FAMILIES IN TAJIKISTAN
Tajik society has traditionally revolved around extended families that shared adjacent houses in a single walled compound. The pattern has been disrupted somewhat by the construction of apartment blocks with only enough room for nuclear families and the breaking up of extended families as individuals move to wear the work is.
Family size has been declining, but large families are still common. A typical rural nuclear family has six or seven children. An extended family unit often has double that or more, when grandparents and other relation are added in. Urban families tend be smaller, with two or three children, possible with grandparents, squeezed into a small apartment. Usually the nuclear family includes the parents of the husband.
Patriarchal family structures are the norm. The head of the house is the elderly father or the patriarch of the family, and the mother has authority over her daughter-in-law. Kin relationships are distinguished by gender and by age among siblings. Descent is determined through the father although women keep their family name after they get married. Inheritance is given to the son with whom the parents lived and is infrequently sold. It typically consists of the family house.
According to Everyculture.com: Traditionally, the youngest son, with his wife and children, stays with his parents. Because he takes responsibility for his parents in their old age, the youngest son is traditionally the heir to family property. Parents will try to provide a house for each of their sons to improve their prospects of marrying women from a higher economic class. The personal belongings of the mother-in-law go to the wife of the youngest son. [Source: Everyculture.com]
Kirill Nourzhanov and Christian Bleuer wrote: “In Tajikistan, where the transition to a modern small family is yet to be completed, the importance of the family was and is greatly enhanced by its function as a primary unit of economic, ideological and cultural activity. The traditional Tajik family has survived almost intact seven decades of ruthless pressure towards a Soviet-type modernity, retaining its main values and its adaptive role vis-a-vis society at large. The sources of such vitality are concealed in the demographic, structural and behavioural parameters of the kinship groups in Tajikistan. [Source: “Tajikistan: Political and Social History” by Kirill Nourzhanov, Christian Bleuer, Australia National University, 2013 ]
Tajik Extended Family and Kin Groups
A kin group extends far beyond the nuclear family, including the grandchildren of a great-uncle. These ties help develop support throughout the community. The oldest and wisest men are the leaders of the kin group. Most people in a kin group live in close proximity. Many household items are shared with the members of the group. The elderly have traditionally been taken care of by their extended families. In the 1990s pensions were only $2 or $3 a month.
Tajik have traditionally lived with their extended family. When the father is still alive, the sons rarely leave the house to live on their own; otherwise they will be blamed by others. There are three generations or even four generations living together under the same roof in many families. In most cases, three generations of a Tajik family live under the same roof. The male parent is the master of the family. Women have no right to inherit property and are under the strict control of their father-in-law and husband. [Source: China.org]
Kirill Nourzhanov and Christian Bleuer wrote: “There are three types of patriarchal undivided families in Tajikistan: 1) parents living with married sons; 2) families of married brothers who run one household; 3) uncles with married nephews. In the early 1990s, these types constituted more than 21 per cent of all families in Tajikistan, but, given the fact that their size was much bigger than the average nuclear family, they embraced more than half of the population in the republic. Table 4.1 shows that in rural areas families with seven or more members (the national average family size being 6.1) dominated the demographic landscape in Tajikistan, accounting for 51.1 per cent of all families. [Source: “Tajikistan: Political and Social History” by Kirill Nourzhanov, Christian Bleuer, Australia National University, 2013 ]
Family Size in Urban and Rural Areas of Tajikistan
Family size: (percentage of the total of 798, 914 families in Tajikistan in 1993): Families with two people: 11.1 percent; Families with three people: 11.4 percent; Families with four people: 14.4 percent; Families with five people: 12.9 percent; Families with six people: 11.9 percent; Families with seven people: 10.0 percent; Families with eight people: 8.1 percent; Families with nine people: 6.1 percent; Families with ten people; 14.1 percent. [Source: Sem’ia v respublike Tadzhikistan (Dushanbe: Glavnoe upravlenie natsionalnoi statistiki, 1994), p. 12]
Family size in urban areas: (percentage of the total of 319,684 urban families in 1993): Families with two people: 19.5 percent; Families with three people: 18.2 percent; Families with four people: 20.6 percent; Families with five people: 13.5 percent; Families with six people: 9.0 percent; Families with seven people: 6.1 percent; Families with eight people: 4.1 percent; Families with nine people: 2.7 percent; Families with ten people; 6.3 percent.
