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History, Gender studies and Migration: an interview with Professor Professor Dalia Leinarte

    Zoom interview (5 May 2022)

    Interview by Camelia Zavarache

    Dalia Leinarte is a historian, a professor and a member of the United Nationʼs Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which she has chaired from 2017 to 2019. Her career as a historian focusing on family and gender studies spans over 25 years, during which time she has published numerous studies and monographs, her knowledge on European family history encompassing over 200 years. She has been awarded prestigious international scholarships, such as Fulbright (2002-2003) and the American Association of University Women (2005-2006).

    At the same time, she has actively engaged with international organizations involved in advocating for gender equality, such as the UNʼs Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women while also conducting research and coordinating the Gender Studies Center at Vilnius University. Visite her website here.

    Welcome & Acknowledgements.

    Camelia Zavarache: I would like to thank you again for taking the time and for being here for the interview. On your web page, one can read that you are an accomplished researcher having published monographs on European family history, paying special attention to women and gender studies. We would like to know more about your work as a historian and researcher. Could you tell us more about your background, your studies and also the reasons why you decided to specialize in social history and gender studies?

    Professor Dalia Leinarte: Thank you very much for this very kind introduction and … actually, my focus on social history, family history, women’s history I think lays in the very early years of my childhood because I was born and raised in the Soviet Union and actually what I saw around me, these women who were very… I would say hardworking women, even young women and mothers and grandmothers. And I would say rough and sometimes easy going, and sometimes violent and alcohol abusers, these were men. So it is not necessarily that this experience comes from my personal family, not at all. But I have to say that my father was a member of the Communist Party and for this reason he would receive promotions and from the very early age, actually from birth my family and I were moving from one small town to another small town, then to a bigger town then to major cities of Soviet Lithuania. So, during all my early childhood and later, until I joined the Vilnius University, I was hired at the Vilnius University, I was capable to be engaged in very different social strata of the Soviet society, so I was familiar with the social groups of more of working background and also social groups that came from intelligentsia, and those ones who have been deported during Soviet times and especially during …when Lithuania was occupied. And also, since I come from a meaning family whose breadwinner was a Communist I was also familiar with nomenklatura life. So, what I saw was that it doesnʼt matter what your social background is mainly these are women who have been responsible for family life, for education and raising children. And these were men who somehow very hardly would find their specific individual place in general in Soviet society and in the family. So, that was my impression. And with this interest in women … And this developed in me a particular interest to …meaning, how can we define womenʼs lives and how can we define menʼs lives, because in my mind, as a child somehow these were absolutely two separate, different worlds. So … And that is how I developed this interest in womenʼs lives as such.

