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The number of underage marriages significantly increases in Tajikistan

Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service reported on January 23 that Tajikistan in 2010 raised the minimum age for marriage from 17 to 18.  Authorities said the move was to protect women’s rights and ensure their well-being.  The government also warned religious figures not to conduct a “nikah” (Islamic marriage, a contract exclusively between a man and woman.  Both the groom and the bride are to consent to the marriage of their own free wills) to anyone below 18.

Tajiks, however, can still marry at 17 with a court’s permission.  Official statistics show that underage marriages with court permission have rising steadily in Tajikistan in recent years.

More than 4,000 people married at the age of 17 with a court’s approval in Tajikistan in 2022, according to Tajik human rights ombudsman Suhaili Qodiri.

The number reportedly marks a significant rise from 2018 when registry offices recorded some 2,500 underage marriages.

“These figures are far too high,” said Qodiri.  “Marriage should not be allowed before the age of 18. We need to eventually amend the law.”

The law doesn’t say under what circumstances courts can grant the right to marry at 17.  The ombudsman reportedly says such ambiguity in the family code has paved the way for many to legally marry one year earlier.

According to RFE/RL, women’s rights activists claim that some Tajik parents take advantage of the loophole in the law to push their daughters into marriage.

The majority of those who married at 17 years are women, as most families in the conservative society prefer to have their daughters marry early.

In one opinion poll in Tajikistan taken in 2021, 53 percent of 1,500 heads of households surveyed reportedly said the best age for women to get married is 19-20 and 24 for men.

Asked why men marry later than women, most respondents said they believe men must get a university education before being wed.

Experts and women’s rights groups say women who marry early often end up with mental and physical problems.

They say 17-year-old girls are not ready to start a married life in which they must care for their husband, children, and do the household chores at their in-laws’ home as Tajik tradition dictates.  It is also not uncommon in Tajik families for in-laws to be deeply involved in a son’s marriage.

Source: Asia Plus