Family size in rural areas: (percentage of the total of 479,230 rural families in 1993): Families with two people: 5.5 percent; Families with three people: 6.8 percent; Families with four people: 10.3 percent; Families with five people: 12.5 percent; Families with six people: 13.8 percent; Families with seven people: 12.6 percent; Families with eight people: 10.8 percent; Families with nine people: 8.4 percent; Families with ten people; 19.3 percent.
Tajik Family Structure
Tajik society never has been organized by tribal affiliation. The core of the traditional social structure of Tajiks and other sedentary peoples of Central Asia is usually the extended family, which is composed of an adult couple, their unmarried daughters, and their married sons and their wives and children. Such a group normally has joint ownership of the family homestead, land, crops, and livestock. The more prosperous a family, the more members it is likely to have. In the 1930s, some particularly wealthy Tajik families had fifty members or more. Although Islam permits polygamy, that practice has been illegal in Tajikistan for about seventy years; monogamy is the more typical form of spousal relationship because of the high bride-price traditionally required of suitors. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]
Traditional family ties remain strong. Tajikistan had one of the highest percentages of people living in families rather than singly in the Soviet Union. According to the 1989 census, 69 percent of the men aged sixteen or older and 67 percent of the women in that age group were married, 2 percent of the men and 10 percent of the women were widowers or widows, and 1.7 percent of the men and 4 percent of the women were divorced or separated. Only 7.5 percent of men over age forty and 0.4 percent of women over forty never had been married. *
The strength of the family is sometimes misinterpreted as simply a consequence of Islam's influence on Tajik society. However, rural societies in general often emphasize the family as a social unit, and Islam does not forbid divorce. Grounds for divorce in Tajikistan include childlessness, emotional estrangement (in some cases the result of arranged marriages), a shortage of housing, drunkenness, and economic dissatisfaction. The highest rate of divorce is in Dushanbe, which has not only an acute housing shortage but a large number of inhabitants belonging to non-Central Asian nationalities. Marriage across nationality lines is relatively uncommon. Ethnically mixed marriages are almost twice as likely to occur in urban as in rural areas. *
Avlod: Traditional Extended Patriarchal Family
Kirill Nourzhanov and Christian Bleuer wrote: “ Avlod, a word of Arabic origins, is a term used in Tajikistan to describe an extended patriarchal family that serves as an informal mutual support structure. Kamoludin Abdullaev refers to the avlod as ‘the basic unit of sedentary Tajik society and dominant institution of power’, while noting that the ‘avlod system provided survival, autonomy, and adaptability to its members, serving traditionalism and sustainability of the society’. In a big patriarchal family in Tajikistan, the oldest active male member concentrates power in his hands; he controls all major expenditures, he determines the division of labour within the family, and he decides upon the future of junior members—who should continue education and who should go to work in the fields, and so on. [Source: “Tajikistan: Political and Social History” by Kirill Nourzhanov, Christian Bleuer, Australia National University, 2013 ]
Even if grown-up sons separate from the parental household, they cannot claim absolute economic independence, for they continue to belong to the kinship group of a higher order—the so-called avlod, which ideally embodies all males descending from the common ancestor seven generations before. Avlod, in its ideal form, is based on: a) commonality of property (mulkiavlodi) in land; b) tight spiritual bonds, vested in common sacred places (mazors), an assortment of the spirits of the dead (arvoh), and traditions of blood feuds; c) compact settlement of its units, usually around one big yard—havili; and d) a uniformity of action in relations with the outer world. Under Soviet rule mulki avlod was craftily adapted to the realities of collectivisation; collective farms in Tajikistan were often created on the basis of pre-existent communal landownership, and, like their ancestors, members of an avlod continued to work jointly on the same allotment, disguised as a kolkhoz brigade.
