Rights watchdog urges end to women dress code in Chechnya

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Human Rights Watch has asked Russia to help end the harassment of women unwilling to conform to restrictive Islamic dress codes in predominantly Muslim Chechnya.

"Forcing women to wear religious or traditional clothing violates their right to personal autonomy, and the Kremlin should end this interference with their private life," HRW researcher Tanya Lokshina said in a statement released Tuesday.

Women faced public condemnation for violating modesty laws, including insults and minor attacks by young men.

In July, Chechnya's strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov voiced support for Islamic dress code rules and praised the men involved in the attacks, blaming the women targeted and saying they should be ashamed, the HRW statement said.

"When a public official like Ramzan Kadyrov praises this cruel violence, he is openly encouraging physical assault and public humiliation of women," Lokshina said.

Chechnya is a predominantly Muslim region of Russia's North Caucasus that was torn apart by two separatist wars after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

© 2010 AFP

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