People have learned to protect their health, keep track of their finances, separate and recycle waste, even embarked on the path of protecting personal boundaries. But to protect their rights is not given to many. After all, for this you need to know them and learn how to apply them. People with a Russian mentality still have to learn and learn this [NAFI, 2020] . But more and more experts put legal literacy on a par with financial, digital, and medical. What is the use of such knowledge? And most importantly, do they make sense?
What is legal literacy?
Before building connections and logical chains, let’s define legal literacy. Legal literacy is the knowledge of one’s rights, obligations and ways to protect them, as well as knowledge of the basic legal acts that regulate relations between people. In addition to theoretical mastery, legal literacy also includes the application of knowledge in practice. Here’s what that distinction looks like :
- legal knowledge – the degree of correspondence between the law and people’s ideas about the correct behavior in the legal sense;
- legal skills – the degree of actual participation of people in situations regulated by law;
- legal attitudes – ideas about the admissibility of going beyond the legal field, personal responsibility for observing rights, the need to protect rights, the possibility of violating the law, trust in lawyers.
The concept of “legal culture” is closely related to this type of literacy, i.e. conscious compliance with the law. Legal culture functions in interaction with other areas or spheres of culture: political, moral, religious, etc.
Due to the fact that legal culture is also considered a set of norms, values and forms, it can cover all aspects of legal life, including negative ones. Those. each of us has a legal culture, but it can be both high and low. Accordingly, the legal culture of society depends on this – the general level of knowledge and the attitude of society towards law.
And the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation indicates that the legal culture in Russia is at a low level. This is confirmed by the statistics of incoming calls. more than half of the appeals require clarification of the legislation and legal advice. Citizens are poorly aware of their rights and freedoms, as well as ways to protect them, which is also confirmed by sociological surveys [Report on the activities of the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation for 2019, 2020] .
All these concepts can be combined in one – in the concept of “legal consciousness”. This is a form of social and individual consciousness, expressing people’s ideas and feelings about the law and the behavior regulated by it.
Legal consciousness has the following features:
- is one of the forms of social consciousness;
- consists of ideas, theories, feelings, emotions, moods and other components;
- carriers of the components of legal consciousness are various subjects of law;
- addressed not only to the present, but also to the past and the future;
- in certain periods of development of society is a form of law;
- orients subjects of law in social and legal situations, allows them to make an appropriate (not always legitimate) choice and make legally significant decisions.
Accordingly, we can conclude that legal consciousness acts as some kind of internal regulator of people’s activities. It is logical to assume that individuals can completely deny the existence of law and ignore the requirements of laws and their role in society. This phenomenon is called legal nihilism.
We think you have come across such words more than once: “I don’t want to comply with this, because everyone does it and not everyone is punished for it.” Yes, you yourself have probably been in a situation where your rights were violated (for example, by refusing free treatment or a benefit), but you did not contact law enforcement agencies (although they even carry your protection in their name!). After all, many believe that this requires large investments, temporary, for sure.
And although the President of Russia Vladimir Putin, at a meeting with the judges of the Constitutional Court of Russia, said that “our society has not yet overcome legal nihilism, but the mentality of the authorities is changing, and the law-making culture is growing” [Rossiyskaya Gazeta, 2013] , and there are still a lot of such people in the country .
People began to fight against the thoughts of the helplessness and senselessness of any actions by introducing legal education. To this end, in 2011, the “Fundamentals of the State Policy of the Russian Federation in the field of developing legal literacy and legal awareness of citizens” were adopted, which are aimed at “forming a tradition of unconditional respect for law, order and court, integrity and good faith as the predominant model of social behavior” [Kremlin, 2011] .
And in order to develop among the population a sense of respect for the law and the habit of observing it, the direction of legal education is also singled out separately. This is a purposeful impact on the consciousness and culture of citizens’ behavior in order to form their personal beliefs and values.
But legal education should not be regarded as propaganda, because initially a law- conscious citizen:
- aware of their rights and obligations;
- familiar with the main regulatory legal acts;
- is able to conduct a comparative analysis of various documents;
- familiar with the essence of the concepts of legislative documents;
- knows how to apply his legal knowledge in the analysis of conflict situations;
- owns the skills to protect their rights.
