DUSHANBE -- Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has signed a law amending the country's Family Code to raise the legal age for women to marry from 17 to 18 years, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.
That change and one requiring children to attend school for a minimum of 11 years starting at the age of seven were proposed by Khayirinisso Yusufi, a former head of the Tajik State Committee for Women.
The amendments take effect as of January 1. Parents who attempt to have their daughters married before the age of 18 will be prosecuted. It is unknown what punishment they would face.
Many Tajik sociologists say poverty is the main reason parents seek to have their daughters marry at a young age.
Furqat Rahmatulloev, a court official in the southern city of Kulob, said poverty was the decisive factor in all the cases the court heard over the past six months concerning the marriage of girls aged between 15 and 16 years.
A second factor mentioned by Tajik analysts is that hundreds of thousands of Tajik men leave the country in search of work, mainly for Russia. Many of them postpone getting married or leave their wives and marry a second woman abroad. That leaves fewer men looking for Tajik wives.
One young woman told RFE/RL that "with the raising of the [legal age for] marriage, you will soon find an increase in older unmarried girls in Tajikistan."
She said that in Tajikistan, once a girl reaches 20 she is often considered an "old maid" and will have fewer suitors.
In contrast, a young university student argues that families should educate their daughters before finding them a husband. She said education improves a girl's chances of making a good match and of coping on her own if she gets divorced.