    And with this here … Already I was in my early twenties and Gorbachevʼs Perestroika came. And with this Perestroika, all of us we developed this huge interest in Interwar Period just because during Soviet times it was forbidden. So, at that time I was already married and I had two little daughters and I graduated from Vilnius University actually in a very useful … I received a Major in Bibliography and Librarian science. I never worked as a librarian but it helped me a lot later in my academic work. So, during this Perestroika years, it was 1988-1989, I decided just independently, meaning I went to such an institution like the Institute of Lithuania History which during Soviet times was heavily, heavily ideologized. And I said that I am interested in the Interwar Period, I want to write a PhD in history that had been focused in Interwar Period and on women. So they were very surprised about this because they never ever heard that somebody would be interested in womenʼs lives as historian and academics but for the reason …it was very lucky, they …For the reason that this institution needed some new democratic horizons they became interested in my suggestion and we decided …I suggested to them that I would write something as a test, I would write a little article on womenʼs organisations in Interwar Lithuania. So, I did and by researching … It was published in a popular journal and I was very happy but by researching those independent womenʼs organisations before World War Two I immediately understood that those women were very much connected to the nationalist movement dating back to the end of the XIXth century, just because they had been formatted by this nationalist movement. And what I saw then, I became interested in this already XIXth century nationalist independent movement of Lithuania and what I saw again that it was headed mainly and the leaders were only men. So, again it raised in me this question and I think it was very much unique at that time in Lithuania just because I raised this gender issue in the XIXth century Lithuanian national movement. And then I also found many sources in, archival sources that these male leaders of our nationalist movement were very much derogative about Lithuanian women of that time. They said that Lithuanian women were not worth being involved in the Lithuanian independence movement. And that is how I understood that all of these inequalities between men and women already started at least at the end of the XIXth century, and then what I saw in the Interwar Period and somehow I understood that it was the same with what I saw in my early childhood. Everything lays in tradition Lithuanian family, in gender roles, in traditional, patriarchal gender roles. And that is how my PhD as a historian was reformulated not something around and focused on womenʼs history, but it was a PhD that was focused on traditional Lithuanian family and gender roles in the family. So, it was my first book and then when I started researching the Soviet period I just saw that mainly all Soviet years we had the same patriarchy, neo-patriarchy that I researched in the XIXth century or even at the end of the XVIIIth century. So, it was the same. That is how I became interested in social history and when a little bit later during the 1990s, when Lithuania already was an independent state we started, and I already had my PhD, I became very much interested in poor gender equality issues and the main issue at that time in the beginning of the 1990s, or during mid-1990s, it was prostitution and trafficking of women just because … Like now, we might talk a little bit about trafficking during the Ukrainian war. So, all traffickers simply moved from maybe the Global South, or African countries, and they came to Eastern European countries. And they started recruiting women from Lithuania to go to Germany, especially to countries where prostitution is still legal, in the Netherlands and France at that time and it was not only volunteer prostitution of course, there were many cases of trafficking for sexual purposes. So that is how I started this combination of social history and interest in gender equality issues.

    Camelia: So, you were one of the pioneer researchers analysing this gender inequality…            Having published studies on family history and women that relied both on archives and on oral history accounts in your opinion are European archives properly showcasing female presence?

    Professor Dalia Leinarte: No, most probably of course not especially regarding the archival sources that are related to the Soviet years, of course not. And that is why this oral history is so much important for the Soviet period. But … and most probably it was your next question, how do I understand and treat oral history as a source (Is oral history a better instrument when we are referring to uncovering life stories of women? Why do you think that is?). So, for me oral history is not some exclusively specific source that would require only very skilled and very specific sociological or some, I donʼt know, psychological interpretation, no. For me, oral history is just one source among the rest and that is why I never did nor collected only a few interviews if I wanted to research a particular subject, no. I would collect as many oral histories … stories and interviews as it was possible. For example, for my book that is based on oral history Adopting and Remembering Soviet reality: Life Stories of Lithuanian Women, 1945-1970 published in 2010, I personally did around 100 interviews. It was a very, very exhausting and very complicated work in the 2000s, I did it over a period of five years. And then, I also involved my students and some volunteers who wanted just to make interviews from women who have been for example … mainly we were focused on women who had been born before World War II, during the Interwar Period, and then their family life, years of family lives during Soviet years. So, I combined my 100, almost 100 interviews with interviews that had been conducted by my students and some volunteers and I combined them with many, a wide variety of other sources, including secondary sources and fiction of that period, and of course archival sources. And that is how oral history, those interviews are included into my research. So, itʼs just a source among other sources, that is how I understand it and interpret all of these things.

    Camelia: But do you feel like this oral history is a better instrument when we are trying to showcase especially womenʼs history?