Those. First of all, we can draw the relationship of legal literacy with one’s own protection and the ability to influence the surrounding conditions to increase the comfort of life.
What is legal literacy?
Man is a social being, and we have already figured out that each individual citizen with his high or low level of legal consciousness affects the general culture. We also mentioned the relationship of legal culture with other areas. But we have not yet touched upon the question of the influence of the level of legal consciousness on other parts of the life of society.
Legal literacy will help:
- protect yourself from scammers;
- reduce the number of offenses;
- defend their own interests in court;
- organize and conduct business;
- solve problems of housing and communal services;
- protect the rights of consumers;
- apply for assistance to state authorities and local self-government;
- receive benefits and due payments;
- participate in legislative processes.
Please note that in addition to personal gain, a citizen with high legal literacy also gets the opportunity to influence the general state of the country – reduces the number of offenses and takes initiative to correct and create laws. And to put it bluntly, he just needs to learn a new language – the language of law – in order to speak with the regulator (the state) in his language.
It turns out that legal awareness is, in a sense, an active life position that helps prevent situations of violation of rights in relation to oneself or other people.
If it seems to you that we are exaggerating, then our argument will be the thesis that human rights are influenced by almost all human activity and reality. For example, here is a list of areas that are subject to regulation by international human rights instruments:
- citizenship and participation;
- culture and sports;
- disability and discrimination;
- discrimination and intolerance;
- gender issues;
- MASS MEDIA;
- peace and violence;
- religion and beliefs;
- historical memory;
- war and terrorism;
- effort [Kompas, 2002] .
Quite global, isn’t it? The thing is that rights are actually related to all spheres of human activity, because they reflect basic needs and set basic standards without which people cannot live comfortably. Respect for our rights implies the preservation of human dignity and equality.
And legal literacy ensures that these basic values are maintained. Provided each person accepts that:
- human rights are enjoyed by all equally, everywhere and at all times;
- human rights are universal, i.e. the same for all people in all countries;
- rights are inalienable, indivisible and interdependent;
- all rights are equally important and complementary; this affects the entire standard of living of society.
Of course, we are talking about an ideal situation, but think about what changes can come even after simply accepting the importance of human rights?! It is still worth doing your legal literacy. At least for your own sake.
What does every person need to know?
In the opinion of specialists, basic legal literacy is a timely understanding of emerging risks in the field of law and timely seeking help from a specialist who will help resolve the situation [Regionalnaya Rossiya, 2016] .
But it is logical to assume that in order to analyze the situation and identify the risk, a person needs to receive even more basic legal education. Let’s start with the basics on a global scale:
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights [UN, 1948] .
- Convention on the Rights of the Child [UN, 1989] .
- Constitution of the Russian Federation [Kremlin, 1993] .
- Federal Law “On Basic Guarantees of the Rights of the Child in the Russian Federation” [Kremlin, 1998] .
Although the technical legal literacy of a citizen of the Russian Federation includes knowledge of the basic laws of the Russian Federation, the principles on which the state system of the Russian Federation is built, their rights and obligations, responsibility for their actions before the law and society, which is decided by knowledge of the Constitution, nevertheless, education will not end with the main documents of the country. At a minimum, it is necessary to understand the basic concepts of the theory of law and learn how to search for reliable legal information.
If you succumbed to these points, then it’s time to move on to more vital issues. The population itself in the top 3 most demanded areas in which people would like to deepen their knowledge about their rights and ways to protect them, made the housing and communal services, medical and financial services [NAFI, 2020]. Accordingly, we can conclude that it will be useful for everyone to familiarize themselves with the legal framework governing these areas. And for the formation of legal skills, the study of the practice of solving typical violations.
But we invite you to go further and get an idea also about the following areas:
- rules of communication between a citizen and state bodies;
- legal ways of displaying citizenship;
- interaction with law enforcement agencies;
- realization of rights in educational organizations;
- realization of rights in family relations;
- purchase and sale and rental of real estate, the conclusion of household contracts;
- consumer rights Protection;
- labor law;
- taxation system;
- protection of their intellectual property;
- work with personal data.
