Rajabbi Khurshed, 18, was married off to Zafar Pirov, 24, in May, and 40 days after her wedding she killed herself when her husband accused her of not being a virgin after multiple tests and demanded to be allowed to take a second wife, Radio Free Europe reported.
Khurshed’s parents arranged for her wedding in the village of Chorbogh in Tajikistan to a man she had never met before. The Tajik state obliges women to undergo a prenuptial medical exam. This exam is optional, but upon the insistence of families, is carried out. The prenuptial exam includes a virginity test which Khurshed passed, but weeks after Pirov humiliated her and insisted on further virginity tests.
He claimed he did not believe her and then demanded permission to take a second wife. This is when a despondent Khurshed seized the only opportunity she felt available to her — suicide. Her family said Khurshed told them on her deathbed that she had been under massive pressure from her husband since the night of their wedding and “couldn’t take it any longer”.
Khurshed, a high-school dropout who had sacrificed her education to help her parents look after two disabled brothers, drank, what the Tajik authorities say was, a fatal dose of vinegar. She died at a hospital in Chorbogh hours later. Her mother said she never had a boyfriend or any intimate relations with anyone.
She was a virgin, and there was a doctor’s certificate to prove it. She also claimed that her daughter was a victim of “slander and violence,” and said they were continually making public pleas to the president of Tajikistan and other officials to intervene and help preserve Khurshed’s memory.
Pirov, meanwhile, faces charges of driving his new wife to suicide and could face up to eight years in prison if found guilty. Speaking to the Radio Free Europe from Chorbogh, he defended himself and insisted that his new wife was not a virgin, and claimed, “she drank vinegar when I demanded that she go back to her parents’ home.”
Mandatory medical check-ups for both bride and groom were instituted in 2015 primarily to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and other sexually transmitted diseases, but they are frequently expanded to include virginity tests for women. Registrars can refuse to recognise a marriage if the couple fails to undergo the tests and provide the proper medical certificate.
Khurshed had opted to undergo a so-called ‘purity’ test and received a doctor’s letter confirming the result. Pirov said he took his new wife to two different clinics, including one in the capital, Dushanbe, to undergo further tests to prove her purity. Both confirmed Khurshed’s virginity, but Pirov was adamant that the doctors were wrong and said he continued to demand that his bride “tell the truth.”
Eventually, just weeks into their marriage, he pressed his bride to let him bring a second wife into the household. “My wife gave me a written statement that she allows me to get a second wife because she wasn’t a virgin when we got married,” Pirov told RFE/RL.
A Vose district court has imposed a travel ban on Pirov pending the trial, though no date has been set.