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Representatives of one of the oldest Asian peoples. The Uzbek people have a unique history, a unique culture that distinguishes them from their closest neighbours (Kazakhstan, Mongolia). Their appearance represents the most common characteristics of Asians, while at the same time they have unique characteristics of facial structure, eye section, figure characteristics and even behavioural patterns. The beauty of Asian women is influenced by the climatic conditions of the region, in which the Uzbeks live, which could only affect their appearance, as well as the traditional way of dressing. It should be noted that even the beautiful Uzbeks who live in large modern cities have a large number of national clothes in their cupboards and are happy to wear them even on ordinary days. And festive outfits delight all those who love beauty and spectacular things - popular costumes are brilliant, similar to exotic flowers or butterflies. Warm sunshine, sand and warm winds are characteristics of Uzbekistan's climate. And it is this burning sun that has made the skin of the inhabitants of the country so swarthy, tanned. In practice all beautiful Uzbeks have a dark complexion, dark hair that shines like silk. In their dark brown eyes, there is so much oriental mystery. In general, Uzbeks are experiencing slow growth, although modern girls, representing the fashion industry, models or the film industry, can demonstrate the standard European parameters of the Western female figure.

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The modern life of Uzbek beauties

 For centuries, the Uzbeks have lived a banal life, occupied only at home and with the family, being in the shadow of their men. But modern realities differ from historical realities. In the lists and odds of the beauties of the world can be presented the beautiful Uzbeks - brilliant, sexy and independent. In their appearance there are traditional features of Asian people with dark skin, dark hair and eyes with narrow cut. But by their nature, their lifestyle, these Uzbeks are no different from European or American women. They have been realized with some success in show business, filmmaking, modeling. Among them are famous singers, actresses and business ladies. The combination of oriental appearance, modesty and restraint with confidence, education make these women particularly interesting. Beautiful Uzbek women, participating in beauty contests, perfectly demonstrate that now there is no strict canon of the ideal woman. It is important only to be charismatic, charming, without doubting her physical and inner beauty.

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Uzbek women suffer in silence. Men who mercilessly exploit and humiliate their wives go unpunished...

Men who mercilessly exploit and humiliate their wives in Uzbekistan are not punished, because women never complain.

Testimonies of Uzbek women:

"I couldn't take it anymore," she said in the burn unit, patient Zuhra, "I knew my life would never change, and I decided it was better for me to die than to suffer so much. »

Zuhra (the name was changed for security reasons) entered the Samarkand burn centre after she poured gasoline on herself and set fire to try to get rid of her husband's blows. This was his third suicide attempt.

"I called the police several times," Zukhra said, "they warned her husband that he could be punished, but did nothing, and the beatings continued.

Over the past month, five similar suicide attempts have been recorded in the city of Samarkand. The reason for all the calls is domestic violence.

According to the traditional way of life of the Muslim family, an Uzbek woman, whose functions include obedience, submission, and the performance of all domestic work, generally does not work and depends financially on her husband. Her helplessness makes her an easy victim in her husband's eyes, on whom one can let off steam with impunity.

In addition, violence is caused by social causes, such as unemployment, poverty and drug addiction. A troubled husband can most easily blame his grievances on a resigned woman who has to endure everything. The same women who, contrary to tradition, try to find work and thus help their families, also put themselves at risk.

Nigora, 15, from the village of Tashlak, Ferghana region, with her friend Salima, went looking for temporary work. They met a certain Khairullah, who suggested that the girls pick apples in his garden for 3000 soums (about $3). However, when Khairulla took the girls home, she raped Nigora and Salima managed to escape.

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Until recently, women's work was considered unprecedented in Uzbek society, but now the vast majority of the temporary workforce in the Fergana region - i.e. 10,000 people - are women.

Many housewives are forced to earn money to feed their families. A significant portion of the temporary workforce is also made up of women workers in public companies and teachers who cannot live on a meagre salary or have lost their jobs.

"Uzbekistan's labour legislation is violated at every stage," - said the local human rights representative of the Independent Organization of Uzbekistan (IHROU) Abdusalom Ergashev. "Employers hire women to work, then rape them and generally treat them as disenfranchised human beings. »

Efforts to protect the rights of victims of domestic and professional violence complicate the fact that few victims are willing to acknowledge acts of violence against themselves. In a society jealously concerned about a woman's "purity" and which values honour over justice, such a confession leads to disgrace, divorce and a miserable existence.

