Sunday, March 13, 2011

Marriage and Family

The Tajiki concept of marriage is far different from the concept we adhere to in the West. People marry young here - normally before they turn 22. Farzona, my peer tutor, is 21 and currently facing pressure from her parents to get married already. After marriage the bride goes to live with the groom and his family . Even into adulthood, children never live separately from their family, and support their parents as they age. A daughter-in-law are referred to as a "Killeen" in Tajik. 

A Kileen is expected to do all the cooking and housework for her husband's family. It's actually really depressing - they're essentially slave laborers. Once a woman is married she's bound to a life of child-rearing and housework. If a woman manages to finish University without getting married and secures a job before marriage she is less likely to be bound to the home, but the "ideal" Tajik woman belongs at home. 

Arranged marriages are very common within the older generation (and by older I mean 30 years +). In fact, it's perfectly acceptable for family members - usually cousins - to marry. My host sister-in law, Muhabbat, and my host brother, Jalol, are cousins. I actually asked my host sister-in-law how she "met" Jalol and she explained that she knew from a very young age that she was promised to Jalol, although she had never met him. Apparently they didn't meet until their wedding. I'm fairly impressed that two complete strangers can marry and create a fairly healthy and functional family environment. 

Muhabbat wasn't able to finish University before having her first child. She manages the house, cooks, cleans, et cetera. Unlike American households, her children and husband are not expected to assist with household chores - even when I offer to help out, I'm rebuked with a kind "no", and an explanation that "this is my work."

After Nowruz (think Persian Christmas) I'll discuss the plight of women in Tajikistan more. For now, I'm simply very thankful to be born in America. I'd be a terrible Kileen. 


  1. Wow...that sounds...awesome.

    Is that something that is pretty much staying the same or changing at all?

  2. Cousin-marriage is becoming a thing of the past (at least in the city) but women are definitely still expected to devote themselves to domestic affairs. However, a few Tajik women, mostly from highly Westernized families, do have careers. So there is some progress, however small.