“Of course, these characteristics belong to the avlod in its idealised form. Numerous exceptions and variations exist. For example, one anthropologist noticed that the elite families she met in Dushanbe, the Hisor Valley and Samarkand traced their prestigious lineages quite far back to a notable ancestor. Meanwhile, amongst the villagers she studied in Varzob, no-one was able to trace their lineage further back than four generations. Instead of patrilineal lineages, they stressed (often horizontal and occasionally matrilineal) networks of kin in the present, as these networks had—in their daily struggles to survive and get ahead—a high level social and economic significance. Exceptions may exist also in regards to terminology. In labelling a descent lineage or a kinship group or network in Tajikistan one will find local and contextual variations such as: avlod, qaum, elkheshi, khesh, toyfa, kynda, tup, and so on.
“Subsidiary smallholdings also constituted part of the avlod property and played an increasingly important role in maintaining the economic viability of kin structures in circumstances where collective farms were constantly reorganised, enlarged, combined or transformed into state farms. During the 1980s, the number of people who worked exclusively on private family plots in Tajikistan increased sixfold and reached 7 per cent of all those employed, and in some areas, such as the Gharm district, such people accounted for almost one-third of the entire rural workforce. Even employees of collective farms tended to spend a substantial amount of their time on private allotments: in 1985 an average kolkhoznik would work only 187 days at the farm, devoting the rest to his or her personal garden, orchard or vegetable patch.
“As Sergei Poliakov, the most prominent scholar of ‘traditionalism’ in Central Asian societies, has written, ‘the second part of rural economy—what is referred to as private small-holdings of kolkhozniks and workers of state farms … is not regulated, controlled and explored by the state’. In Qarotegin (now known as Rasht) in the 1980s, it was the order of the day for a family to earn 30–50 000 roubles a year simply by selling apples from the avlod orchard—a sum equivalent to the annual salaries of 18 to 30 people working at the farm. All revenues from wages and commercial activities went to the family fund and all spending was controlled by the head of the avlod, even in cases where junior members of the family lived separately. The head’s authority was unquestionable and he effectively prescribed the rules of behaviour to the members of the family.
“Abdullaev notes that while the Soviet system ‘eroded’ the avlod to a certain extent, it continued to exist as a ‘parallel system of power’. Navruz Nekbakhtshoev also argues that the Soviet structures and programs indirectly altered the avlod, as well as pushing it out of the ‘legitimate public space’; however, he notes that despite these changes the avlod is still an important concept in Tajikistan today, as noted by the use of ‘which avlod are you from?’ as a common question. The answer to this question would include a recitation of ancestry because of the importance of the exchange of ‘genealogical information’ in determining ‘identity’ and ‘difference’, as kinship differences are not visible. For the Uzbeks in Tajikistan who no longer have ‘tribal divisions’, the social structure is also based on the avlod, though significantly less than for Tajiks. The avlod structure ‘encompasses’ approximately 46 per cent of the detribalised Uzbeks compared with 82 per cent of certain Tajik ‘subgroups’—the Kulobis being at the highest range. Meanwhile, Shirin Akiner argues that the avlod is most prevalent among the resettled groups from Darvoz and Qarotegin (Gharm), who resisted assimilation most noticeably.
