WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 564, 1. February, 2009
RUSSIAN LEADER TRIES TO KEEP UZBEKS ON SIDE Will President Medvedev succeed in
restoring Tashkents pro-Moscow orientation? By Inga Sikorskaya in Bishkek
(RCA No. 564, 30-Jan-09)
KYRGYZ ARMY BILL SPARKS FEARS OF CRACKDOWN Civil groups warn that new
legislation could allow authorities to deploy military to crush public
protests. By Mirgul Akimova in Bishkek (RCA No. 564, 30-Jan-09)
MARRIAGE VOWS NOT ALWAYS ENOUGH IN TAJIKISTAN Missing out on a
state-registered wedding can be storing up trouble for wives in future years.
By Mukammal Odinaeva and Lola Olimova in Dushanbe (RCA No. 564, 30-Jan-09)
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RUSSIAN LEADER TRIES TO KEEP UZBEKS ON SIDE
Will President Medvedev succeed in restoring Tashkents pro-Moscow orientation?
By Inga Sikorskaya in Bishkek
Russian president Dmitry Medvedevs visit to Tashkent last week was an attempt
to shore up his countrys alliance with Uzbekistan. The relationship has been
close in the last few years, but has been growing more distant over recent
The only major document signed at the end of the Russian leaders talks on
January 22 and 23 was a gas supply agreement that had already been reached
earlier, under which the Uzbeks are to increase the amount of natural gas they
export to Russia.
The real purpose of Medvedevs visit may have been to sound out the intentions
of his counterpart Islam Karimov ahead of a joint summit of the Collective
Security Treaty Organisation, CSTO, and the Eurasian Economic Community,
EurAsEC, scheduled to take place in Moscow in February.
The Uzbeks have blown hot and cold on the CSTO over the years as they have
shifted between pro-Moscow and pro-western orientations, and last autumn they
announced they were withdrawing from EurAsEC.
After his three-hour private meeting with Medvedev, President Islam Karimov
said only that the talks were very frank, but that they had brought some
clarity and would provide a basis for further decisions.
Analysts say Moscow is determined to prevent Tashkent slipping out of its
sphere of influence and pursuing either its own ambitions for regional
dominance or seeking alliances with western states. Karimov pursued both these
policies through the Nineties and the first half of the present decade.
In 2005, international criticism of the massacre of civilians in Andijan caused
Karimov to break with his western partners, close down the American military
airbase set up to assist Coalition operations in Afghanistan after 2001, and
renew ties with Moscow.
>From around the beginning of 2008, however, Tashkent publicly began putting
>out feelers to the West again, and both the United States and the European
>Union reciprocated with renewed attempts at dialogue.
In April last year, the Uzbek leader attended a NATO summit in Bucharest, while
in October he signalled he might be amenable to the kind of energy cooperation
in which European states have expressed interest. The same month, the EU eased
sanctions imposed because of Tashkents refusal to allow a full international
investigation into what happened in Tashkent.
Signs that Uzbekistan was about to change direction again seem to have alarmed
the Kremlin, which regards Central Asia as its backyard from the point of view
of security and in recent years has sought to exert greater influence over what
happens to oil, gas and electricity produced in the region.
Russia is now even prepared to sustain losses in order to remove the western
presence from Uzbekistan, said Farhad Tolipov, an academic in Tashkent.
Another local analyst, based in the eastern town of Fergana, believes Medvedev
used his visit to engage with Karimov so as not to derail his ambitions to
draw Tashkent into Moscows sphere of influence.
He added that the Russian leader probably also wanted to check whether Karimov
would be attending the CSTO summit after pulling away from EurAsEC last year.
The Kremlin is worried that Karimov might now refuse to be part of the CSTO as
well, he said.
The CSTO was set up in 2002, developing out of the Collective Security Treaty
signed in 1992. Its current members are Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakstan,
Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The Uzbeks were members of the pact, but
Karimov felt the others did not back him up sufficiently when militants of the
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan staged armed incursions in 1999-2000. Dismissing
the bloc as of no benefit, he declared a moratorium on his countrys
After Andijan and the reorientation towards Moscow that followed, the Uzbeks
renewed their membership of the CSTO in July 2006, and the upper house of
parliament formalised full membership at the end of March 2008.
All the CSTO states, with the exception of Armenia, are also members of
EurAsEC, established in 1995 with the aim of promoting free trade and a customs
union. Yet Karimovs instinct has always been to go it alone, and despite
accords on greater integration signed by both the security and economic blocs,
he has kept strict border controls and barriers to free trade in place.
