Over the 30 years of Turkmenistan’s independence, not a single female candidate has participated in presidential elections. In addition, the authorities are not interested in taking measures to increase the number of women in elected positions. Women make up about 25 percent of members of parliament, but their presence is nominal and men do not take them seriously. Traditionally, the majority of the population believes that a Turkmen woman should only do housework, raise children and serve all family members.
A clear example of Turkmen gender policy was demonstrated at this conference, when our human rights activist approached the head of the Turkmen delegation, Shemshat Atajanova, with a proposal to meet and discuss issues of the human dimension, the latter pointed to a young man, a member of the delegation, to seek permission from him. So, who is the leader in this case: Sh.Atajanova or a man?
Another example. The former ambassador of Turkmenistan to France dealt with domestic violence for decades, as a result of which his wife and daughter were forced to seek protection from the French authorities, including obtaining asylum in this country.
Finally, this year the report “The Health and Status of Women in the Family” was published for the first time. Even taking into account the limited number of respondents and the authorities’ practice of falsifying output data, the survey showed a depressing picture on the issue of violence against women in the family.
Every eighth married woman in Turkmenistan has been subjected to physical or sexual violence by a spouse or partner. Imagine, half of the women subjected to violence were beaten in the stomach during pregnancy.
More than 40 percent of the women surveyed experienced so-called “controlling behavior” on the part of their spouse. They were mainly subjected to social isolation - 22.1 percent of respondents.
The second type of control is a ban on work or study. More than 20 percent of women confirmed that they were prohibited from working or studying outside the home.
Do you know why this is possible in this country? Because the authorities, through their personal behavior, encourage a disdainful, sometimes rude and degrading attitude towards women.
For the past three years, Turkmen women have faced discrimination when it comes to driving a car and obtaining a driving license. Some police officers prohibit her from sitting in the front seat next to the driver. Officials have made it a rule to interfere even with women’s wardrobes. The whole country is gradually moving towards unified clothing.
In March, Turkmenistan introduced a ban on abortions after five weeks of pregnancy. In addition to the fact that the authorities ignored the international rule - the law does not have retroactive force - with this ban the regime gave impetus to the flourishing of bribery. The bribe amount reaches $500 depending on the stage of pregnancy. At the same time, there is limited access to contraception in the country, Radio Liberty reports.
In early April, women were banned from using cosmetics, dyeing their hair, doing manicures, and wearing tight-fitting clothes and jeans. Women who had botox, artificial eyelashes, or false nails were detained by the police, fined, and in some cases fired from their jobs.
Just recently, a video was published on YouTube in which a young Turkmen breaks into a beauty salon and beats his wife in front of everyone. The authorities do not assess such cases of violence against women and do not investigate or prosecute men, thereby silently encouraging gender inequality.
Disgusting gender policies have forced Turkmen women to seek their fortune abroad, and in particular in Turkey. But even there they are also subject to discrimination, lack of rights, and violence, including sexual violence. Accordingly, the authorities abroad are in no hurry to protect the rights of Turkmen women.
Mister Barrel! Just recently, Your special representative, Mrs. Teri Khakala, visited Turkmenistan. Subsequently, she gave a long interview, but only noted in two lines: “Brussels also always focuses on human rights and gender issues, which we also discussed in Ashgabat.” And what exactly has been done to ensure that Ashgabat implements Your recommendations? Or will you let everything go on the brakes again?
Long-term practice shows that such visits to EU officials, shaking hands with the president and other Turkmen officials, and so on, with such behavior you give the regime an indulgence to oppress the rights of Turkmen citizens, including Turkmen women. As a result, Turkmen citizens turn to us with a request: “Tell them not to come to us, every visit of theirs turns into a deterioration of our rights, it gets worse and worse. Through the local media, the authorities present their arrival as an approval of authoritarianism.“
Turkmen Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights