Women in Chechnya
By: Valeriia Pantiukhov
Women in Society
The social status of women remains a big question in the modern world. While one part of the world is providing equal gender rights or at least progressing towards it, there are countries where women have limited rights and freedoms.
So what are the factors that influence the social status of women in a certain country?
Customs and Traditions
There are accepted norms for women in a society based on its history and level of development. For example, in Equatorial Guinea the institutions of dowry, consent, inheritance, widowhood are established in the way where women are left at the mercy of the husband or his family.
According to the Chechen tradition, a woman’s obligation is to cook food every day and for holidays. It is noteworthy that only men cook for funerals, because women are not allowed to participate in the ceremony.
In a traditional Chechen family woman can start eating only after the head of the family.
Religion and State
Women’s status depends on whether the community strictly follows religious dogmas or not. In a country where law is based on religion, women are limited in their rights.
Generally, all religions limit women’s rights starting from how they must look, finishing with “the right way” of behaviour. In countries where policy is separated from religion, women have their guaranteed freedoms.
As Chechnya is part of Russia, the laws of the state to not conflict with norms regarding gender rights.
It is not enough just to enshrine women’s rights on a paper, but to enforce its protection in practice as well.
That means, to implement law enforcement mechanisms and punishments for discrimination and violation of women’s rights, especially in societies where this question is still undefined.
Regardless of how deeply rooted traditions are, if they perpetuate discrimination against women they need to be modified or eliminated completely.
The perfect image of Chechen woman is one who is modest, kind, well-mannered, household, dutiful and dedicated. Usually, women in Chechnya wear head scarves and skirts below the knee as a result of their Islamic faith.
Religious women cannot wear makeup and nail polish, it is considered hypocritical towards religion. Secular women who live in Chechnya, regularly wear casual clothes like jeans and no one judges them as such.
However, according to cultural norms in Chechnya, it is not acceptable to show too much skin. Women usually hide elbows, knees and neck area. Even men in Chechnya follow this modest style of dress.
Human rights activists claim that women in Chechnya do not have freedom of choice, because it is not enforced by law. Local and federal authorities however deny this claim.
According to Chechen culture, it is a big shame for a family to reveal inner and personal conflicts. They say, woman from the Caucasus must consider if her behaviour will embarrass the dignity of her family, because she is accountable to her nation.
The Life of Chechen Women
Participating in sport lessons at school, girls still wear head scarves and skirts.
Dates are to be held in public places. During big celebrations like weddings, women are separated from men.
Some Chechen women live differently. Lifestyle change depends on perceptions about women's role in society, her values and skills - some choose family, another one career or both.
The question of marriage for Chechen women is controversial. Chechen women do not have a free choice, they get married at an early age, often by the family’s decision.
However, modern families claim that there is no forced marriage anymore. Parents can set up a date, but if young people disagree, no one will be forced.
Many women are scared to get a divorce because according to the tradition, the children will stay in the husband’s family. Usually, the father has more appropriate conditions for living, so the court decides in his favour.
Chechen society is governed according to Russian legislation. Although Islamic norms and Chechen customs called “adats” - also have a high priority in real life.
Main Challenges of Women in Chechnya
The main challenges encountered in family life by the female residents of the North Caucasus are primarily of social nature and control related.
In Chechnya, 24% of women have limited or no access to the family budget and are not involved in making financial decisions. 23% reported that they are not allowed to schedule their free time without the supervision of their husbands or relatives.
According to women, 44% experience criticism of their appearance, behaviour or mental capabilities from men, 42% sometimes experienced jealousy and 41% had been prevented from communication with their friends.
Although, it cannot be said that women do not face these issues in other regions around the world - including in Western countries.
According to reports of human rights organizations, women are “the most vulnerable group" subjected to the "strict traditions" of the North Caucasus.
Nowadays, social activists are trying to make the life of women in Chechnya more comfortable. In 2008, a project “The new role of Chechen woman” was launched. They offer services such as free driving lessons for women, which has increased the number of women drivers.
In addition, there is a special taxi service just for women, where the drivers are women as well. Every third Sunday of September Chechnya celebrates 'the Day of Chechen woman,' honouring their ability to maintain the family, raise children, to be wise and devoted.
However, there is still a long way to go for women's rights in Chechen society, where long traditions conflict with new-age ideas.
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