Beaten But Not Broken: Tajik Bride Loses A Husband Over Impurity Allegations, Gains A Cause
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Mastona Ato moved out of her village of Baljuvon in southern Tajikistan shortly after her new husband threw her out just two days after their wedding, accusing her of not being a virgin, a claim she vehemently rejects.
I felt like everybody was judging me, Aso says. My mother didn't leave home for two months because she couldn't face the gossip and neighbors' disapproving looks.
Aso, 21, says the bitter experience has changed her from a shy village girl who dreamed of becoming a happy housewife to a strong woman. And now, she has a cause.
Aso says she wants to enroll at a police academy in the capital, Dushanbe, to help other women caught up in similar situations.
I could use my experience to help others, Aso says. What happened to me has happened to many other girls.
Her father, Asomiddin Jalolov, has promised to raise money for her education, she says.
Jalolov has been a pillar of support, according to Aso, since her arranged marriage to an economist from the Hamadoni district ended in disgrace and a quick divorce in August 2017.
Aso says she was unfairly accused by her husband of having premarital sex, a societal taboo in conservative Tajik society. The father and daughter, who now live in Dushanbe, are fighting for justice for Aso, trying to sue her former husband for slander and physical abuse.
Jalolov has approached 16 government agencies in Hamadoni and Dushanbe. Among them are police and prosecutors' offices, women's affairs committees, and local and central governments.
Jalolov shows receipts from different agencies confirming they have received his letters of complaints and promising a response.
Asked by RFE/RL, the State Women's Affairs Committee confirmed receiving Jalolov's letter and said the committee would provide the family with a defense lawyer if the court takes up Aso's case.
More than 15 months later, the family is still waiting for other agencies to respond, and they're determined not to give up.
I trust my daughter. No girl should face such abuse, Jalolov says. I will pursue this until the end to set an example for others.
After a tearful media interview with RFE/RL's Tajik Service last year, Aso got messages of support from the public, with some of them offering sympathy and some making marriage proposals.
I promised myself to not cry anymore. I'm done crying, Aso said in a followup interview with the service this month. Another marriage is not in my immediate plans anymore. I want to study and become a policewoman and help other women.
A Moscowbased Tajik woman has contacted the family to offer financial support for Aso to pursue her dream.
Jalolov recently sold the family's livestock a cow and a calf to help provide for his daughter.
The young woman says her greatest regret is not going to college in the first place, rather than getting married.
Another regret is not taking a purity test before her wedding; that, she believes, would have saved her a lot of bother.
Aso insists she was a virgin on her wedding night, but the groom didn't trust her. According to Aso, shortly after the consummation of their marriage, he violently beat and demanded that she confess to having had sex before.
He said, 'I'll shave your head and throw you outside, so if you don't want to suffer, confess before I kill you,' Aso claimed in a video interview with RFE/RL's Tajik Service.
He said a virgin should be bleeding for the whole week and scolded me, saying that 'you must have stitched it because you only bled for one night.'
The day the bride was thrown out, her family took her to the National Forensics Center in Dushanbe, where doctors examined Aso and confirmed she was indeed a virgin on her wedding night.
The family of the groom rejects the claim of violence and insists the new bride admitted to having had premarital sex.
Nobody beat her. Why would a family spend money to throw a wedding with so much hope and send the bride back to her parents...for no reason? says Khairiniso Emomova, Aso's former motherinlaw.
Tajikistan introduced mandatory prenuptial medical tests for young men and women who get married for the first time.
The 2015 law is primarily aimed at preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. Registrars refuse to conduct the marriage without a medical certificate stating the couple has passed the tests and are aware of each other's health status.
A purity test is optional, but many future brides opt for it either at the groom's behest or voluntarily to avoid potential scandal.
According to the National Forensics Center, at least 22 newlyweds approached doctors to resolve virginity disputes in the first half of 2018.
More than 100 bridestobe underwent prenuptial purity tests over the same period of time.
In some cases, even the certificate of purity from doctors doesn't help save a marriage when the groom is suspicious of his bride.
One such dispute ended in tragedy in 2017 when an 18yearold bride took her own life and her 24yearold husband ended up in prison for driving her to suicide.
The United Nations recently called on countries that have introduced purity tests to end the medically unnecessary practice.
Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.