Tajikistan is ranked 40 out of 86 int eh 2012 Social Institutions and Gender Index. The country was ranked 35 out of 102 int eh 2009 Social Institutions and Gender Index.

Tajikistan is ranked 127th in the 2011 Human Development Index (out of 187 countries) with a score of 0.607, and has a Gender Inequality Index score of 0.347. Under the 2010 Global Gender Gap Index, Tajikistan has a score of 0.6526, placing it in 96th place (out of 135 countries).

Discriminatory Family Code: 

Marriage is extremely important in Tajik society, particularly for women’s status in the community.[1] A recent change to the Family Code means that the legal minimum age for marriage is now 18 years for both men and women. Up-to-date data is not available, but as of 2000, 13.9% of girls aged between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed, according to the UN, compared to just 2.3% of boys in the same age bracket.[2] Increasingly, couples are marrying in religious ceremonies and failing to register their unions; one reason given for this in the Special Rapporteur’s report is that it enables girls to be married off before they reach the age of 18.[3] As such marriages are not legally recognised, women have virtually no rights within them in the event of divorce or widowhood.[4] Amnesty International points to a correlation between increasing numbers of early and/or unregistered marriages, and rising rates of domestic violence.[5] Arranged marriages, including the payment of a dowry, were frequent in the past but according to the 2005 CEDAW report, are declining primarily as a result of legislative progress.[6]

Polygamy is prohibited by the Tajik Penal Code, but its practice is said to have increased since Independence.[7]  Demographic imbalance resulting from the civil war, male out-migration and the deterioration in women’s material conditions are usually given as the reasons for the rise in polygamous relationships.[8] Second and third wives are not recognised by the law and have no legal protection.[9]

Under Tajik law, spouses have equal personal and property rights,[10] and mothers and fathers share parental authority, and have equal rights and responsibilities regarding their children’s development and education.[11] This remains the case if the couple separate or divorce, and Men and women have the same rights to divorce, provided the marriage has been registered.[12]   

There are a considerable number of female-headed households in Tajikistan, but as a result of the civil war (during which as many as 25,000 women are believed to have been widowed) and of high levels of male out-migration, rather than following divorce.[13] Such households are for the most part much poorer than those headed by men, particularly in cases where the migrant husband has stopped sending money home, and the wife and children have been thrown out by the woman’s in-laws.[14]  In other cases, women live with in-laws when their husbands migrate; in such households, they often have little autonomy or influence, and also may not benefit from remittances, as these are typically sent to the husband’s parents. [15]

There is no legal discrimination in regard to inheritance in Tajikistan,[16] but in practice, women often transfer property that they have inherited to male relatives.[17] It is common for the youngest son to stay in the family home to care for his parents in old age, and then to inherit their property when they die.[18]

[1] JICA (2008), p.53 [2] United Nations Population Division / DESA (2008) (figure drawn from national census data) [3] Kurbanova (2008); UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.16 [4] JICA (2008), p.53; UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.15 [5] Amnesty International (2010), p.317. See also Kurbanova (2008). [6] CEDAW (2005), p.11 [7] AWID (2010); UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.17 [8] AWID (2010); UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.17 [9] UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.17 [10] JICA (2008), p.53 [11] CEDAW (2005), p.62 [12] JICA (2008), p.54; CEDAW (2005), p.62 [13] JICA (2008), p.35; AWID (2010) [14] JICA (2008), p.35; UN Human Rights Council (2009), pp.6, 9, 11 [15] JICA (2008), pp.39, 44; UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.9 [16] CEDAW (2005), p.49 [17] NGO Working Group (2006), p.58 [18] www.everyculture.com (n.d.)

Restricted Physical Integrity: 

Only recently has the government of Tajikistan begun to take serious steps to combat violence against women. Acts of domestic violence are not adequately addressed under the country’s penal system,[19] and as of late 2011, no law had yet been passed specifically addressing domestic violence.[20] This is despite the fact that a draft law was drawn up in 2003 by the Committee for Women’s and Family Affairs and women’s rights groups.[21] 

