http://www.turan.az-March 8 is a good occasion to clarify the gender situation in modern Azerbaijan and the status of women in society. History always helps to understand the general attitude to women in every country.
In the case of Azerbaijan, it is important to know: at the end of the 19th century and until the middle of the 20th century the number of women was less than the number of men, which is very rare in the countries of the world. At the beginning of the 20th century. In Russia there were 103 women for 100 men, and in Azerbaijan – 87, and 54% of men and 46% of women lived in Azerbaijan. This situation was also observed in 1926, when men exceeded the number of women by 112, it changed only after the Second World War. Perhaps, for this reason, polygamy, widespread among Muslims, was rarely practiced in Azerbaijan.
A significant event was the Enlightenment, when the future of the people associated with the emancipation of women, her exit from seclusion and education. Another event is connected with the Regulations on elections in Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (1919), providing for equality of rights for men and women, granting women the right to vote and running for the supreme legislative body of countries at a time when this practice was absent in a number of Western countries.
In the Soviet period, a radical program for the Muslim country was modernized to “liberate the woman of the East”. The woman threw off the veil, she actively joined the public life, the Soviet government in the field of women’s politics showed special care and weight. The World War II dramatically changed the fate of women (in agriculture – 78%, and in cities – 60% of workers), women equaled, and then went ahead in comparison with the male population of the republic (1939: women -1562.6 thousand people, men – 1642.6, 1959: women – 1941.1, the husband – 1756.6). The conquest of socialism was abolished already during the years of perestroika: the abolition of the quota system, a sharp decline in the standard of living required from the woman acceptance of new social roles.
In the post-Soviet period, the patriarchal consciousness of society collided with the emerging “wild” capitalism. Democracy and the market were established in conditions of legal nihilism and chaos, aggravated by ethnic conflict. Dynamic, assertive, strong, hard methods of struggle for the assertion of one’s place in life collided with outwardly liberal and democratic rhetoric, generating paradoxes of consciousness, a skeleton of the psyche. The state, parties, women’s organizations dealt not with women’s problems, but with separate women, grouped in interests. As in the West, the women’s movement in Azerbaijan began with the blind copying of patriarchal values, the “adjustment” of women to men.
In the first years of independence, one could notice the emergence of an insistent seeker of her rights on the political and economic stage of Azerbaijani life. The gender situation was extremely destabilized, and women in captivity began to play social roles that were not characteristic of them, quickly filling the emerging niches.
The situation in Azerbaijan continues to be characterized by the orientation of the society towards family values, but social and economic transformations bring into it significant changes: traditional values are being destroyed, men are very painfully watching the change of sociocultural patterns of behavior of the sexes, often turning a woman into a major earner of means of subsistence. “The shuttle-woman,” the “selling woman,” women who study abroad-previously forbidden topics of discussion-suddenly broke through to the pages of the press, subjecting the morale of society to a severe shock.
Today’s change of gender roles also determines the transition from the industrial to the information society, which reduces the need for masculine qualities and increases the need for feminine qualities. Begins a kind of renaissance matriarchy – the “female age” of information technology requires such qualities as intuition, diligence, attentiveness, thoroughness in work. Women’s tolerance today is vital for a world of politics that is in the grip of patriarchal power values.
With the completion of women’s and gender development programs, the United Nations has significantly weakened efforts to achieve gender equality in the republic. There is again a gender bias in the economy, in the spheres of production and services, old ones are reviving and new problems for women appear, while the number of public and non-governmental organizations dealing with the gender problem has dramatically decreased.
What are the main problems of the modern Azerbaijani woman?
First of all, demography: in 2017, the population of Azerbaijan was 9.81 million, out of which 4.918 million women (50.14%), respectively, the number of girls born is below the number of boys by almost 4%. This is evidence of the use in the country of selective selection of the sex of the child, and hence the practice of forced abortions, which negatively affect the health and psyche of women. In addition, the gender bias in the future will lead to disparity of those entering into marriage.
Other problems are determined by the Gender Gap Index published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) since 2006: the degree of gender imbalance in each country is determined by four areas – the labor market and career opportunities; access to education; health and life expectancy; political participation. According to the results of research conducted in 2017, Azerbaijan took 97th place out of 144 countries, while the overall level of equality reached 67%.
As expected, the country ranks 142nd (out of 144) due to a large imbalance in the appearance of boys and girls. On average, in the Azerbaijan Republic, the ratio of men and women is 49% to 51%.
“In the category of “education opportunities,” Azerbaijan ranks 91st – the result of devaluation of education among girls and their early marriage. According to the State Statistical Department, women receive a salary half as much as men because most are employed in low-paid jobs.
A high place for equal participation of men and women in the economic life of the country is 46; but, the educational opportunity is 91, and political participation is 131st.
It is characteristic that, according to the general indicator in four categories for the year, Azerbaijan deteriorated its position in the rating by 11 points. Weak consolation is that the experts of the WEF noted the global stagnation and even a rollback in the achievement of gender equality. Compared to 2016, the average world level of gender equality decreased from 68.3% to 68%.
In many regions of Azerbaijan, girls after a certain age stop going to school and are already preparing for family life. In addition to early marriages, another problem is “religious” marriages, late marriages of acquaintance, a growing number of civil marriages and women of reproductive age outside marriage (30% of the age group from 18 to 45 years). In all these cases, except for the latter, women are deprived of the protection of the law. And this is in conditions when the number of cases of domestic violence is increasing. At best, this results in a divorce, the number of which in Azerbaijan Republic is only five times less than the number of marriages per year.
The problems of women’s entrepreneurship are related to difficulties in obtaining loans, because women rarely have sufficient property on bail, as well as with sexual harassment.
It is obvious that this does not limit the problems of women. The problems of career growth, the “glass ceiling” (which women cannot overcome in various fields of employment), restrictions in the sphere of decision-making and many other problems, which are generally connected with one truth – Azerbaijan, like most states of the world – a patriarchal state populated mostly people with patriarchal thinking. This means that women themselves are also convinced of the “fairness” of existing norms, especially in cases where the violation of gender balance does not concern them personally. But even in cases of personal nature, only a few women are ready to assert their rights and, as they say, “to wash dirty linen in public.”
It would seem that 10 years of the gender boom in Azerbaijan should have worked out in women the desire to fight for their rights, educate men and women on equality, form their belief that gender balance is in the interests of both sexes, make government officials and private entrepreneurs more gender sensitive. Alas, this did not happen. At the same time, a large educational, training and practical work was carried out. Therefore, it is even difficult to decide who and what recommendations should be provided to improve the gender balance and the status of women in society. It seems that nothing has been invented anywhere better than the system of quotas fixed by law. Even the EU and the Council of Europe regularly release (including in the post-Soviet countries) various documents related to the need to improve the status of women through quotas. All other activities and proposals include gender education and training, the creation of gender departments in all ministries and departments, the work of the State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs, the adoption of a special law on gender equality included in the Constitution, holding seminars and conferences, etc. – not much helped a particular woman.