Early Marriage in Tajikistan Continues to Pose Challenges for Women
Dilrabo, a 23-year-old resident of Dushanbe, shares her harrowing experience of being married off at the age of 16 as a means of escaping the challenging life she faced after her father’s passing and her mother’s remarriage. Her marriage only lasted two years, during which she suffered abuse at the hands of her husband. Now, she and her young son are left homeless.
She reflects on the possibility of a different life if she had continued her studies instead of getting married at an early age. Dilrabo reveals that her marriage and subsequent divorce may not have been officially registered, raising questions about the prevalence of Islamic marriages, or “nikah,” in Tajik society.
In Tajikistan, the minimum age for marriage was raised from 17 to 18 in 2010 in an effort to protect women’s rights and well-being. However, underage marriages with court permission have been steadily increasing in recent years, with more than 4,000 people marrying at the age of 17 with court approval in 2022, a significant rise from 2018.
The lack of clarity in the family code surrounding the circumstances under which courts can grant the right to marry at 17 has led to the exploitation of this loophole by some families, particularly in pushing their daughters into marriage. The majority of those who marry at 17 are women, reflecting the societal preference for early marriage for daughters.
Women’s rights activists and experts emphasize the detrimental impact of early marriage on young girls, often leading to mental and physical health problems. They point out that 17-year-old girls are not prepared to take on the responsibilities of married life, including caring for their husbands and children, as well as fulfilling traditional household duties, often under the close supervision and control of their in-laws.
These accounts shed light on the long-term repercussions of early marriage for women in Tajikistan, urging for further legal reforms and social awareness to address this enduring issue.