Page last updated at 07:41 GMT, Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Amnesty: Nearly half of Tajik women 'regularly abused'

A Tajik woman cries
Many Tajik women marry for economic reasons

Amnesty International has accused Tajikistan of failing to protect its women, saying nearly half are raped, beaten or abused by their families.

According to Amnesty, women are regularly subjected to humiliation not only from their husbands but also in-laws, causing many to turn to suicide.

The report's authors say the government should introduce laws and support services to tackle domestic violence.

Tajikistan, which borders Afghanistan, is the poorest former Soviet republic.

'Family property'


Women have limited rights and job opportunities. Many drop out of school early to enter marriages that are often polygamous or unregistered.

"Women are being treated as servants or as the in-laws' family property," Amnesty's Tajikistan expert Andrea Strasser-Camagni said in a statement.

"They have no-one to turn to, as the policy of the authorities is to urge reconciliation, which... reinforces their position of inferiority."

Up to one million Tajik men travel abroad every year in search of seasonal work.

In some cases, they stop sending remittances or do not return home, leaving their wives vulnerable to abuse by in-laws, says the BBC's Central Asia correspondent, Rayhan Demytrie.

Some men even divorce their wives by sending text messages announcing they have separated, she adds.

Many women are driven to commit suicide but relatives usually cover up such incidents by presenting them as accidents, our correspondent says.

Violence against women is widespread across the entire Central Asian region, where most societies are patriarchal.

In Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, old traditions such as kidnapping young brides are still quite common - forcing some young women in rural areas to marry against their will.

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