WE ARE A FAR CRY FROM MOSLEMS IN THIS CAUSE
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Will you please tell me where you worked formerly and how you came into the Duma?
I've used to work at the Technological University in Astrakhan, where I led the chair of sociology and psychology. Because of the profile of my work, I've always been involved in the humanitarian and social sciences and in the social problems. So, when the political movement of "Women of Russia" emerged, I became active in it. In Astrakhan, for example, we've set up women's clubs "Femina" and "Elite", whose work for the most part consisted in rendering help to women in identifying themselves as a worthy part of our society. Then, as a representative of the "Women of Russia" political movement, I was elected to the State Duma from Astrakhan Region.
How did your faction work in the Duma?
We have maintained fine business relations in the faction. We've done a good job of work together. Not a single quarrel has flared up among us over the two years, though, of course, there were some political discrepancies. At the critical moments in the complicated political setting, we've always tried to mitigate the psychological climate in the Duma, to play down the conflicts. The peacemaking feminine essence has played its part.
What did you do in the State Duma in particular?
I worked on the law "On the Protection of the Environment, the Natural and the Biological Resources of the Caspian". This is a grave geopolitical problem, faced by Russia. Our faction members worked not only on the laws, concerning women.
And which of the laws, elaborated by the faction, deal mostly with the position of women?
On the initiative and with an active participation of the Committee for the Affairs of Women, the Family and the Youth, the previous Duma has passed seven laws, the most important of which are the following: the Law on the State Allowance to the Citizens with Children, the Law on the State Support to the Children's and to the Youth Organizations and the Family Code.
What was the previous Duma's attitude to the female faction?
At first the attitude was sceptical, then it became a bit more serious and finally, the others saw us as their rivals. Both the communists and the democrats have never tired of throwing abuse at us, as they accused us of setting up the faction on the sex principle.
Yes, this kind of blame was in the air.
I think there must not be purely male or female factions in the Parliament. Still the existence of a female faction, fighting for women's interests, was justified, because it is women who are in the utmost plight in this country.
Did you participate in the last election to the Duma from the "Women of Russia" faction?
Yes. But our faction has failed. By the way, in Astrakhan Region as a whole, we've won in the last election 7 per cent, and in some districts, such as Kapustin Yar, even 11 per cent of the votes. In St. Petersburg and in Moscow, though, only 2.5 per cent of the electors have cast their votes for our faction and this has sharply cut down our chances to get into the Duma.
What, do you think, are the reasons behind your faction's failure in the last election?
Well, first of all, we've had a poor political experience. We have not delineated our political image clearly enough. This has made it possible for some people to assert that the faction is "pro-President", and for others, that it is "pro-communist". And second, we've concentrated on the current work and have not been active enough in conducting our propaganda campaign.
Don't you think the female faction has outlived itself by the moment of the election?
The crux of the matter is not that it has outlived itself, but that the insufficient political experience and the small membership of our faction required cooperation with the strong male factions with a vast political experience. To win in the election, it was necessary to join with the other factions.
How has the female composition in the Duma changed?
Now there is less than 10 per cent of women in the Duma, while there were 13 per cent in the previous one. Formerly, there was a set-apart female faction, and now there is not. Until recently, there were no women in the politics at all. Over the entire pre-perestroika period, there was only one woman Minister in Russia-E. Furtseva. In those times, even new government members were selected by the surname initial. Thus, no more than four persons with the surname initial of "K" were supposed to be in the government, etc. Women were assigned a 30 per cent quotation. But they were not actually elected, they were just nominated. And this is one of the reasons, why we've decided to organize the "Women of Russia" political movement. In the previous Duma, in many factions there were no women at all. The "Democratic Choice of Russia", the "Yabloko" and the communist faction had no more than five women each. But today the second person in almost all the factions is a woman. In the Communist Party it is Svetlana Goryacheva, in the "Yabloko" faction-Tatiana Yarygina, and in the "Our Home Is Russia" faction-Galina Starovoitova.
Has this rendered more weight and influence to the women's voice in the present-day Duma?
I cannot say that women are keeping mum in the Duma now, but their voices are set apart. We were better consolidated than today's women Deputies. And even though there still exists in the Duma the Committee for the Affairs of Women, the Family and the Youth, practically made up of the communist faction members, it hasn't shown any vigour so far. No legislative effect is in sight either, except for what has been drafted by our faction.
Does it mean that the present-day Committee for the Affairs of Women, the Family and the Youth follows in your footsteps and that there is a succession?
Yes, and this is just fine. There should be succession. Things should be done.
Which of your faction members are in the Duma today?
E.F. Lakhova, Zh.M. Lozinskaya and A.P. Vlasova have been elected from the faction by the one-mandate districts.
And what about the rest?
Some women have been invited to work in the Duma apparatus. Four persons are engaged in analyzing legislative creativity at the Duma's analytical board and organize parliamentary hearings, where the issues are studied from all angles and most diverse opinions are listened to in order to draft laws and offer recommendations. Others work in the committees for tourism and sport, or for the affairs of the North in the State Duma. In general, all of them have been engaged. They haven't got lost, because they are highly skilled experts.
Our editorial board has received a letter from Volgograd, from N.A. Isupova, chairman of the coordination center of the Volga Area branch of the All-Russia Women's Union; she criticizes the work of the "Women of Russia" faction in the previous State Duma. What is your comment on this letter?
Is there confrontation between the Union of Russia's Women and the All-Russia Women's Union?
We stick to opposite opinions on certain questions. We think that a feminist organization must first of all protect the interests of women. And the All-Russia Women's Union is after purely political goals. But the All-Russia Women's Union asserts that its activity is aimed at the social safety of the working women. The goal is excellent, no doubt, and it looks fine on paper. But in practice it only amounts to demagogy.
What is the Union of Russia's Women doing just now?
We are mostly engaged in implementing the social programs for the women's employment, education and re-training; for rendering support to children, left without parents (within the framework of the "Children of Russia" program, financed on the budgetary level); and in building up the links and contacts with foreign organizations.
What is your vision of women's political future in Russia?
I would like to believe that women's political future in Russia-and the present as well-will at least be no worse than in the Moslem countries today, where women are coming to the fore in the political life and are even elected to high government posts despite the Shariat bans. We are not so strongly bound by the religious framework and by public opinion; nevertheless we are themselves, I think, mounting barriers in the way of an opportunity for the most talented women to realize themselves in the political life on a par with men.
But why is it so?
I'll take the risk to suppose that here in Russia, in addition to the historical traditions, there are also psychological barriers, with women shutting themselves up within the narrow family cirlce of their own free will. Meanwhile, women all over the world have gone far ahead. They enjoy more freedom and better social opportunities. This is true of women in the northern countries (in Norway and Finland), where women today occupy purely male posts, like that of Minister of Defence and of Minister of Foreign Affairs, and even in some of the Moslem countries. The political future of women in Russia hinges on the possibility to create equal conditions for the realization of the capabilities of both men and women. Today, however, such conditions have been created for men rather than for women.
Can we hope that Russia's women still have a political future?
Of course we can. Politicians should be selected not for the sex, but for the merit, for their political programs and their ability to translate them into life.
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