Turkmenistan denies women’s rights restrictions after UN criticism

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Turkmenistan denied on Thursday it was curbing women’s rights, after a UN agency criticised authorities in the Central Asian state for allegedly enforcing dress codes and restricting women from driving.

Women and girls in the reclusive, ultra-authoritarian country face numerous barriers compared to men, including curbs on what they can wear and where they can go, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said.

Its report, which collected evidence from multiple rights groups, said authorities risked entrenching discriminatory attitudes towards women and girls by promoting “so-called traditional and moral values”.

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Turkmenistan rejected the accusations.

“Some participants (who made the claims) used misleading information,” Deputy Foreign Minister Vepa Khadzhiev told a press conference in the capital Ashgabat.

“Specifically with regard to women’s rights in Turkmenistan, namely compliance with dress codes, their use of cosmetics and driving licences,” he added.

“In the last three years, about 10,000 women in Turkmenistan have obtained driving licences. There is no uniform dress code for women in our country, except for university students. Our women have the right to visit beauty parlours,” he said.

Little is known about life in the predominantly Muslim country, which is ranked fifth from last in the Reporters Without Borders’ annual press freedom index.

Turkmenistan has had three rulers since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, all of whom have maintained a pervasive cult of personality and imposed tight controls on civil liberties.

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