Violence against women is a worldwide problem that sees no boundaries.
The small Central Asian state of Tajikistan is no exception. Here it is common for women to be beaten, abused, and raped by members of their own families.
A new report from Amnesty International, Violence is not just a family affair: Women face abuse in Tajikistan, estimates that one-third to one-half of women have regularly been subjected to physical, psychological, or sexual violence at the hands of their husbands or in-laws.
“Women in Tajikistan are beaten, abused, and raped in the family but the authorities tend to reflect the societal attitude of blaming the woman for domestic violence,” said Andrea Strasser-Camagni, Amnesty International’s expert on Tajikistan, in a statement. “They see their primary role as mediator, to preserve the family rather than protect the woman and to safeguard their rights.”
By placing a greater importance on preserving the “family” rather than protecting the woman, the government of Tajikistan leaves women with no where to turn for help.
Furthermore, in Tajikistan a woman’s is identity is limited to that of a wife and mother and girls often drop out of school at a young age to enter polygamous marriages. With little to no education, they become economically dependent on their husband and his family and as a result often become victim to abuse from their in-laws. For many women the humiliation of enduring violence at the hands of their own families combined with the helplessness of having no where to turn leads to suicide.
“Women are being treated as servants or as the in-laws’ family property. They have no one to turn to as the policy of the authorities is to urge reconciliation which de facto reinforces their position of inferiority,” said Strasser-Camagni.
She adds: “By writing off violence against women as a family affair the authorities in Tajikistan are shirking their responsibility to a large part of the population. They are allowing perpetrators of such crimes to act with impunity and, ultimately, denying women their human rights.”
Amnesty’s report calls on the Tajikistan government to:
- prevent and prosecute violence against women in the family through the introduction of an effective domestic law and nationwide support services;
- carry out a nationwide public awareness campaign in order to address the unlawful practices of unregistered, polygamous, and early marriages;
- remove all barriers to girls’ education and address the root causes of girls dropping out of education.
Violence against women should not be dismissed as a “private family matter” in Tajikistan or anywhere for that matter. Women have a fundamental human right to a life free from violence and it is the responsibility of governments around the world to ensure that these rights are protected. It’s time that the Tajikistan government start taking that responsibility seriously.
Photo copyright: Image from Amnesty International - http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/report/tajikistan-women-beaten-abused-and-raped-family-20091124#