Women and Girls Live in Fear; Gender-based Violence in Families must be Eliminated

Unfortunately, many countries report that domestic violence and intimate partner violence have increased during the pandemic. In Central Asia, however, the pandemic brought new attention to a problem that has long plagued countries in the region. Tajikistan in particular continues to have one of the highest rates of gender-based violence in the region – in spite of the law ‘On Preventing Domestic Violence’ adopted March 13, 2013 and the presidential decree ‘On Measures to Improve the Status of Women in Society’ adopted in 2000.

As part of the global Innovation for Change initiative, public organization “Women Lawyers for Development”implemented an advocacy project focused on the ‘Promotion and Implementation of Gender Approaches in Light of National Legislation in Tajikistan’. The project targets two regions in Tajikistan, including the district of Vose in the Khatlon region, due to an increase in cases of violence in the region since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the city of Isfara in the Sughd region, due to its geographically remote location.

In the course of project implementation, Women Lawyers for Development sent a letter to the local government, or khukumat, inviting collaboration in the planning of joint working meetings with regional governments, the Committee for Women and Family Affairs under the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan, agencies working with women in rural regions, law enforcement agencies, and other stakeholders.

Meetings were held June 7-14, 2021. Participants included government agencies, law enforcement officials, the heads of city-level administrations, public figures, and women activists. Discussions in the district of Vose and the city of Isfara resulted in a new plan “On Preventing Domestic Violence.” The plan was approved by the Committee for Women and Family Affairs and sent to regional and city governments for subsequent adoption into law.

“We are determined to lobby this mechanism to amend the current law “On Preventing Domestic Violence”, including the criminalization of domestic violence,” says project leader Z. Sharifova.

During the initial phase of the project, the project team developed a resource booklet which outlines the key legal provisions preventing violence against women, as well as practical and useful information for female victims of violence. The group also worked with the media in order to increase awareness and begin to change the perspectives, gender stereotypes, and patriarchal norms of behavior which are the biggest barriers to eliminating discrimination against women and girls.

In April-May 2021, two radio features from Radio “Imruz” and two TV talk shows were developed to raise awareness about women’s rights. Prosecutors, staff from the Committee of Women and Family, journalists, lawyers, public figures, members of parliament, and law enforcement officials were all invited to participate in the media events.

The TV and radio features were played four times during evening prime time in May-June 2021 and were a success with the public – the TV spots were seen by more than 500,000 people.

Women Lawyers for Development is working to ensure that the government uses legislation to guarantee punishments for violence against women which are proportional to the severity of the crime, and to finally criminalize domestic violence. All women and girls have the right to be safe.