In September 2008, all four Central Asian members of EurAsEC appeared to be
close to a deal that would allow the regions water and energy resources to
mutual advantage. This has been a constant bone of contention between the two
oil- and gas-rich states, Kazakstan and Uzbekistan, and the Tajiks and Kyrgyz
who control the sources of rivers that keep their neighbours agriculture
alive. Both sides feel they get a raw deal from the other the former claiming
they are starved of water in the farming season, and the latter complaining
that their wealthier neighbours charge them commercial rates for natural gas
In the end, no final agreement was signed because the Uzbeks were reluctant to
enter into a multilateral agreement on water resources that transcend national
Their decision to withdraw from EurAsEC can therefore be seen as a rejection of
other Central Asian states, but Moscow took it badly, perceiving it as a blow
to its own reputation as regional leader.
In an attempt to reel the Uzbeks back in, Medvedev offered them surprise
olive-branch during his trip, saying Russian-led projects to build
hydroelectric power stations in the region would take into account the
interests of all Central Asian states, not just the beneficiary countries.
Uzbekistan has expressed concern at plans to complete the giant Rogun
hydroelectric dam scheme in Tajikistan and a series of power stations called
Kambarata in Kyrgyzstan. These Russian-financed projects could would make these
states more self-sufficient in energy, but could result in restricted water
flows to the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers, respectively.
Tashkent has repeatedly expressed concern over the dam projects, as Uzbek
scientists fear the consequences could be catastrophic for a heavily-populated
country that is largely dependent on irrigation by these two great waterways.
Uzbekistan-watchers say that after Medvedevs visit, Tashkents true intentions
remain far from clear.
Since independence in 1991, its leadership has shifted back and forth between
Russia and the West for reasons of political convenience, and sometimes
depending on how strong or vulnerable it feels its position is in the Central
Tashpulat Yoldashev, an Uzbek political scientist who now lives abroad, thinks
the government wants to see what kind of policies US president Barack Obamas
administration will adopt towards the region before taking a definitive stance.
Karimov is waiting for the new US administrations position to become clear on
Central Asia and Uzbekistan, he said. In the interim, he can flirt with
Inga Sikorskaya is IWPRs editor for Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
KYRGYZ ARMY BILL SPARKS FEARS OF CRACKDOWN
Civil groups warn that new legislation could allow authorities to deploy
military to crush public protests.
By Mirgul Akimova in Bishkek
Civil society representatives have expressed alarm that the Kyrgyz authorities
are pushing through legislation that would allow them to use the army to quell
protests at a time when tensions between the government and opposition are
A group of non-government organisations is calling on President Kurmanbek
Bakiev not to give his assent to the law, which contains a clause allowing the
armed forces to assist police in maintaining public order and security as
well as in rescue and disaster relief operations.
The bill, which sets out a framework under which Kyrgyzstan nationals are
conscripted into the military and offers the option of alternative forms of
service, was passed by parliament in December and now only needs the
presidents signature to become law.
In a January 27 letter to Bakiev, the Kyrgyz parliament and the human rights
ombudsman, 18 NGOs outlined their fears that as Kyrgyzstans economic problems
deepened, the authorities were trying to tighten their grip by reserving the
right to deploy the army on the streets.
The economic situation is deteriorating, and the number of dissatisfied people
is growing, said the letter. Peaceful assembly and religious freedoms are
either limited or banned in the country.... There are rumours that freedom of
expression may also be restricted or banned.
The petition said the bill ran contrary to the constitution, which says the
armed forces cannot be used to resolve domestic and political issues.
The adoption of unconstitutional laws at a time of political and economic
instability could have serious and unpredictable consequences, the NGOs
Earlier in January, a number of other civil society organisations issued a
statement protesting against the law. Another petition was sent to the
president on January 20, by the Voice of Freedom group and the Association of
Civil Society Support Centres, urging Bakiev to veto the law.
Analysts interviewed by IWPR agree the legislation could radically reshape the
way the security forces are used in Kyrgyzstan.
Public order is [constitutionally] the responsibility of the Ministry of the
Interior, not that of the army, said Isa Omurkulov, a member of parliament
from the Social Democratic Party.
Dinara Oshurakhunova, who heads the NGO Coalition for Democracy and Civil
Society, told IWPR that the police and army which come under the interior and
defence ministries, respectively must be kept separate.
