Magazine article New Internationalist

'Death Would Be Better'

Magazine article New Internationalist

'Death Would Be Better'

Article excerpt

A bill that would make domestic violence a criminal offence in Tajikistan will go before Parliament later this year. Women's groups, including the Association for Gender Development and Preventing Violence Towards Women, drafted the law in November 2006 in an effort to protect thousands of victims.

Panorama, a local NGO, says that 70 per cent of married women in Tajikistan are tormented by their mother-in-law or husband. The police insist that they will not interfere in 'family matters' but, if adopted, this law will set out a clear prosecution procedure whilst freeing up state funds for victim support centres.

The legal age for marriage was set at 17 at the end of Tajikistan's 1992-97 civil war, but girls unlucky enough to be married before then were packed off to their in-laws as young as 13. Most women are completely reliant on their husband and his family for financial support and those who don't have close friends or relatives willing to help are often driven to suicide.

'Death is better than this daily humiliation,' says Saima, a 31-year-old mother of four from Rudaki whose husband and in-laws beat her so severely that she set fire to herself in the bathroom last September, burning half of her body. Her husband has a seasonal job on a farm, and there is not enough money to go around outside the harvest period. In frustration, he beats Saima for not providing the children with sufficient food and clothing. Since the beginning of her 14-year marriage, Saima has drunk a pail of vinegar, cut herself with broken bottles and tried to drown in the river. Family members have always found her in time, then beaten her harder. …

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