Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, which is punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment. There was no separate statute for spousal rape. The government was unable to provide statistics on the number of cases or convictions. Law enforcement officials usually advised women not to file charges but registered cases at the victim’s insistence. Most observers believed the majority of cases were unreported because victims wished to avoid being stigmatized.
Violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a widespread problem. According to a survey conducted by the National Statistic Committee during the year, 19 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 reported that they experienced physical violence since the age of 15. The highest incidence of domestic violence was reported in Sughd, where 22 percent of women reported suffering domestic violence. The lowest reported level of domestic violence was reported in the Districts of Republican Subordination around Dushanbe, where 13 percent of women reported suffering domestic violence. Women underreported violence against them due to fear of reprisals or inadequate response by the police and judiciary, resulting in virtual impunity for the perpetrators. Authorities wishing to promote traditional gender roles widely dismissed domestic violence as a “family matter.” Women and girls were even more vulnerable to domestic violence because of early and unregistered marriages.
One police station was fully equipped to work with domestic violence victims. Five stations nationwide were staffed with police officers trained, with OSCE support, to respond to family violence cases and address the needs of victims in a gender-sensitive manner. There was one comprehensive shelter for victims of domestic violence in the country, supported by the OSCE and operated by an NGO in Khujand. In rural areas the government and NGOs operated additional crisis centers and hotlines where women could seek guidance on domestic violence problems and legal assistance, but many centers lacked funding and resources. Local governments donated the premises of three of the shelters. The Committee for Women’s Affairs (within the government) had limited resources to assist domestic violence victims, but local committee representatives referred women to the crisis shelters for assistance.
In 2012 the government adopted a law on domestic violence, but it falls short of internationally accepted standards. The Ministry of Internal Affairs lacked the capacity and training to implement the law, although it was working with the international community to increase capacity. The government took some steps to conduct public information campaigns and collect information on domestic violence, but many cases of domestic abuse went unreported.
Authorities seldom investigated reported cases, and they prosecuted few alleged perpetrators. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is authorized to issue administrative restraining orders, but by law police cannot act without a written complaint from the victim, even if there were other witnesses. Consequently, police often gave only warnings, short-term detentions, or fines for committing “administrative offenses” in cases of domestic violence.
Physical and psychological abuse of wives by mothers-in-law was widespread. In some rural areas, officials observed a continued trend of female suicide.
Sexual Harassment: No specific statute banned sexual harassment in the workplace. Victims often did not report incidents because of fear of social stigma. Authorities often perceived sexual harassment as female fabrications. Women reporting sexual harassment faced retaliation from their employers as well as disgrace from their families and communities.
Reproductive Rights: The government did not interfere with the rights of individuals and couples to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Traditional stereotypes prevented women and girls from obtaining information on reproductive health. According to the Ministry of Health, 28 percent of women between ages 15 and 49 used modern forms of contraception, and skilled personnel attended 76 percent of births. The ministry also reported in November that 80.6 percent of women received postpartum care and that the maternal mortality rate was approximately 35 per 100,000 births for the first nine months of the year.
Discrimination: Women were underrepresented in decision-making processes at all levels of political institutions. The Ministry of Internal Affairs supported programs to increase the representation of women officers in law enforcement. Female representation in all branches of power was less than 30 percent. The country had two female ministers and no female ambassadors. The 2004 Council of Ulema fatwa (religious edict) prohibiting women from praying in mosques remained in effect. The law provides that women receive equal pay as men for equal work, but cultural barriers continued to restrict the professional opportunities available to women. Employers forced women to work overtime without additional pay. According to the World Bank’s report, Women, Business, and the Law 2014, women and men have equal ownership rights to property, although women owned significantly less property than men. The extensive number of male migrant workers to Russia and other parts of Central Asia, many of whom failed to send remittances or return home, exacerbated economic pressures on women, who had to provide for themselves and their children, and resulted in a significant gender imbalance in the population.
As a result of poor employment prospects and family pressure, women often dropped out of school to marry. The law protects women’s rights in marriage and family matters, but families often pressured female minors to marry against their will. Religious marriages were common substitutes for civil marriages, due to the high marriage registration fees associated with civil marriages and the power afforded men under religious law. In cases of religious marriages that were not registered with the government, to divorce their wives, husbands simply repeated a phrase in front of two witnesses. Husbands also used these officially unregistered religious marriages to prevent wives from accessing family assets and other rights in the event of divorce. The practice of men divorcing their wives by sending text messages declined after the 2011 Council of Ulema fatwa declared the practice to be unacceptable.
Religious ceremonies also made polygamy possible, despite the illegality of the practice. NGOs estimated that up to 10 percent of men practiced polygamy. Many of these polygamous marriages involved underage brides. Unofficial second and third marriages were increasingly common, with these wives having no legal standing or rights and offspring possessing no rights or legal standing as well.
Inheritance laws do not discriminate against women, although in practical terms some inheritances passed disproportionately to sons. In addition, many men hid their assets with their parents or other family members; if divorce occurred, they could claim no wealth and become exempt from paying child support or other restitution to the former wife.