Each institution has specific roles the armys role is to defend the state
from external enemies, while that of the police is maintain law and order
inside the country. The roles of these two institutions should not be
confused, she said.
Oshurakhunova said she believed that the authorities were planning to use the
army to rein in the opposition.
The draft law comes at a time of growing political tension in Kyrgyzstan, which
has been deeply shaken by the global financial crisis.
In December last year, opposition groups joined forces against a backdrop of
soaring unemployment and fuel shortages, and presented a list of radical
demands, including the resignation of the president.
On January 12, at its first formal meeting, the United Peoples Movement, UPM,
announced that it planned to hold nationwide protests demanding an improvement
to the economic crisis in the country.
Oshurakhunova said that as financial turmoil continued, people were expecting
conditions to get worse.
Many people expect the prices for basic services and food to rise in the near
future, which will cause living conditions to deteriorate, she said.
She said that the countrys leaders should focus on tackling the underlying
problems such as energy shortages and the soaring cost of food and basic
services, which are driving people into the arms of the opposition.
Instead of drafting anti-crisis plans and measures to overcome the financial
and socio-economic crisis, officials are introducing tighter measures to
suppress potential public unrest, she said.
Abdygul Chotbayev, a former member of Bishkek city council and before that the
first commander of Kyrgyzstans National Guard force, is concerned that the
authorities are responding to public discontent by introducing greater
By engaging the army in domestic affairs, the authorities are trying to become
stronger, he said.
Chotbayev cited the so-called revolution of March 2005, when the then president
Askar Akaev was ousted after people took to the streets to protest against his
authoritarian regime. He warned that if the legislation was passed, such a
revolt would be crushed by the army,
If the army were to become involved in such a situation, whom should it
defend, the authorities or the people? The answer is quite obvious the army
would have to defend the authorities, he said. What we are witnessing today
is the authorities striding towards an authoritarian regime
Omurkulov, whose Social Democratic Party opposed the law in parliament, where
it is a tiny minority against the governing Ak Jol party, said he thought the
government had grown alarmed by the oppositions new-found unity and
The authorities are concerned about the consolidation and radicalisation of
the opposition, whose ideas and proposals on reforms have been ignored, said
He said he believed the authorities were preparing to clamp down on opposition
activities, pointing out that the government has been buying defence and
security equipment and has earmarked more money for the presidential bodyguards
in this years budget.
They have bought modern weaponry including night-vision devices, eavesdropping
equipment, and water-cannons. The authorities are preoccupied with militarising
the state in order to remain in power, instead of using the money to pay wages
and pensions, he said.
However, the authorities have dismissed these concerns.
Asanbek Baytikov, deputy chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Defence,
Security, Law and Order, and Legal Reform, confirmed that more money had been
spent on providing bodyguards for the president and procuring modern weapons.
But he said there was nothing sinister about this.
Increasing spending on defence capacity is a good thing, and its also
important to support the state bodyguards, who are paid out of the government
budget like anyone else, said Baytikov. When budget funds are allocated for
any sector, its a sign the country is growing and developing.
During a parliamentary debate on January 26, Defence Minister Baktybek Kalyev
insisted there was nothing ominous in the bills wording.
There are many situations when we employ our conscript soldiers in various
peaceful activities as set out in defence ministry regulations. These
activities do not include dealing with domestic political matters, he said.
Begaly Nargozuyev of the ruling party Ak Jol said Kalyevs speech convinced him
that the army would deploy only in emergencies, such as an outbreak of
inter-ethnic fighting or looting.
We have enough [interior ministry] personnel about 17,000 policemen to
maintain public order. Rallies [against Bakiev] in 2006 showed us that the
police can successfully deal with thousands of people, Nargozuyev told IWPR.
Major Kurman Nasirov, deputy head of the defence ministrys legal department,
also argued that the law was uncontroversial, adding, I think certain
politicians and human rights activists want to play up this bill for PR
purposes. This clause is not a new one, as it was earlier included in rules for
army service approved in August 1998.
Yet Ismail Isakov, a former defence minister who recently defected to the
opposition, said the president should refuse to sign the bill.
Allowing the army to intervene in public order matters could prove highly
dangerous, he said.
The army is not the police. It will use live ammunition because it doesnt
have batons or rubber bullets like the police, he said.
Isakov said soldiers had a right not to disobey their superiors if their
conscience so dictated, and could also be held accountable for harm done to
civilians even when they were carrying out orders.
