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SOURCE. Iulia Shevchenko, "Who Cares about Women's Problems? Female Legislators in the 1995 and 1999 Russian State Dumas," Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 54, No. 8, December 2002, pp. 1201- 1222

Iulia Shevchenko (European University at St. Petersburg and Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies) has analyzed the position and specific impact of women Duma deputies over the period 1995-2001, corresponding to the first half of the session of the current Duma and the whole of the session of the preceding Duma. In particular, she seeks to discover whether women deputies have proven more effective than their male colleagues in addressing women's concerns.

Women have been poorly represented in all three Dumas (elected in 1993, 1995, and 1999). Out of 450 deputies in the current Duma 34 are women (8 percent), down from 46 (10 percent) in the preceding Duma. However, there has been some improvement in the positions occupied by women in the Duma's steering body and on its committees. The first deputy chair is a woman (Lyubov Sliska of Unity), as is one of the deputy chairs (Irina Khakamada of the Union of Right-Wing Forces). Women chair three committees: the Committee on Women, Family, and Youth, the Committee on Problems of the North and Far East, and the Committee on Ethics. True, these are not very powerful committees: they deal with issues stereotypically associated with female roles, and most male deputies are not interested in serving on them.

The 1993 Duma included a group from the women's movement "Women of Russia" (WR), but in 1995 WR narrowly failed to reach the 5 percent threshold for entry into the Duma by party lists. (1) Thus no women's parties exist in the current Duma. Women deputies are spread fairly evenly across the party spectrum, with the exception of the totally male fraction of Zhirinovsky's LDPR. (2)

From her study of the records of Duma proceedings, the author finds that women deputies do express with greater frequency than their male colleagues attitudes that reflect supposedly female values such as pacifism, compassion, and concern for people's health. For example, they tend to oppose the death penalty and stress nuclear safety and other environmental concerns. These attitudes do have an effect on their voting behavior, but only in areas that are not linked to party affiliation, such as some questions of women's health.

Thus the tightening of party discipline in the current Duma, which is facilitated by the inexperience of many deputies and the weakening of the committee structure, has further limited the scope for policy initiatives by groups of women deputies, including those promoting specifically women's issues.(In any case, deputies are not under any significant pressure from their constituents to act on such issues.) The disappearance of a women's party has therefore seriously weakened the position of women in the Duma.


(1) WR won 4.6 percent of the party-list vote. For more on the rise and fall of WR, see RAS No. 1 item 13. For general background on the Duma, see No. 2 item 3 and No. 6 item 1.

(2) There was one woman in the LDPR fraction in the 1995 Duma

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