    Professor Dalia Leinarte: It is not necessarily better. But definitely, especially when you are researching the last 40 or 50 years, it is not possible to survive as a historian or researcher or sociologist, in all the humanitarian fields, without oral history. It is simply not possible. Just, we had …Since I used oral history for more than two decades, we always during the conferences and in some seminars, international seminars have had very heated debates, as your question raises. What does oral history mean to me and how we should interpret it? And for example, I explained to you that is a source among other sources, very much important, but is just a source and usually so-called former Sovietologists who have been educated in the US or especially here in Great Britain or in other Western European universities and sometimes they do not know well Russian. Letʼs say in order to conduct interviews or other 15 languages of former Soviet Union, let alone Lithuanian so they… I do not know, maybe for this reason, but they treat oral history as something very special that actually you would need maybe even not to conduct an interview in original language just to use interviews already conducted by someone and translated into English and then what you need only this very skilled professional tool to interpret the interview and thatʼs all. So, we always had this debate, and I do not support this attitude but most probably we have very nice studies published that keep this approach. And, for example I raised an issue when I was evaluating an interview that I did with Lithuanian women, I found that they, that there are many, many cases and it is a huge problem regarding “amnesia”. I defined it as “amnesia” just because women are just silent about their private lives and about family life. So, as a historian and someone who keeps this attitude of oral history that I explained to you I said that it has nothing to do with “amnesia” as such just because… or for example with reluctance to talk about private lives or family lives just because first they agreed to talk, then you cannot say that all 100 women and another 100 that had been collected and recorded by my students they are reluctant to talk about private or family life. So, the truth lay somewhere else. And my conclusion was that they mostly are very fragmented about family life, about how they raised their children, how they interacted with their husbands just because there was no such life, just because the Soviet state simply absorbed private lives of Soviet citizens and it became partial … because the line between public life and private life became very blurred. So that is why they couldnʼt remember authentic individual events from their private lives because there was only a few of them. And because for many long years they had been working for 7, 8 and at the beginning 9 hours, six days a week, the summer vacations were very short, then there was no money to have those memorable vacations with the family, then pupils and Soviet children had a very well organized involvement into Soviet extra curriculum, they were always busy outside the family. And then also itʼs very much important to say that family vacations in many cases were separated for husbands and wives just because the husbands would receive summer vacation in June and wives would get it in August, there was not any coincidence for them to meet. So, that was my conclusion to explain why we have these very fragmented memories about Soviet family life. But Western historians would say “No, no, no, you simply do not have very good, professional and elaborated skills to interview them. Or, almost probably they have this post-traumatic attitude, they do not want to talk about abortions” and so on. I said, “If they have these post-traumatic attitudes about their family life why do they tell me in the smallest details how they have been killed by droves in Siberia or they were separated from their small children during deportation to Siberia. They remembered it and they didnʼt have this post-traumatic attitude towards those very, very painful events”. So, this is what I am trying to explain about my understanding of oral history but of course the issue is very open and I would very much happy to come back to this issue again.

    Camelia: Thank you, what you were saying is so very interesting. The last question of this section is: did female migration play a role in family dynamics throughout the XIXth and the XXth century in Eastern Europe or was it a peripheral phenomenon?              

    Professor Dalia Leinarte: Yes, as I said I am not a specialist or a historian of migration but what I can definitely tell you from my research on 1990s traditional Lithuanian family, because the first wave of migration from Lithuania, from Tsarist Lithuania to, mostly to Latin America and to the US, was the end of the XIXth century and these were men, these were men and only some women joined them but very, very few ones. Because all of them left in those villages of Lithuania and they were because of the promise of their men, husbands and brothers, to send them boat tickets so that they could jam in the boat and join them somewhere in Pennsylvania, but it never happened, it never happened. Mostly so the first wave of migration we can say that is male migration. And then, when we had the migration shortly after Soviet occupation mainly, of course, these were then fled by families, and the gendered aspect is again very interesting when we had the third wave of mass migration, in the 1990s. When Lithuania became an independent state and I do not know about Romania, most probably the same happened there, but at one point Lithuania was the first country in late, already in the European Union when the borders were opened after 2004 when we joined the European Union, we were the EU member country which had the level of migration. So, when we started migrating during the 1990s, these were mainly women. And it again is related …to what I said, it can be explained by what I said about gender roles and women and men during the Soviet period. Because women had to be very active, they were forced to bear this double burden in order to survive, to feed their children and the family. And men have been transformed, very slow creatures I would say. And that is why in the 1990s they were lost and Lithuania was the first for some period, for long years, we were the first country worldwide, with the highest suicide rate, and these were men. So, our men were really lost and they didnʼt dare to start migrating to unknown areas, to unknown waters. Of course, we had those very energetic men who were those wild capitalists who earned first big money in trading those metals or whatever, or drugs in Russia, but this is a different story, these are very violent stories. Many of them earned money outside Lithuania, but many more of them lost what they earned and many more were killed. So, in this usual understanding of migration we can say that these were women who migrated to Turkey and they were trading clothes somehow to bring money back to Lithuania, and I wrote an article about those years saying that while our women were moving to Istanbul our men were lying on their sofas.