Accurate data as to the number of women affected by domestic violence are not available, as domestic violence is included under the category of ‘family crimes’, but a survey of 600 people in Khatlon Oblast in 2005 found that a third of women questioned had experienced some form of domestic violence.[22] According to Amnesty International, women who have experienced domestic violence have limited access to justice as police and the judiciary treat domestic violence as a ‘family matter’ and discourage women from pressing charges.[23] When cases do reach prosecution, prosecutors usually encourage reconciliation, in the interests of ‘preserving the family’.[24] Indeed, according to a report by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and to the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women (who visited Tajikistan in 2008 – hereafter Special Rapporteur), domestic abuse – in the form of men beating their wives and children, and mothers-in-law verbally and emotionally abusing their daughters-in-law – is considered to be a normal part of family life.[25] In her report, the Special Rapporteur refers to two recent surveys, which found that the majority of women and men interviewed agreed that a husband was justified in beating his wife under certain circumstances.[26] The subject remains taboo, and women who do speak out are stigmatised, so few women do.[27] In addition, support for victims is woefully inadequate, with patchy services provided by women’s rights NGOs who are dependent on international donor funding.[28] There is just one shelter in the country, in the town of Khujand.[29] Silence around domestic violence and the lack of support for victims leads to a high number of suicide attempts among young women, according to the Special Rapporteur and the JICA report.[30] Women living in unregistered and polygamous marriages which are not legally recognised are said to be particularly vulnerable to domestic violence, as they are often in a weak position to leave abusive relationships, due to lack of support, alternative housing, and legal protection.[31]

Rape is punishable in Tajikistan, but the legislation does not recognise spousal rape.[32] According to a 2006 study quoted in the 2008 JICA report, 47% of those interviewed reported that their husband had forced them to have sex.[33] During her mission, the Special Rapporteur encountered young girls who had been raped, and who had then been thrown out of the family home by their parents, putting them in an extremely vulnerable position.[34] According to JICA, the civil war in Tajikistan exacerbated levels of violence against women, and rape and forced marriage were used as weapons of war.[35]

Legislation is in place in Tajikistan to protect women from trafficking, and to support those   who are victims of trafficking: the 2004 Law on the Fight against Human Trafficking, and the 2007 ‘Standard regulation on support and assistance centres for victims of trafficking’.[36] The 2004 law has resulted in some convictions of human traffickers. Nevertheless, Tajikistan remains a source country for trafficking of women for forced prostitution to UAE, Turkey and Russia, and for men trafficked to Russia and Kazakhstan for forced manual labour.[37]   There is a shelter for victims of trafficking run by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in the capital, Dushanbe.[38] Internal trafficking of children is also considered to be a problem.[39]

Women in Tajikistan have the right to use – and access information about – contraception, and spouses have equal rights in regard to decisions on family planning (according to the 2005 CEDAW report).[40] According to a 2010 UNFPA report, 38% of women reported using some form of contraception, including so-called ‘traditional’ methods.[41] According to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), healthcare provision – including reproductive healthcare services – has drastically deteriorated, and many poorer families are unable to afford the informal payments needed to secure healthcare services.[42] In addition, provision of services in rural areas is inadequate.[43] Abortion is available on demand in Tajikistan.[44]

There are no reports that female genital mutilation is practised in Tajikistan.

[19] JICA (2008), p.51 [20] JICA (2008), p.50; Kurbanova (2008); UN Human Rights Council (2009), p19 [21] Kurbanova (2010); Amnesty International (2010), p.317; UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.19 [22] JICA (2008), p.48; Kurbanova (2010); UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.10 [23] Amnesty International (2010), p.317; JICA (2008), p.51; UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.21 [24] JICA (2008), p.52 [25] JICA (2008), p.48; UN Human Rights Council (2009), pp.10-11, 12 [26] UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.15 [27] JICA (2008), p.49; UN Human Rights Council (2009), pp.10, 21. See also AWID (2010). [28] Amnesty International (2010), p.317; UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.15 [29] JICA (2008), p.55; UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.23 [30] JICA (2008), p.49; UN Human Rights Council (2009), pp.13-14 [31] UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.16 [32] CEDAW (2005), p.7; US Department of State (2010) [33] JICA (2008), p.49 [34] UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.12 [35] JICA (2008), p.48 [36] UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.20 [37] CIA (2010); UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.13 [38] UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.13 [39] CIA (2010) [40] CEDAW (2005), p.62 [41] UNFPA (2010), p.98. Data source not provided. [42] JICA (2008), p.12 [43] JICA (2008), p.30 [44] UNDP (2007)

Son Bias: 

Under-five mortality rates are higher for boys than for girls, as are malnutrition rates.[45] According to figures quoted in a UNFPA report in 2010, while at primary level, girls’ and boys’ gross enrolment rates are virtually equal, at secondary level, there is a considerable difference: 90% for boys, and 78% for girls.[46]

According to a 2009 report by Amnesty International, approximately one in five girls drops out of secondary school in Tajikistan, due to a combination of gender stereotypes that devalue girls’ education, and the cost of schooling.[47] Early marriage is also a factor in drop-out rates among girls.[48] Since 1991, the number of young women enrolling in tertiary education has also significantly increased (to just 8% in 2004).[49]

Son preference does not seem to be pronounced in regard to early childhood care, but does appear to be a factor in regard to access to education.

