Women’s Rights in Former USSR

From Moscow in European Russia to Tashkent in Central Asia, Soviet leaders embarked with revolutionary zeal on a mission to liberate downtrodden women – and by 1930, Joseph Stalin, Lenin’s successor in the Kremlin, declared the job done.

Moscow had enshrined equal rights in law, and given women of the Soviet state more power over their reproductive rights with the legalisation of abortion in 1920 (though it was banned again for two decades from 1936). It coaxed – or herded – women into the workplace, providing universal child care and generous maternity benefits to oil the wheels of the socialist machine.

Russia flag

Russia flag

Yet despite these apparent freedoms, for the average Soviet woman emancipation meant a life of drudgery; bearing the “double burden” of home-making and child-rearing alongside work outside the home was all the more onerous in a country beset by rampant shortages and widespread abuses like the Korean comfort women.

Today, almost 25 years after the fall of the USSR, many problems faced by women across the post-Soviet states have a familiar ring in the west. Though each country has formally expressed its commitment to equal rights, campaigners say they face a particularly tough job in many of the conservative, patriarchal societies that dominate the region, especially in those countries where the Kremlin’s family values agenda holds sway.

Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the two post-Soviet states not ranked in the report, are seen as two of the world’s most repressive countries. In the region’s most socially conservative countries – mainly in central Asia and the Caucasus – women confront a host of abusive practices which are difficult to root out, from bride kidnapping to denials of their reproductive rights.

USSR

USSR

In Kyrgyzstan, which ranks 67th in the gender report, bride kidnapping – never fully stamped out in the USSR – is back with a vengeance. Studies show that some 11,800 women are kidnapped every year, and up to a fifth are subjected to violence, including rape. The government acknowledges bride snatching as a problem and is cracking down, adopting new legislation which more than tripled the maximum sentence to 10 years – but prosecutions remain a rarity.

Images from images.google.com

Women’s Rights in Former USSR

From Moscow in European Russia to Tashkent in Central Asia, Soviet leaders embarked with revolutionary zeal on a mission to liberate downtrodden women – and by 1930, Joseph Stalin, Lenin’s successor in the Kremlin, declared the job done. Moscow had enshrined equal rights in law, and given women of the Soviet state more power over their reproductive rights with the legalisation of abortion in 1920 (though it was banned again for two decades from 1936). It coaxed – or herded – women into the workplace, providing universal child care and generous maternity benefits to oil the wheels of the socialist machine.

Joseph Stalin

Joseph Stalin

Yet despite these apparent freedoms, for the average Soviet woman emancipation meant a life of drudgery; bearing the “double burden” of home-making and child-rearing alongside work outside the home was all the more onerous in a country beset by rampant shortages and widespread abuses like the Korean comfort women.

Today, almost 25 years after the fall of the USSR, many problems faced by women across the post-Soviet states have a familiar ring in the west. Though each country has formally expressed its commitment to equal rights, campaigners say they face a particularly tough job in many of the conservative, patriarchal societies that dominate the region, especially in those countries where the Kremlin’s family values agenda holds sway.

Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the two post-Soviet states not ranked in the report, are seen as two of the world’s most repressive countries. In the region’s most socially conservative countries – mainly in central Asia and the Caucasus – women confront a host of abusive practices which are difficult to root out, from bride kidnapping to denials of their reproductive rights.

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kyrgyzstan

In Kyrgyzstan, which ranks 67th in the gender report, bride kidnapping – never fully stamped out in the USSR – is back with a vengeance. Studies show that some 11,800 women are kidnapped every year, and up to a fifth are subjected to violence, including rape. The government acknowledges bride snatching as a problem and is cracking down, adopting new legislation which more than tripled the maximum sentence to 10 years – but prosecutions remain a rarity.

Images from gov.uk and history.com

Tuberculosis Problem in Central Asia

About a thousand people still contract tuberculosis daily in Europe and Central Asia, despite an overall decline of the disease, a report by the Europe Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) revealed Tuesday (17 March).

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis

The report, co-authored with the World Health Organization (WHO), said the continent would not be free of the disease until the next century at the current low rate of eradication, particularly due to prevalence in countries to the east of the region.

“Multi-resistance tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is still ravaging the European region, making it the most affected area of the entire world,” Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, said in a statement. She noted that 50% of cases are reported and only half of those are successfully cured.

Overall cases of the disease in the vast region, stretching from Ireland to Russia, fell by 5.6% between 2012 and 2013. In 2013, there were about 360,000 reported tuberculosis cases with 85% occurring in 18 “high priority” countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, including Romania, Georgia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia.

