The number of divorces is constantly growing in Tajikistan. This leads to numerous problems, especially for young women, who are traditionally parented to become only wives and mothers. Young women are left alone without education and profession, with little children, often without support of their parents who cannot provide for them.
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The population grows, so does the number of marriages. However, according to official statistics, every eighth couple gets divorced.
This material discusses several reasons for divorces in the country.
Talaq, Talaq, Talaq: Is It That Easy to Divorce?
Mehrona was married at 17, immediately after graduating from high school. She wanted to become a doctor, but the family did not encourage her. She tried to show her worth to her parents: she studied well, participated in the academic competitions. It did not help.
“I wanted to enrol to university secretly from my parents, but even before the final exams of the high school began, I was married against my will,” the girl says.
Mehrona was taken to her husband’s house. There were three more daughters-in-law in the house besides her. She did not get along with them. A month after the wedding, her husband left for Russia to work. In a large village family, she had to work hard every day, and this caused the first miscarriage, and after a while, the second.
The husband’s relatives disliked their new daughter-in-law. Mehrona often went to her parents. Her husband still worked in Russia. Once, the husband’s brother beat Mehrona because of her quarrel with his wife.
“I told my parents that I would better kill myself then return there. We called my husband, he allowed me to stay with my parents before his arrival,” said the girl.
While living with her parents, Mehrona received the news that her husband returned to Tajikistan and was going to marry again. The girl called her husband and asked what was going on, but he answered her with the only word: “Talaq” [“divorce”, in Islam it refers to the husband’s right to dissolve the marriage by simply announcing it – Tr]. After five years of marriage, they divorced officially.
In Tajikistan, it is enough for a man to say “Talaq” three times to his wife to consider himself divorced. Such cases of divorce are not officially registered, but it is no longer possible to continue living together after that.
Mehrona is 23 now and hopes to enrol to university to receive the education. However, she is scared that her parents will not allow her to do this.
“I live with my parents now. I am afraid that I will be married again to some old man,” she said.
Marry Off Your Daughter Early to Provide Her a Good Future
The experts consider early marriages as one of the reasons for divorces. Despite the fact that according to the Tajik legislation, it is possible to marry only after 18, early marriages are encouraged in the patriarchal Tajik society. It is believed here that the sooner a girl is married off, the better wife she will become.
The state prohibits early marriage, but it does not stop some parents. It is believed that, according to Islamic law, a girl can be married earlier than the secular law allows, at 15-16 years of age, if she is sufficiently physically developed (according to some sources, in Islam, a girl is considered an adult after 12 years of age – Ed.). Islamic spiritual leader – domullo performs a marriage ceremony, “nikah”. Although, it is forbidden in Tajikistan to perform wedding ceremonies without a certificate from the registry office, some clergy believe that Islamic laws implementation is more important that secular ones.
Psychologist Nargis Toymastova says families consider early marriage as a good chance to improve daughter’s life. However, the girls are often not ready for living in a new family.
“Most parents treat their daughters like roommates. They believe that girls do not need a higher education; their task is to create a family, have children, respect and fear their husbands. But girls cannot stand such a life, misunderstandings and quarrels happen in the family that lead to divorce,” said the psychologist.
In 2019, the Centre for Investigative Journalism conducted a research “Early Marriage as a Cause of Divorce and Suicide in Tajikistan” in 17 cities and districts of the country. According to it, the influence of mentality, lack of education and poverty are the main factors of early marriage.
Wars of Mothers-in-law and Daughters-in-law
Nargis Toymastova considers the intervention of relatives in the life of a new family as another reason for divorce. Often in Tajikistan, several generations of one family live in the same house: parents, sons and their wives, grandchildren. Daughters with children return here after divorces.
The lack of own house forces young people to follow the rules and requirements of the houses’ owners.
“The desire to help and guard a beloved child may later turn out to be a disservice. Another important factor is parental jealousy, more often of the mother-in-law towards the daughter-in-law,” said the psychologist.
It is not easy for the husband’s parents to accept the fact that another person is more important for their son, so it is difficult to agree with the son’s or daughter’s choice.
“A significant proportion of divorces in Tajikistan happen because of conflicts between the daughter-in-law and the husband’s relatives,” said the psychologist.
Divorce for Citizenship
Malokhat (not her real name) married at 22. It was a happy marriage: she was satisfied with everything. However, soon after the wedding, her husband admitted that he had an unregistered wife and two children in Yakutsk.