Despite the fact that every soldier must follow his commanders orders, the
[army] rules include a clause stating that he has a right not to do so if the
order is wrong, he explained. If something happens, the individual who fired
the shot will be accused, not the person who gave the order.
Mirgul Akimova is a pseudonym for an independent journalist in Bishkek.
MARRIAGE VOWS NOT ALWAYS ENOUGH IN TAJIKISTAN
Missing out on a state-registered wedding can be storing up trouble for wives
in future years.
By Mukammal Odinaeva and Lola Olimova in Dushanbe
More and more married women in Tajikistan are being deprived of property
rights, especially if they get married without going through the legal
IWPR has spoken to numerous Tajik women, some of whom went through the state
registry office and others who were only married by a cleric, and discovered a
pattern of discrimination when property disputes emerge within the family,
especially when couples separate.
Under Tajikistans secular legal system, women have equal rights, so that in
the event of a divorce, they can claim half the assets acquired by a couple in
the course of a marriage.
However, these rights are often denied to them by the husbands relatives, and
many are not sufficiently well educated to be aware of the legal position, or
cannot afford to hire a lawyer.
After divorce, and also if the husband dies, women commonly lose both property
and home, since traditionally a bride goes to live with her husband or his
In such cases women have the right to redress through the courts, even if they
do not claim it.
The legal position is significantly worse for the many Tajik women, and perhaps
the majority in rural areas, who do not go through the state marriage
registration procedure, confining themselves to the Muslim wedding rite known
Official statistics show that while marriage is more common than ever, the
number of weddings registered with the state has fallen by 60 per cent since
In such cases, the law recognises neither marital status nor the rights and
protections that go with it. Because the marriage never existed in the eyes of
the law, dissolving it becomes a simple matter. Under a rule taken from Islamic
law, the man merely has to repeat the Arabic word talaq three times, which
carries the meaning I divorce you. In Tajikistan, the phrase se talaq
three talaqs is sometimes substituted.
According to lawyer Yelena Kamalova, unregistered marriages create many
problems both for women and their children.
It means that a wife cannot be recorded [officially] as living in her
husbands house and does not legally own property acquired by either spouse
during the marriage, she said.
Children born of these marriages cannot be given the fathers surname without
his consent, and because divorces in such cases have no legal status, women
cannot claim child-support money.
Those hasty marriages have terrible consequences, said a gender rights
expert, who asked not to be named. After a divorce, a woman and her children
end up with no property and no income.
The trend towards religious-only weddings appeared after the end of the Soviet
Union, as Tajik society reverted to traditional practices, and the presence of
state institutions and the public services they provided diminished in the
The increasing number of women below the poverty line have limited access to
education and employment.
Women are caught between social pressure to look after house and children and
the need to earn money to supplement the household income. New brides in
particular, are expected to be subservient to their husbands family and do all
the menial tasks, and the mother-in-law exerts considerable control over her
It is no secret that conditions have changed and almost every woman now has to
work outside the family, IWPR was told by a gender rights expert who asked to
At home, she still has to run the house, take care of any sick and elderly
family members, and bring up the children. But how many women do you know who
have their own house, land plot, or car? Usually, all the family property
officially belongs to the husband, she said.
This overwhelmingly Muslim society has also seen a return to polygamy, in part
because social upheaval caused by a civil war and severe economic downturn in
the post-independence years has left women with few options.
Since polygamy remains illegal, second or third wives are necessarily
In theory, the clerics who perform the nikoh rite are supposed to demand to
see a marriage certificate issued by the registry office, known here by the
acronym ZAGS. However, many flout this rule as it is divine blessing, not
that of the state, that carries real significance for many people.
Any Muslim man wishing to get married can go to any village in any part of the
country, pay the mullah and contract marriage according to the nikoh
tradition, explained political scientist Rahmon Olmasov. The mullah will
never ask him whether hes [already] married or not, whether he has children,
or whether hes able to provide financially for both his first and second
The gender rights expert believes mullahs often conduct weddings without asking
too many questions because the fee is an important source of income for them.
Lola Jalilova, an activist with a womens rights group called Dilafruz, in the
southern town of Qurghonteppa, says she has seen many cases where young women
One of them involved a woman called Sadbarg, who appealed for help from the
group after being thrown out of the family after five years of
It all went wrong when her husband Ismats married sister moved in. Ismats
family, and especially his mother, started accusing Sadbarg of infidelity, an
unpardonable offence in rural Tajikistan.