    Camelia: Yes, well I think it was a similar process here in Romania, because mainly after the 2000s it was women who migrated for work while men sort of, as you said were lost, simply didnʼt find their place and even more so when they worked in metallurgy and these, like these large areas and alcoholism was one of the main issues with them. So, yes there is a similarity here. So, I would like to move to the second section of our interview. Your collaboration with the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is a long lasting one, since you have been a member since 2012. Having been elected one of the 100 most influential people in the field of gender equality in 2018 really proves your commitment with gender equality and womenʼs rights. Could you tell us more about the objectives and the projects that CEDAW is coordinating?

    Professor Dalia Leinarte: Yes, CEDAW, The Human Rights Treaty Borders (among ten of them) and 9 committees are based on international conventions and all of us, all 10 committees, meaning 9 committees and one sub-committee we are… our mandate is to implement these international treaties, international conventions in our member states. So, the CEDAW Committee is one of the oldest. The Convention was adopted in 1979 and the Committee that oversees the implementation of the Convention was established in 1982, so the oldest one and we had the global ratification out of 203 member states of the United Nations we had 189 member states. So, our work, our 23 experts who are part of this CEDAW Committee our work is to have so called constructive dialogues with the governments of those state parties that ratified the CEDAW Convention. So, usually, we meet in Geneva three times a year for four weeks, five weeks, sometimes even six weeks and we are accepting the official governments and we devote one day for one government and during this constructive dialogue we talk to them to understand how they implemented the 16 articles of the CEDAW Convention over a period of four years. Because they are obliged by ratification, they are obliged to report to the CEDAW Committee every four years. So, and at the end of this constructive dialogue we write the so-called Concluding observations for a specific government, for a specific country and then we design recommendations on how to improve gender equality in their respective country. So, this is our mandate and then another area of our activity is developing and adoption of so-called General Recommendations just because the aim of those general recommendations is as I mentioned the CEDAW Convention has been ratified in 1979, even violence against women didnʼt exist as an issue, as a recognized issue at that time. And that is why the CEDAW Convention even doesnʼt have a specific article on gender-based violence against women just because the issue has not been recognized. Or, for example we do not have any article in the original CEDAW Convention on LGBTQIA+, no we do not have. And many other issues also that have not been relevant at the end of the 1980s are not reflected in our CEDAW Convention. So, we support our Convention by developing so called Additional legal documents and these are general recommendations. So, and another issue, very much important activity of our mandate, part of our mandate is the so-called Optional protocol. Optional protocol was adopted by the CEDAW in 2007 and state parties again had to ratify this Optional Protocol. And countries that ratify it, the Optional Protocol means that individuals meaning women, citizens of countries that ratified the Optional protocol to CEDAW they can apply individual complaints regarding their own cases of discrimination against them or cases of violence against them to CEDAW. So, now in this case, in monitoring the implementation of the Optional Protocol we are dealing not already with the governments, but we are dealing with individuals.            

    Camelia: Thank you so much! You have initiated the drafting of the UN CEDAW General Recommendation on trafficking women and girls in the context of global migration. Could you explain to us what does it include?