"I was suffering for the good of the children - I have six, and the youngest is still in primary school," says Zuhra, which explains why many years of bullying by the husband have been endured, in a resigned manner. But when she was beaten by her eldest son, Zuhra decided to burn herself. She poured gasoline on the dress and set it on fire.

According to psychologists, this way of committing suicide is on the woman's side, not only an act of despair, but also an attempt to make her tormentor suffer. According to doctors, about 40 burned women, obtained as a result of a suicide attempt, come to them every year. As a general rule, 80% of them cannot be saved.

According to Ferghana Regional Prosecutor Murod Fozilova, criminal proceedings against perpetrators of domestic violence are hampered by the fact that their victims refuse to testify. "They refuse, because they are most afraid for the family's honor," they say.

As a general rule, after an unsuccessful suicide attempt, the surviving victims do not talk about what prompted them to take such a step. "They survived, and they will have to go back to their husbands' house, the person who led them to suicide," - says surgeon Bibisora Oripova, who already has 20 years' experience with burn patients - "If a wife tells the truth, the husband's parents will get revenge.

According to the regional prosecutor's office, on average in the Samarkand region, suicide attempts were attempted by self-immolation, a ratio of 35 women per year. However, experts from women's non-governmental organizations believe that the authorities deliberately hide the actual data, and in fact the number of cases is 2-3 times higher than the official statistics.

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The Brides of UZBEKISTAN

The Uzbek people have always been known for their great respect for women, even if the above statistics seem to prove the opposite. They are full members of society and have great opportunities for personal development. Today, many Uzbek men are already resigned to the fact that the modern Uzbek woman is not only a housewife, they have shared the leading role of the supplier and protector of the family with the Uzbek woman who is intelligent, active and hard-working. There is an Uzbek proverb: "When you teach your son - teach yourself to one person, teach your daughter - you teach a whole family! ». This proverb speaks of the special role of Uzbek women in the family, as a moral and spiritual basis.

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In Uzbekistan, the institution of the family is still strong, which remains the most important vital value. Here, one of the lowest divorce rates in the world is remarkable. (this is related to the fact that Uzbek women do not dare to divorce for fear of reprisals). Uzbek families tend to have many children, especially in rural areas, where women are mainly housewives by combining house management with basic crafts: spinning, embroidery, carpet weaving. The products of their hands are an essential attribute of every house that is lovingly decorated with this decorative art. In general, a sedentary lifestyle has developed a respectful attitude towards home. The courtyards and even the streets near the houses are kept incredibly clean. Uzbek national cuisine dishes are also distinguished by their practicality, but also by the mastery of the cooks. All over the world, traditional dishes such as pilaf rice, Plov, Uzbek cakes, soumalak, fragrant light shurpa, juicy meat and pasta dumplings, the smell of smoke and spices on the barbecue are recognized. The ingredients of Uzbek dishes are generally flour, meat (usually sheep), sheep tail fat, many vegetables, herbs and spices.

And all this is the merit of an Uzbek woman!

The special characteristics of Uzbek women and girls' beauty are their eyes, eyebrows, cheeks and hair. Uzbek girls' eyes are sparkling, their eyebrows are burning, their hair is long! But the main advantage of oriental beauties is a special inner beauty, sweetness of character, patience, sweetness and generosity. Uzbek women are loving mothers who take care of their children and good, obedient wives for their respected husbands. Glory to the Almighty for his work on Uzbek women, as Muslim men in Uzbekistan say.

 

"The position of women in Uzbek society leaves much to be desired".

 

An interview with Irina Matvienko, founder of the project against violence in Uzbekistan 

Irina, with what did your work for women's rights begin?


The work started mainly with the NeMolchi.uz project. Actually, I have always been socially active. In 2011, I started "Ladoshki.uz" - a project for handmade in Uzbekistan. Later, as part of the same project, I organised an initiative to help children with blood cancer and acute leukaemia. We raised money by selling the Handmade products and used it to buy medicines for children.

How did you come up with the idea to start NeMolchi.uz? What are the goals of this project?


I started the NeMolchi.uz project on 15 July 2017. The idea of starting a project with this name grew for a long time. First, I simply came up with a name, but at the beginning I had no clear idea what the project should be about. But it was clear to me that it should have a social direction. In 2016, our government changed and we began to address and discuss various issues, including violence against women. But in fact it looked like this: once a month they discussed something, got outraged and forgot about it until the next incident. By then I began to understand that it is necessary to discuss exactly such issues - which people are still afraid to talk about.

