Girls Are Told Not to Leave Kyrgyzstan

A Kyrgyz MP has proposed a new draft decree that would ban girls under 23 years of age from leaving the country without parental consent. Yrgal Kadyralieva calls the decree she is pushing through the parliament ‘Sapargul’, after a young female migrant who was subjected to a shocking ‘patriotic’ attack in Russia by her male counterparts from Kyrgyzstan, part of a trend Global Voices covered in detail last June.

But the decree which aims at preventing young Kyrgyz women working abroad from becoming ‘sexual slaves’ has come under fierce criticism. Human rights groups charge that the decree limits constitutionally guaranteed freedom of movement.

The Bishkek Feminists Initiative depicts the decree of MP Kadyralieva (right) as paternalist and constricting in this demotivator. The caption reads: ‘Hey, where are you going'?

‘Rescuing girls from an uncertain future’

On March 4, local news website published [ru] a compelling interview with the MP discussing the initiative. The interview turned out to be among the most widely read materials on the news platform last month, leading to citizen video debates [ru] on the same topic. One of the reasons that the interview gathered so much popularity was the frank dialogue between Kadyralieva and Zarema Sultanbekova, a young female journalist who would fall under the demographic the controversial decree seeks to protect. At points during the interview, Kadyralieva's passion seems to bubble [ru] uncontrollably to the surface:

Я горю! Мне стыдно за этих девушек.

Зарема, мы хотим или нет — мы рожаем нацию! Богатырей или депутатов! Мужчины не рожают!

I'm burning [with rage]! I am embarrassed for these girls.

Zarema, we give birth to the nation – whether we want it or not! [We give birth to] heroes and MPs! Men do not give birth!

Kadyralieva also revealed how difficult it had been to draft the initiative as a young woman. The lawmaker is only eight years older than girls who could be banned from leaving the country by the decree. She works in the male-dominated parliament, where aksakals (elders) constantly tell her to ‘shut up’ and party bosses accuse her of seeking self-promotion through the initiative.

One Kloop reader, Aizhan Rahmanova, lauded [ru] Kadyralieva's bravery in seeking to address the realities of life for young female migrants in Russia:

я полностью согласна с ней,потому что сама живу за границей и вижу что твориться с девушками.Она женщина мужественная,и спасает девушек от непонятного будущего.

I totally agree with [Kadyralieva]; I myself live abroad and I see what is happening with the girls. She is a courageous woman rescuing girls from an uncertain future.

Yet, some of the readers supporting the initiative seemed to display the same virulent, honor-driven, and nationalistic arguments as the patriots who brutally attacked Sapargul used to justify their assaults on young Kyrgyz women suspected of prostitution in Russian cities. Ulanbek, for instance, wrote [ru]:

Абсолютно Правильный Законопроект надо принять!!!Прочитал некоторые высказывания «Дермократов,АДВОКАТОВ» которым кажется что нарушаются гендерные права женщин,и хочу предложить задать себе вопрос «ТЫ согласен чтобы твою дочь,сестренку [воспринимали] как проститутку???»!!!!

«ДЕВУШКИ» у которых «НАРУШАЮТСЯ» права,извините что выражаюсь грубо в праздник,»ТЫ можешь заниматься проституцией сколько Тебе угодно и за сколько Тебе угодно бери хоть по рублю с клиента» НО ТОЛЬКО ПРИМИ ГРАЖДАНСТВО ДРУГОЙ СТРАНЫ НЕ ПОРОЧЬ МОЮ СТРАНУ КЫРГЫЗСТАН!!!

This is an absolutely correct draft law which should be adopted! I've read some of the comments of ‘Democracy Advocates’ who think that [women's] rights would be violated [if the law is adopted] and I would like to ask them: “Would you like it if your daughter or sister were treated as a prostitute?”

Girls, whose rights are being ‘violated’, excuse me for speaking bluntly on [International Women's Day]: You can practice prostitution as much as you like and charge your clients as much as you like – BUT APPLY FOR CITIZENSHIP OF ANOTHER COUNTRY AND DO NOT BRING SHAME ON MY COUNTRY, KYRGYZSTAN!!!

‘Isn't it gender inequality?’

Elena pointed out [ru] that laws applying to women should apply to men, too:

 Это что гендерное неравенство? Пусть тогда и парней до 23 лет не пускают… Пусть лучше дома работают, порядок наводят, заводы строят, дороги… Замуж девушек берут. А то не справедливо получается.

Isn't it gender inequality? Then ban boys younger than 23-years-old from leaving. Let them work at home, do the work, build factories and roads. Marry women. Otherwise it is not fair.

One of the most salient contributions to the debate was made by a lawyer, Sadanbekov, who suggested [ru] that in a country as corrupt as Kyrgyzstan the initiative would impose additional financial burdens in the form of bribes on girls who wishe to leave the country:

А вы не усматриваете здесь нарушение прав человека (девушки)? Под этим соусом погранцы начнут злоупотреблять служебным положением и вымогать деньги со всех девушек. Каждый имеет право на свободу передвижений, на свободу выбора места жительства и выезда. А может быть самой Ыргал Кадыралиевой запретить выезжать за границу? Зачем нам такие парламентарии, которые палки в колеса вставляют и инициируют бестолковые законы? Разогнать надобно такой Жогорку Кенеш! Система парламентаризма в Кыргызстане не оправдала себя.

Don't you see this as a violation of human rights (of girls)? Border guards will use the [decree] to extort money from all girls. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement, freedom to choose their place of residence, and freedom to leave the country. Maybe we should ban Yrgal Kadyralieva from traveling abroad? Why do we need such MPs who initiate senseless laws? Such a [parliament] ought to be disbanded! The parliamentary system in Kyrgyzstan has not lived up to the expectations.

The citizen debate on the same topic, which pitted Yuri Puinov (arguing against the decree) against Beks Okenov (arguing for) has triggered an intense discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #kloopdebates. According to a poll, Puinov was adjudged to have won the debate by a small margin.

During the debate Anisa Atalova (@AnisaAtalova) tweeted [ru]:

@AnisaAtalova: А что если девушки не хотят защиты? Кто-то будет спрашивать? #kloopdebates

@AnisaAtalova: And what if the girls don't want to be protected? Will they be asked for their opinions? #kloopdebates

Janygul Janibekovna (@janygul) asked [ru]:

@janygul: Безопасность важнее свободы? #kloopdebates

@janygul: Is security more important than freedom? #kloopdebates

And Azat Ruziev (@Azat25) noted [ru] about the assumptions underlying the decree:

@Azat25: Девушки, получается не полноценные граждане… законопроект готовит их стать проститутками #kloopdebates

@Azat25 Girls, it appears, are not taken to be citizens enjoying full rights… this bill is turning them into prostitutes #kloopdebates

As recalled in Global Voices’ June report on patriotic attacks against female labor migrants, between 30-40% of Kyrgyz migrants working in Russia are women. Many of these women are young, unmarried, and travel to the country alone.

Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee has supported the proposal. It is unclear at the moment when the voting for the bill will take place in the parliament.

This post is part of the GV Central Asia Interns Project at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.


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