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Call In Tajikistan For Higher Marriage Age

QURGHON-TEPPA, Tajikistan -- Tajikistan's only female general has proposed raising the minimum marriage age for women to 22, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Saodat Amirshoeva, who was elected to the lower house of the Tajik parliament two months ago, told RFE/RL that early marriages lead to early divorces.

The current minimum marriage age in Tajikistan is 17 for women and 18 for men.

These ages were included in the 1994 constitution during Tajikistan's civil war, when security fears prompted many parents to seek to marry their daughters off early.

Nigora Azizova, a resident of the southwestern city of Qurghon-Teppa where Amirshoeva comes from, told RFE/RL that some parents still seek to marry off their girls at a young age because of poverty and a lack of work opportunities for their daughters.

Azimjon Vahhobov, an activist with the Islamic Renaissance Party in the southern Khatlon Province, disagrees, saying most Tajiks are Muslim and Islam supports early marriage.

Vahhobov says postponing marriage does not improve girls' living conditions. Instead, he said, it makes it harder for them to find a husband as they get older.

Last month, in his annual address to parliament, President Emomali Rahmon supported raising the minimum marriage age for women to 18. Rahmon said that would give young people a better opportunity to complete their education and prepare themselves for raising families.