A View From Kyrgyzstan: Restricting Women’s Rights Won’t Solve Any Problems

by Noah Tucker on 6/13/2013 · 3 comments

This is a guest post from Alisher Abdug’ofurov, a young ethnic Uzbek Kyrgyzstani citizen living in Jalal-abad. He wrote to share his opinion on proposed new legislation restricting women twenty-two and under from traveling abroad without special permissions. We look forward to hearing more from him in the future.

Yesterday on June 12 Kyrgyzstan’s parliament adopted a very interesting and–I would say– strange resolution. According to the legislation, now girls who are under 22 years cannot leave the country without the permission of their parents.

The initiator of this document, Yrgal Kadyralieva (Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan), has stated that it was developed to preserve the moral values, to prevent a demographic crisis, limit the risks of exposure to human trafficking and sexual violence, and protect the reproductive health of citizens. According to her, the state must protect its young citizens from various dangers. In particular, Kadyralieva reports that there are cases where young girls from Kyrgyzstan gave birth outside the country and leave the kids in the street.

We will not even talk about the fact that the resolution directly violates constitutionally guaranteed rights. The decision is already quite strange, I’ve got enough questions on the resolution itself.

I wonder why they decided to impose a restriction up to 22 years, and not until 21 or 23, for example. I mean that even after 22 years there is no guarantee that a woman going abroad will not be subject to abuse. Or after 22 is a woman “unfit for sale,” if we talk about the prevention of human trafficking? And if the parents give permission to travel, does that mean the girls cannot be sold or raped in another country?

This document can also be considered from the point of view of gender discrimination, as the resolution prohibits only girls from leaving. But on the same questions, are young men fully protected from the risks and dangers?

The deputy says herself that the resolution does not prohibit anyone traveling abroad, but only introduces some restrictions in the form of parental permission. I don’t don’t know about Ms. Kydyralieva, but for me a 22 year old woman is old enough to be responsible for her own actions, and even more to solve problems on her own. In addition, I’m not sure that parental permission will change something because the parents also have no idea of what challenges may face their daughter abroad. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that with parental permission and the resolution the government wants to absolve themselves of the responsibility to protect its citizens abroad. If something happens with someone they can say that they were told about the risks and dangers, and if despite this parents gave permission they will have to solve their own problems.

Here I can add, too, that this resolution may give a way for corruption to increase: now border guards might have a chance referring to the document to extort money from women wishing to travel abroad.

Another interesting point is that this resolution aims only to “protect” women who want to go abroad. The fate of girls who are subject to the risks listed in the text seems not so interesting to our elected representatives. After all, here at home in Kyrgyzstan too many girls are subjected to various forms of violence. Many girls married by their parents’ permission become victims of domestic violence.

The resolution, which was accepted yesterday, has already received many negative comments. For example, the Ombudsman of the Kyrgyz Republic Tursunbek Akun said that the document is not legal because it is unconstitutional and violates human rights. A number of human rights defenders and non-governmental organizations have also expressed their outrage at the adoption of this resolution and said that they intend to draft a letter to the president.

At the end, I would like to say a few words about the initiator of this document. Personally, I feel hurt that the initiator of this resolution is woman. In many countries, female legislators are fighting for women’s rights. But here in Kyrgyzstan they are the initiators of such discriminatory documents. This raises the question of what good it did to make changes to the election code that forced political parties to nominate women candidates–through which Yrgal Kydyralieva today sitting in the deputy chair. When these changes were made the initiators hoped that more women in parliament would address problems of women more widely and protect women’s’ rights. But now they are making laws that violate them instead.

UPDATE: Today on the website of parliament the legislation was posted without mention of age or parental permission. There only general issues to protect migrants. Maybe it is result of such negative reaction from activists and the public.

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This post was written by...

– author of 54 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Noah Tucker is managing editor at Registan.net and an associate at George Washington University's Elliot School of International Affairs Central Asia Program. Noah is a researcher and consultant for NGO, academic and government clients on Central Asian society and culture. He has worked on Central Asian issues since 2002--specializing in religion, national identity, ethnic conflict and social media--and received an MA from Harvard in Russian, E. European and Central Asian Studies in 2008. He has spent four and half years in the region, primarily in Uzbekistan, and returned most recently for fieldwork in Southern Kyrgyzstan in the summers of 2011 and 2012.