My mother-law and sister-in-law competed in trying to slander me as possible
Only my father-in-law was on my side, consoling me when no one else was
around, recalled Sadbarg.
Ismat was pressured into making his wife stay at home, warning here, If you
try to leave the house during the next six months, I will say se talaq.
She continued, I obeyed, for the sake of my children and my marriage, I didnt
go out for six months. I cooked and washed the clothes. In all that time, I did
not leave the house, I did not see the sun, the stars or the fresh air, I did
not meet my own relatives or the neighbours, I did not hear music or even a
kind word. I wanted to prove I was innocent.
However, this period of seclusion did not create peace, and her husbands
family kept insisting he throw her out of the house. At last, Ismat gave in to
the pressure and said, Get out of my house. He turned me and my son out of
the house. she said. Now I live with my parents but I dont want to keep
silent any longer. I am not a slave.
The Dilafruz group supported Sadbargs legal action and she cleared her name in
court. The judge also ruled that Ismat must allow Sadbarg back into the house.
In the end, Sadbarg found herself unable to do so. In the courtroom, Ismat said
the words se talaq, ending the marriage de facto.
ABUSE BY RELATIVES
Sabohat, a woman from a village just outside Dushanbe was unlike Sadbarg
legally married, but that did not stop her in-laws taking matters into their
own hands. Once again it was the arrival of a sister-in-law that ended what in
her case had been 15 years of marriage.
After life under one roof became impossible, her husband Nurullo filed for
divorce under pressure from his family.
Sabohat was unable to move back in with her parents as her brothers were in
residence there and had started their own families. She found a temporary place
to stay in a kindergarten, but received no financial help from her husband.
Last summer she filed a court action which resulted in a ruling in her favour.
Once again, the husband announced a separation with the talaq formula, but
even so, judges said he must give her a separate place to live in his home,
plus alimony payments. However, Sabohat felt uncomfortable and did not go back
to the house.
A further case involves Mutabar, a mother of three who had been legally married
for 18 years, but nevertheless found herself divorced without her consent.
Her husband had been away from their home in Vahdat district east of the
capital Dushanbe for three months some time, serving with the military, when he
told her by phone that he had divorced her.
He had somehow managed to persuade a ZAGS office to approve a legal divorce.
This could only be done using connections and bribery, as Tajik law requires
the participation and consent of both partners.
But then he told her that he was not divorcing her the way that really counts
from societys point of view by saying talaq.
Im not driving you out, weve got three children, he said, according to
Mutabars account. But Im going to bring a second wife into the house.
Theres room enough for everyone.
Mutabar went to court to contest the divorce, but to her surprise, the judge
ruled that the certificate issued to Ismat was valid. Then she brought an
action to divide their common property, which included their three-storey
house. Her husband managed to hold up the process for a year, and when Mutabar
appealed to a higher instance, the case had to start all over again.
Another woman interviewed by IWPR, Firuza, has spent the last decade fighting
to reclaim the house her husband built in the southern district of Kulob before
his death. When he first became ill, the family moved to the capital so he
could get treatment. In the interim, his brother moved his family into the
Kulob house and refused to vacate it when Firuza was widowed.
Now living in her fathers home with her two children, Firuza has yet to obtain
justice. The Supreme Court of Tajikistan has issued rulings in her favour but
these are being ignored.
Like many others, she feels her rights are ignored because she is a woman and
lacks connections. Id have won quickly enough if my father or brother had
been a prosecutor or a judge, she said.
MIGRATION PUTS STRAIN ON WOMENS ROLE
Another factor affecting womens rights is the fact that their husbands may be
absent from the family home for long periods of time. Hundreds of thousands of
Tajiks work abroad in Russia and Kazakstan, sending back money to support their
Some go only for the warmer seasons when most casual labour is hired, but
others spend longer stretches abroad, or even settle down there.
Their prolonged absence can lead to marriage breakups and exacerbate relations
between the wife and her in-laws.
Muhayos husband left for Russia a month after they got married in the village
where they live in Fayzabad district. After that, she faced constant hostility
from her mother-in-law, who complained that she had not brought a sufficiently
large dowry to the marriage.
She says her mother-in-law mistreated her, lied to her husband about her on the
phone and would not let him know that Muyaho had borne him a child, and
withheld the substantial sums he was sending home from Russia.
