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Tajik Deputies Propose Signing 'Marriage Contracts'

"Should we make it official?"
"Should we make it official?"
DUSHANBE -- Tajik legislators have proposed a draft law that would regulate marriages with a contract between husband and wife, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Khayriniso Yusufi, the head of parliament's Women's Affairs Committee, told RFE/RL that in the case of a divorce or legal separation a "marriage contract" would help to fairly divide the couple's common property and save women from being left on the street or without any income.

Yusufi said many Tajik women receive nothing after a divorce and usually must take care of the couple's children. She said she is worried by the increasing number of divorces in the country, where there were 5,840 divorces in 2009.

Mariam Davlatova, the head of a Dushanbe-based nongovernmental organization on women's affairs, said a marriage contract would not lead to a decrease in the number of divorces but would certainly help provide women with some assets after divorces.

Tajik divorce law currently calls for the equal division of property between spouses but this practice is often not followed.

The issue of marriage contracts became topical after the media wrote several articles about dowries, the presents of money that men provide a future wife's family. The custom, known in Tajikistan as "mahr" or "qalin," is mainly practiced in eastern and southern Tajikistan.

Zubaidulloh Roziq, an Islamic scholar and leading member of the Islamic Renaissance Party, noted the tradition of sending food, furniture, and money by
the husband's family before a wedding is against Islamic law and no one -- including parents -- have the right to ask for such gifts.

But Roziq said in some parts of Tajikistan people pay a symbolic price of the "mother's milk," in local jargon, which can be as little as $200 but has nothing to do with Islam.