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EurasiaNet: Stereotype of male superiority and humiliating treatment towards women is an ordinary thing in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijani men treat women in heavily outdated norms. According to the Constitution of this country, the women and the men are equal, but in everyday life, you can see many examples of discrimination, Suzanne Rothman writes in an article published on the website of the American organization EurasiaNet.

The author says she is working in Baku as a teacher of English, and witnesses on regular basis men accosting women in a host of degrading manners. According to her, the most dehumanizing harassment she has witnessed so far is the literal catcall.

"Men here also can be very direct, often inviting women, who are total strangers, into their cars. Men do not restrain themselves to making comments and sounds, but often follow women around after being ignored. Not too long ago, I walked away from an older man who tried to speak to me, and instead of leaving me alone after his advances were flatly rejected, he followed me down the street until I walked into a shop. This all happened in broad daylight, and it happens a lot according to my Azeri female friends who regularly endure similar experiences,” Rothman writes.

According to the article the problems for women intensify after sundown. A woman walking outside alone at night is often perceived to be a prostitute, regardless of what area she is in, what she is wearing, or her demeanor. Men in vehicles are apt to bluntly approach women and offer them money for sexual services, asking "how much?”

"This pattern of male behavior creates an environment that compels women to stay at home after dusk. Though legally they are free to do as they please, women choose to remain housebound due to the harassment they know they will endure by going out,” the author notes.

She was also surprised by some of the responses she got on this matter, her Azerbaijani friends believe that the pattern she described was real, but some thought there was nothing wrong with it.

"Street harassment is symptomatic of the continuing existence of stereotypes that depict women as lesser than men. An Azeri guy, whom I consider a friend, bluntly told me "women are less smart than men.” Furthermore, I was also told that, it remains socially permissible for married men to have extramarital affairs, but it’s taboo for women to engage in such behavior. In addition, a wife is expected to accept her husband’s adulterous behavior in order to preserve family integrity. As my colleagues put it, if a woman divorces her cheating spouse "breaking up the family will be her fault; a divorce is a catastrophe for the family.” Azerbaijani society tends to scorn divorced women,” she added.



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