Tajikistan: Law on domestic violence

“I was punched by my husband several times — that made me decide to leave him,” says Humo Amonova*, a 46-year-old woman who lives in a small village in the district of Sughd Oblast, in northern Tajikistan. Married at the age of 20, she says her life became a nightmare due to physical violence from her husband, until she finally left.

Humo’s story is not uncommon in Tajikistan. There is currently no law addressing violence against women or domestic violence. Due in part to this lack of legal protection, many Tajik women do not have Humo’s courage and continue in abusive relationships.

However, a new bill passed by Tajikistan’s Lower House of the Parliament on 19 December, 2012 is bringing hope to such women with its provisions of protection for survivors. “This law will help to regulate family relations and most importantly, it concretely defines the measures to prevent domestic violence,” says Nasrullo Makhmudov, a Member of Parliament who is one of the authors of the new bill. “It protects the rights of the family and defines the ways of providing legal, medical and psychological assistance to victims of domestic violence while introducing administrative measures for punishment of perpetrators.”

“Undoubtedly one of the main factors furthering family break-up is the prevalence of domestic violence,” says Makhmudov, adding that an estimated 4,400 families broke up in 2011 because of domestic violence and this number increased rapidly, to 5,600 in 2012.

In a critical new step, the proposed domestic violence law will also apply to families whose marriages are not officially registered.

For Humo, who was 38 when she divorced her husband and left with her three children, it was hard to find work with her secondary-level education. She was married as soon as she completed school and was then bound by housework and caring for her small children. But since her wedding was officially registered, she was at least partially protected by laws regulating divorce, although she had to get support to guarantee her rights.

The new bill will ensure entitlements such as property, alimony and inheritance to all women, regardless of how their marriages are registered. Speaking on behalf of the UN in Tajikistan, UN Resident Coordinator Alexander Zuev welcomed the Tajik Parliament’s decision to pass the law on domestic violence, as a key preventive tool. “This will allow coordination of the efforts of ministries, organizations, NGOs, international and human rights organizations and introduce a systematic approach to seeking solutions to the problem of domestic violence.”

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