Kyrgyzstan Considers Banning Girls from Traveling Abroad
A lawmaker in Kyrgyzstan is pushing a resolution that would ban young women from leaving the country without their parents’ written consent. Irgal Kadyralieva from the Social Democratic Party says the resolution, which would apply to girls under 23 years of age, is intended to "protect their honor and dignity” from trafficking or sex work. “Such measures are needed to increase morality and preserve the gene pool," Vechernii Bishkek quoted her as saying on March 4. The ban would not prevent girls from studying abroad, Kadyralieva says, but is specifically designed to stop them from traveling abroad for work. Hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz women work abroad, mostly in Russia, often in unskilled jobs for low wages and sometimes in dangerous conditions. Kadyralieva says she was specifically motivated by a series of reports last year about Kyrgyz women in Russia being beaten and raped by Kyrgyz men calling themselves “patriots.” The men were angry at the sight of Kyrgyz women socializing with non-Kyrgyz men. "This proposal of mine protects national security, social security, moral security and [is an] economic issue," Kadyralieva said in an interview with Kloop.kg. Protecting girls may be a noble mission. But an extra layer of bureaucracy is unlikely to do much to stymie the flow of migrant workers from a place where most official documents can be purchased under the table for a few dollars. Cumulatively, moreover, remittances from Kyrgyz migrant laborers total the equivalent 30 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s economy, according to the World Bank. The country desperately needs that money. In her interview with Kloop.kg, Kadyralieva did not address what could be done to create jobs in Kyrgyzstan so the girls would not have to travel abroad in the first place. Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee considered the proposal on March 4. According to KyrTAG, members sent it back for some minor clarifications (such as what to do if a girl has no parents) but generally supported the idea.
David Trilling is Eurasianet’s managing editor.