    Professor Dalia Leinarte: So, as already, as the title says that trafficking is so much related with the movement of women and actually these cases of trafficking are recorded in every stage, in every step, once women cross the borders of their national countries or, even they move within their own countries. So, it was very much relevant what we decided to adopt in this General Recommendation number 38, the last one, among all gender recommendations adopted by the CEDAW. So, and of course, it also includes not only migration for economic reasons, no, it also includes forced movements caused by conflicts or climate change related issues meaning …, for various reasons. So, this General Recommendation explains how is possible, meaning give some recommendations on how member states should protect women from trafficking for forced labour, for sexual purposes for organ removals once they are on the move. But another very big issue, very much important issue of this General Recommendation is that it depends on regions but if we are talking about letʼs say Europe around 90% of trafficked women and girls and children, and it is a growing number for children, they are trafficked for sexual purposes. And trafficking for sexual purposes is the most related to prostitution. So, for the first time we explicitly said in this General Recommendation that you would never ever find in any other recent document, it is said that prostitution is gender-based violence against women and if you fine prostitution you will reduce trafficking for sexual purposes because the clients are the same and they want the same “services”, if we call them services. They do not care whether the woman is a prostitute letʼs say by choice, which does not in general reflect the reality because there are no women who would choose such an activity, and clients do not care whether these are trafficked women and forced to work as prostitutes. Or, a woman who like in Bosnia Herzegovina during especially the first war in Bosnia, was confined to concentration camps for rape. For them, it doesnʼt matter, which means that if you do not reduce, do not punish those who buy or take by false, those who exploit women for sexual purposes, you will never ever be able to reduce trafficking for sexual purposes, trafficking of women and girls.

    Camelia: Yes, yes, I agree. I was thinking now that we punish bribery, right, the person who gives the bribe but also the one who receives the bribe, why canʼt we do that with this phenomenon?

    Professor Dalia Leinarte: Yes.   

    Camelia: Ok, so I think you have answered a big part of the next question, but I will ask you anyway. Does geography play a role in making female migrants vulnerable to sexual trafficking? Are women coming from certain regions more likely to become victims? Or is it a matter of the lack of public policies and integration networks in the receiving countries?

    Professor Dalia Leinarte: As I mentioned, in Europe we have this 90% of trafficked individuals, they are trafficked for sexual purposes. But letʼs say in the global South you most probably find more express trafficking for forced labour and especially itʼs more obvious in the Middle East where trafficking as forced labour is number one. If you would ask me which form of trafficking prevails on women and girls, so itʼs …But in many cases it can be multiple discriminations and multiple forms of trafficking of women and girls, because if you have letʼs say someone trafficked for forced labour in the Middle East when you use the Scafala system and you cannot leave your master, your house, the house that you are working in, in many cases most probably such a woman is exploited sexually too, it might be like this. And,… But if you asked me which, not, itʼs not nationality most nationality most probably, but OK, we can talk about even nationalities, but who are most exploited sexually? You can mention African children, African women, Nigeria for example is always number one and Eastern European women right now, for example I can give you an example in Lebanon. Especially before Lebanon as the state failed: prostitution in general is not legal in Lebanon, but they have a law which covers, which allows to have a wide range of prostitution in the country; they have so-called visas for artists and these visas for artists mean that they give visas to women to work in nightclubs. And actually this is, they start working even if they do not know and in many cases they still think that they will be working as dancers or as waitresses, no, they are working as prostitutes. And, so the Lebanese government would issue those visas for artists very easily, very easily and among them in 2018, this is an official data, among them Ukrainians constituted close to 2000, the number one, in 2018. So, these are Ukrainians if we are speaking right now about those trafficked for sexual purposes itʼs already many years that these Ukrainians prevail. We, for example, on this list that I mentioned to you about that received these Lebanese visas for artists you would find Belarussians, Russians but to a lesser extent Ukrainians. But you wouldnʼt find already Lithuanians letʼs say, I don’t remember Romanians, I have this list. So, now Eastern Europeans like Belarussians, Russians, Ukrainians, Moldovans I think so, who are exploited for sexual purposes. And some countries from Africa, African countries and the rest of the world are exploited for forced labour mainly, of course including sexual purposes but if you are asking me about those directions.

    Camelia: Thank you so much. Itʼs such a sad reality that we are discussing right now. So, because you have mentioned Lebanon how does the CEDAW manage to keep an open dialogue with countries all over the world, in order to persuade them in adopting its initiatives and recommendations and actually stick to them?

