24.kg reports about 5388 children living in orphanages in Kyrgyzstan, 80 % of these children have parents who could take care of them. The factors that contribute to abandoning children are diverse and complicated. The first and foremost is taboo on sexual education and communicating about sex, women do not have a choice but to agree to unprotected sex and then some might not even have the information how pregnancy may occur. The second issue is the poor economic situation of families or single parents which sometimes forces them to leave children at the orphanage. It broke my heart when I was visiting a toddler orphanage some years ago and I saw mothers coming to visit their children on Sundays. The third issue is yet again related to social taboo on sexuality and large numbers of children in families. Kyrgyz women are expected to have at least three children and get married by age of 22-23 which puts some of them in dire poverty because they did not have a chance to acquire skills to sustain a well-paid job to afford raising three children. Early marriages and unplanned early age pregancies usually result in a lot of unexpected children and parents abandon them.
I am at a seminar near Berlin and doing a lot of gendered discussions. I am a co-teamer for Queer Animation and our group of ten people prepared an animation about some of the Yogyakarta principles (international law in relation to LGBT people). It can be viewed on Youtube.
The week brought a lot of discoveries and I learned a lot of methods of disseminating information and perspectives. Most of them are very interactive and I can’t wait to start using them in my work.
Fresh news from the Parliament. Maternal leaves have been extended to three years and the male initiator of the bill also is hoping that if the husbands will earn a lot of money than the wives would be able to stay at home with the child for life.
From the point of view of child’s interest this is a nice gesture. From the woman’s point of view, it can turn into an employment issue. The employers are not generally happy about hiring young women because of the pregnancy risk. It is also unusual that the employers pay the women on maternity leaves as they are required by law. Therefore, it is unlikely that women’s situation is going to improve with the longer maternal leaves. The usual story is that the mother either stays at home until the family is able to afford taking their child to kindergarten or her extended family (usually a younger sister or distant female relative) takes care of the child while she is at work.
The statement of the MP Rahatbek Irsaliev who initiated the bill about staying at home ‘for life’ is particularly scary to hear because it implies that the Soviet idea of women being an important part of the work force is vanishing and the more traditional view is taking over.
This week I am mostly on the road on my way to Berlin and mostly thinking about migrants and their lives in Russia. Just two days ago spent about an hour at a train station trying to buy a Russian entry [migration] card with a relative. The train attendants sell these cards for 300 to 1000 roubles (13$ to 35$) and their usual customers are migrants who have to renew their cards but according to the law have to leave the country and return with a new card (yeah, this is especially fun if you are a migrant somewhere in Siberia and the nearest border is thousand plus kilometers away). It became a business, the train attendants on trains which cross Russian borders sometimes ask if anyone needs a spare card with valid date of entry. You van also buy the card at Moscow train stations.
Meanwhile, Labrys staff managed to put the promised videocast on Google and also on Labrys blog. The video is available at p://kyrgyzlabrys.wordpress.com/2008/03/14/videocast-on-google-video/
As I have previously written, Labrys was preparing a videocast in response to the homophobic and insulting statements presented by Russian Orthodox Church. The videocast was uploaded to Kyrgyz video portal and has been watched 409 times within the first 15 hours of being up. The video in Russian features Gulnara Kurmanova of AntiAIDS Association who is a strong LGBT ally, journalist Bektour Iskender, priest Maksim Bratukhin and head of LGBT Organization ‘Labrys’ Anna Kirey. Together they explore the view of religion on LGBT and discuss the possibility of opening a dialog on LGBT issues which most organizations are silent about. The videocast can be viewed here
The worrying trend that I see in this situation is that the word ‘sodomite’ might become part of everyday language and was presented as synonymous to LGBT in most of the media coverage of the press conference by Russian Orthodox Church.
Flowers, candy and cakes. Not much about women’s rights which originally signified the 8th of March. Flowers are sold at every corner and every woman is entitled to a gift and attention. I saw local police giving flowers to women drivers at the main Ala-Too Square. Interesting idea possibly copied from Russian police recent Valentine’s day quest with giving heart-shaped baloons instead of fines to traffic rules violators.
At the same time recently the parliament’s committee on ‘everything unimporant’ e.g. youth, sports and gender policy voted in a bill on ‘National Sport types’ while the bill on ‘State guarantees for equal rights and opportunities for men and women’ reports MSN newspaper . The number of women in Parliament seems not to influence the attitude towards gendered approach to legislation. This was the worry of researcher and gender specialist Gulnara Ibraeva and it is likely that the women from privileged and elitist groups might not find gendered realities of Kyrgyzstan as a key issue to support.
The press release which I wrote about yesterday is now available . Labrys has contacted different local and international human rights organizations asking for recommendations for possible official reactions to the press release. Suggestions varied from keeping silent to suing the church for hate speech.
The top three news for now are:
1. Russian Orthodox Church against homosexuality and Apostolic church story continued. Today local chapter of Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) made a public statement that ROC ‘has never supported, does not support and never will support sodomites’. The press release available in Russian below accuses 5 Bishkek Channel for confusing ROC and Apostolic church and giving the viewers a wrong perception of the ROC’s position on homosexuality. The press release calles LGBT people ‘sodomites’ and compares LGBT people with necrophiles and pedophiles while the LGBT-friendly priest Maxim Bratukhin is described as a ‘disguised pervert’. Kloop posted a balanced article about this situation.
2. Gender policy in Kyrgyzstan was mixed with other ‘soft’ issues through the parliamentary committee for youth, gender policy, physical education and sports.
3. Interesting discussion on bridekidnapping is happening on Diesel forum. There is not a single person there supporting this ‘tradition’.