Early Girls’ Marriage in Tajikistan: Causes and Continuity
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Although there is little official data, early girls’ marriage before the age of 18 appears to have increased in Tajikistan over recent years, due to the limited socio-economic opportunities. This study aimed to explore the main causes behind the fall in the age of marriage for girls. As Tajikistan is based on patriarchal values, where family is the core of decision-making, the study looks into the family dynamics and interrelationships to analyse the driving forces behind the decision to arrange marriage for the girls at an earlier age. Using triangulated methods of qualitative data collection, such as interviews, focus group discussions and case studies, the study was conducted in urban, semi rural/semi urban and rural areas of Tajikistan. The findings confirm that early marriage exists in Tajikistan. Although marriage has always been important for Tajiks, recently early age of marriage has been more prioritized. The young girls today leave school when they reach puberty, limit their socialization with their friends outside of the house and rigorously learn skills that qualify them as a ‘desirable’ kelin [bride] to increase their chances of getting a marriage proposal within what is a short marriage window. At the same time, the study argues that the family decision to pursue an early age of marriage for daughters is not because of the low status of the women as it has been suggested in some earlier research. Instead, the study argues that marriage is a strategy to provide girls with what is often the only opportunity of an economically and socially secure future in the country under the current socio-economic and political context. Relations within the families are more complicated than dominant-subordinate as previously portrayed but are based on respect, love and responsibility towards each other. This ‘connectivity’ assists in shaping the girls as potent Tajik women ready for their future roles of mothers and wives. The young girls, as this study suggests, are usually not completely powerless either, as they exercise the limited agency provided by the patriarchal system and actively engage in negotiating their interests. Thus, the study aimed to (1) draw attention to the issue of early marriage among girls in Tajikistan and (2) to contribute to the scholarly discussion on early marriage and on gender and family dynamics in Tajikistan. Based on the findings, it is recommended that more research needs to be conducted to discuss the phenomenon of early girls’ marriage in Tajikistan. Further, legal, political and social changes are necessary to provide a safety net for women married at an early age but divorced or abandoned later. Although bringing changes to the marriage values might be a challenging task, it is hoped that this research and others similar to this one will demonstrate the importance of the issue and will result in appropriate attention and an effective policy response.
PhD in Sociology