Disparate Housewives: Tajikistan Says Government WAGs Must Labor Like Everyone Else

The wives of Tajik government officials have received news they might not like: their husbands could get in trouble if their spouses don't take part in volunteer work.

The warning came from the head of the State Services Agency, a body that oversees state employees' compliance with the country's laws and their professional Code of Ethics.

Speaking in a media briefing in Dushanbe, Juma Davlat said the agency had received complaints that the wives of government officials often skip out when the call goes out for volunteer work, such as cleaning neighborhoods or planting trees and flowers in communal gardens.

"If we receive any complaint that the wives of the officials are not joining such events, we will have a word with their husbands," Davlat assured.

"Compliance with the Code of Ethics should start from home," he said, stressing again that "the wives of the officials must take part in community volunteer works...to set a good example to others."

Disciplinary Action

Davlat said the recently updated code "now regulates state employees' conduct both at work and outside work."

"It applies to all state employees and their conduct not only at the workplace, but also outside work-related places, their behavior with members of the public, and even with their family," Davlat said.

"Now we can take disciplinary action even if the breach of the code occurs outside the workplace."

The Code of the Ethics for State Employees states that officials could face disciplinary action for breaching the code, and face other legal liabilities if their conduct is criminal.

One Tajik law expert confirms that the Code of the Ethics for State Employees is indeed considered law, and the agency has the right to take actions against those who violate it.

'Expecting Special Treatment'

However, it cannot be extended to the conduct of state workers' spouses aside from exceptional circumstances, according to Dushanbe-based opposition politician Shokirjon Hakimov, who holds a PhD in law.

"There could be a case if the wife of an official exploits her husband's official position, or a government employee exploits his official position to put pressure on a neighborhood committee or a homeowners' committee that results in their spouses getting better treatment than others," Hakimov said.

Some Dushanbe residents told RFE/RL's Tajik Service that the wives of some government officials see themselves as entitled.

"Being the wife of a high-ranking official often is seen as some kind of position," says Dushanbe resident Adiba Aziz, adding that they expect -- and often get -- special treatment at everywhere from beauty salons to government offices.

"They wouldn't be seen dead cleaning the streets like the rest of us," said another Dushanbe resident, who didn't give her name. "

'A Reputation To Consider'

While admitting that family members of high-ranking officials have it easy, one such spouse notes that awareness is crucial.

Gulandom Nozimova's husband is deputy district mayor, and she says that "at every step" she has to consider the impact of her actions on her husband's reputation.

"I don't do anything that would harm my husband's reputation," she said. "Being the wife of an official is not easy. You always have more guests than others."

"Your husband is busy and can't attend all private functions that relatives hold and you need to attend them instead, trying to keep everyone happy," Nozimova says.

As for taking part in neighborhood cleaning work, Nozimova says she doesn't avoid it, "although I don't know what people say behind my back."