Of course, the volume is quite impressive, but you can prioritize and filter to select the areas that concern you the most. But we still recommend that you at least superficially familiarize yourself with all the points or check your level of literacy in them, because we can never guess what life will bring us to, no matter how large-scale and systematic we make plans in it .
What else develops legal literacy?
In the last paragraph, we discussed the acquisition of legal knowledge, but we recall that legal awareness also includes skills and attitudes. Unfortunately, many begin to develop them (often unconsciously) already in the process of encountering offenses.
We do not wish you such an experience, so here is a list of those factors that influence the formation of a legal culture:
- the nature of upbringing and the moral climate in the family, the law-abiding behavior of parents;
- quality level of education and training in educational institutions;
- distribution and use of accessible information materials in printed, electronic, audiovisual and other forms;
- accessibility and understandability of services provided in the system of state and municipal services to the population;
- accessibility, impeccability and effectiveness of justice, judicial protection of violated rights;
- strict observance by state and municipal employees of the norms of the law and professional ethics;
- clarity, accessibility and effectiveness of legislation, its adequacy to the real economic and socio-political situation in the country;
- implementation of the principles of justice and equality in legislation, ensuring that the norms of law correspond to the interests and needs of various social groups;
- effective, professional and legal activities of law enforcement and other authorized bodies to detect and suppress crimes and other violations of the law;
- compliance with regulatory requirements by organizations selling goods and providing services to the population;
- accessibility for citizens of qualified legal assistance [Fundamentals of Russian state policy in the development of legal literacy and legal awareness of citizens, 2011] .
Of course, we understand that you cannot influence all of the above factors, because. in many ways they depend on government regulation, but you can definitely support and control their implementation or place yourself in those areas where these factors, in your opinion, are observed.
Other ways to work on your legal consciousness
If the scale of work frightened you or you still question the possibility of any changes in the overall system, then we recommend that you take up the action that depends on you personally – your own improvement.
To begin with, for any new job, you need to make a list of required skills. To work with the rights, you will need to purchase the following:
- emotional intelligenceto track emotions in time and remain calm in any situation (especially useful when meeting with a bureaucratic machine);
- self-confidence , not to be afraid to defend your rights and declare it;
- critical and analytical thinking to capture potential risks and prevent them, as well as to process a huge amount of knowledge about the law;
- responsibility to realize the rights and obligations of a citizen;
- tolerance , not to encroach on the rights of other people.
You probably already know very well that soft skills can help us in any area. But how can we cope without professional skills? And being a law-conscious citizen is a very serious profession! Therefore, we have selected useful materialsthat can shoe you in legal literacy:
- Compass, a manual on human rights education with the participation of young people [Compas, 2002] and Compasito, a manual on human rights education for children [Compasito, 2006] ;
- HSE online course “Legal Literacy” [Open Education, 2021] ;
- a series of videos “Lawyer” [D. Grits, 2018] ;
- the all-Russian action “Legal dictation” [Yurdictant, 2022] ;
- book “Protection of the rights of citizens by a lawyer in criminal proceedings” [A. Berezin, 2014] ;
- book “Intellectual fraud (how we are deceived, or modern sophism)” [Yu. Rodionov, 2015] ;
- book “Illustrated Civil Code of the Russian Federation” [A. Merinov, 2013].
After reading these materials, you will not only learn the terms or examples of the protection of the right, but you will also learn to pay attention to the implementation of the right in life. Observe your own feelings, discuss them with others and ask questions: do you understand everything? Is it necessary to consult a specialist? Do you see any injustice or infringement here? In each new life situation, look for the presence of law and ask these questions, then you can build up your legal “armor”.
Undoubtedly, legal literacy is difficult to develop. You may have to deal with the nihilism that has already entered your head. It may be difficult for you to take a step towards endless and non-systematic knowledge in the field of law. All of this may seem pointless. But we want to remind you of the famous quote from the Declaration of the Rights of Man of 1789: “My rights end where another’s rights begin.”
But how will you understand how much “space” is allotted to you if you don’t take care of your sense of justice? Take care of clarifying this issue, understand yourself , find protection for your interests and start moving towards confidence for your security and the future of the whole people.
Inspiring, right? And it’s just about getting started!