The male/female sex ratio for the total population in 2012 is 0.99. [50]

There is no evidence to suggest that Tajikistan is a country of concern in relation to missing women.

[45] Amnesty International (2010), p.317; JICA (2008), p.31 [46] UNFPA (2010), p.98. Data source not provided. See also JICA (2008), p.13. [47] Amnesty International (2009). See also Rokicka (2008), pp.18, 45; JICA (2008), pp.25-26; UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.6 [48] UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.15 [49] Rokicka (2008), p.46. See also JICA (2008), p.13; UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.6 [50] Central Intelligence Agency (2012)

Restricted Resources and Entitlements: 

Under Tajik law, men and women have equal rights to access land, and to benefit from land privatisation and reform processes begun in the 1990s.[51] Many women are unaware of their rights and the opportunities available to them as a result of land reform.[52] Even when they do know their rights, registering a farm is a complex administrative process.[53] And when women are allocated land in their own right, it is often of poor quality for farming, and they are often denied access to land belonging to their husbands in the event of divorce or widowhood.[54] In addition, requirements in the Land Code that land only be allocated to those who are qualified to manage it discriminate against women, given that few have formal agricultural qualifications, and local officials tend to view them as incapable of running a farm.[55] As a result, women represent a tiny percentage of land owners in the country. [56] The 2005 CEDAW report mentions that the vast majority of privately owned farms are owned by men.[57]

The role of women in agriculture is expanding, however, primarily as a result of the large number of widows or women whose husbands have migrated who must provide for their families.[58]

The Tajik Civil Code gives women the right to have access to property other than land and to enter into contracts in their own names.[59] Insufficient data are available to assess whether women are able to exercise these rights. Within registered marriages, spouses have equal property rights, but this does not apply to unregistered, religious marriages, leaving many women unable to claim their property rights when the relationship breaks down.[60]

By law, women are entitled to have access to bank loans without need for prior authorisation.[61] Few women apply for loans, however, primarily because they do not understand their rights and the procedures involved.[62] High bank charges and rates of interest also hamper women’s access to credit.[63] Various NGOs have established micro-credit programmes to enable women to develop their own businesses.[64] 

[51] JICA (2008), p.38 [52] CEDAW (2005), p.56 [53] CEDAW (2005), pp.56-57 [54] JICA (2008), p.38 [55] JICA (2008), p.38 [56] JICA (2008), p.38 [57] CEDAW (2005), p.56 [58] CEDAW (2005), p.56 [59] CEDAW (2005), p.49 [60] JICA (2008), p.53; UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.15 [61] CEDAW (2005), p.49 [62] CEDAW (2005), p.57 [63] JICA (2008), p.38 [64] CEDAW (2005), p.57

Restricted Civil Liberties: 

There are no reported restrictions on women’s access to public space.

Freedom of expression is not respected in Tajikistan, with journalists facing civil and criminal lawsuits for criticising the government.[65] According to a shadow report submitted to the CEDAW committee in 2006, the media in Tajikistan does little to challenge existing gender stereotypes.[66]

Women have the same rights as men to vote and stand for election in Tajikistan; however, according to the 2005 CEDAW report, the practice of ‘family voting’ (whereby one family member votes on behalf of the whole family) is common in some areas.[67] There are 12 women in Tajikistan’s House of Representatives (out of 63 members – 19.1%), and another five in the National Assembly (out of 34 – 14.7%).[68] Overall, few women occupy positions of authority in government or other decision-making bodies.[69] In contrast, women have been more successful in securing positions of leadership within the NGO sector.[70] Women’s rights groups in Tajikistan have been active in drawing up draft legislation on domestic violence, as well as in providing support to victims.[71] They also work to improve women’s awareness of their rights, provide skills training to women, and micro credit facilities.[72]

In Tajikistan, pregnant women are entitled to take 140 days’ paid maternity leave, and discrimination on the basis of gender is prohibited under article 25 of the Constitution and article 7 of the Labour Code.[73] As a result of the collapse of the manufacturing industry in Tajikistan, following independence, many women were pushed into low paid, irregular work in agriculture or the informal economy, or pushed out of employment altogether;[74] as such, they are not able to benefit from these provisions at all. On average, women’s wages are less than half of men’s, according to the Asian Development Bank.[75]