    Professor Dalia Leinarte: So, we do not have a tool that would force our member states to implement, itʼs not a court like the European Human Rights Court, no we do not have such tools or the European Commission, we donʼt have sanctions. So that is why I mentioned what we have, our main tool is constructive dialogue; we are trying to convince state parties and we have the tool of naming and shaming and no government or state party would like to be mentioned as not implementing issues of gender equality and womenʼs rights in the framework of the United Nations. No, they are trying to avoid it, and that is why usually you would hear even in countries that is obvious, which is very patriarchal, very sexist and they do not have even laws or even, meaning major principals that would protect women officially they would always say that “We recognize gender equality, we are trying to protect women and we are trying to implement womenʼs rights”. So, this is naming-shaming they are trying to avoid and they are trying at least to make appearances that they are implementing gender equality but in general I would say and some research institutes they are making from time to time, they are making those assessments how CEDAW Convention are implemented in 189 countries and it is, actually the laws over the years, even during my presence in many countries the laws have been changed in a positive way. So, it works, it definitely works even for example we had for the first time when I was a chair of the CEDAW Committee we had a constructive dialogue with North Korea and they never ever joined any Human Rights Treaty Borders in order to have this constructive dialogue, but they came to CEDAW to have a talk. And for example, for them it was so funny, they never heard that sexual harassment could occur in the workplace, for them it was just a joke, they never, sincerely they never heard of it. But when we started saying “Come on, you have bosses and you have young women and do you think that your bosses never ever took advantage of your young co-worker?” They said “Maybe…”, but they said “They can complain”, and we said “And do you really believe that they would complain?” So, it helps, but CEDAW … we have this tool and Optional Protocol of inquiry, if we say grave and systematic non-compliance to CEDAW Convention in any area we initiate our independent inquiry and it doesnʼt matter if the government invites us or not, but usually we are trying to get invited in order to be present in the country. And then we write a report and this is a very serious thing, and for example we had such inquiries in Canada, in 2015 I think, I do not remember, I will check it. In terms of violence and trafficking for indigenous women because it was clear the government recognized that in the course of a few decades and in some parts of Canada, in some regions indigenous women have been killed one by one, one by one and these were hundreds of them. Americans also made their inquiry and we also made the inquiry so, and our group of experts went to Canada and they researched this inquiry on the killing of indigenous women and they wrote a report and at the beginning Canadian government refused to allow this report to be made public but then we made it and they agreed so, and it was chilling meaning examples of how Canadian officials have been killing indigenous women.

    Our recent inquiry is focused on Northern Ireland where we made an inquiry on not allowing legal abortions. Because North Ireland governed this area with regards to abortion, legal abortion. The law comes from the XIXth century, I think the first part of the XIXth century. So, and again our group of two experts and some members of the Secretariat, they went to Northern Ireland and they did some research, they took interviews or oral history, and it was chilling how girls were forced to, even raped, I mean after a rape, they were forced to keep pregnancies even though it was clear the foetus was deformed or the babies would die within hours or right after birth. So, and then after that report, after that inquiry the government changed the law. And then we had an inquiry on Kyrgyzstan regarding the kidnaping of so-called “brides”, it was a very long-lasting historical tradition which had nothing to do with what is happening right now in Kyrgyzstan, but they still call it the kidnapping of brides but is not brides, it is just young girls who are kidnapped, brought very high, somewhere in the mountains, enclosed and forced to work on the farms, fields and then of course, they usually are sexually exploited, and they are not accepted by their families. Or sometimes the family would even sell them to men, to those farmers who enclose them as a cheap labour force somewhere in the mountains. So, these are our tools, but we are not working alone, we are working with the civil society on the spot, in all state parties and we have concluding observations, we have constructive dialogues, we have inquiry, we have individual communication, but after that everything is implemented by the national civil society organizations and national human rights institutions and by the government. But the civil society, they have to push their governments to implement the CEDAW recommendations, that is how it works.

