UN and US launch aid programme for Turkmen women
by Vladimir Rozanskij

Special internships organised for social workers on issues such as gender equality. Atavistic practices often reduce Turkmen women to slaves of fathers, brothers and husbands. The use of violence against them is commonplace. Forced in many cases into prostitution, they are also sold abroad.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Special internships organised by the United Nations Foundation for the Support of Peoples in Crisis Situations (UNFPA), together with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), are underway in Turkmenistan.

They prepare those responsible for training the country's social workers. The trainers are to adopt the principles of family therapy, serving young couples on topics such as 'family values', 'support for positive social and family norms', gender equality and reproductive rights, in a programme called 'Turkmenistan's Golden Century'.

The training has already been completed in the Mari velayat (region), and is now being implemented in the Lebap region. USAID's representative in Turkmenistan, Nino Nadiradze, emphasised that the programmes are aimed at training and supporting 'strong and healthy' family relationships.

Over the past few months, reports from various bodies have shown that domestic violence is widespread in Turkmenistan, according to which one in eight women in the country has experienced physical or sexual violence.

The newspaper 'Neutral Turkmenistan' published a text entitled 'Wisdom Education, or the Peculiarities of Family Pedagogy', dedicated to Turkmen wives. The author explains that 'in the Turkmen family, the wife must understand everything without words, guessing desires from looks, understanding the meaning of gestures and hints, being intuitive'.

The interest in these issues was explained in another article in 'Chronicles of Turkmenistan', entitled 'National traditions and contemporary norms: the world has not understood Berdymuhamedov's care for women'.

The alleged 'misogyny' of the current Turkmen president is also explained by his opposition to the widespread female prostitution and women's trade, which cannot be curbed in the country. A broad consultation is underway on this issue, involving representatives of ministries and various governing bodies, together with international organisations and foreign diplomatic offices.

Some semi-official Turkmen press outlets have reported that a closed-door meeting was held in the capital to discuss measures to combat trafficking in women. As stated in a comment on Arzuw.news, 'it seems absurd to talk about these issues in today's world, but the facts speak otherwise. The medieval use of the trade in human bodies still exists today'.

According to the site, the seminar was also attended by the US ambassador to Turkmenistan, as well as the heads of various departments, to learn about the data gathered by international associations on the possibilities of drawing up special procedures to counter the human trade, and offer effective support to the victims of these practices. No information was released on the measures evaluated at these meetings.

The reports inform that the government of Turkmenistan does not as a rule observe even the most basic measures to counter trafficking in women, and does not show any willingness to make concrete efforts in this regard, remaining at the 'third level', the lowest in the ranking to human trade according to international rankings, worsening the situation relative to 2015-2016, when it had ranked second in terms of commitment to the sector.

The exploitation of women concerns first and foremost prostitution, but also the coercion to cooperate in order to cover up illicit trafficking, the transport of prohibited materials and substances, submission to various occupations through violence and deception, up to forms of outright slavery, often of ancient custom, such as in the cotton harvest, to which even lower school pupils are forcibly sent.

Turkmen women are often sold and 'exported' abroad, but the data on this trade remains too obscure. The hope is that 'family and social' education practices will somehow limit these atavistic and inhuman phenomena.