and their respective Governments on the reform of child related legislation. Coram International supported the NGOs for a number of years, providing technical support and assistance to ensure their development and sustainability.

In March 2007, a delegation from Tajikistan comprising representatives from Ministries and State bodies, detention centres, UNICEF, and civil society arrived for a study tour hosted by Coram International on juvenile justice reform and child right compliant responses to juvenile offending. The comprehensive programme included meetings with national policy makers and local implementers: the Youth Justice Board, the Home Office, Youth Offending Team, a range of community prevention and alternative sentencing programmes, restorative justice and family conferencing schemes, ’Safer Schools’ programme (partnerships between the police and schools to prevent offending), a police station, a young offenders institution, a youth court, a victim and witnesses interview suite, and different types of special schools for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties. Coram International ran parallel programmes, to ensure that participants attended meetings and participated in visits that matched their areas of work and interest. Coram International held a workshop with the delegation in order to identify the steps that each Ministry and Agency needed to take in order to implement the reform and how Coram International and UNICEF could support this process. A key achievement of the visit was the commitment of the Ministry of Justice to work with UNICEF and Coram International to reform the pre-trial detention centre and the juvenile colony.

In February 2004, a Tajik delegation arrived for a study tour hosted by Coram International to review and learn best practices in diverting children from the criminal justice system. The delegation started the week by learning about the international standards and norms for children in conflict with the law, focusing in particular on diversion. Coram International set up a multi-agency panel to investigate the different approaches to tackling youth offending and how the agencies worked together. The delegation also met with a Judge to view a hearing and have a seminar on the system of prosecuting children and young people in the UK; a Senior Crown Prosecutor who taught the delegation best practices on dealing with juveniles in court and the system of going through the court process and community based schemes for rehabilitation and prevention work.