TASHKENT -- Uzbekistani authorities are mounting a battle against polygamy and working to protect women from illegal marriages.
The effort is meant to protect women from exploitation.
Even though polygamy is prohibited by law, some men have managed to have multiple wives in Uzbekistan.
"Some rich men have several wives," Nodira Azizova, a spokeswoman for the Women's Committee of Uzbekistan branch in Olmazor District, Tashkent city, told Caravanserai. "Individual cases do exist ... Some cases are registered officially [despite the illegality], and others through nikah [the Islamic wedding rite], which imams perform secretly for couples."
Uzbekistani law prescribes punishment for a polygamist of up to three years of imprisonment and a fine equalling 50 to 150 monthly wage installments. The law does not penalise the women in such cases.
Accountability for rogue clerics
Presently, though, the law says nothing about clerics who perform nikah to facilitate polygamy. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev wishes to fix that loophole.
Speaking to a nationwide audience of clerics at a June 15 video conference in Tashkent, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev cited the existence of polygamous marriages that clerics bless by performing nikah.
Soon the country will have a law making clerics liable to punishment if they certify an illegal marriage through nikah, he said.
"A bill that is being worked out now prescribes prosecution for any religious figure who marries a couple without state certification," he said, according to the TV channel Uzbekistan.
Observers like Azizova hope to see that law enacted soon, as they consider polygamy a violation of women's rights.
"These women are not only breaking the law," said Azizova. "They're socially vulnerable and lack all rights and protections."