Gender Roles in Tajikistan
According to Everyculture.com: “Islamic law assigns all authority and power to men, but the constitution gives men and women equal rights. There is no formal discrimination in the employment of women,who work in government, academic institutes, and enterprises. While men control leadership and decision making, societal pressure encourages them to make the right decisions. They often seek the advice and council of respected elders in the community. Women raise the children, and are responsible for household management. Women are seen as the compassionate force within the home, while men are the breadwinners and the protectors of their wives, mothers, and daughters. Traditional men believe that women have the right to be taken care of by men. [Source: Everyculture.com]
Kirill Nourzhanov and Christian Bleuer wrote: “Patriarchy, interpreted as a ‘kinship-ordered social structure with strictly defined sex roles in which women are subordinated to men’, serves as a fair indication of the persistence of traditional patterns in Tajik society. The entry of women into public life, sponsored and encouraged by Soviet authorities, had weakened patriarchy to a substantial extent, but the socialisation of women, especially in rural areas of Tajikistan, remains centred on the patrilineal family and focuses on childrearing, limiting their mobility and access to employment and education. It has been estimated that in Tajikistan a woman with a family of five spends an average of 45 hours a week running the household, which effectively precludes her from pursuing alternative life options. [Source: “Tajikistan: Political and Social History” by Kirill Nourzhanov, Christian Bleuer, Australia National University, 2013 ]
“The legal status of women in Tajikistan is not different from that of men, but in practice patriarchal forms of control over women, such as the senior male’s domination in the avlod, restrictive codes of behaviour and a specific public opinion that holds female virtue the sine qua non of family honour, cast strong doubt on the universal effectiveness of emancipatory measures implemented in Soviet Central Asia. In private life especially, a significant proportion of Tajik women has not achieved freedom from traditional patriarchal structures. A study conducted in 1990 amongst female students of Dushanbe tertiary institutions—arguably one of the most fully socialised and mobile strata of the populace—has yielded quite revealing results.
Men and Male Gashtak Groups in Tajikistan
Central Asia remains male dominated. If a man and a woman are together questions are usually addressed to the man. Males often shake hands with each other and ignore the women that are present. Traditionally, when a man holds a religious office, or becomes a grandfather, he grows a beard and becomes a respected “akasal” (“white beards”). Before the civil war, a beard was a symbol of political support for the Islamic opposition. Central Asia is filled with teahouses patronized almost exclusively by men. Local women never enter teahouses. In the mountains of Tajikistan men hang out at teahouses with long wooden benches covered by cushions and carpets.
Kirill Nourzhanov and Christian Bleuer wrote: “Male unions, widely known throughout the ancient world from Greece to China, remain very much a reality in today’s Tajikistan. Their regular assemblies, known as gashtak, gapkhuri, gap, ziyofat, osh, tukma, jura or maslihat in various localities of the country, share several common features: 1) taboo against women’s presence; 2) initiation procedures for newcomers; 3) absolute authority of the leader—bobo, or ‘grandfather’ (hence the nickname of Sangak Safarov, the infamous Tajik warlord in 1992–93: bobo Sangak); 4) obedience and even servility of younger members to the older ones, but only within the limits of a given gashtak. [Source: “Tajikistan: Political and Social History” by Kirill Nourzhanov, Christian Bleuer, Australia National University, 2013 ]
“The late 1980s saw a rapid revival of the tradition of male unions in Tajikistan. It was especially evident in the cities, where they operated under the mask of newly allowed public associations and sports clubs. It has been noted, however, that in modern gashtaks vertical ties between generations are giving way to horizontal links, according to professional, criminal or other common interests. It is noteworthy that youngsters in such formations are encouraged to go in for combat sports, such as sambo, judo and karate. Yaqubjon Salimov, a racketeer and minister of interior of Tajikistan from late 1992 to 1995, acquired some of the necessary skills for his career in the 1970s fighting for his gashtak based in the Dushanbe suburb of Obdoron against rivals from Shomansur.
“In rural districts of Tajikistan, mahalla (neighborhood or community groups and gashtak are almost invariably mere extensions of avlod (see above. The last is, first of all, a kinship structure and as such performs primarily controlling and regulatory functions. The term mahalla has a territorial connotation and is essentially an organisational system. Gashtak, originally a subunit of avlod, has been acquiring a new universal function: the establishment and maintenance of viable ties amongst members of a certain occupation in the community vis-a-vis external forces, including the state. In the cities the distinction between the three is blurred, but what really matters in this case is the fact that, for the bulk of the Tajiks, the collective form of self-consciousness is yet to be replaced with the individualistic one. For many, their lives are still determined to a great extent by long-established codes and the will of various kinship and communal structures, even if those structures have undergone alteration and adaptation in the Soviet era. A representative sociological survey conducted in 11 republics and regions of the USSR between 1988 and 1990 showed that 49 per cent of the population of Tajikistan was guided in their behaviour primarily by the rules prescribed by the family, compared with 26 per cent in Moscow; the rules set by the state and society at large proved to be nowhere near as authoritative as in this Central Asian republic.
