Discrimination

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Praxis' Statement on International Women's Day

Standing in Solidarity with Women Facing Domestic Abuse in Serbia

March 8, 2015 marks the 101st International Women’s Day. It is a unique occasion to celebrate the economic, political and social accomplishments that women have made towards achieving true equality. However, it is also a time to reflect on the ongoing issues that remain unresolved and to work together to find sustainable solutions towards the common goal of gender equality. Domestic violence is just one such issue that needs to be eliminated in Serbia. In 2014, 95% of all victims of domestic violence were women and the consequences of this crime led to the death of 26 women last year alone. Despite legislation to protect women from abuse, the standards fall short in their practical application, leaving many women without effective recourse and remedy.

Serbia’s Anti-Discrimination Law explicitly cites the illegality of domestic violence. According to Article 20, it is forbidden to practice any physical violence or harassment against an individual on the basis of his or her gender. Article 194 of the Serbian Criminal Code holistically forbids the practice of domestic violence and outlines rigid sentencing for perpetrators. On November 21 2013, Serbia made notable progress in the fight to end domestic violence by ratifying the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women, which became effective on August 1, 2014. This is the most comprehensive legal instrument to protect victims of domestic violence currently in existence.

The nature of the crime makes domestic violence a sensitive issue for all those involved. According to data released by the Autonomous Women’s Center in Belgrade, 98.7% of survivors of domestic abuse in Serbia say that their perpetrator is someone they know and are close to. Additionally, domestic violence usually takes place in the private sphere, which makes it more challenging to monitor and combat. While physical abuse is most common, survivors can also suffer psychological and verbal abuse by their perpetrator. These cases are extremely hard to prosecute since it is difficult to verify the evidence. Court systems do not prioritize these cases nor are they sensitive to the nature of these crimes. As a result, some have had to wait more than three years for a verdict. In 2014, there were 6444 criminal charges for domestic violence. From these charges, only 1740 individuals were actually convicted, 1252 of them received probation and only 442 faced prison sentences.

The issue at hand is a difficult one to address. The various complexities of the domestic violence need to be taken into consideration when developing a plan for its elimination. Prioritizing gender equality throughout society is the first step towards lasting change. International Women’s Day is therefore an importance observance as it provides an opportunity to give a voice to women who face issues such as domestic violence, while also promoting gender equality across the world.  

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Praxis means action
Praxis means action
Praxis means action
Praxis means action