Monthly Archives: September 2014

Why Are Sons Better Than Daughters?

“In Afghanistan, where society is ruled almost entirely by men, the birth of a son is cause for celebration and the arrival of a daughter is often mourned as a failure.” The Underground Girls of Kabul

If I were a traditionalist male from, say, Afghanistan, Sudan or even India, I would recite a whole list of arguments as to why sons are, in fact, better and, therefore, much more desirable than daughters.  For better or worse, I come from Eastern Europe. I also happen to have a son, whom I love dearly. Yet, there is absolutely no chance that I would have loved a daughter any less. Some may even suspect that I would have preferred a daughter, yet nothing is further form the truth. I find the whole idea of preferring a child of a certain gender repugnant.

It is all the more disheartening to hear news from places like Chad, DRC, Mali, Pakistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Guatemala and others where women are subject to extreme forms of discrimination be it genital mutilation, honor killings, rape, forced marriage, domestic violence or treatment as a lifelong dependents of a male with little or no legal rights whatsoever. It is appalling; to say the least, that men continue to treat women as inferiors.  However, it is even more shocking to see discrimination in places that proud themselves on respect for human rights and liberties.  The beacon of liberty – America – still asks the question: Is the country ready for a woman president? Yes, there is a long way from forced genital mutilation to being denied equal standing for the highest office, but neither should happen in this day and age, yet, unfortunately it does.

I come from a relatively paternalistic or relatively women friendly society depends whether you see the glass half full of half empty.  Women in Moldova or Eastern Europe in general, no doubt, face less discrimination than women in some of the above-mentioned countries. Nevertheless, even one case of discrimination is one too many.  It is almost the norm to regard women as less employable, underpaid for comparable work, and most importantly, less trusted with important decisions. That is partly the reason for a small presence of women in politics.  Again, Moldova compares relatively well in terms of women representation in power. However, a closer look uncovers ugly truths about political representation.  In many cases, parties feel compelled to add some women to their tickets to avoid accusations of sexism.  Many of Poster_GE-03_othese women end up being simple place holders, just like some men, but not as often. Many of the women promoted a position of power owe their promotion to their male bosses.

Let us examine recent Moldovan political history. Women held two of the three highest state offices: Speaker of Parliament and Prime Minister.  The first lady promoted to such a high office was Eugenia Ostapciuc who became speaker in 2001. Yet, she owed this honor entirely to President and Communist Party leader Voronin. It was also Voronin who later promoted Zinaida Grecianii to Prime Minister. This is not to say that either of these women were not qualified or did not deserve the job. In fact, Grecianii was regarded highly for her record as Finance Minister. Yet, though unpleasant, it is fair to say, if it was not for Voronin’s personal preference/plan/whim neither would have made it so far.

Even if we look at the current parties in power, the three highest ranked women are Natalia Gherman, Tatiana Potîng, and Liliana Palihovici.  Palihovici, being deputy speaker of Parliament, is not only subordinate to the Speaker, who happens to be a man, but also to the head of the Liberal Democrat faction and the party head, both are predictably men.  Gherman and Potîng owe their promotion to a major political scandal triggered by a deadly hunting spree that involved men only. The fallout from this scandal left a few high offices vacant, thus both ladies got a major career bump.  Despite the fact that Gherman was regarded as one of the best deputy foreign ministers that Moldova has ever had, still, if it was not for her boss, Foreign Minister Iurie Leanca’s promotion to the prime minister’s office, she would not have become minister and deputy prime minister. It is, therefore, unfortunate that such a qualified professional would have to advance in such ironic circumstances. I must say that she does an impeccable job in her new position.

The problems is that as long as women do not become prominent voices in the political process by either being a party leader or popular elected official much like Angela Merkel or Dalia Grybauskaitė, they will remain subject to male authority.  Now, I wish an Angela or a Dalia would arise naturally in Chisinau, but until then some positive discrimination is in order. It would be great to see more women higher up on party tickets, because that is the only way to ensure more women in Parliament who in turn should call for more women ingovernment. Unfortunately, the overtly male ruling coalition shun away from the final approval of the 30% quota for women on party tickets.  Was that such a difficult decision to make?

In a time when, seemingly, the whole world is applauding Emma Watson’s speech at the UN, hope for an equal future, a better future for women and men appears within reach, yet still so far away.

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Natalia Gherman with Barack and Michelle Obama

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Scottish Referendum – Lessons for Transnistria

The referendum in Scotland held on 18 September 2014 was no doubt democracy at its best. Thus, many wound be quick to point out that this is a precedent that could/should be used in other separatist regions: Transnistria, South Ossetia  and Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Northern Cyprus, Basque Country, Catalonia, Flanders, Kurdistan to name only a few.  Normally, that should be the case. However, each of these entities represents a sui generis case, which can hardly be compared to that of Scotland.  Furthermore, a Scotland like referendum is simply unimaginable in many of these regions. In fact, Transnistria already had two independence referenda (1991, 2006). The 2006 referendum in Transnistria had two questions on the ballot.New_Bitmap_Image - Copy (2)You be the judge of how impartial the questions are and how skewed the result is. Just compare the results with those in Scotland and you would see why such a democratic experiment would not be feasible in a place like Transnistria.  You cannot possible have a fair vote in which over 97% take one side of the debate. It simply proves that there was no debate.  A deliberation like that of Salmond vs Darling on Scottish independence is just unrealistic in the current climate of Moldova-Transnistria relations.Yet, more importantly, in the two cases media freedom and political culture in general are as different as mist and mast.

When you look at Scotland, a true battle of ideas, viewpoints, and visions took front stage. It is understandable for Scots to feel discontent over Westminster polices that they have little or no control over. Yet, a full blown independence is hardly the answer. Indeed, most voters favored a continuous devolution that would empower Scotland to have more say in managing its own affairs.  A similar proposal has been repeatedly offered to Transnistria. If only voters in Transnistria were masters of their own fate and not victims of a never ending state driven acrimony towards their fellow countrymen from the rest of Moldova.

I would love to see the day when a truly open debate can take place between leaders from both sides in a context devoid of any external interference. A debate based on numbers and jobs, common values and traditions and, most importantly, on a joint pursuit of happiness and wellbeing. The Scots were wise not to fall prey to nationalist fervor and egoistic drive for separation, instead adhering to the voice of wisdom behind the Better Together campaign. This is not to say that threats to deny Scotland a future currency union and withhold its share of assets in the Bank of England did not expose a more Machiavellian side of the “No” campaign, nevertheless, Scots had the luxury to make a free and well informed choice. Something that Transnistrians can only dream about, for the time being at least.

P.S.: A week prior to the vote, polls showed dead heat between the two referendum camps. Despite the edge enjoyed by the “No” campaign throughout the year, it all came to a tossup. This is when genuine statesmanship comes into play.  And who would have expected for beleaguered Gordon Brown to step up and make the speech of his lifetime. It is moments like this that give me hope about politics and politicians.