[65] Amnesty International (2010), p.318 [66] NGO Working Group (2006), p.8 [67] CEDAW (2005), p.15 [68] Inter-Parliamentary Union (n.d.-a); Inter-Parliamentary Union (n.d.-b) [69] JICA (2008), pp.58-61 [70] JICA (2008), p.15 [71] UNICEF (2007), p.59; UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.23 [72] AWID (2010); CEDAW (2005), p.57 [73] ILO (2009); JICA (2008), p. 46 [74] JICA (2008), pp.14, 40. See also UN Human Rights Council (2009), pp.7-8 [75] Rokicka (2008), p.38 [76] ILGA (n.d.) [77] US Department of State (2010)


Tajikistan became an independent country in 1991 at the collapse of the Soviet Union; independence was followed by a civil war (1992-1997), which damaged much existing infrastructure and weakened the economy, as well as leading to the displacement of around 600,000 people.[78] Tajikistan is classed as a low income country by the World Bank, and remains the poorest of the former Soviet republics, and the economy – and many households – is heavily dependent upon migrant remittances from (mainly) men working in Russia and Kazkakhstan.[79] Islam is the dominant religion although all religious practice is regulated by the state.[80]

As elsewhere in Central Asia, the Soviet period saw huge numbers of women enter education and employment in Tajikistan, facilitated by services such as free childcare and generous maternity provision to support women’s employment.[81] Practices such as forced marriage, bride price, and polygamy were banned under Soviet law.[82] Quotas ensured women’s participation in managerial positions and in government, creating the impression of gender equality in the public sphere (although little changed in regard to gender roles at home).[83] The post-independence period has seen many women forced out of formal employment and the closure of state kindergartens and other services that enabled women to work, as well as the re-emergence of public rhetoric questioning women’s right to be active and visible in the public sphere.[84] Both have combined to push women back into the home, with inevitable impact on girls’ education, women’s employment opportunities and their participation in decision-making processes, and women’s physical and economic autonomy.[85] 

The Constitution of Tajikistan upholds the principle of equality for women and men at article 17.[86] Tajikistan ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1993, but has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol on violence against women.[87] Legislation is in place guaranteeing equality between women and men, and a State Programme on “Main Directions of the State Policy aimed at Promotion of Equal Rights and Opportunities for Men and Women for 2001-10” was in place until recently.[88]

[78] JICA (2008), p.11; CIA (2010); UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.4 [79] World Bank (n.d.); JICA (2008), pp.11, 14; CIA (2010); UN Human Rights Council (2009), pp.5, 9 [80] CIA (2010); Human Rights Watch (2010) [81] JICA (2008), p.35; UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.5 [82] UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.5 [83] JICA (2008), p.35; UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.5 [84] JICA (2008), pp.14, 22; UN Human Rights Council (2009), p.5 [85] JICA (2008), pp.14-15 [86] JICA (2008), p.16 [87] United Nations Treaty Collection (n.d.) [88] JICA (2008), p.18


Amnesty International (2009) ‘The gender trap.  Women, violence and poverty’, ACT 77/009/2009, London, Amnesty International.  Available at:  http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ACT77/009/2009/en/e1657f5d-c1ab-4b23-ba1c-f6c5de096fb6/act770092009en.pdf (accessed 16 December 2010)

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Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (2010) World Factbook:  Tajikistan, online edition, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ti.html (accessed 14 January 2011)

Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Factbook: Sex Ratio, available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2018.html (accessed 29 February 2012)

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Discrim. Fam. Code Rank 2012: 
Discrim. Fam. Code Value 2012: 
Legal Age of Marriage: 
Early Marriage: 
Parental Authority: 
Rest. Phys. Integrity Rank 2012: 
Rest. Phys. Integrity Value 2012: 
Violence Against Women (laws): 
Female Genital Mutilation: 
Reproductive Integrity: 
Attitudes Towards Domestic Violence: 
Prevalance Of Domestic Violence: 
Son Bias Rank 2012: 
Son Bias Value 2012: 
Missing Women: 
Fertility Preferences: 
Rest. Resources & Ent. Rank 2012: 
Rest. Resources & Ent. Value 2012: 
Access To Land: 
Access To Property Other Than Land: 
Access To Bank Loans And Credit: 
Rest. Civil Liberties Rank 2012: 
Rest. Civil Liberties Value 2012: 
Access To Public Space: 
Political Participation: 
Political Quotas: