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Combating violence against women in Tajikistan: a path to change

In Tajikistan, violence against women remains one of the most serious social problems. According to various international and governmental organizations, between 50% and 80% of women and children in the country face this problem. Economic violence is the most common type of violence against women, accounting for 31%, followed by psychological violence (21%), physical violence (20%) and sexual violence (6%). Total control over married women is particularly dangerous.

A 2022 Project Spotlight study found that more than three-quarters of the women surveyed agreed that violence is widespread in society. However, only 45.6% say that violence is prevalent in their communities.

According to a 2023 study by the Eurasian Women’s Network on AIDS, legislation in Tajikistan does not always protect women facing gender-based violence. While there is no prohibition on women living with HIV or using drugs from seeking help, in practice these groups cannot always access shelters when experiencing domestic violence. Nor does the law provide for adolescents to access HIV testing and treatment without parental consent.

Regarding mechanisms for documenting and responding to cases of gender-based violence, according to REAct data for 2023 in Tajikistan 175 women who sought help reported domestic or intimate partner violence, with 342 women who were abused by others. In 2023, in Tajikistan, REActors documented 566 of women’s complaints about stigma, discrimination, and domestic violence.

To improve the situation, an expert on achieving strategic changes or amendments to legislation or procedures to prevent documented violations was engaged and a case study analysis was conducted. Based on this analysis, it became evident that the most common cases documented in the program are manifestations of violence, including domestic violence, against all members of key groups. Several suggestions were made to improve the situation. In particular, to conduct advocacy activities focusing on the problem of limited access of women from vulnerable groups to shelters after incidents of domestic violence. Currently, such women face difficulties in accessing shelters, as well as problems in the area of social benefits and digital security, as well as violations of the digital rights of members of the community of key population groups. In Tajikistan, there is a particular difficulty in effectively punishing perpetrators, as many victims, feeling regret or fear of disclosing their status, are reluctant to file complaints or refuse to file complaints against perpetrators at all. Women do not want criminal penalties for partners so that a criminal record will not affect the family and children in the future. Also, it is necessary to conduct information campaigns among inspection staff on the prevention of domestic violence, for example, as part of the campaign “16 Days Against Violence”, and to hold working meetings. Involved in these activities are employees of public services who work with the prevention of violence and identified cases of violence. Conduct training on violence prevention for key population groups and on crisis counseling for psychologists and lawyers working in public organizations with key population groups. It is recommended to organize shelters and low-threshold service centers in these NGOs to reduce stigma and discrimination against key population groups, as this assistance cannot be fully provided in other organizations.

As a result, the Ministry of Health of Tajikistan also approved a developed Memo for the staff of social service centers (available in Russian) assisting victims of domestic violence, and people in difficult life situations, to prevent the denial of social services for particularly vulnerable groups. The document stipulates that the provision of social services, including services in the conditions of the day or 24-hour centers for victims of all forms of violence, including domestic violence, is justified and considered necessary, and should have the social status of accessibility for all. The existing view, whereupon admission to such centers, people listed in the category of “practicing risky behavior” cannot be recipients of this service, is improper and illegal!

Violence against women in Tajikistan remains a serious problem affecting women and children. Despite the efforts of the government and international organizations, many victims continue to face difficulties in accessing assistance and protection. However, it is important to continue to work towards ensuring that all victims of gender-based violence have access to assistance and protection, regardless of their social status or the nature of the violations, to bring about meaningful change and create a safe and secure environment.

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