Authoritarian Regimes: The Women of Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan
There is not much research on authoritarian nations within Eastern Europe. The little information found is predominantly from news accounts of women in police. For example, in a news conference, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia claimed that the number of women in policing was growing and that women work in all areas of policing including investigations, injury, criminalistics, and operational work (Bragina and Jones 2017). Women have definitely made inroads into police as they currently represent 17 percent (112,972) of all police in Russia (United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime 2020). In one analysis, women police were compared to women in the Soviet Army (Regamey and Schechter 2016). Specifically, the authors argued that women in uniform had maternal responsibility because gender equality was viewed as harmful.
We do not speak of colonialization when referring to Russia as Russia was an empire itself. Russia broke off from the USSR, along with 14 other nations, in 1991 and is currently a semi-presidential federation. However, the dominant gender ideologies of the former Soviet Union appear to persist and most women police are given administrative and low-level education duties (Bragina and Jones 2017). In a review of Russian policing, Roudik (2008) found that womens representation in the Russian police has been decreasing because they are the fust to be fired during reductions. Roudik also found that women tend to be assigned clerical duties, as well as administrative work in issuing passports and visas. They are also assigned to work with minors and engage in searches of women. Women are also more likely to engage in research within the police force and serve as forensic experts. However, with so little research on Russia, Roudiks findings must be followed by more current research.
In Tajikistan, the Ministry of Interior claimed to encourage women to join policing and praised them for their work in crime fighting and security (Direnberger 2016). Tajikistan is a Muslim nation (96.4 percent) (Pew Research Center 2020) with little ethnic diversity (Central Intelligence Agency 2020). Tajiks comprise 84.3 percent of the population, with 13.8 percent Uzbeks. It is a presidential republic. Having gained independence from Russia in 1991, Tajikistan has a civil law system. The recruitment of women is viewed as a rejuvenation of the nation as women are viewed as having “natural characteristics” that will improve the police and the nation (Direnberger 2016, para. 38). However, like everywhere around the world, Tajik women do not have equal access to the highest positions in policing. Additionally, it is not uncommon for women to claim that women in general have maternal problem-solving traits that qualify them for high leadership roles.
Uzbekistan also has no identifiable research on women police. One news report claimed that women have increasingly joined the Uzbekistan! police force, working alongside men and performing the same duties (Yeniseyev 2016). The Uzbek government claims not to discriminate. The academy requirements are also the same for men and women, although women are given a modified physical fitness test. Additionally, special women’s councils have been established in order to help women cope with work and family. However, Uzbekistan does not release their women police personnel statistics and no research could verify the news account. Uzbekistan is a predominantly Muslim (97.1 percent) country (Pew Research Center 2020) with one of the lowest democracy index scores in the world with a civil liberties score close to zero (The Economist 2020). The Central Intelligence Agency (2020) lists it as a highly authoritarian nation with a presidential republic government. It gained independence from Russia in 1991 and has a civil law system. According to Amnesty International (2020), 30 percent of elected officials in 2019 were women. This bodes well as research has found that in some countries, when women and other minorities hold office more women police are hired (Belknap 2015).
The chapter opened with a discussion on the integration of women in policing. Western models of integration propose a near linear progression of women into policing. Women are integrated when they reach the tip-over point of 20 to 25 percent representation in the police organization (Brown 1997; Brown and Silvestri 2020). On the other hand, Natarajan (2008, 2014), Strobl (2010, 2020), Shen (2020), and Chu (2020) provide evidence for another model. Natarajan (2008) started the conversation that integration should not be presumed. Strobl (2020), Shen (2020), and Chu (2020), provide evidence for Strobls circular country-specific model. While the chapter was not an empirical study and the research is sorely lacking for so many countries, it is apparent that in much of the Eastern Hemisphere, integration may not be as simple as gaining numbers.
For many of the Muslim nations, for example, religious edict requires that women maintain a separate domestic focus. In non-Muslim countries, however, we still see strong traditional gender ideologies that stress family and motherhood above paid labor and a frowning upon women engaging in man’s work. Most of the countries in the Eastern Hemisphere have allowed women to work in law enforcement, and as time progresses, their numbers have increased. We have also witnessed increased legislation to increase their numbers as well as to improve working conditions such as reducing harassment, and providing maternity leave and childcare. However, while there has been activity in many countries to give equal treatment in pay, deployment, and promotion, the evidence reveals that gender ideologies get in the way of equality for women. Women and men are not equal in any nation. Furthermore, gender ideologies stress difference, presenting this difference as strengths for each gender. However, the value placed on each gender is unequal and so equity is the language we should use. Some nations have legislated gender-hiring quotas and address womens issues in work in attempts to gain gender equity. In the coming chapters, I will examine how effective these attempts have been and how much more needs to be done. However, I first examine women police in the Western Hemisphere of the world.