“Before our marriage, he lived and worked in Russia for a long time, and there he created a family. When he confessed to me, I was upset, but then I thought: he is here with me now,” tells Malokhat.
During the time they lived together in Tajikistan, her husband cared about her. They had a son, but soon her husband left to work again.
“I asked my father-in-law to send my husband to any city in Russia, but not to Yakutsk. However, he said that a Russian wife is not a real wife,” the girl said.
Her husband occasionally called her. Soon, it soon became clear that his Russian wife gave birth to a third child. According to Malokhat, she could hardly earn money for living, and when she asked for money, the quarrels began.
He returned a year later, spent three months in Tajikistan and left again. The girl gave birth to their second child, a daughter. Her husband stayed in Russia for four long years. Everything repeated again: lack of money, constant fights on the phone and requests to send money.
“When my husband returned again, I decided to get pregnant again, but he stayed only for one month, and then left again,” Malokhat said.
The children went to school, and Malokhat needed money. In another call to husband, he asked for a divorce.
“My husband called me and asked for a divorce “on paper” so that he could receive Russian citizenship. I refused, and we fought all the time because of it. I asked him to choose either me or her,” said Malokhat.
He chose a Russian wife. Malokhat returned to her parents’ home, the family helped her.
“My brothers help me, and I became a tailoress. Life is the same with or without husband. It is even better without a husband, I do not fight with anyone,” Malokhat said.
Marriages with Russian women became ordinary for Tajik migrants. They hope to improve their life in a foreign country, as well as to legitimize their stay on the territory of Russia.
According to the data by the Asia Plus news agency that cites Professor Rahmon Ulmasov, about 12 thousand Tajik citizens marry Russian women annually.
No One Needs an Educated Wife
Tajik men, especially from rural villages, do not want their wives to attend the university or work.
Some women, after getting married, complain that their husbands do not let them to continue their studies at the university or work.
“At first, such attention may be pleasant, but after staying at home for a certain time, the girl realizes that she is degrading, she becomes isolated by household chores. Misunderstanding, or in the worst case, violence begins,” said the psychologist.
In such case, an educated woman decides that living without a husband is better than enduring violence. The time shows that women with education or specialty live better than girls who did not study in universities or colleges.
Parvina fell in love with her cousin and married him. In the beginning, it was a happy marriage, but soon, the mother-in-law began to interfere in their relationship. Quarrels and fights began. Parvina gave birth to a disabled child, a blind girl. This only worsened the relationship between the spouses, they divorced, and their families quarrelled.
Intermarriages are officially prohibited in Tajikistan, but such marriages frequently happen, including in the rich families in order to preserve the fortune of the family.
“Arranging such a marriage, parents believe that they will insure the girl against the risk of divorce. After all, the mother-in-law in such a family is not a stranger to her daughter-in-law. Nevertheless, after they have a disabled child, relatives tell the husband to divorce his wife. The woman is left alone with her sick child,” psychologist Nargis Toymastova explained.
During six years, Parvina searched a treatment for her daughter, and her ex-husband worked in Russia. None of them married again. This year, her ex-husband returned to Tajikistan, and they married, but decided not to have any more children.
Everything Depends on the Choice
According to a survey by the Centre for Investigative Journalism, more than half of respondents believe that a girl should choose a husband herself, but in fact, when it comes to choosing a husband, the girls’ opinions is not taken into account in Tajik families.
According to the lawyer Khizr Davlatov, the low level of education of girls and legal illiteracy create serious problems for them after divorce.
“The views of the most women on the institution of marriage and family are formed in the context of traditional parenting, where the figure of a father or husband is extremely important. It is safe to say that many girls, finding themselves in a difficult life situation, do not think about the ways to provide for themselves and what kind of work to find in the case of a divorce. Economic failure and lack of quality education among girls are linked,” said the lawyer.
Frequently, women do not know whom to address for help. In case of offenses, they address the government agencies. However, they often cannot help young women left without means of existence.
“I believe that problems in family relationships should be resolved at the level of the family or by more authoritative persons from among the relatives, whose advice will be followed. If these pre-trial measures do not work, then one should address the appropriate authorities. I would also like to mention other mechanisms for protecting women’s rights, for example, various kinds of non-profit organisations that help women in difficult situations. They assist by providing legal advice or temporary housing,” said Khizr Davlatov.
However, in fact, obtaining temporary housing and alimony payments from absent husbands is a huge problem.