Gender - Part 9

posted by usha on 2005/07/02 17:50

[ Gender ]

After the EU accession Estonia has almost vanished from international news. It seems, as if the Baltic country would be fully integrated and the so much discussed values of democracy, civil society, gender equality etc. have been established. Do things really go just fine?

In Tere Eestimaa Julie Bindel wrote a short and fervid impression on sex tourism to Tallinn:

Beer and vodka are really cheap in Tallinn ; so are the women - a big attraction for groups of men whose idea of fun is cheap booze and birds.
The citation could be used as summary of Julie's blog. The situation is serious, since sex tourism is big business in Tallinn and is on the verge to become the main sort of tourism and income for Tallinn's restaurants, bars, and hotels. During the peak time other tourists, let alone Tallinn's inhabitants stay away from the Old Town. Drunk men tend to loose their capability of separating prostitutes from non-prostitutes (a phenomenon, unfortunately well-known by myself through living in Viennese 2nd district, "Stuwerviertel").

Although Estonia signed the Gender Equality Act already in 2001 and adopted it in 2004 to promote the situation of women at the labour market, the place of employment, social security, etc., there are still a lot of problems to be solved, as states a report from 2004, as well as the current fact-sheet, available at Open Society Institute's homepage.

One problem is certainly trafficking in women and girls. Although the "Trafficking in Persons Report" from 2004 states some efforts by the Estonian government, in the end the judgment about the measurements is poor:

The government did not institute a referral system to NGOs for assistance, shelter or repatriation, although victims would be entitled to support under general (non-trafficking-specific) assistance programs.

Estonia’s efforts were slow and the government did not finalize a central strategy on prevention or law enforcement during the reporting period. The government led public discourse over the link between trafficking in persons and prostitution to determine a strategy for future action, but it did not institute a policy or plan during the reporting period.
Gender awareness, measurements against the trafficking in women and girls, as well as against a further increase of sex tourism, at least, belong together. HIV/AIDS has become a serious problem in Estonia. The NGO "Living for Tomorrow", trained by NIKK, the Nordic Institute for Women's Studies and Gender Research, tries to connect those areas theoretically and in practice. The staff also offers youth counseling services and carries out research on various gender and sexual issues in Estonia. Living for Tomorrow is a delegate of the Estonian government to the "WoMen and Democracy Initiative".

Anyway, although gender roles are pretty conservative in Estonia and promote stereotypes of a patriarchally structured nation, as shown in the documentary "Beautiful Fatherland" (2001) by Jaak Kilmi and Andres Maimik (see also the review on the whole project "Gender Montage: Paradigms in Post-Soviet Space" here (Soros Foundation), there is gender awareness in Estonia. At the University of Tartu there is a Unit of Gender Studies, connected with the Faculty of Social Sciences, and the Centre of Behavioural and Health Sciences. The University of Tallinn hosts the Estonian's Women's Studies and Resource Center (ENUT).



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