In words — gender equality. In practice — misogyny
The situation with women’s rights in Turkmenistan, which is already intolerable for the 21st century, has deteriorated even more rapidly after the current president came to power. Serdar Berdimuhamedov again publicly declares one thing and does exactly the opposite. The desire to establish total control over the personal, everyday life of the female part of society now looks even more ridiculous against the background of recent events in neighboring theocratic Iran. Even there, they are already openly discussing the possibility of abolishing the mandatory wearing of hijabs by women, and the Ayatollahs’ authorities, under pressure from the protests, made concessions and dissolved the “vice police”.
On May 12 of this year, a couple of months after the “election”, Berdimuhamedov spoke at the opening of the conference “The Role of Women in socio-political and socio-economic development”, which brought together delegates from five Central Asian countries and the Russian Federation. There he stated that “gender equality plays an important role in ensuring stability and harmony in society,” and “the issue of ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women is a priority policy of all countries of the world, including the states of Central Asia and Russia.”
It’s on paper. In practice, he began the state’s attack on the personal rights of women.
On the day when the Turkmen dictator was making his hypocritical speech, the London-based International Family Planning Federation (IPPF) released its statement. “Since April 2022, the authorities have brought control over the female body to a whole new level: they have introduced a de facto ban on abortions, a ban on some cosmetic services, banned women from sitting in the front seat of private cars, and taxi drivers from offering women a ride,” it said.
The point is that the “new” Turkmen authorities promulgated in April an “old” law restricting access to services for the termination of unwanted pregnancies. It turns out that it was adopted back in 2015, but all this time it “lay under the cloth” and was not applied in practice. Now the period during which women have the right to have an abortion without medical indications is reduced from 12 to 5 weeks. The new rules have confused, including among local doctors specializing in reproductive health issues. In their opinion, during the first five weeks, most women do not even suspect their pregnancy.
As for the other prohibitions, they look no less absurd. Since the same April, Turkmen representatives of the fair sex have been banned from wearing “excessive” makeup, tight clothes, false nails, and eyelashes. It is no longer possible to do microblading (tattooing) of eyebrows, so popular among Turkmen women.
It is forbidden to dye in a light color and bleach hair, to do botox injections, and cosmetic breast or lip augmentation. Officially, this is not prescribed anywhere, but in fact, law enforcement agencies monitor compliance with these “norms”. They, like the “vice police”, stop and check “suspicious” women on the streets and at public transport stops. They are forced to show their hands and look at eyelashes and hair color. The “violators” are taken to the police station and fined 51 manats ($14.56)
At the entrances to state institutions, they inspect for false or long nails, “wrong” hair color, and the presence of false eyelashes. They may not be allowed to work and sent home to “fix”, just like girls in a Soviet school. In April, due to the presence of botox and silicone in “prohibited places”, about 20 flight attendants of the national airline and about 50 railway conductors were dismissed.
And drivers of private cars from April 22 now face fines if a female passenger is seen in the front seat. A new unspoken order was also strictly communicated to all taxi drivers at the “collective meetings”.
It is now also impossible for a man and a woman to stay in public places. In some cities, the police have already detained couples who allowed themselves such “frivolity” as a public demonstration of affection. Even “walking arm in arm” spouses in case of “violation” are lectured on “traditional values of Turkmens and the place of women in the family and society”
And again, there is no prohibiting law on this topic in the country.
The spread of obscurantism under the guise of preserving “traditional values” and appealing to the “cultural and historical heritage of the ancestors” is used by many autocracies (the same Russian one) to suppress the rights and freedoms of citizens, plunge society into archaism, impose a distorted picture of the world around people and its opposition to their own country. Creating an “enemy image” is one of the key elements in the dictator’s system of retaining power. However, even here the Turkmen leader overdid it, even against the background of many other “eastern despots”. Brought everything to a monstrous grotesque, to a dystopia.