    Camelia: Thank you for sharing the amazing job that CEDAW is doing, I had no idea. Now, the last question of this second section: From your experience, what is the relationship between gender, migration and mass media? Are women migrants portrayed in a certain way by mainstream media, because you have mentioned the civil society?

    Professor Dalia Leinarte: I actually do not understand this question.

    Camelia: Should I rephrase it? I was just thinking how migrants are portrayed in this sort of …

    Professor Dalia Leinarte: Yes, the stereotypes, yes …

    Camelia: Exactly.

    Professor Dalia Leinarte: Even the European Network of Migrant Women, the biggest network worldwide, they were somehow reluctant for us to relate our last General Recommendation number 38 on trafficking women and girls in the context of global migration, we put this focus on prostitution, and they said “You know migrant women already especially in European contexts, they are already portrayed as prostitutes and now you again stress it, making this stress in your General Recommendations”. So, in European context the main stereotype about migrant women is that they are prostitutes, that they are travelling just because they are looking for good activities in selling sex for money. So, it is very much related to stereotypes, very much related, but I just brought up this example.

    Camelia: I was thinking that maybe there are other women who travel, older women who travel, who migrate to Italy for instance, to become service women for older people who need help in their houses, so these women for sure they do not travel to become prostitutes.

    Professor Dalia Leinarte: Yes, but they are accused of trying to marry those old clients. So, there are many, many stereotypes about migrant women and CEDAW even issued, many years ago, a statement saying “Please, dear governments bring all those positive things that migrant women bring to your lives, new experiences, new culinary, meaning many, many skills that they are bringing from their own environments that you do not have those aspects in your lives. So, please stress the positive aspects brought by migrant women, please do not portray them only as villains”.

    Camelia: Not to mention money, because some of them are raising their children and they are living in a different state. So, thank you, I will now start the third section of our interview, which is the last one. As a historian who is part of a transnational committee in charge of designing legislation that promotes and defends womenʼs rights you are best suited to evaluate the long historical processes and lasting gender inequalities that have been visible from the modern age until the post-communist era. In your opinion, what are the main barriers in fighting gender discrimination in our global world? Would combining transnational legislation with national education policies be enough, or is it a matter of a change of generations? 

    Professor Dalia Leinarte: No, itʼs not a matter of changing generations because you can find the laws from young women who are extremely conservative and they deny womenʼs rights and gender equality absolutely whatsoever. But to have a very solid national legislation on gender equality and womenʼs rights is the first thing, it is very much important. But now, this is de jure, without de jure you cannot do anything. But now we are talking about the implementation of gender equality de facto, so according to me and by my observations over the years at CEDAW Committee I can tell you, and again Western European feminists they disagree with my point of view, so gender equality and womenʼs rights at least how it is enshrined in the CEDAW Convention takes its roots in liberal feminism, and liberal feminism takes its roots in the second wave of feminism, second wave means 1960s and 1970s, and the problem is that not all countries worldwide in general experienced the second wave of feminism, and now it is already done. Countries that missed this historical period never ever, even with huge attempts, will be in the same situation as the states like Great Britain and Western European countries nor even at some point Latin American countries and all those authoritarian regimes in the 1970s were. We missed that period and once you miss it, it is not possible to gain this situation when during the 1960s and 1970s they started implementing second wave feminist principals, they changed the society, changed not only women, not only laws, but also the mindset of mainly men. So, and that is why during the constructive dialogues even you can of course say that in France, Great Britain or Germany, you do not have gender equality, you have so many problems and so much patriarchy, but I always say it’s incomparable with what you have in Romania. So please, these countries they stay on the list, meaning at the top of the list, even with all those examples of patriarchy and sexism. And that is why we have such countries as Poland and Hungary that are now producing extreme sexism and patriarchy. That is why … and women are very much enjoying this patriarchy in many cases; in Poland of course, they have crowds and crowds of women who are fighting those restrictive laws against abortion, but still we have lots of women and many more men who would like to have full flashed patriarchy in Poland and actually this is a war between Russia and the West. Is not only about lands, it’s about values and values now are based first of all on the notion of gender.

