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Galina Mikhalyova: in ten years a woman may become President of Russia

Voice of America

March 11, 2012

Galina Mikhalyova, Chair of the Women (Gender) fraction and Executive Secretary of the Political Committee of the YABLOKO party, does not expect any positive developments in the field of women's rights in connection with Vladimir Putins return to presidency. However, she believes that someday a woman will become President of Russia. She gave an exclusive interview to the Russian Service of the Voice of America on this, as well as on many other issues on March 8.

Viktor Vasilyev: Galina, what do you think of March 8?

Galina Mikhalyova: It's the Women's Rights Day, the day of fighting against discrimination. Today we had a rally in Moscow. Actually there is nothing to congratulate the women in the present situation in Russia with. And we should not forget the historical roots of this day, because all this was the invention of the Soviet power. Instead of thinking about real problems, people celebrated feasted and forgot about everything.

Viktor Vasilyev: Do you think it is mere hypocrisy, when men once in a year sing praises to women?

Galina Mikhalyova: Certainly. We really have very serious problems. We are lagging behind in all the aspects, we a re lagging behind even from the African countries in terms of womens rights. That is the level of discrimination of women is very high in Russia.

Viktor Vasilyev: President Medvedev complained during his meeting with women (on the eve of the Womens Day) that in Russia there were very few women in politics. How can we explain such a situation?

Galina Mikhalyova: The system functions in such a way. As a rule there are no women in power in authoritarian regimes, and in democracies there are many of them on the top. There are special mechanisms encouraging such a promotion of women. [President] Medvedev was not going to change anything here. And speaking about Mr Putin, he does not even have it in his thoughts. He's such a super-macho... When he was in power, womens problems were not mentioned at all.

Viktor Vasilyev: So, you dont expect any positive changes in the nearest future, do you?
Galina Mikhalyova: No, there are no positive changes, while negative changes are obvious. There are few women in the State Duma. There is no public institution that would deal with our problems, for example, a Presidential Council or a council under the Government or a Commissioner for Women's Rights, as in other countries. Salaries [of Russian women] consitute two-thirds [from those of men]. In several regions people who have small children have to go on hunger strike so that to get a place for their child in a kindergarten. Pregnant women are not paid their benefits or get fired. But the state argues that it has nothing to do with this disgrace.

Speaking about anticrisis centres, that are shelters for beaten or raped women, then there are virtually no such centres in Russia. The state does not allocate fund to the regional budgets for their establishment. Mass media have been promoting an image of a woman who is mainly a mother or a wife. Also we do not have gender analysis of textbooks The state is very close to the church, and the influence of the church is tremendous. Let us take for example the recent arrest of the Pussy Riot girls band (a feminist punk band - VV). Whatever our attitude could be to [what they sang in the church criticising the political system and the Patriarch of Russia], but it is too cruel to imprison two mothers of small kids.

Viktor Vasilyev: Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin asked [the authorities] to release them by March 8. Has this happened?

Galina Mikhalyova: Not yet. Although even the Orthodox community appealed to the Patriarch saying that [such a punishment] was not Christian. Obviously they insulted the feelings of believers, but why should they be imprisoned?

Viktor Vasilyev: Also women are on the second roles in the Russian protest movement such as at rallies and deosntration, arent they?

Galina Mikhalyova: No, there are many women there. But it is difficult to access this in figures. But just for instance the proportion is fifty-fifty, maybe even more. And there were even some separate feminist columns at the [recent mass-scale] rallies at Bolotnaya and Sakharova squares [in Moscow]. These columns were not very large, and a lot of women went in other columns. And at our meeting we had a slogan today "We were at Bolotnaya square. And we will come again."

Viktor Vasilyev: Will a woman become President of Russia some day?

Galina Mikhalyova: Certainly. I'm sure of it. I think in 10-12 years there will be such a chance. Simply because it is a global trend. Although Russia is lagging behind the world's progress, nevertheless, we will observe gradual changes.


See also:

The original publication

Women's Rights

Presidential Elections 2012



Press Release

March 11, 2012

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