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10 Prostitution

Vladimir Nalivkin Indiana University Press ePub

THE READER KNOWS ALREADY that during the khan’s rule the Muslim government and its agents, one of which was society itself, punished not only prostitution but even ordinary adultery with death. Nonetheless, both of these were practiced, and not infrequently, because catching a man or a woman in the act was difficult, even impossible,1 and there was no shortage of motivations pushing a woman toward prostitution or an adulterous relationship with a man, then as now. Men have always been inclined to diversify their experiences in the sexual sphere. Women, great seekers of love affairs and all sorts of pleasures of that kind, also love to receive even small gifts, since most of them have always been financially dependent on their husbands and have never been in a good position to satisfy their needs and desires for flirtation. The young wives of those who have several spouses, then and now, are often left unsatisfied; and poverty, which was as widespread then as it is now, made women try all possible means to struggle against need. Thus, the only difference between the past and the present lies in the fact that previously, the fear of punishment forced men and women to be extremely cautious, which is why prostitution was clandestine, while nowadays it is practiced both secretly and openly. There were, however, historical moments in the past when the clandestine prostitution encouraged by the epicurean khans spread to an enormous degree, at least in Qo’qon, for instance, during the reign of Madali-khan. (See the Short History of Kokand Khanate, V. Nalivkin, 1886.)

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7 Pregnancy and Childbirth: A Girl

Vladimir Nalivkin Indiana University Press ePub

THERE ARE MANY REASONS for a Sart woman to rejoice over pregnancy, especially her first. First of all, according to tradition, a husband almost never allows a young bride to leave the courtyard until she gives birth to the first child. Second, both religion and the folk mind agree that progeny is one of the best rewards for human virtue.1 For the same reason, an infertile woman who bears no children hears reprimands and complaints at every step from her husband for the lack of progeny. Being called unfruitful is almost as bad as being called unclean. There are many cases of women trying to hide their infertility by persuading everyone that they are pregnant, but the fetus became stuck inside and they cannot get pregnant again. Such stories about the imaginary fetus stuck inside are rather frequent. We have been addressed many times for advice on what to do with this stuck fetus and what should be done to get rid of it. At the same time, it was only rarely that we would hear complaints about too many children or the difficulty of raising them. Sarts say that a home with children is a bazaar (lively); without children, a mazar (depressing). We have encountered only one case of infanticide, and it was surrounded by exceptional circumstances. A disabled mother, who was born without feet, gave birth to a girl. Lacking the ability to move herself or to ask someone to take care of the newborn, she strangled the child out of despair. Cases of extreme fertility are not rare. More than once we met old women who had fifteen to seventeen children throughout their marriage.

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8 The Maiden: Marriage Proposal and Marriage

Vladimir Nalivkin Indiana University Press ePub

A MAIDENS FIRST PARANJI is usually sewn not of the gray fabric that women typically wear but from white ticking with narrow red stripes.1 Otherwise, her clothes and hairstyle remain the same as for younger girls. In cities, even in the poorest families, maidens are provided with soft boots; no longer are they allowed to walk barefoot, and galoshes on bare feet are worn only in summer at home.

All her street games with friends and peers are ended. The maiden starts participating more and more in household activities such as cooking, cleaning cotton, and spinning.

Now she can play and frolic at home as much as she wants, but when she is out in the street, she should behave, and she actually does behave, in a very reserved and proper way.

She rarely leaves the house alone, especially if she needs to go far. Often she is accompanied by one of her younger brothers or sisters. However, it is not considered shameful if several girlfriends get together and go somewhere without being accompanied. Such groups of maidens who are all of one age go together to Sayil, acrobatic performances, or bachcha dancing during holidays, etc.

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9 Polygyny, Divorce, Widowhood, and Death of a Woman

Vladimir Nalivkin Indiana University Press ePub

RELIGION ALLOWS a Muslim man to have no more than four wives at the same time. The number of wives he can have over time, according to Sharia, is unlimited. For instance, if he already has four wives but for some reason wants to marry a fifth one, he must first divorce one of his current wives, and then religion does not prevent him from replacing her with a new one. A woman who becomes a widow or divorces her husband can also remarry an unlimited number of times.

The eldest, senior wife is considered the mistress of the house; she is responsible for the overall supervision and management of the household economy and the performance of the work she decides to do; the rest of the work must be performed by the younger wives on her order. The latter call her byovyo (bibi, elder sister, aunt, mistress) and must treat her with the respect they would show an older close relative. (We will see below that in most cases these rules are not followed.) If the first wife dies or is divorced, her position is usually taken not by the next one in line but by the one that the husband loves most.

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6 The Woman, Her Character, Habits, Knowledge, and Behavior toward the People around Her

Vladimir Nalivkin Indiana University Press ePub

IN GENERAL, THE NATIVE woman’s character should be described as lively and extremely merry; naturally, she experiences grief and melancholy from time to time, but she never indulges in them for too long. Even in extremely rough material and moral situations, she is never averse to chatting, laughing, singing a song. Especially when she is young, she sings or hums almost constantly. It is true that occasionally she lets herself get teary eyes, but this tearfulness is always false, insincere, and she uses it as a tool to achieve her goals.

All her movements are quick, sometimes jerky but almost never awkward. From a very early age a girl controls her movements, trying to make them similar to the local standard of propriety. That is the reason why not only most of a woman’s movements but most of her mannerisms are far from being simple or natural. For instance, she loves to walk fast, but respectability based on religion bans her from moving her legs too fast while walking, waving her arms, etc. (Koran, chapter 24, verse 31). That is why her gait has acquired a very special character. She moves her feet very quickly, making tiny steps, while not only her hands but her head and shoulders remain almost motionless or move very little. There is a similar imprint of moderation in her moral “I” as well. Not only the woman but even a ten- or twelve-year-old girl who receives a present that she loves extremely does not express this admiration; often she does not even express gratitude for it. She expresses gratitude only if the present is given as alms or financial assistance. If this is a dress, shoes, or an ornament, the highest degree of her gratitude would be to put it on right away, which would mean that she loved it. (The same is customary among men.) If the present cannot be put on, she shows it to the people around, accompanying it with gestures and a smile so sweet that one of our most experienced coquettes would envy it. We would like to note that many Sart women and girls have reached perfection in expressing their feelings with lips and eyebrows. When she wants to ask a question, she silently raises her brows slightly upward and does it so adroitly that any other question from her becomes unnecessary, because her whole face becomes a perfect expression of a question mark.

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