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‘Mummy doesn’t cry or scream anymore’: breaking the silence on domestic abuse in Tajikistan

WorldAsia'Mummy doesn't cry or scream anymore': breaking the silence on domestic abuse in Tajikistan
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Like many women in Tajikistan, Shermatova Marjona has experienced gender-based violence.

Ms. Sharmatova met her husband while he was working as a cleaner abroad in Moscow, Russia. They were not long married, and he persuaded her to send all the money she earned to her father-in-law in Tajikistan, who was to use the money to build a house for them.

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

house of discord

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

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

The family lived in constant terror. Whenever their grandfather was around, the children trembled at the thought that he might hurt their mother again.

“I knew that my father-in-law treated his first wife in a similar way, which left her deeply mentally broken,” Ms. Shermatova says. “Now, he periodically beats his second wife.”

She had no money, no education and could not leave her young children alone and go to work. She used to steal maize from a neighbor’s field 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 tests, nothing changed. She didn’t know how to proceed with the case.

a legal breakthrough

It wasn’t until she came into contact with the local organization Hayot Dar Oila (Life in a Family). The organization provides social and legal support services to women and children facing violence. it is supported by spotlight initiativeA global program of the United Nations, supported by the European Union, to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.

Hayot Dar Oila’s lawyers gave Ms Sharmatova legal assistance, and worked with her to draft an appeal to Tajikistan authorities, including the president.

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

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

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

foundation of a new life

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

Ms Sharmatova bought an oven and a sewing machine so she could cook food to sell and generate income through her sewing business. Several studies have found that financial independence is an important factor in reducing women’s vulnerability to violence and allowing them to break cycles of violence.

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

Ms. Shermatova dreams of completing the construction of her home, continuing her small business, and giving her children an education she couldn’t afford for herself.

She is no longer afraid of her father-in-law and receives legal aid and social support through the Spotlight initiative.

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