In the first six months I took care of the newly opened Facebook page anonymously, because we have a difficult "heritage": if you raised unpleasant issues, you could have some problems. I was afraid to say that this was my project because there was not yet complete transparency on this issue. I was worried about my safety.

I found some stories on the internet, expressed my opinion, published some teaching articles, talked to different people, discussed in comments, etc. In late January/early February 2018, the issue of violence against women was raised probably for the first time at the state level. The president criticised the women's committee for being ineffective in their work in this area. And immediately some actions began.

 
The president says something and suddenly people become aware of the problem. As if it had not been felt before. Still, it was progress. I felt that the issue had arrived at the official level. That's why I dared to "come out" a year later and confessed that I was behind the project. By then it was already known. So far, it is more of an information platform. The aim of the project is to educate readers and to address the issue of violence. Because I'm sure: in order to recognise a problem, you first have to talk about it and draw attention to it. Sometimes it takes a long time.

Are there examples of the project interacting with the state sector or with similar projects? Or are there such plans for the future?


So far, unfortunately, there are no examples. When Tanzilya Narbayeva headed the Women's Committee and then became chairperson of the Senate, she helped solve some cases. But that is now gradually coming to an end. I have the impression that the authorities do not cooperate with us: they not only avoid contact, but ignore us altogether. For example, they organise meetings on violence against women, but I only hear about it from the media. Journalists or other organisations are invited, but our project, which specifically deals with this, is left out. Before I had doubts about it, but now I can officially say: the state ignores NeMolchi.uz as if it does not exist.

I still can't say for sure whether there will be joint projects in the future. I am sure that the state does not like what issues we raise and how, because they are unpleasant for them. For example, many who commit violence against women hide behind the national values that the state promotes.

Another problem is forced marriages. Parents make the decision when and whom their children should marry. Our project does not agree with this. I am in favour of people freely choosing to start a family themselves. Adults should not interfere in this process at all. They can give advice, but getting to know each other, choosing, living, etc. - this decision should be made by the young people themselves.

Another important issue is the policy of reconciliation of spouses in divorce. The divorce rate in our country is growing, that's why the reconciliation period, which has been included in the Family Code, should make this rate decrease. If two adults decide to file for divorce but have children together, the court has the right to give them six months to reconcile - and in most cases it does just that. In addition, the court informs the reconciliation commissions of the mahallas (a district with institutionalised self-government) in the couple's place of residence, so that they also take some action. That is, the state intervenes when adults decide to divorce. No one has the right to delay the divorce and interfere even more in the spouses' decision. Again, the project's position is at odds with state policy.

As for the protection of women's rights, I can say that it is largely nominal. The system works poorly overall, people don't want change. If one wanted to change, one would listen to criticism, enter into some kind of dialogue and try to improve something.

Personally, I am open to cooperation and have never rejected it, but cooperation also means mutual agreement. I don't see any response from the other side. Maybe they see us as a threat.

Nevertheless, I would like to add that we are now working with the Department of Women's Affairs at the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Uzbekistan. They are the ones who issue protection orders. I point out various cases to them, they delegate them to staff in the districts and they later issue protection orders to women. These have not themselves become an effective mechanism to protect women from violence, but that is another matter.

In general, how do you assess the position of women in Uzbek society? Are there any positive changes?


It seems to me that there are positive changes in society. But I don't see them to the extent that we would like or that our government declares. I see that through the work in the project people's opinion is changing - at least thanks to the community that reads us. Maybe we are only found by people who share the same values. Nevertheless, it shows that we are not alone and that there is an awareness of the value of personality.

There are still many stereotypes, especially in the Uzbek-speaking environment, in traditional families. These include, for example, the idea that a woman's main purpose is to get married, become a mother and run a household. So far, I don't see any major changes here. This is also evident in TV series and in the topics that are discussed on national television. There are talk shows where women report violence against themselves, whereupon they are condemned and blamed by older women - from the so-called "advisory board of mothers-in-law" - the so-called "victim blaming".

In general, I see positive changes, but the position of women in Uzbek society still leaves much to be desired. Of course, there are women who can be equal to men in their environment. Personally, I can count myself among such women: I am not discriminated against by my husband or my work colleagues. At the same time, I understand that not all women can say that about themselves. And perhaps precisely because of my advantageous life situation, I see an opportunity for myself to explain to other women that they too have the right to such a life.

In September 2019, Uzbekistan passed the Law on the Protection of Women from Oppression and Violence. How do you assess this law, what are its advantages and disadvantages?


