Tajik Legal System Still Failing Women

Tajik Legal System Still Failing Women

Wednesday, 18 December, 2013

A new study shows that while legal protections for women in Tajikistan exist on paper, they are applied very unevenly by courts around the country.

Tajikistan has signed up to all the major conventions on equality women’s rights, it has a national strategy in place to enhance the position of women, and it has introduced special training courses for working judges and would-be lawyers. Yet these measures do not seem to be working.

One frequent issue that comes to court is alimony due from husbands who are away working in Russia. In some cases, a divorced wife will be awarded payment despite the absence of the other party – the husband – from court, whereas in others, the judge may fail to reach a decision for exactly the same reason. (See also Abandoned Wives Struggle to Survive in Tajikistan.)

According to Margarita Khegay, who worked on the study, one reason for this is that Tajikistan’s legal system is good at punishing offenders, but bad at delivering social justice.

“The victims don’t get anything out of it,” she said.

A second factor, Khegay argues, is that there are fewer and fewer women working as judges, especially in rural parts of the country. From 34 per cent in 2006, the percentage of female judges in Tajikistan fell to 16 per cent in 2011, the last year covered by the study.

“This is not a good trend,” Khegay said.

Another major area where the law does not always do its job is domestic violence.

“One in three women seeking help from the League of Women Lawyers has an issue with domestic violence and assault,” the league’s director Zebo Sharifova told IWPR. 

Shahodat Saibnazarova is IWPR Radio Editor in Tajikistan.

This audio programme went out in Russian and Tajik on national radio stations in Tajikistan, as part of IWPR project work funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Support our journalists