Women in Tajikistan
Bennigsen and Wimbush wrote in 1986: sexual segregation is “observed by Tajiks more generally than by any other Muslim nationality of Central Asia." In the last decades of the twentieth century, Tajik social norms and even de facto government policy still often favored a traditionalist, restrictive attitude toward women that tolerated wife beating and the arbitrary dismissal of women from responsible positions. In the late Soviet period, Tajik girls still commonly married while under age despite official condemnation of this practice as a remnant of the "feudal" Central Asian mentality. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]
The Soviet era saw the implementation of policies designed to transform the status of women. During the 1930s, the Soviet authorities launched a campaign for women's equality in Tajikistan, as they did elsewhere in Central Asia. Eventually major changes resulted from such programs, but initially they provoked intense public opposition. For example, women who appeared in public without the traditional all-enveloping veil were ostracized by society or even killed by relatives for supposedly shaming their families by what was considered unchaste behavior. *
Social Indicators on Women in Tajikistan and the Soviet Union as a Whole, 1988: A) Gender ratio: females per 100 males: 112 in the Soviet Union; 101 in Tajikistan; B) Labour force (percent female): 50.6 in the Soviet Union; 39 in Tajikistan; C) Higher education (percent of college population that is female): 54 in the Soviet Union; 41 in Tajikistan; D) Fertility rate: 2.67 in the Soviet Union; 5.68 in Tajikistan. [Source: Sotsialnoe razvitie SSSR (Moscow: Finansy i statistika, 1990), pp. 27, 38, 47, 235; Narodnoe khoziaistvo Tadzhikskoi SSR v 1988 godu (Dushanbe: Irfon, 1990), pp. 21, 24, 31, 108]
Birth Control, Sex Ratios, Fertility, See Population
Traditional Women’s Roles in Tajikistan
Kirill Nourzhanov and Christian Bleuer wrote: “In rural areas, the role of the family in determining the future for a girl is near absolute. Parents would more often than not give a daughter away without asking for her consent, on the basis of economic considerations and the interests of the avlod. The importance of dynastic marriages for nomenklatura clans in Tajikistan will be illustrated in a subsequent chapter; for now it is appropriate to stress the general point made for the traditional society: ‘family leaders, government elites, and religious officials may promote marriages between different families as a means of enhancing or defending their political and social status, of gaining property and other wealth, or of extending business contacts and networks … The same can be said for nonelite families.’ [Source: “Tajikistan: Political and Social History” by Kirill Nourzhanov, Christian Bleuer, Australia National University, 2013 ]
“There are ‘still many matrimonial arrangements between cousins amongst Tajiks, such as marrying [a] mother’s brother’s daughter and marriages between two brothers’ children. In fact, mountain Tajiks disapprove of marriages between non-relatives.’ Betrothal at the age of nine or even two is not infrequent in Yaghnob, for example. Of course, the actual marriage is usually postponed until the age of consent, but the bride-to-be constantly remains ‘the subject of attention and speculation, not in terms of beauty and physique, but the emerging aptness as a house-keeper and worker. These qualities are valued most of all.’ The feeling of being trapped between traditional and modern ways of life often results in tragedy: Tajikistan was the only republic in the USSR where women constituted the majority (52 per cent) of those who committed suicide; self-immolation was an especially gruesome method of settling scores with life amongst women ‘confined to the family circle’.”
ATajik academic wrote at the end of the Soviet era: “The Tajik woman, who has experienced fear of derision, punishment, and solitude for centuries, has been trying to fulfil all whims and demands of the husband and his family with obedience and has been enduring injustice, cruelty and abasement. They have penetrated her flesh and blood and have been transmitted from generation to generation, to daughters and grand-daughters. This situation, fortified by public opinion and learned through experience, traditions and family and marriage customs, has oriented the Tajik girl towards married life and the role of the mother of a large family at a very early age. The same experience has cultivated in her such features as indecisiveness, servility, reticence, unquestionable subordination to the husband and parents’ will, modesty and high regard to a woman’s virtue and a mother’s duty”.