A local womans group called INIS helped Muhayo bring a legal claim for money
to support her and the child, who was legitimate as the marriage had been
properly registered. The mother-in-law denied all knowledge of money payments
or even the mans whereabouts.
In this case, the judge ruled in Muhayos favour and required the mother in law
to return her personal property and pay compulsory child support. This is now
happening and Muhayo is looking forward to her husbands eventual return.
Raihona Haqberdieva, who heads the Dilafruz group in Qurghonteppa, says the
social consequences of mass migration and extended separation have not been
fully understood yet.
One obvious sign of change she has noticed is that men whose marriages are
based only on a nikoh ceremony have taken to dissolving the union from
thousands of kilometres away.
There are many women coming to our crisis centre whose husbands have said
talaq to them over the phone. This is a new phenomenon for Tajikistan. It
means a new technology has brought more harm to our women, said Haqberdieva.
That is what happened to Zebo, a 25-year-old with two small children in the
Bokhtar district of southern Tajikistan, whose husband found a new partner in
After he called to say the words, Zebo was left with no financial support from
him, while his family did not provide her and her children with shelter.
She is now dependent on her mother, 62-year-old Bibifotima, whose monthly
pension is just 30 US dollars a month, and on her elder brother who has four
children of his own and also works abroad.
The Dilafruz group is helping her press an alimony claim for 25 per cent of her
husbands income. Her case might look weak in legal terms, as there was no ZAGS
registration, but the womens group is optimistic as a number of similar cases
have ended in success.
Some Muslim clerics say the rules that the faith sets out on marriage and
divorce have been badly distorted by custom and practice.
Domullo Murodjon Sobitzoda, the senior cleric at Qurghonteppas central mosque,
says Islamic law unreservedly recognises womens property rights including in
the divorce cases.
It is contrary to Islam and the precepts of Sharia to leave a woman with
nothing. This happens because people are ignorant of Islamic law, he said.
Another senior cleric, Domullo Saidbek, who is imam or prayer-leader at the
Kazi Abdurashid mosque in Dushanbe and also a prominent theologian at the
Al-Termezi Islamic Institute, is concerned at the growing number of divorces
and the unfair treatment of women.
It reaches absurd levels. They ring up or send a text message to say talaq
to their wives, or they get their mothers or other family members to say it,
he said. That runs counter to Islamic law on marriage, and also to any respect
for ones wife both as an individual and as the mother of ones children. They
[women] are in any case already humiliated and economically dependent in their
husbands homes. Sharia does not recognise such divorces.
Saidbek said that based on Koranic readings, It does not matter if the house
belongs to the husband, his wife and children have every right to live there.
When it came to divorce, he said, All the property acquired during the
marriage must be divided equally as long as the ex-wife had a part in acquiring
it. And any property that she [initially] brought with her remains her own.
EDUCATION KEY TO CHANGE
Womens rights experts interviewed by IWPR agreed that the main obstacle that
needs to be addressed is poor education and lack of awareness.
These days, many rural families do not believe daughters need advanced
schooling. If they have to choose, it will usually be a son that goes on to
They dont think about the consequences and pay little attention to their
daughters education, and thats where the problems stem from later on, said
Girls are mainly taught how to run the house so they will be able to take care
of their future husbands and children. (For an article on this issue, see
Tajikistan: Teenage Girls Dropping Out of School, RCA No. 481, 02-Feb-07.)
The authorities are now trying to address this issue. A test-case prosecution
of a man in the southern Khatlon district last year for preventing his
daughters from attending school has apparently had a salutary effect. Teachers
in many schools said overall attendance rates for girls improved after the case
received wide coverage.
The gender rights expert interviewed by IWPR said rights groups and government
both had work to do, and should collaborate.
Local government bodies must monitor and register marriages, so that they
issue the official certificate and only after that comes the nikoh, she said.
Thats directly within their mandate.
A local group called the Gender Education Centre is setting up a mobile
information and advice service to help women defend their rights in matrimonial
disputes. It will also provide them with legal representation free of charge.
Finally, the group has held practical training sessions to make womens centres
and human rights groups across the country more aware of how the law should
The broader aim of the project, funded by the United States embassy in Dushanbe
and a local coalition called From Legal Equality to Real Equality, is to get
the recommendations of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of
Discrimination against Women put into practice in Tajikistan.
Mukammal Odinaeva is an independent journalist and Lola Olimova is IWPR editor
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