Thursday, November 11, 2010

Women in Central Asia

Women in Central Asia have historically suffered great injustices. They have hardly been considered equals and have lived with little to no access to resources that could help better their lives. Although many of the countries in these areas have made great changes, it seems that the heavy impact of their inequalities is still felts in many regions, specifically in rural areas.

It was not until Soviet rule that women in Central Asia began to see some improvements in their status in their respective communities. With uniformity serving as a strong part of the soviet agenda, women where finally granted equal access to education and other resources once forbidden to them. However, after the fall of the Soviet government, many of these regions once again began to fall into the same disarray of the past. One reason could have been due to the reemergence of religious groups, particularly, Islamic groups. In many of the areas where Islamic groups dominated, women found themselves once again trapped under veils and classified as second-class citizens.

In many of these regions, women fall victim to seemingly inescapable domestic abuse, which may be a combination of cultural, religious, and societal acceptance. For example, for a women living in a region under Islamic rule, divorce from an abusive husband or for any other reasons, can only be obtained if the husband decides to “Triple Talaq” (a practice where the husband says, “I divorce you,” three times) his wife. This practice denies women the opportunity to initiate a divorce by only allowing it as an option for the husband. Other practices, especially in rural areas that are underdeveloped, include limiting the people that women can speak to, areas where they can work, and people they can interact with, which carry serious punishments, including death, if disobeyed.

Women who try to literary escape these horrid conditions attempt to do so by fleeing these countries for a chance at a better life. But much to their dismay, it is often traffickers that lure these women out of these countries with promises of opportunities. Once these women are taken, mostly from rural areas, they are sold to a third party, who then strips them of their passport and forces them into prostitution. It is often impossible to leave such condition, as many of these women have no identification, no money and don’t even speak the language of the new country.

As a global community we may find the treatment of women in these regions, along with many others, unacceptable, but what are we doing collectively to put an end to it? Perhaps its time for an international movement that is more effective than the current United Nation human rights reforms.


Yazzyjazzy said...

I recently read an article by Frantz Fanon that argued that the situation for Kyrgyz women was better under Soviet power than during pre- and post-Soviet times. This time period refers to an arguably more progressive society in which men and women were considered equals, at least in the workforce. Fanon’s depiction of Kyrgyzstan present condition, without Soviet influence, is one that preaches democracy and equality on the outside and in theory, but not in reality. In reality, the absence of Soviet control has arguably caused a general moral decline, a decline in women with power, as well as an increase in poverty in women having jobs. And prior to Soviet control, equality between the genders was a laughable concept and keeping women in the private sphere was the norm.

Chez Marta said...

Yazzyjazzy, the disintegration of the Soviet "empire" and much of the post-communist "economic development" of the region behind the iron curtain was bad news overall for women and minorities. Post-communist leaders advocate unrestrained, free-market capitalism, which results in the same excesses it resulted in America over a hundred years ago. Powerful oligarchies get incredibly rich by the exploitation of sweatshop workers. A glitzy facade covers the rapid decays of cities into urban slums.

I am saddened by these developments, because I grew up under the considerably progressive policies of a socialist government. While most of the economic planning was ineffective, the socialist party had their heart in the right place when it came to equality. They managed equality the only way they could, sadly, by keeping most people equally poor, (but most still at a higher standard of living than before WWII). And these governments ensured (even through the curtailing of what Americans consider "essential civil liberties") that women were not sold to prostitution, exploited in sweatshop factories.

N.P. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
N.P. said...

As Chez Marta stated, perhaps one reason for the devolving rights of women in Central Soviet Asia may be that the state sanctioned enterprises no longer exist to provide employment opportunities for these women. Furthermore, because of the rurality aspect of Central Asia, this economic downturn could function as a means for women to be pushed back into the cycle of being repressed. It seems as though the Soviet state functioned as a stabilizing influence on women’s rights. Without this effect – combined with the economic downturn – it is clear that women’s rights will take a back seat when there is agitation that men are losing jobs and women are taking them instead.

Another aspect to consider here, is that an economic downturn and loss of jobs for both men and women may incite radicalization in the area. This downturn may incite women to turn to religion as a means to find hope. However, this could also happen with the men as well. The problem with this has been clearly seen in Afghanistan and the infiltration of the Taliban. This might be an extreme view to take – but a combination of a lack of economic initiatives combined with religion and an authoritarian regime may signify such a disastrous result on women’s rights.