Should there be a quota for Russian women working in government?


At the international conference ‘Challenges and Values of the Modern World: Women’s Dialogue’ held in Moscow by the Raisa Maksimovna Club, a debate broke out over the situation facing women in Russia’s government. The club, created by Raisa Gorbachev in March 1997, grew in response to a request by Russian women to support their attempts to improve civil society and develop cultural ideas and democracy. The celebrated lawyer and representative on the Duma Committee for Family, Women and Youth, Elena Mizulina, worries that there are far too few women in power for there to be any sense of solidarity among them. “Women’s values, in essence, are common to all mankind, therefore it is necessary to advance them,” she asserted. She was supported by the vice-president of The Gorbachev Foundation, the president of the club, Irina Gorbachev-Virganskaya, who believes there needs to be a quota of women in government structures. The president of the Institute of Civil Society Issues, Maria Slobodskaya, was against the idea. “I am against all quotas,” she asserted, “quotas are for the dependent, weak and untalented.” She reminded attendees that women occupy their own niches and find spheres where they can take priority and predominate. “There are many women in business. In Russia they also head more than 70% of non-governmental organisations,” she stressed.


“It is possible and necessary to give a woman a seat on the metro, but in politics, it isn’t necessary. Someone who is capable – they will take a seat themselves,” said Ludmilla Telen, chief editor of Radio Free Europe and member of the club. According to the journalist, this is a position that was held by Mikhail Gorbachev. Because of this, during perestroika there appeared a transition to “an impossibility for women to realise themselves in a profession” to “an absolute impossibility.” “Today we are heading back in this direction,” worries Telen. “This situation, however, can still be overcome.”


Elena Mizulina informed attendees of the plan for a round table in December which will discuss ‘A new version of the bill for equal rights and equal opportunities for men and women in the Russian Federation’. On 5 October  the Duma will hold a hearing dedicated to family prosperity. At this, in particular, there are plans to discuss the problems of civil marriage, said Mizulina. In the opinion of the deputy, unregistered relationships negatively affect women. Not all at the conference, however, were in agreement with this.



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