Islamic Laws Restricting Women in Tajikistan
According to the U.S. Department of State: Women from the majority Hanafi Sunni Muslim community remained barred from attending religious services by a fatwa issued by the Council of Ulema, the country’s highest body of Islamic scholars...A 2004 Council of Ulema fatwa prohibiting women from praying in mosques remains in effect, reinforcing official government policies regarding women praying in mosques. The fatwa states that, according to the country’s Islamic traditions based on the Hanafi school of Sunni jurisprudence, women should pray at home. Women of other traditions, such as Ismaili Shia and Christians, are not subject to the Council of Ulema’s prohibition. [Source: International Religious Freedom Report for 2014: Tajikistan; International Religious Freedom, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State |+|]
“Mosques generally enforced the 2004 Council of Ulema fatwa prohibiting women from praying in mosques. Many imams stated they believed they would face problems with the government if they allowed women to attend their mosques. On January 14, head of the Council of Ulema Saidmukarram Abdulqodirzoda told journalists that the Council of Ulema issued the fatwa prohibiting women from praying in mosques because mosques lacked the proper facilities for women to pray separately from men. For example, he said, most mosque buildings were single-story with only one entrance. Abdulqodirzoda stated that the Council of Ulema would repeal the fatwa if mosque facilities were modified to allow men and women to enter and pray separately from each other. Civil society contacts indicated that some Sunni Hanafi women were interested in praying in congregations, but faced obstacles due to the government’s prohibition on unauthorized religious gatherings.|+|
“Some women and girls who wore hijabs were discriminated against by government officials and denied access to public facilities. Enforcement was particularly rigid in schools...The government did not permit school and university students to wear hijabs. The MOE dress code did not permit teachers under the age of 50 to have a beard...On May 29, a teacher at a Rudaki District school scolded fifth grader Shukrona Davlatova for wearing the hijab to an after-school class and asked her to take the hijab off. Davlatova’s parents told journalists the teacher scared her to the point that she swallowed a pin from her headscarf that she had been holding in her teeth while attempting to remove the hijab.”|+|
Working Women in Tajikistan
Women work in government, academic institutes and enterprises. However, only 27 percent of women workers are leaders or directors. In general women earn about two-thirds the salary of men doing the same work. Many women who are employed to do agricultural work. Some women show up in high status jobs. In rural areas, husbands frequently do not allow their wives to study or work outside the home. [Source: Everyculture.com]
World War II brought an upsurge in women's employment outside the home. With the majority of men removed from their civilian jobs by the demands of war, women compensated for the labor shortage. Although the employment of indigenous women in industry continued to grow even after the war, they remained a small fraction of the industrial labor force after independence. In the early 1980s, women made up 51 percent of Tajikistan's population and 52 percent of the work force on collective farms, but only 38 percent of the industrial labor force, 16 percent of transportation workers, 14 percent of communications workers, and 28 percent of civil servants. (These statistics include women of Russian and other non-Central Asian nationalities.) In some rural parts of the republic, about half the women were not employed at all outside the home in the mid-1980s. In the late Soviet era, female underemployment was an important political issue in Tajikistan because it was linked to the Soviet propaganda campaign portraying Islam as a regressive influence on society. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]
The issue of female employment was more complicated than was indicated by Soviet propaganda, however. Many women remained in the home not only because of traditional attitudes about women's roles but also because many lacked vocational training and few child care facilities were available. By the end of the 1980s, Tajikistan's preschools could accommodate only 16.5 percent of the children of appropriate age overall and only 2.4 percent of the rural children. Despite all this, women provided the core of the work force in certain areas of agriculture, especially the production of cotton and some fruits and vegetables. Women were underrepresented in government and management positions relative to their proportion of the republic's population. The Communist Party of Tajikistan, the government (especially the higher offices), and economic management organizations were largely directed by men. *
Sexual Harassment and Discrimination of Women in Tajikistan
According to the U.S. Department of State: “No specific statute banned sexual harassment in the workplace. Victims often did not report incidents because of fear of social stigma. Authorities often perceived sexual harassment as female fabrications. Women reporting sexual harassment faced retaliation from their employers as well as disgrace from their families and communities. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Tajikistan,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State *]
The law provides that women receive equal pay as men for equal work, but cultural barriers continued to restrict the professional opportunities available to women. Employers forced women to work overtime without additional pay. According to the World Bank report, Women, Business, and the Law 2014, women and men have equal ownership rights to property, although women owned significantly less property than men. The extensive number of male migrant workers to Russia and other parts of Central Asia, many of whom failed to send remittances or return home, exacerbated economic pressures on women, who had to provide for themselves and their children, and resulted in a significant gender imbalance in the population. *\
