Conference

"Gender Equality – A Condition and Tool for Democracy”

Andrei Sakharov Museum, Moscow, 6 December 2010

Organised by

Union of the Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers of Russia and
INGO Conference of the Council of Europe

Declaration


The participants of the conference "Gender Equality – A Condition and Tool for Democracy" state that at present, the democratic forces, especially those who support the ideas of gender equality, have to operate in extremely difficult conditions. Political stagnation, economic and demographic crises, unprecedented social polarization, increasing violence and the overall magnitude of human rights violations, corruption and lack of initiative of the state power in shaping gender policy have led to a rapidly deteriorating situation. Russia is losing the race in protecting fundamental rights of women that previously existed to some degree. Europe is moving forward in securing equal social partnership of women and men, whereas Russia is practically halting the process.

Nevertheless, despite all the difficulties in the society there is a growing awareness that the current system of political and socio-economic management has led the country and our society to an impasse, of which getting out is impossible without drastic changes, including addressing the pressing gender issues. Heroic, although often uncoordinated, efforts by Russian women's NGOs have contributed to a significant increase in women’s activities. This is evidenced by the human rights defenders practice of the soldiers' mothers organizations, where there has been a notable increase in women's role in the protection of social rights, in protests and actions of informal groups in which women often play a major role etc.

The conference participants believe that today, in the context of socio-economic and political instability, as well as the upcoming presidential elections in 2012, consolidation and intensification of the women's movement in Russia are particularly important in determining the prospects for further peaceful and democratic development of the country. Peace and reconciliation in the country can only be achieved when a woman actually feels that she receives support and assistance by the state and the society in the protection of motherhood and childhood, in the exercising of her rights in social, economic and political spheres.

The split in Russian society as regards determining the "general policy" for Russia's future also influences the women's movement. Conservative forces ignore the problems of gender inequality because of their close interdependence with democratic development. For them a woman is little more than a cog in the machine of an authoritarian state or appears to belong to the remote past where her role was "traditional" ie, in the religious community, the kitchen and nursery. In other words, a women is seen as a necessary but cheap and insignificant tool for preserving the current model of social development, the main "achievement" of which concerning gender issues is an unprecedented increase of violence, and not only towards women.

The participants of the conference believe that the main challenges faced by women's NGOs in this period include:

- Promotion of the awareness in all parts of society that gender equality is a human rights issue and an essential component of sustainable development, social justice, peace and security;

- Support for all democratic forces in society advocating for human rights, democracy and non-violence, and their involvement in the promotion of gender equality in law and in reality in order to put an end to all kinds of gender discrimination;

- Promotion and support for requests to adopt a federal law on gender equality, addressed to both the current government and all political forces;

- Initiatives to elaborate addresses to the president and the government on the observance of international law relating to the protection of women's rights and eliminate discrimination against the female majority in the country;

- Support for the proposal to establish a Public Council of Women's Affairs under the President of the Russian Federation;

- Advocacy of proposals to limit membership in the legislature to two consecutive terms, taking into account the fact that a legally established two-term turnover of member of parliaments will improve the chances of increasing women's participation in the electoral and legislative processes;

- Intensifying the educational and journalistic activities aimed at strengthening the awareness of women of their common interests, regardless of social position and status, nationality, religion, etc.;

- Providing full support to those women who, sharing the ideas of gender equality, will decide to participate in the upcoming elections in Russia.

The conference participants declare that they are willing to develop multilateral cooperation with all government and public institutions interested in the improvement of the situation of women and the formation of democratic gender politics in the country.