Monday, March 19, 2018

Upon the complaint of Autonomous Women's Center, the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, for the first time in Serbia, has established a multiple discrimination against a woman who has experienced domestic violence, based on her personal characteristics - gender and nationality.

In the opinion of the Commissioner, who acted upon the complaint of Autonomous Women's Center, the professionals at the City Center for Social Work committed a multiple discrimination against a woman by refusing to record her report on domestic violence, even though they knew that "her former partner had been convicted of domestic violence ". As it is already known and also emphasized by the Commissioner, such non-compliance and failure to act accordingly violate the existing laws, regulations and protocols on the conduct of institutions in situations of violence against women.

Gender discrimination was established as the professionals at the City Center for Social Work were guided by prejudices about the role of a woman, which represented a violation of her rights. It is particularly important to point out that in the opinion of the Commissioner, discrimination based on nationality was also made, since it was found out that the conduct of employees in this case pointed to their stereotypical attitudes about the roles and behavior of Roma women, “the so-called customs and lifestyle of the Roma population where violence is viewed as something taken for granted”.

The Commissioner also found out that the employees in this institution had put the woman “in an unequal position compared to that of her former partner, whose claims were believed more, despite the fact that he had been convicted of a criminal offense of domestic violence ... Such an apparently different treatment in this particular case raises suspicion of deep-rooted stereotypes that a man is expected to punish a woman / partner if she ‘deserves it’.”

The Commissioner also expressed her opinion that the professionals at the City Center for Social Work “decided to support her former partner, through the psychosocial treatment, while their attitude towards the woman was accompanied by a great reserve and suspicion regarding her statements about domestic violence”.

“This is the first complaint against multiple discrimination in the situation of violence against women, although it is generally known that domestic violence differently and disproportionately affects women, and that is the most common reason that otherwise solid laws and procedures are not respected in practice. It is extremely important that discrimination on grounds of nationality was confirmed, because Roma women are 'particularly vulnerable' and do not receive institutional support that corresponds their situation and needs', - emphasizes Tanja Ignjatović from Autonomous Women's Center. Therefore, we welcome the recommendations made by the Commissioner to the City Center for Social Work, in particular the one requiring that the institution submits a written apology to the woman whose report of violence it refused to record.

This case has pointed to another 'invisible problem' in the centers for social work, which are implementing the program of work with the perpetrators of violence. "There is a serious risk that professionals of the custody authority find themselves in a conflict of interest in two incompatible roles - the role of assessors and the body that should, ex officio, provide protection against domestic violence and the protection of children's rights, and the role of the provider of services to the perpetrator of violence. There is a lack of specific knowledge about the phenomenon and the gender nature of domestic violence. At the same time, widespread prejudices about women, especially 'atypical' victims and the women coming from 'vulnerable groups', increase the risk of employees in the Center for Social Work to violate the rights of women and inaptly stand in the protection of the perpetrator of violence “ – says Tanja Ignjatović.

Autonomous Women's Center reiterates that the lack of trust in the statements given by women is the most common reason they do not report violence or that their complaints are not considered with due care, which is the obligation of all state bodies.