Due to poor employment prospects and family pressure, women often dropped out of school to marry. The law protects women’s rights in marriage and family matters, but families often pressured female minors to marry against their will. Religious marriages were common substitutes for civil marriages, due to the high marriage registration fees associated with civil marriages and the power afforded men under religious law. In cases of religious marriages not registered with the government, husbands simply repeated a phrase in front of two witnesses to divorce their wives. Husbands also used these officially unregistered religious marriages to prevent wives from accessing family assets and other rights in the event of divorce. The practice of men divorcing their wives by sending text messages declined after the 2011 Council of Ulema fatwa declared the practice unacceptable. *\
The 2004 Council of Ulema fatwa (religious edict) prohibiting Hanafi Sunni women from praying in mosques remained in effect. Religious ceremonies also made polygyny possible, despite the illegality of the practice. NGOs estimated that up to 10 percent of men practiced polygyny. Many of these polygynous marriages involved underage brides. Unofficial second and third marriages were increasingly common, with neither the wives nor their children having legal standing or rights. *\
Inheritance laws do not discriminate against women, although some inheritances passed disproportionately to sons. In addition many men hid their assets with their parents or other family members, so that if divorce occurred, they could claim no wealth and become exempt from paying child support or other restitution to the former wife. The Ministry of Internal Affairs supported programs to increase the representation of female officers in law enforcement. *\
Rape and Domestic Violence in Tajikistan
According to the U.S. Department of State: “The law prohibits rape, which is punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment. There was no separate statute for spousal rape. The government did not provide statistics on the number of cases or convictions. Law enforcement officials usually advised women not to file charges but registered cases at the victim’s insistence. Most observers believed the majority of cases were unreported because victims wished to avoid humiliation. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Tajikistan,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State *]
Violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a widespread problem. According to a survey conducted by the National Statistic Committee during the year, 19 percent of women between ages 15 and 49 reported they experienced physical violence since age 15. The highest incidence of domestic violence was reported in Sughd, where 22 percent of women reported suffering domestic violence. The lowest reported level of domestic violence was reported in the Districts of Republican Subordination around Dushanbe, where 13 percent of women reported suffering domestic violence. Women underreported violence against them due to fear of reprisal or inadequate response by police and the judiciary, resulting in virtual impunity for the perpetrators. Authorities wishing to promote traditional gender roles widely dismissed domestic violence as a “family matter.” Women and girls were more vulnerable to domestic violence because of early and unregistered marriages. *\
One police station was fully equipped to work with domestic violence victims. Five stations nationwide were staffed with police officers trained, with OSCE support, to respond to family violence cases and address the needs of victims in a gender-sensitive manner. There are four comprehensive shelters for victims of domestic violence, with support from the OSCE and operated by an NGO in Khujand. In rural areas the government and NGOs operated additional crisis centers and hotlines where women could seek guidance on domestic violence problems and legal assistance, but many centers lacked funding and resources. Local governments donated the premises of three of the shelters. The Committee for Women’s Affairs (within the government) had limited resources to assist domestic violence victims, but local committee representatives referred women to the crisis shelters for assistance. *\
In 2012 the government adopted a law on domestic violence, but it falls short of internationally accepted standards. The Ministry of Internal Affairs lacked the capacity and training to implement the law, although it was working with the international community to increase capacity. In May the government adopted an action plan to implement domestic violence law. The plan calls for law enforcement, court officials, the prosecutor’s office, and representatives of relevant government bodies to receive training on their responsibility to combat domestic violence. The plan also calls for greater cooperation between law enforcement officials and local leaders to change societal attitudes towards domestic violence. The government took some steps to collect information on domestic violence, but many cases of domestic abuse went unreported. *\
Authorities seldom investigated reported cases of domestic violence, and they prosecuted few alleged perpetrators. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is authorized to issue administrative restraining orders, but by law, police cannot act without a written complaint from the victim, even if there were other witnesses. Consequently, police often gave warnings, short-term detentions, or fines for committing “administrative offenses” in cases of domestic violence. *\
Physical and psychological abuse of wives by mothers-in-law was widespread. In some rural areas, officials observed a continued trend of female suicide in which independent observers considered such abuse to be a contributing cause. *\
Children in Tajikistan
Children are brought by parents and extended families. They are raised to value family life, maintain religious and ethical standards, take pride in their ethnic identity and be true to their region or hometown.
