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Are the Tajik police fans of The Sweeney?

Bazaar in Dushanbe. Tajikistan, July 2009

Best leave it, Tone, its a domestic. The Sweeney-style outlook of the police to domestic violence in 1970s Britain is now notorious. It was a Dont get involved attitude because Theyll sort it out and Weve got real villains to catch. ("Oi, you slag, youre nicked! etc. Yes, didnt we kids of the 70s just love Regan and Carter? Well, I know I did that theme tune, the chunky Ford Consul hoving into view, all the fighting/shouting/drinking/fast driving)

But attitude-wise, things in the UK are better now, but not perfect. Two women a week dying because of domestic violence is not perfection.

Amnesty and others in the End Violence Against Women coalition have been pressing the government to establish an integrated strategy to join up and properly finance work to stop violence against women in Britain. No more women falling between the gaps" paperwork not passed between social workers and the police, ambulance medics not talking to hospital casualty doctors etc. Action is long overdue and there are rumours that the government is set to announce something very soon .

which is more than can be said about the central Asian state Tajikistan. The country is the latest subject of Amnestys Stop Violence Against Women campaign. Its not exactly Sweeney territory (not sure the Tajik police actually call people slags) but, cultural differences aside, were still talking about a situation where the police can mock a teenager trying to tell them her boyfriend has repeatedly raped her. Or one where a government official can unblushingly say: Violence against women is not a problem in Tajikistan, it is a family matter; and it depends on individual people how they resolve their problems. Oh, so the 30-50% of Tajik women who suffer violence from their families (usually husbands or domineering in-laws) can er, well, just keep quiet about it..

Check out the full Amnesty report here.

Tajikistan is the poorest central Asian state (my girlfriend was there a couple of years ago and says the poverty is evident everywhere you look) and the Amnesty report has a fascinating though grim tale to tell about how poverty lies beneath a lot of gender violence.

Two quick examples: (1) in Tajikistan an official marriage costs £2.70 to register (almost a third of the staggeringly low minimum monthly wage of £8.20); many cant afford this and opt for cheap unofficial religious weddings, but these leave women with no rights and more vulnerable to abuse; (2) theres been a massive exodus of Tajik men looking for work abroad (usually in Russia), meaning thousands of often young women have been left in the households of sometimes violent, bullying in-laws some husbands never return and the women become virtual (or actual) social outcasts.

All in all its going to take more than an unlikely economic miracle to turn the situation for Tajik women around. The answer, as ever, lies with attitudinal change. It would be helpful, for example, if 70% of Tajik women werent so tragically brainwashed as apparently to believe that its OK for their husband to beat them up if hes angry.

Just as Regan and Carter thought it was fine to rough up the criminal scumbags of their south London manor, so the men (and many women) of Dushanbe and hundreds of Tajik villages think its only right that they should lord it over their lowly wives. Maybe it's time for a completely new episode in this outdated drama.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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