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    • A significant number of women exposed to threats to personal safety

    • Date: 02 March 2017

      A network of civil society organizations - Women, Peace and Security and Commissioner for Protection of Equality Brankica Jankovic sent an appeal to the Government of Serbia to adopt National Action Plan for implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 as soon as possible, during discussion held on 2nd March 2017 in Belgrade. 

      Key reason for urgent adoption of this document is the fact that the significant number of women in Serbia are exposed to discrimination and other threats to personal safety which contributes to the feeling of personal fear and prevents them from full participation in democratic processes and reforms, which impedes development of Serbia as secure and democratic society for all citizens, emphasized BCSP researcher Maja Bjelos.

      “Civil society organizations in Serbia have through advocacy, sharing of knowledge and experience, giving recommendations, even funding have supported implementation of National Action Plan (NAP) and proved that they could be state’s reliable partner. In the future, this Network intends to be the partner to all the institutions and bodies of state administration at the national, provincial and local level for the purpose of the localization of the NAP. Local government has a task to take the greater role and responsibility for implementation of NAP.” Bjelosestimated.

      Personal safety of women and respect of human rights must be on the top of political agenda, especially at the local level, said Commissioner for Protection Equality Brankica Jankovic.

      “Women still don’t have enough influence on decision making about security in their societies. It is necessary to establish local council for security, which should include women in their work and priority defining. Cooperation between civil society and state is necessary in order to improve women’s safety and protection from discrimination and gender-based violence.” said Commissioner.

      Michael Uyehara, Deputy Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, said that the authorities in Serbia will have the full support of this organization in the adoption and implementation of the NAP.

      “Women can play a major role in addressing security challenges. Therefore, OSCE Mission to Serbia recognizes the importance of involving women and women’s organizations in security decision-making and supports civil society initiatives, such as CSO Network Women, Peace and Security”, Uyehara stated.

      The topics that the Network recognized as significant for local communities are: implementing gender-sensitive trainings in order to improve dealing with crisis and emergency situations; providing comprehensive legal protection and psychosocial support for women and girls who experienced gender-based violence, especially for those women who have experienced violence in conflicts; overcoming stereotypes and prejudices against women who have experienced violence in conflicts which also include migrants, asylum seekers, refugee women;  implementation, research and collecting of statistics classified according to gender; confiscation of firearms from perpetrators of violence against women; sexual violence in conflicts and its consequences, it was pointed out at the conference.

      The second part of the discussion was dedicated to the connection between possession of firearms and violence against women in Serbia, as well as sexual violence against women as a war crime.

      Belief that the possession of weapons creates a sense of personal safety and far less likely to be understood as threat is still dominant in Serbia, said Tanja Jakobi, acting director of the Public Policy Research Centre.

      She added that vulnerable groups such as women and young people have a different perception regarding the possession of weapons.

      “Experience of women from local communities indicates that weapons situated in their homes make them feel frightened and afraid for their children’s lives. Having a firearms at home represents an aggravating circumstance for victims of domestic violence to take any action in order to end the violence”, stated Jakobi.

      Jakobi commended that the new Weapons and ammunition law includes much more strict criteria for possession of weapons and stated that field facts indicate that work is being done on sensibilization of police teams who will deal with cases of domestic violence.

      “There is a dilemma upon the state and the civil society whether the attention should solely be on preventive measures and improving culture of holding and using weapons or the intensifying of regulations should be considered, for example by introducing the need of wives and ex-wives to give consent for possession of firearm”, stated Jakobi.

      She stressed the importance of monitoring implementation of mentioned laws on the local level and role of local government and NGOs in creating this atmosphere through campaigns and public calls for handing over the weapons and promotion of responsible behavior of weapon holders.

      Director of legal programme of Humanitarian Law Center Milica Kostic said that sexual violence against women during war time is still a taboo topic in Serbia. She stressed the importance of speaking about this problem, since there are many offenders who should be prosecuted and victims who need help.

      “Since there are no precise data of women who were victims of rape in war, the extent and severity of this problem is often being reduced and disregarded. In Serbia, thus far, only two final judgements were issued for rape crimes committed during the war in ex-Yugoslavia. Judiciary treats rape as less severe crime, since it doesn’t see the harmful effects of this problem on the community” stressed Milica Kostic.

      Therefore, she believes it is necessary to change the view of this problem in the society and state action, since women being raped during war time as a consequence can have dissolution of marital and family ties, rise of suicide rate, post-traumatic stress disorder - PTSD, domestic violence, etc.

      “Consequences of crimes in the community should be one of the criteria for selecting cases by Prosecutor’s Office while prosecuting war crimes. Our laws and strategies in this field are not in accordance with international standards, because, even though criminal act of rape is included in Criminal law, rape of women during war time is not defined as war crime”, she stated.

      Besides improving legal framework and compliance with international standards, Kostic suggested doing trainings for judges and prosecutors who prosecute rape during war, using funds from local governments’ budget for compensation of rape victims and objective reporting about sexual violence in wartime in media.,

      All panelists agreed that it is crucial to conduct researches and collect gender classified statistics in order to give a real image of the situation of safety in local communities and personal safety of women. Numerous representatives of women organizations from whole Serbia, as well as representatives of state institutions, international organizations diplomatic missions and media, attended this conference.

      The disscussion was organized with the support of the OSCE Mission to Serbia within the project „Consolidating the democratization process in the security sector“ which was financially supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

      BCSP intern Dusan Stankovic contributed to the article.

      This article was translated by BCSP interns Nevena Vasic and Emilija Davidovic.

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