Childbirth is a major event for the Tajiks. Traditionally, when a boy was born, three shots were fired or three loud cheers were shouted to wish him good health and a promising future. A broom was be placed under the pillow of a newborn girl in the hope that she would become a good housewife. Relatives and friends offer congratulations and spray flour on the baby to express their auspicious wishes. [Source: China.org ]
The period of pregnancy of a future mother, labor and first forty days (chilla) of a child's have traditionally been accompanied by numerous ceremonies and rituals. The mother and the child were never left on their own; their room was always lit and warmed by a fire. Sharp objects were placed beside the headboard of the woman. Hot peppers, onions and garlic were hung above the bed. During the chilla period, special days — namely the third, fifth, seventh, twelfth and fortieth days — were marked by rituals associated with various stages of the baby's development: putting on its first shirt, the first bath, and the giving of a name. The 40-day period ended with a ritual called chilla-gurezon in which the mother with her baby leave their house for the first time and and visit relatives who arranged a party for them. [Source: advantour.com]
According to Everyculture.com: Because a baby is thought to be subject to infection, it cannot be shown until forty days after it is born, when a cradle ceremony with a feast may be celebrated. This may include a coming of age ceremony for the mother, who is not considered a woman until she gives birth to a child. Infants and children are not exposed to drafts or cold water to prevent illness. A baby is discouraged from fussing or moving about and is trained to be modest, quiet, and shy. The mother often nurses an infant until the age of two. [Source: Everyculture.com]
“The mother trains children in the traditions of the culture. Daughters are taught how to cook, clean, and sew. A son must prepare himself to take care of his parents in their old age, work in the fields, and provide for a family. Religious training is done through participation in ceremonial events. The most important qualities of a good child are respect for the elderly and obedience to parental authority. According to Islamic custom, boys must be circumcised between the ages of one and seven. This involves a ceremony, and a religious leader may perform the circumcision.
Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship by birth within the country’s territory and from their parents. The government is required to register all births. Many parents waited to register a birth until a child was ready to enter school, since birth registration is required to receive public services such as education. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Tajikistan,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State *]
see Education, School
Abuse of Children in Tajikistan
According to the U.S. Department of State: “The Committee on Women and Family Affairs and regional child rights protection departments are responsible for addressing problems of violence against children. Girls subjected to violence could receive support from several centers throughout the country. The Women of Science of Tajikistan Association, supported by UNICEF and the Dushanbe mayor’s office, organized a hotline for free legal and psychological consultations for girls who were victims of violence. Funding for and the capacity of such programs were limited. A five-year program for a Girls Support Center ended in its second year due to lack of funding. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Tajikistan,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State *]
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. Law enforcement bodies investigated cases of commercial sexual exploitation of children, but no statistics were available on the number of prosecutions or convictions. The minimum age of consensual sex is 16 years. There was no data suggesting that children were widely engaged in prostitution. The country was not a destination for child sex tourism. *\
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. *\
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.
Last updated April 2016