Despite Ban, Polygamy Becoming Normal in Tajikistan
Although polygamy is outlawed in Tajikistan, officials are unable to say exactly how widespread it is, or how often prosecutions take place.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the custom is on the increase.
Second and third wives are married only by the Muslim rite, and the union is not registered with the state or recognized in law, making alimony and property disputes more complex.
Some women may agree to enter such a marriage for economic reasons, or because they are in their mid-twenties with no immediate prospect of marriage. Tajikistan has a gender imbalance, with many young men absent for long periods as migrant labour in Russia and other countries.
Human rights lawyer Zebo Sharifova says she gets applications for help and advice from women from more prosperous backgrounds, too, and from urban as well as rural environments.
“It isn’t just low-earning women who come here, there are fairly wealthy ones too,” she told IWPR. “The generally ask how they can claim alimony from a husband they aren’t officially married to. They seek advice on dividing assets that have been jointly acquired.”
Galim Faskhutdinov is an IWPR contributor in Tajikistan.
This audio programme went out in Russian and Tajik on national radio stations in Tajikistan. It was produced under two IWPR projects: Empowering Media and Civil Society Activists to Support Democratic Reforms in Tajikistan, funded by the European Union; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway.The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Norwegian foreign ministry.