The New Trend of Polygamy In Tajikistan
Friday, November 17, 2006 11:53 AM

Tajikistan, 17 November 2006.  Men in Tajikistan have started taking multiple wives.  Polygamy existed during the rule of the Soviet Union, but it was largely by secret arrangements and was very rare for those 70 years.  It has not been a part of their society for a century, but has recently gained in popularity and is being practiced openly.  The government condemns this practice, but the imams support it, and religion is very important to 95% of the people.

There is inequality between the numbers of Tajik men and women.  This is due to the death of nearly 100,000 citizens during the civil war in the 1990s, most of whom were men, and the migration of about a million men to work in Russia.  With a population of 6.5 million in all of Tajikistan, those losses created a large imbalance.

The practice of polygamy has been met with mixed reactions in the country.  Its supporters refer to Islamic law and women’s desire to marry to defend the practice, but many women who are in the relationships feel embarassed, humiliated, and impoverished.  The women often have nowhere to turn and feel helpless in their situations.   

According to Professor Miriam Cooke, who studies Arab culture, the Islamic world seems to be turning more to the practice of polygamy and she considers it a trend.  She finds the issue to be complicated and says that while people feel differently about it, she tends to see it as a setback.

Compiled from Ilan Greenberg.  “After a Century, Public Polygamy is Re-emerging in Tajikistan”, New York Times, 13 November 2006.  Available