Kyrgyzstan Passes Controversial Girl Travel Ban
**UPDATE (June 13, 2013):
Almost 24 hours after the vote, and after a widespread public outcry in Bishkek, parliament has published the text of the controversial resolution it passed last night. It turns out, though MP Irgal Kadyralieva is still insisting to the press that she wishes to protect the Kyrgyz "gene pool,” the final resolution does not limit travel for women based on their age.
In the confusion -- fueled by multiple press appearances where Kadyralieva insisted women under age 22 or 23 must be forbidden from traveling abroad without a parent's consent -- early on June 13 activists in Bishkek lashed out at the resolution.
“This legal act is absurd,” Vechernii Bishkek quoted Aikanysh Jeenbaeva, co-founder of the Bishkek Feminist Collective SQ as saying. “It's not going to protect anyone. It will only increase corruption. Now girls will have to pay bribes at the border.”
“Deputies acted ignorantly by passing the resolution,” human rights Ombudsman Tursunbek Akun was quoted as saying. “Don't they know that they're violating the Constitution, civil rights, and freedom of movement?”
Furthering the confusion, because the resolution is not a formal bill, it is unclear what legal power it wields. For now, it appears to be little more than a recommendation. The full text can be found here.
For contributing to the confusion with the original blog below, my apologies.
Kyrgyzstan’s parliament voted overwhelmingly today to ban women under age 22 from traveling abroad without the written approval of their parents, Vechernii Bishkek reports.
Irgal Kadyralieva, a deputy with the Social Democratic Party, proposed the legislation last winter. She argued it would protect young women’s “honor and dignity” by protecting them from sex traffickers and rape. Hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz work abroad, mostly in Russia and Kazakhstan. Many work unskilled jobs for low wages in conditions that can be dangerous. The resolution, as envisioned, would prevent young women from joining the exodus.
“Such measures are needed to increase morality and preserve the gene pool," Kadyralieva said in March.
Kadyralieva said she was reacting to reports of young Kyrgyz women being abused and trafficked. But critics say she is missing the point.
“This initiative has been designed not to eradicate the problem, but as a PR exercise to satisfy the pseudo-patriotic rhetoric that now exists in Kyrgyzstan,” journalist Aida Kasymalieva, who has reported extensively on the lives of female migrants in Russia, said in March. “What’s more, if it’s approved it will create more opportunities for corruption, since it includes exemptions for young women going to study abroad. […] There’s tremendous room for maneuver, for bureaucratic paperwork, and hence for bribe-taking.”
Others protest that parliament seems unable or uninterested in creating jobs at home – a course that would likely do to more to stymie the flood of emigrants than legislation that will be difficult to enforce.
After the vote on June 12, Kadyralieva said the resolution is part of a forthcoming strategy on migration intended to protect Kyrgyz citizens, 24.kg quoted her as saying. Details on that plan remain scarce.
In recent years, officials have sought mounting restrictions designed, they say, to protect the moral welfare of Kyrgyz society. Rights activists fear, however, that Kyrgyzstan’s deeply entrenched patriarchal traditions are invading civil law.
In April, the Culture Ministry tried to prevent a staging of the Vagina Monologues, the episodic play that addresses domestic violence and sexual abuse, arguing it advocates “unnatural, perverted sex under the slogan of feminism.”
The travel ban passed 59 to two, with 59 no-shows and abstentions.
David Trilling is Eurasianet’s managing editor.
Sign up for Eurasianet's free weekly newsletter.