Russian history is proud of famous Russian women-political leaders, like Cathernine the Great, Russian empress Elizabeth Petrovna, Regent of Moscow Elena Glinskaya, empress of Russia Catherine I and others.
Russia recognized women's right to participate in the elective franchise earlier then many other countries. Women in Russia got the vote in 1917, whereas British women won suffrage on the same terms as men in 1928 only and American women in 1920. In France and Japan women got the vote in 1945. Russia was first country to bring up the topic of including women in parliament in 1920.
It was the Soviet Union that initiated the development of Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). However still women representation in Russian politics is surprisingly small and there are very few women in Russian legislative power.
In the Duma the proportion of women in fell from almost 14 percent in 1993-95 to 10 percent in 1995-99 and under 8 percent in 2003 and 14 % the current Duma . This ranks Russia 82th in the list of 188 countries that include women in national parliaments.
Compared to some world countries the figures of women-politicians in their parliaments are much higher. 47% in Sweden, 36,1% in Norway, 38 % in Denmark, 41,5 % in Finland, 35,3% in Belgium, 31,6% in Germany, 32,8% in Austria, 36,6% in Spain, 18,2% in Italy, 18,2% in France, 16,8% in the USA. Russia falls behind also some former Soviet republics like Tadzhikistan (17.5 % of women in parliament), Uzbekistan (17.5 % of women in parliament), Turkmenistan (16%), Kazakhstan (15.9%).
Modern Russian sociologist and philosopher, professor Larissa Nikovskaya believes that the weak democracy in Russia, low political activity of women, weak civil society institutions, undeveloped legal and regulatory framework explain he low number of Russian women in politics. She, however highlights that the main reason to this is patriarchal tradition in Russian society and peculiarities of Russian culture.
Professor Svetlana Aivazova, Doctor of Political Sciences considers that Russian women participation in politics is dramatically small and is resisted by political elite, which is 90% male-dominated. She also thinks that the number of women in Russian parliament depends on the way voting system is arranged. Aivazova adds that "the voting right is granted by the Constitution of Russian Federation, yet the right to be elected is repeatedly violated by either political parties or state bodies. There are about 10-12 of women in party lists, which is an obvious violation of Constitution."
The experience of many European countries proves that it has to be a state policy that grants women gender equality and the possibility to take different levels of power in the state. However the steps made in Russian legislature have been still insufficient.
The first woman, who was appointed as a minister in 1917 and headed the ministry of social care was Countess Sofia Panina. After the October revolution the job went to a woman Bolshevik, Alexandra Kollontai.
In the Soviet period the real power structure, i.e. the party hierarchy, was overwhelmingly male. Thus in 1966-67 women made up 21 percent of party members and under 3 percent of members of the Central Committee. The only woman ever to belong to the ruling group at the very top, consisting of members of the Politburo and the Secretariat, was Yekaterina Furtseva, a colleague of Khrushchev.
At the same time, women had guaranteed quotas in Soviet legislatures (30 percent in the Supreme Soviet, 40-50 percent at lower levels). However, when these bodies began to acquire real power in the late 1980s the quota system was abandoned.
The proportion of women in regional legislatures is similarly low (9 percent in 1999-2000). Until recently there was only one woman - head of a regional administration, the ex-governor of St-Petersburg Valentina Matvienko.
Only in local councils do women play a much more prominent role (over 40 percent of deputies).
Women predominate in the lower reaches of the civil service but occupy only 23 percent of higher-level posts. 37 percent of state prosecutors and investigators are women.
In the post-Soviet period Russia signed international agreements that proclaim the goal of gender equality, although it has done very little to implement them.
The issue of quotas for the selection of female candidates to political office is still open and actively discussed in Russian politics.
The number of women from the leadership of major political parties that have fractions in parliament is very limited. They are Irina Khakamada and Elena Mizulina, two of the three leaders of the Union of Right Forces (SPS). Yabloko, SPS and the Communists each have each have women in the federal power: Communist Deputy Svetlana Savitskaya, the first woman to walk in space is one of them. Lyubov Sliska is a deputy of the State Duma and a First Deputy Speaker of it (Unity and later United Russia faction).
The bigger figures of women are in parties that failed to get into parliament, especially in parties of a social-democratic or ecological orientation. Russian feminist Maria Arbatova¸ who failed to get elected to the Duma in 1999 when she ran on the Union of Right Forces ballot, the co-chair of the Human Rights party thinks that the reason for the low number of women in parliament is that "Women did not have and do not have money." She adds that the "low percentage of women in the Duma reflects the structure of Russian society in general".
Russian celebrities, gymnasts Alina Kabaeva and Svetlana Khorkina, boxer Natalia Karpovich and ballet dancer Svetlana Zakharova are the State Duma deputies from the pro-Kremlin United Russia party
Among the female political parties, the most significant was Women of Russia formed in the 1990s. It captured 8 percent of the vote in the 1993 State Duma election. This party made an attempt to introduce positive social changes in Russian politics. Women of Russia made it possible to adopt a new amendment into the family code that grant to take into account the children's benefits in all real estate sales. However Women of Russia later split into 2 fractions. One of the fractions The movement of women of Russia supports United Russia and its former leader, Ekaterina Lakhova, is s State Duma deputy.
There are numerous women organizations in Russia, most known are the Consortium of Women's NGOs, the Moscow Centre for Gender Studies, and the People's party "For the women of Russia". Yet no female party is planning to take part in Russian legislative election, 2011.
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