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hamdard June 13, 2013 at 11:29 am

Uzbekistan has something very similar. But there are two differences, any woman under the age of 35 has to get a letter from a family member. And, that god forsaken letter has to be from a male member of their family. When I was home last time, my mom wrote one for me and you can imagine my surprise when “mahallakom” told me to go and get one from my father, who had passed away ten years ago. A bummer, right? So “mahallakom” thinks for a second and says, “do you have a brother, meaning, aka, an older brother.” And, I am like, nope, just a younger brother. His face lightens up… I can hear that gray matter start moving inside of his bald head, he can see the light in that dark tunnel. So pretty much my 20 something kid brother “allows” me to go abroad. And, because he went to a Russian school and can’t write in Uzbek for shizzle, I have to write that letter, and he gets to put his john hancock on it with a pride… Then I go back to “mahallakom” and of course, his majesty is on an extensive lunch break. His deputy goes like “whaaaat? don’t you have an uncle or something?” I tell him that his boss said it was okay to get it from someone who is younger than myself. He says, “okay, I guess, I’ll give you the spravka, but it is almost a lunch time and I was planning to go to get me some samosas.. unless you are going that way.” I guess I lived in the US enough not to get the hint. And when I got it I was furious. I think I put 3,ooo so’ms on his table and said “go get yourself some samosas”… and got that stupid paperwork… Resolution-schmesolution, it is all doable for a kulek of tandoori samosas, or at least around $2-$4. Another way to make insignificant government officials happy.

PS. Alisher, please figure out whether to refer to “female humans” as “girls” or “women” — seems to be very inconsistent and annoying. I guess culturally you want to call them “girls” but following your argument, I guess it would be much better to call them “women” or “young women”. Thanks for the article!

PS2. Noah, happy to hear that you’ll be managing the site. All the best wishes, and hope there will be lots of though provoking articles. Eagerly waiting for your and Sarah’s articles. I know Sarah has her own site now, and doing pretty awesome job in Al-Jazera, but hopefully she’ll have some extra time to post here as well. I’ll be checking Registan more often! Looking forwards to a new Registan chapter!

Noah Tucker June 13, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Salom hamdard, I’m glad to see you back in the comments! Come and write for us. Thank you for the kind words, and please keep coming back (and I mean it about writing).

I want to let Alisher off the hook about being inconsistent in his terminology–I lightly edited the article a bit for grammar and clarity and the inconsistency (and the headline) come from me. I think in this case he may not be aware of the nuances in English of “girl” vs “woman.” Because he’s making a consistent (in my reading, anyway) argument that young women should be treated as adults and wants to stand up for their rights to make their own decisions, I think he meant no derision by using the term “girls.” Though we can certainly debate it in further comments.

Nastareen June 14, 2013 at 8:23 am

Thank you Alisher , Noah, for the article. I was quite annoyed when I saw the resolution. Restricting the right to travel for the young women is discriminatory. Following the assumption a young woman of 22 is less capable, responsible etc. than a young man of 22, so that she would need an approval of a parent. The whole moral reasoning behind is the most off-putting part. I wonder if the initiator of the resolution provided any evidence linking girls under 22 to demographic crisis, sexual violence, reproductive health issues and migration. I’d say girls are exposed to higher risks in Kyrgyzstan given the whole bridenapping tradition. Should the girls over 14 not show up in public to limit the risks of bride kidnapping?

Thank you Hamdard for bringing up the Uzbekistani resolution. I faced some humongous obstacles myself last time I tried to leave home. The letter from a parent was submitted alright. An interview with law enforcement agents took place. That was horrendous. I was just visiting family. You could only indicate three countries as destinations: Turkey, Malasia and South Korea, indicate tourism. No, wait a minute. I am not leaving as a tourist. Here you go a letter from my employer faxed an hour ago, along with a letter from the University that I am doing my PhD. No, none of that made sense for them. Belgium cannot be indicated as a destination, unless I have a letter of invitation from the Belgian authorities, same relates to all EU Member States. The only option is to indicate tourism and one of the three countries mentioned above. How is that fighting trafficking? How am I in the vulnerable group? I have been living in Europe for the past 9 years. All that didn’t account for anything. Finally, I got out of the country a day before my flight. No bribe was given, some threats were made, that the case will be taken to the parliament. That worked. Authorities issued my exit visa. It was quite a battle. The worst thing is, the whole imitative is funded and implemented in consultation with UNDP and the EU. Go figure.

PS: Turkey, South Korea (and possibly Malasia) are top destination countries for human trafficking. Isn’t that just amusing.

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