In Tajikistan, men who commit acts of violence against their wives are rarely arrested and prosecuted. Even more alarming: studies indicate that half of Tajik women find it acceptable that a man can resort to physical violence to punish his wife. These two findings prompted the SDC to get actively involved in preventing domestic violence which sadly is common practice in this country.
In 2013, Tajikistan enacted a law on domestic violence and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. But there is still much to be done to defend and apply the law on violence against women. Consequently, the SDC's work pursues the following three main objectives:
- Reduce tolerance of domestic violence
- Support implementation of the law on domestic violence
- Improve access to psychosocial and legal support structures for victims of violence
Changing mentalities has top priority in the current context in Tajikistan. Since the country's independence in 1991, Tajik women have been victim of numerous forms of discrimination, for instance when looking for work, seeking medical care during pregnancy, or when left in charge of a household when their husbands go abroad in search of better paid work. They can also be treated as scapegoats and at times be subjected to violence at the hands of their husband's family. Violence can be physical, psychological or of an economic nature.
Given this situation, since 1999 the SDC has supported a wide range of awareness-raising activities in Tajik society, including information campaigns, educational videos, cartoons, and training for police, health professionals and village leaders. Religious leaders are also targeted since they can exercise considerable influence when it comes to changing codes of behaviour.
These activities have borne fruit. In 2010, reception centres and NGOs supported by the SDC recorded 1,499 cases of domestic violence. Two years later, this figure rose to 1,712 – without doubt owing to women's increased awareness of their rights.
Applying the law
After raising their awareness, the question remains as to how to assist abused wives. Although the 2013 law went some way towards giving recognition to these women, it has not yet resulted in the automatic provision of care. The SDC collaborates with the Tajik national Committee on Women and Family Affairs and with three government ministries (interior, health and education) to coordinate the efforts of the state and civil society to ensure effective application of the law and its plan of action.
In addition the expertise of the FDFA's Human Security Division complements the SDC's work. Switzerland is one of the Tajik authorities' most important partners in the development of new policies and reforms to promote the rule of law and human rights.
Assistance for the victims
The SDC provides financial support to several NGOs and two crisis centres offering psychosocial and legal assistance to victims of domestic violence. In 2014, 2,500 individuals (80% women) benefited from psychosocial aid, and 60 cases of violence were referred to court, resulting almost systematically in a decision in the victim's favour.
In more than nine cases out of ten, wives who turned to a support structure supported by the SDC were able to extricate themselves from the acts of violence they had been enduring and find the means to start a new life.
It should be possible to make these encouraging numbers a nationwide standard: from the perspective of sustainability, the SDC works at the local and national levels to ensure victims are cared for progressively more by the state within the framework of hospital units and primary care centres. From this perspective too, social workers, police officers, psychologists and health professionals are encouraged to specialise in the issue of domestic violence.