We received this law with enthusiasm. It was a step forward, an important breakthrough in society. But after almost a year, we can now judge whether this law has become an effective mechanism to protect women from violence. And I can say - no, it has not. At least currently, the law only works nominally, because there is still violence against women. The law also does not protect them in any way from harassment on the street. We have a mechanism to protect against sexual harassment at work, which was previously established in the Labour Code.

In early July, several Uzbek women organised a flash mob against sexism and domestic violence, posting photos with homemade posters on the internet. The girls' action was a logical continuation of the debate in the media space on the issue of gender equality in the republic, which was triggered by the incident with Evelina in Fergana. A man had beaten her up in the park because she was wearing shorts. What is your opinion about this action? What does this flash mob and the reaction to it signal? 

The flash mob was started by several girls from an art project called Exponaut. Like many of us, they were outraged by what had happened to Evelina in Fergana. And so they decided to express their civic position. I think it's very cool and I fully support them.

When we published Evelina's story ourselves, the reactions spilled over: Women started sharing their stories of street harassment, etc. In this case too, Evelina was blamed and the girls were told that it was their own fault. But on our side, people mostly supported her. I think the outpouring of information about the extent of harassment in our society prompted many young women to take an action like Exponaut.

The girls wrote about obvious problems, but many saw this as an attempt to change traditional values and Uzbek society - even though the girls did not act on any instructions.

I honestly didn't expect anything else. People whose only value is their mentality see everything as a threat to that single value. Everything that happens outside this narrow world is perceived as an attack on it. This testifies to the narrow view of such people.

In fact, this flash mob was not directed against religion, as Muslim women themselves also started to stand up for their views and values. I think it is good that they also speak about what is important to them - they have the right to do so. But I know that there are also Muslim women who support this action. To live in a country where there is harassment, no matter what nationality you are, what you wear, and at the same time pretend that this kind of thing doesn't happen to you - that is a kind of open blindness. So it is very good that there were these strong reactions. Many people, even foreign mass media, have written about it. Now everyone knows that a certain section of Uzbek women have a voice and the courage to speak out about the violence against them.

The action involved mainly young women, I am very happy about that. I see that the younger generation is ready to change; they have strength. I am also happy that men participated and are not indifferent to the issue. Many men have grown up with the idea that women and their rights are respected - it is quite normal for them. They don't notice that somewhere nearby a man is working on a girl or laughing at her. In their world, there is no harassment because they themselves don't harass anyone either. But actions like billboards make young men think that everything is imperfect and changes are needed. Maybe this can become a kind of trigger for some of them - to understand that this is happening next door and not all men were raised like you.

The flash mob showed that women are harassed but are no longer afraid to talk about it. I am sure there are still people who are afraid to talk about it. But I am more than convinced that there are girls for whom the action - and the problem of harassment in general - has given them strength to share their story.

Can such actions lead to effective results? Can changes already be observed?


One cannot observe any shifts at the moment, but the question is set, and sooner or later this will yield results.

Additionally, I can say that on 26 June, after the incident with Evelina, I started a petition on the specially created portal "Mening fikrim" (change.org). It is against the harassment of women. However, the petition was rejected by the Commission at the beginning of August. It justified its decision by saying that "all rights and interests of women are fully protected by the Constitution" and that the articles on insults and hooliganism fully cover all issues related to harassment of women.

How realistic is gender equality in Uzbekistan and what still needs to be done to ensure full protection of women's rights?


If you look at the global statistics, there is no gender equality in any country in the world, not even in the Scandinavian countries, which are considered as role models. Therefore, it is difficult to speak for Uzbekistan.

There are several recommendations on what should be done to make women in Uzbekistan feel protected by the state:

- Tightening the laws for violating the protection order and in relation to rapists, to the point of confiscating the man's property (as well as his relatives) and handing it over to his wife and children. Finally, it is no secret that many people register property with their relatives so that when the daughter-in-law divorces, there is nothing left. It is the criminals who should fear losing everything if force is used. It is not the victims who should worry about their future and keep quiet so as not to remain on the streets.

- Transfer crimes against women from the category of private prosecution (when the case is initiated only at the request of the victim) to the category of public prosecution (when the case is initiated based on the fact of the crime, regardless of the existence of a statement by the victim).

- To stop reconciling with the aggressors. Children living in such families are taught that violence must be endured to create the illusion of peace in the family; or that one can hurt each other and not have to bear responsibility for it. One can and should leave a toxic relationship. Personal value is more important than statistics with nice numbers. A family where violence and hypocrisy thrive is not a family!

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