Aiming to prevent close relatives from marrying each other, officials in Tajikistan are considering legislation that would require couples to undergo a mandatory medical exam before tying the knot. The idea is to decrease the number of children born with debilitating illnesses and to address a burgeoning HIV crisis.
Some observers are raising privacy concerns about such testing, saying such legislation could provide opportunities for venal officials to solicit bribes and access intimate information. But others in this conservative country say the bill does not go far enough, and want women to be tested to prove their virginity. The debate has underscored the low quality of medical care in the former Soviet Union’s poorest country.
Under 2006 legislation, genetic and virginity tests are currently available free-of-charge in Tajikistan – but they are not mandatory. The push to mandate the exams comes after President Emomali Rahmon, in a January speech, instructed his government to ban consanguineous marriages – marriages between first cousins and other blood relations – which he blamed for causing the majority of disabilities among Tajik children.
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