    Camelia: Thank you so much for your philosophical answer in a way. I was thinking that we are having kind of the same thing here in Romania: we have missed the “personal is political” movement obviously because we were part of the Communist region and now for instance with abortion that are legal, still doctors in public hospitals do not perform them for religious reasons so there is no institution that can force them to perform them.

    Professor Dalia Leinarte: Yes.

    Camelia: So, thank you for your answer. Relying on your experience, what are the challenges that female migrants are facing today, given the post-Covid restrictions and the new political situation in Ukraine?

    Professor Dalia Leinarte: But it is not a migration, is already a humanitarian crisis, these are refugees, these are not migrant women but as refugees, they face – and it was said, it has been noticed from the very first few weeks after the war started – cases of trafficking for sexual purposes and most probably not only for sexual purposes. We still do not know, but we just know that for example there are no updated information, but we know back to the first months of the war, we know that 500 unsupervised children are missing, 500, just by crossing the border between Ukraine and Poland, and then Moldova: 500, so where are they? We do not know. And then another 200 have been kidnapped by Russians and brought from this Eastern border from Mariupol and other cities, Eastern Ukrainian cities and deported to Russia, but this is a different story most probably, they are deported and women being deported, we know this. You can most probably say that these are trafficked, I do not know how they will be exploited and, we do not know yet. But those 500 who crossed the border towards the West they simply disappeared. So, all NGOs in Ukraine who are still operating are saying that the first men, especially in Poland, who approached young women when they crossed the border from Ukraine were traffickers and pimps, and it is very difficult to stop them just because prostitution is legal in Poland and if the pimp would approach a young woman saying, because they are exhausted, they are lost, they do not know even where they are going to sleep that upcoming night and they would say: “You know, I will take care of you” and she would agree, then she would be forced to work as a prostitute. It’s very difficult to, in Poland, to defend such women just because she agreed to go with the pimp, she agreed and prostitution is legal and for example if such a woman was brought to Lithuania it’s another story, we do not have legal prostitution, it’s illegal, but prostitutes are punished by law so such a pimp or trafficker would say “You do not have anyone to turn to just because you already agreed to join me to Vilnius, to Lithuania, you agreed. Nobody pushed you in the car, you sat in my car and now you are working as prostitute and as such, as a prostitute, you do not have anyone to turn to for help” just because prostitutes who are dealing with clients they are punishable here, in Lithuania. And thatʼs all. It’s a very deep, complicated law on prostitution but the main danger for women is to be trafficked. And most probably for children to be trafficked for various forms for sexual purposes and for organ transplants…

    Camelia: Terrible. Weʼve sort of had this solidarity reaction after the war in Ukraine started and a lot of people were organizing themselves to help these people, but I never thought about what you are saying, I mean I think the media should cover it just to make us aware, like us citizens living here to make us aware of such phenomena because honestly I was quite proud of the way people organized to help.

    Professor Dalia Leinarte: You cannot do this and I said that only under very careful supervision of governmental institutions you can distribute refugees to private flats. It’s a terrible thing to do.

    Marie Ruiz: I have read, actually, many horrible stories happening to Ukrainians at the moment, trafficking and terrible things…Yes, and this global solidarity is also an open door for traffickers.

    Professor Dalia Leinarte: Yes.

    Marie: Because they take advantage and the signs … Like some of them are even wearing T-shirts from UNICEF or whatever pretending to help. Yes, it’s terrible. They are using these women’s vulnerability as an open door for trafficking.

    Camelia: So, we would like to finish on a positive note, and ask you what do you expect WEMov to bring to you? It’s a question we always like to end our interviews with.

    Professor Dalia Leinarte: That is what you are doing already, meaning to make this bridge between history, womenʼs history, gender history and the issues that are so much important right now, gender equality issues to migration, so this bridge between history and recent world.

    Camelia: Thank you so much for taking the time and answering our questions, it’s been really, really informative!

    Marie: Thank you so much!

    Professor Dalia Leinarte: Well, thank you very much!