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Campaign Boosts Tajik Women's Rights Reform Bid

IWPR reporting and debates said to have played key role in efforts to get bill banning domestic violence through parliament.
By Lola Olimova

An IWPR-supported campaign has been instrumental in reviving efforts to push through the Tajik parliament a bill banning domestic violence, activists and officials say.

The campaign included IWPR reporting and a number of round-table debates jointly organised with several Tajik organisations. They included the Association of NGOs for Gender Equality and Prevention of Violence Against Women, the government’s Committee for Women’s and Family Affairs, as well as a working group of the coalition of non-government organisations called From Legal to Real Equality.

An IWPR article Domestic Violence Bill Stalled in Tajikistan and a series of debates across the country that followed were all part of efforts to give momentum to a bill banning violence against women and draw public attention to the problem.

The publicity campaign included dissemination of the IWPR report in English, Russian and Tajik to the local press and the lobbying of international donor organisations, government agencies, womens NGOs and the wider Tajik public.

The round tables were held in Horog, the provincial centre of the eastern Gorno-Badakhshan region; Khujand in the north; the southern city of Kulyob; and Qurghonteppa, in the south. A final event is scheduled in the capital Dushanbe for the end of November.

As part of the campaign, signatures were collected for a petition calling for parliamentary approval of the proposed legislation.

Guljahon Bobosadikova, head of the Association of Women With Higher Education and also a member of From Legal to Real Equality, said the IWPR-supported campaign has made real progress in getting approval for the bill, which has been stalled since its introduction in 2003 for a number of reasons, including disagreements over how domestic violence should be tackled.

“We think that lobbying is in its final stages; now a working group has been set up in the parliament which is also actively dealing with the issue,” she said.

According to Bobosadikova, IWPR’s role in contributing to the campaign has been pivotal, “The series of round tables, [public] lectures in all regions that were organised by your organisation helped to better inform local people and local authorities about problems of domestic violence, and about the important steps undertaken by our coalition to eradicate this [social] ill.”

Bobosadikova also pointed out that domestic violence is tolerated in Tajik society and is a taboo subject, “This issue is not talked about openly in Tajik society and the help of mass media is needed.”

Another member of the NGO working group, Nargis Saidova, agreed that IWPR-generated publicity surrounding the campaign helped to attract the attention of the government and international organisations.

Talking about the importance of media coverage, Bobosadikova said that IWPR’s reporting on the issue of domestic violence has played a part in keeping it in the public domain. 

Saidova expressed a similar view, saying that raising the issue in the local media has not only increased awareness but also shown that the situation is not without solution; that there are things that can be done to tackle it.

According to Alla Kuvvatova, head of the Association of NGOs for Gender Equality and Prevention of Violence Against Women, there will be some minor amendments to the bill before it goes for parliamentary approval.

She said that thanks to IWPR’s support, activists have had an opportunity to make one last push which will hopefully lead to the bill becoming law. 

Marifat Shokirova, department head of the State Committee for Women and Family Affairs, who took part in one of the IWPR-organised round tables, said the events played a big part in raising awareness.

“Such meetings and debates with the participation of ordinary people, officials and religious representatives enabled the public to understand that this [social] ill needs to be tackled,” she said.

“Now that all groups in the society, with the help of your organisation and with the help of the media, started to work on it together, I think that the deadlock [over the proposed legislation] will be broken.” 

Lola Olimova is IWPR Tajik editor. 

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