Central Asia: Jan ‘08

President cites IWPR report on domestic violence in discussions over plans to tackle the scourge.

Central Asia: Jan ‘08

President cites IWPR report on domestic violence in discussions over plans to tackle the scourge.

The publication of IWPR’s special report on the rising suicide rate among women in Tajikistan has helped to raise the issue at the highest level of government at a time when local NGOs are pressing for a bill to end violence against women.

According to a Dushanbe government official, who preferred not to be named, President Imomali Rahmon cited the IWPR report - Tajik Women’s Groups Press for Domestic Violence Law, published on December 19, 2007 http://www.iwpr.net/?p=rca&s=f&o=341537&apc_state=henprca - at a cabinet meeting, saying the abuse of women was an issue that requires the government’s attention.

The president apparently expressed concern about the extent of the problem and has tasked relevant government bodies to tackle it.

The official told IWPR that Rahmon seemed surprised that a foreign media organisation had presented worrying statistics on an issue which, officially, is not recognised as a problem.

This kind of endorsement at the highest political level is exactly what is needed by the campaign led by women’s NGOs since 2005 to press for adoption of a law to protect women from discrimination and violence. Campaign groups are expecting a bill to go before the parliament in 2008.

The IWPR report included statistics on the growing trend of suicide among victims of domestic violence, which remains a taboo subject.

The report’s authors talked to women who experienced domestic violence first-hand, as well as rights activists, law enforcement representatives and government officials.

The main difficulty faced by those pushing for the law to protect women from domestic violence is that the problem is considered an internal family affair, and is ignored by law enforcement, and government bodies responsible for family affairs and by the country’s legal system.

The findings of the IWPR report challenged the official position of the State Committee for Women and Family that the problem does not exist.

Its official representative said in an interview with IWPR, “There are no [statistics relating to] suicides among women.” And pointed out that the committee has never received information of this kind.

However, when presented with the data used in the IWPR report, she admitted that some women did complain to them, but that due to the “sensitive and delicate nature of this matter we are not allowed to disclose such information”.

Following publication of the report, which is available both in English and Russian, the issue of violence against women was also picked up by the local media.

Director of the Khudjand women’s centre Gulruhsor Orzu Ganieva told IWPR about the importance of media engagement in the debate on domestic violence.

“[This] will speed up the process of tackling it. Each publication gives women a hope that they are not alone and that society will protect and support them,” she said.

Representatives of women NGOs pushing for the bill stressed the positive impact of the IWPR findings, which they believe has given attention to the alarming trend and the need for legislation. They thanked the authors of the article and the IWPR office in Tajikistan for their efforts in publishing the article.

Dilrabo Inomova, the director of a Dushanbe-based NGO, has asked the IWPR contributor who co-wrote the report to become the organisation’s special correspondent, contributing to its news bulletin.

The article also struck a chord with women who have experienced domestic violence.

A mother of two, who gave her name as Zarina, said that she had attempted suicide. She said reports of this kind could make women think twice about taking their own lives. “It means there is another way out of this problem rather than depriving children of their mother,” she said.

Support our journalists