Tajikistan bans divorce by text message

A couple, of Tajik ethnic origin do a traditional dance September 24, 2006 in Taxkorgan County of Kashi Prefecture, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China.
China Photos/Getty Images

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan — Tajik religious authorities say divorce by text message will soon be banned, as they seek to stamp out the practice in the mainly Muslim Central Asian nation.

State religious affairs committee head Abdurakhim Kholikov said Monday that sending SMSs with the "triple talaq," a Muslim ritual whereby a husband can end a marriage by reciting the term for divorce three times, breaches Islamic law.

Divorce by text message has become common in Tajikistan, particularly among migrant labourers living abroad.

Households in deeply impoverished Tajikistan depend heavily on cash remittances and divorce usually dooms wives to deep penury.

With many marriages in Tajikistan not documented, performing "talaq" is usually a mere formality, although Islamic legal scholars have condemned the practice.

Many describe Tajikistan as Central Asia's poorest country. Regardless, it is ruled by a firm and wealthy dictator, Emomali Rahmon. In a Wikileaks cable, an ambassador said: "Rahmon and his family control the country's major businesses, including the largest bank, and they play hardball to protect their business interests, no matter the cost to the economy writ large."

Recently, the situation in Tajikistan deteriorated so badly that the government was forced to ration the electricity supply throughout the country, despite its abundant energy reserves.