After suffering years of physical abuse at the hands of her husband, a beating in the street was the last straw for 43-year-old Shamsigul Khulova. Her humiliation prompted her to leave her husband of 18 years, the father of her six children. But to her alarm, authorities would not recognize a divorce, thus threatening to deny her a property and custody settlement.
The state was reluctant to sanction her divorce because, from the official standpoint, she had never been married. Authorities cited “the fact that we were not registered in the registry office, and stated that I have no rights to the house or to the children,” Khulova explained. Like many women in post-Soviet Tajikistan Khulova had opted for an Islamic marriage ceremony, or nikaah, conducted by an imam.
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