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Women Choosing Polygamous Marriages in Tajikistan as Young Men Flee Poverty



Women Choosing Polygamous Marriages in Tajikistan

Polygamous marriages have been on the rise in Tajikistan for several years, owing to the growing influence of religion and the enormous exodus of young men overseas. High poverty rates and a difficult labour market have lead to roughly 1 million of Tajikistan’s citizens seeking work outside the nation.

According to World Bank and World Economic Forum data, their remittances constitute a major source of income for many families and account for around 20-30% of the country’s GDP.

This is one of the reasons why many divorced Tajik women appear to support men’s right to numerous marriages: polygamous marriages are mostly sought by high- and middle-income men, and many women perceive this as their only opportunity to obtain financial security for themselves and their children.

Though the state does not recognise polygamous marriages, Sharia law allows Muslim men to have numerous spouses. A mullah consecrates these couplings without the marriage being officially registered with the state.

Polygamy is becoming more common for a number of reasons, according to campaigner and psychologist Firuza Mirzoyeva of the Tajik organisation Public Health and Human Rights. Women are willing to become second, third, or fourth wives in order to have socially acceptable private lives, she claims.

Girls are groomed for marriage in Tajikistan

Women Choosing Polygamous Marriages in Tajikistan

“There is also a material aspect to it.” For many rural women with no higher education — and some with only a high school diploma — belonging to a male is the only way to survive financially.”

Mirzoyeva, an activist, cited the Khatlon and Sughd regions as instances. Girls are groomed for marriage from a young age, and schooling is deemed “superfluous.”

According to her, many marriages provide women with “stability” and a certain status: “Society has a bad opinion towards unmarried and divorced women and labels them ‘old maids.’ Society does not approve of a woman who is successful and self-sufficient.”
Unhappy marriage to a prosperous business

Amina is from Isfara in the northern Sughd region, but she and her parents relocated to Dushanbe many years ago. Her parents married her off after she graduated ninth grade.

“They selected a husband for me.” “I had no idea what he looked like, but I knew he was two years older than me,” Amina explained. She resided with him at his parents’ home for a few months before he moved to work in Russia.

“At first, he came once a year for a month.” Then he didn’t come at all. Finally, I discovered that he had remarried and was living with his new family. “I then decided to leave him because he no longer wanted me or our children,” Amina explains.

You can only be a second wife

Women Choosing Polygamous Marriages in Tajikistan

Because she lacked financial means, his parents refused to give her custody of their three children. She still pays them frequent visits. Amina decided to become the third wife of a 46-year-old guy who promised to “lovingly take care” of her and help her get back on her feet.

He purchased her a flat and a car, as well as assisting her in starting her own business. Amina now operates a beauty business as well as a clothing boutique. Her second husband’s support makes her very happy, she says.

Manizha is from the western part of Hisor. She married at the age of 19 and divorced after only four months due to frequent disagreements with her mother-in-law.

“That’s how the traditions go: If you’re divorced, you can only be a second wife.” Fate gives you no other option. “Unfortunately, my family and society no longer accept me,” she explained.

Manizha received offers to become a second or third wife through the Nikah, a traditional Islamic marriage ritual, with the promise of financial support immediately following her divorce.

“At first, I refused because I hadn’t processed the traumatic breakup with my first husband.” But, due to my financial condition and the lack of an apartment, I had to examine the offers’, Manizha stated.

She quickly married the second wife of a local official. “Fortunately, he’s very young, only 27 years old,” she explained.

Considering becoming a second wife

Women Choosing Polygamous Marriages in Tajikistan

Her new husband visits Manizha three days a week and spends the rest of his time at home with his first wife and two children. According to Manizha, the first wife is aware of the second marriage and is unconcerned.

“I chose to be a second wife; I was not coerced into it.” “Right now, I’m very grateful that there is someone in my life who looks after me,” she remarked. “You can’t go against tradition and culture; I have to accept life as it is and thank Allah for all he has given me.”
‘I have nowhere to go.’

Sitora, who is originally from the Khatlon district, works in Dushanbe, where she rents a room. The 29-year-old was in a relationship that did not last. She now believes that her age will prevent her from being a first wife, so she is considering becoming a second wife.

“My parents will no longer accept me because they have been waiting for me to marry for a long time.” I’m stuck with nowhere to go. My meagre salary will not allow me to rent this room in the long run, especially with prices soaring and salaries being meagre.”

Financial stability for future children

Women Choosing Polygamous Marriages in Tajikistan

“I’m ready to become a second, third, or fourth wife,” she says, of a higher quality of life and starting a family. Why not if it helps me avoid loneliness and gives financial stability for future children?”

Being a second or third wife, on the other hand, comes with limited rights and the attendant societal shame. Women in these types of partnerships have no legal protections or property rights without the official registration of a marriage.

“If children are born in such a marriage and registered in the father’s name, only they can expect financial support or inheritance,” campaigner Mirzoyeva told DW.

Polygamous marriages are dangerous for women, especially if the husband abandons or dies, because there is no one to care for the woman or her children. “A whole generation of children born from such marriages is tainted with society’s prejudices,” Mirzoyeva explained.

Second marriages are generally seen unfavourably by first wives, who are obliged to put up with them due to their financial dependence on their husbands.

According to Mirzoyeva, Tajik authorities also turn a blind eye to numerous weddings because they believe that countermeasures may lead to an economic abyss for many women.

“If serious efforts were made to change the situation, many women would fall below the poverty line, forcing some into prostitution,” she claimed. “Even if some of them could earn enough money for an independent existence this way, they would not be accepted in society.”

Tajikistan is a predominantly Muslim country

Happy Tajik children

Tajikistan is a predominantly Muslim country, and while Islam does allow polygamy under certain conditions, the government of Tajikistan has chosen to regulate marriage and family matters through its legal system. The country has taken steps to emphasize monogamous marriage and discourage polygamy due to various social and cultural factors.

Tajikistan, also known as Tadzhikistan, is a landlocked country in Central Asia. It is formally known as the Republic of Tajikistan, Tajik Tojikiston, or Jumhurii Tojikiston.

It shares borders with Kyrgyzstan on the north, China on the east, Afghanistan on the south, and Uzbekistan on the west and northwest. Tajikistan includes the Gorno-Badakhshan (“Mountain Badakhshan”) autonomous territory, with Khorugh (Khorog) as its capital.

Tajikistan has the lowest land area among the five Central Asian governments, but it has the highest elevation, with more and higher mountains than any other country in the region.

Tajikistan was a constituent (union) republic of the Soviet Union from 1929 until 1991, when it gained independence. Dushanbe is the capital.

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