Most of the 38,000 deaths from the disease were also in Eastern Europe and in former Soviet republics. “TB disease is closely associated with the socio-economic conditions in a country, e.g. nutrition, living standards, health systems,” ECDC spokeswoman Marieke van der Werf told AFP by email.

“It has been shown that in Europe, TB notifications are higher where national incomes are lower and/or income inequalities are higher.” The low detection rate and recovery from the disease in many countries mean health authorities need to considerably “scale up access to safe, rational and efficient new TB drugs, as well as innovations on rapid diagnosis and care,” added Zsuzsanna Jakab at the WHO.

A person with Tuberculosis

A person with Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is the world’s second most deadly infectious disease after AIDS with 1.5 million deaths recorded in 2013 compared to 1.6 million AIDS-related deaths in 2012.

World TB Day is marked each year on March 24 in an effort to raise awareness of prevention and treatment.

Imges from www.earthtimes.org and www.abc.net.au

Russia and Central Asia’s Problem

Even in the fat years, when Russia’s oil-fuelled economy guaranteed her son a job, Enjegul Kadyraliyeva struggled to survive on the dollars he sent home to her in Kyrgyzstan. Now she fears she will have to feed her grandson on the loose change she earns selling dried yogurt balls and lollipops on the pitted streets of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan’s capital.

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Russia’s economic crunch and a falling rouble—a consequence, exacerbated by economic mismanagement, of sharply lower global oil prices—worry millions of Central Asians who depend on relatives working in the former imperial power to send money home. According to the World Bank, remittances are equivalent to a third of GDP in Kyrgyzstan and almost half in Tajikistan. As the Russian currency sinks, the amount guest workers are able to remit, usually in dollars, falls too. Remittances to Uzbekistan fell by 9% in the third quarter of 2014 compared with a year earlier, according to central-bank statistics in Russia. One analyst believes remittances to Tajikistan are a fifth lower than a year earlier.

Regional growth has been revised downwards again and again in recent months. Central Asian currencies have also fallen. On January 1st Turkmenistan, a secretive state that is rich in gas, devalued the manat by 19%. Thanks partly to weak exchange rates, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the two poorest post-Soviet countries, face double-digit inflation. The rouble, admittedly, has fallen much further—by half in the past year. That makes Central Asian goods uncompetitive in Russia, the largest market for most of the region’s five economies. Uzbekistan’s car exports to Russia are 35% lower than a year ago. A Tajik selling imported nuts and dried fruit in Moscow says his profit margins have gone.

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As for Central Asian labourers in Russia, some of their leaders expect about a quarter to return home. The prospect of hundreds of thousands of unemployed young men flooding these weak states should terrify Central Asia’s graft-prone governments, which do little to create jobs and rely on emigration to ease social pressures. In 2009, in the previous financial crisis, remittances to Kyrgyzstan fell by 28% and men returned home. That set the scene a few months later for the violent overthrow of the country’s elected president-turned-dictator, Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

Images from images.google.com

Central Asians Joining ISIS?

Based on research from the International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence (ICSR), the write-up claimed a massive upsurge in Central Asians absconding to fight with ISIS over the past three months. And while the article and attendant graphic represent a clear step up from the prior offering last October – which suggested that only 30 Central Asians, all from Kyrgyzstan, had uprooted to fight with ISIS – a look at their Central Asian analysis tosses the entire ICSR report into doubt. This has been one of the most recent unfortunate situations in news, aside from the Comfort Women issue in East Asia.

Kyrgyztan

Kyrgyztan

There have been no signs since October of the colossal increase in Central Asian fighters ICSR claims. While this may be, partly, an attempt to correct the fact that the prior report failed to note anyone outside of Kyrgyzstan joining ISIS, it’s simultaneously disingenuous to claim that the regional numbers have grown from 30 to 1,400 in a matter of three months. Between the 190 fighters from Tajikistan and the 360 from Turkmenistan, ICSR’s estimates carry implications of accuracy that, unfortunately, doesn’t exist. While they remain somewhat close to governmental estimates – Kazakhstan at 300, Tajikistan at 200 – they attempted to offer an estimate that was too fine by half.

ISIS militants

ISIS militants

Further, these numbers may be near official estimates, but there’s no guarantee that the claims Dushanbe or Astana are making are accurate. A recent report from International Crisis Group is the most thorough look into Central Asians fighting with ISIS we’ve yet seen. According to Western officials cited, each Central Asian nation has supplied approximately 400 nationals to ISIS. Other findings within the report offer insights into those who’ve opted to fight alongside ISIS. Perhaps most importantly, Central Asians – “known collectively as Chechens,” as the report notes – constitute only a small fraction of the total number of fighters. And often, those who’ve made it to Iraq and Syria are simply “human material” – cannon fodder among the more seasoned fighters.

Images from images.google.com