Saturday, August 21, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Labor Migration from Tajikistan Pushing Up Polygamy There

Paul Goble

Staunton, August 21 – Not surprisingly, Moscow commentators have focused on the impact of the more than half a million Tajik gastarbeiters on Russian society, but they have rarely paid much attention to the effect the departure of these people from their homeland is having on Tajikistan.
But as Firuz Saidov, head of the social problems department of Dushanbe’s Center for Strategic Research, told, the consequences are serious, and among the most obvious is a dramatic rise in the amount of polygamy, a rise that compares with the one that occurred during the Tajik civil war in the 1990s (
Although polygamy is illegal in Tajikistan, Saidov noted, “approximately 10 percent of the men in [that] country have more than one wife,” with many men having two wives and some even three, according to the preliminary results of research his group has prepared for the Tajik government.
Some Dushanbe experts say, reports that “the basic cause of the growth of polygamy in Tajikistan is the worsening economic situation of residents, particularly women. If in the 1990s, the growth in polygamy reflected the results of the civil war [there], when more than 100,000 people (mostly young men) died, now migration has been added to these factors.”
Young men who leave Tajikistan to find work in the Russian Federation, the portal continues, “get married there and do not want to be concerned by families in their motherland. As a result, a large number of women cannot arrange their personal life and are forced to become second and third wives…”
According to Saidov, this trend creates “an extremely sharp problem” involving the fates of children of second and third marriages.” Because they have no legal standing relative to their parents, in the case of divorce or death of one of the latter, they cannot claim any inheritance rights.
The researcher suggested that this problem might be resolved through the conclusion of “marriage contracts,” which are now being widely discussed in Tajikistan. Other scholars say that they were part of the national tradition there for a millennium or more before the establishment of Soviet power in Central Asia.
Tajik government officials are pushing for this. Barno Nasimova, who heads the marriage registration office in Dushanbe, said she has told all her subordinates to push for such contracts among those applying for licenses. But so far, there have been only a very few who have agreed, only about one out of every 200 pairs.
The revival of such contracts may face resistance, however. Muslim religious in Tajikistan say that the marriage rite in Islam requires that mullahs explain to the parties their rights and responsibilities. Consequently, they say, that “there is no basis for concluding additional ‘marriage contracts.’”
By way of conclusion, Saidov called attention to one interesting and even “paradoxical” finding of the research his institution has been conducting. While polygamy is growing in the republic, Saidov said, there are “not a few cases when ‘single’ men are raising their own small children,” something that would have been almost unthinkable in the past.
Even as polygamy is increasing, Tajik officials say they are concerned by the rapid growth in the number of divorces. Over the last five years, the number of dissolutions of marriages has increased from 2900 to 5850, something that appears to be behind Tajikistan President Emomali Rakhmon’s decision to increase the marriage age for women to 18.
That age had been reduced to 17 or even 16 during the Tajik civil war, says, “when parents out of consideration for the security of their daughters tried to get them married as soon as possible.” But under current conditions when migration rather than violence explains the decline in the number of eligible men, their calculations have changed.

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