“No More Tears or Screaming: Let’s Chat About Domestic Abuse in Tajikistan”

One third of women in Tajikistan are subjected to violence by their husbands, but very few cases are reported. Social and legal support, provided through the joint EU/UN Spotlight Initiative, is helping affected women to protect their rights.

Like many women in Tajikistan, Shermatova Marjona has experienced gender-based violence.

Ms. Shermatova met her husband while she was working abroad as a cleaner in Moscow, Russia. It wasn’t long before they were married, and he persuaded her to send all the money she earned to her father-in-law in Tajikistan, who was to use the funds to build a house for them.

Once construction had begun, Ms. Shermatova and her husband returned to Tajikistan. She used the last of her savings to put a roof on the house, install windows and doors, and to paint the rooms. The family lived in the semi-finished home together. In addition, she provided her father-in-law with money almost daily, whenever he would ask for it.

House of Discord

The situation changed as soon as Ms. Shermatova ran out of money. Her husband stopped coming home and her father-in-law started claiming the house as his own, attempting to kick Ms. Shermatova and her children out. When she refused to leave, her father-in-law began physically abusing her and regularly beat her in front of the children.

© UNICEF/M.Ruziev

Ms. Shermatova and her children lived in fear of constant abuse.

The family lived in constant fear. Whenever their grandfather was around, the children shuddered, thinking that he might hurt their mother again.

“I knew that my father-in-law used to treat his first wife in the same way, driving her to a deep mental breakdown,” shares Ms. Shermatova. “Now, he periodically beats his second wife.”

She had no money, no education and she could not leave her young children alone and go out to work. She would steal corn from a neighbour’s farm to feed the family, as her husband had stopped supporting them. He also did nothing to protect his family from his father’s violence.

Ms. Shermatova repeatedly contacted local law enforcement about the abuse. Despite having evidence from six medical examinations, nothing changed. She did not know how to move forward with the case.

A legal breakthrough

It wasn’t until she got in touch with the local organization Hayot dar Oila (Life in a Family). The organization provides social and legal support services to women and children who are experiencing violence.  It is supported by the Spotlight Initiative, a global programme of the United Nations supported by the European Union to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.

The Hayot dar Oila lawyers gave Ms. Shermatova legal assistance, and worked with her to draft an appeal to the Tajikistan authorities, including the President.

© UNICEF/M.Ruziev

Ms. Shermatova and her children received social and legal support from a local organization.

The appeal worked: the Department of Internal Affairs detained Ms. Shermatova’s father-in-law, and he was tried and sentenced to six months in prison for his abuse. The court also initiated a criminal case against her husband for evading child support.

Foundations of a new life

Over the past two years, the Spotlight Initiative has supported psychological and legal assistance to vulnerable women like Ms. Shermatova, and helped them to become financially independent by providing capital to start their own small businesses.

Ms. Shermatova purchased an oven and a sewing machine so she could cook food to sell and earn an income through her tailoring business.  Multiple studies have found that financial independence is a key factor in reducing women’s vulnerability to violence and allowing them to break the cycle of violence.

“Nowadays, we go to the city park, and Mum often buys treats. Mum does not cry or scream anymore”, says one of Ms. Shermatova’s three children.

Ms. Shermatova dreams of completing the construction of her house, continuing her small business, and giving her children the education that she could not afford for herself.

She no longer fears her father-in-law and receives ongoing legal assistance and social support through the Spotlight Initiative.

Addressing gender violence in Tajikistan

  • The overall vision of the Spotlight Initiative in Tajikistan is that women and girls enjoy their right to a life free of violence. The Programme will contribute to the elimination of sexual and gender-based violence by responding to the needs of women and girls and addressing the underlying causes of violence against women and girls.

  • UN Women describes gender-based domestic violence in Tajikistan as prevalent, and surrounded by a culture of silence. Although 20 per cent of married women have experienced emotional, physical or sexual violence by their husbands, only one in five victims files a report.

  • A 2021 World Bank assessment shows that 31 cent of married women experienced emotional, physical, and/or sexual violence at least once in their marriage and 24 per cent experienced it within the past 12 months.



  1. Why are so few cases of domestic abuse reported in Tajikistan despite the high prevalence rate mentioned in the article?

    1. Unfortunately, the culture of silence around domestic abuse in Tajikistan often prevents victims from speaking out. Fear of stigma and lack of support can make it difficult for victims to report their abuse and seek help. The work of initiatives like the EU/UN Spotlight Initiative is crucial in providing the necessary support and resources for victims to protect themselves and seek justice.

  2. Have the social and legal support initiatives effectively increased the reporting of domestic abuse cases in Tajikistan?

    1. Yes, the social and legal support initiatives have indeed played a crucial role in encouraging affected women to come forward and report cases of domestic abuse. By providing a safe space for victims to seek help and protection, these initiatives have helped empower women in Tajikistan to assert their rights and stand up against violence and abuse.

  3. It’s heartbreaking to hear about the struggles women like Ms. Shermatova face in Tajikistan. More awareness and support services are crucial in addressing domestic abuse and ensuring the safety and rights of these women.

  4. It’s truly heartbreaking to read about the violence faced by women like Ms. Shermatova in Tajikistan. More awareness and support are crucial to empower women and tackle this issue effectively.

  5. Could the joint EU/UN Spotlight Initiative in Tajikistan also focus on educating men about gender equality to prevent such cases of violence in the future?

    1. Absolutely, SamanthaJohnson. Engaging men in discussions about gender equality and respectful relationships is crucial in changing societal norms that perpetuate violence against women. By promoting awareness and education among men, we can work towards preventing domestic abuse and creating a safer environment for all.

  6. It’s heartbreaking to hear about the struggles women like Shermatova Marjona face in Tajikistan. It’s crucial that more resources and support are put in place to help victims of domestic abuse protect their rights and break free from such harmful situations.

  7. It’s heartbreaking to hear about the pervasive domestic abuse faced by women in Tajikistan. The support provided by the joint EU/UN Spotlight Initiative is crucial in helping these women protect their rights and break free from such oppressive situations.

  8. How can we ensure that more women in Tajikistan feel empowered to report cases of domestic abuse and seek help?

    1. To empower women in Tajikistan to report cases of domestic abuse and seek help, we need to focus on increasing awareness about available support services, providing safe spaces for victims to come forward without fear of judgment, and implementing stronger legal protections against abusers. Education, advocacy, and community solidarity are key in breaking the cycle of silence and isolation that often traps victims of domestic violence.

  9. It’s heartbreaking to hear about the challenges women like Ms. Shermatova face in Tajikistan. More awareness and support are crucial to combat domestic abuse and protect women’s rights.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button