Friday, November 24, 2017

Advocacy

Initial premise of the Autonomous Women's Center is that policies, in order to fight against violence against women, at the local and national level should be consistent with international standards and good practices in this field. In accordance with the strategic goals, that the Convention of the United Nations and the Council of Europe should be implemented well by the state and that in the process of joining the European Union we must respect the human rights of women, Autonomous Women's Center consistently monitors the implementation of and advocates for a comprehensive, coherent, relevant, specific, efficient and effective national policies against violence against women.

As the oldest organization for protection of women victims of violence in Serbia, the Autonomous Women’s Center considers the new Law of Domestic Violence Prevention represents the biggest step forward so far in relation to emergency protection of victims from violence. Introduction of the provision of temporarily removing the perpetrator from the home, which the AWC has been lobbying for 10 years, as well as the measure of a temporary ban on any contact and approaching the victim, are a good foundation for building an efficient protection system.

As a reminder, we have been lobbying for this emergency measure of removing the perpetrator from the home since 2007, when we promoted the so called “Austrian model” to professionals. This model is referred to as the Austrian model because it is used by the Austrian police. Representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs are well acquainted with our past efforts to promote this law to our law enforcement. We intensely worked on introducing these emergency measures throughout 2015 with MP, professor doctor, Dusan Milisavljevic, and informed members of Parliament about the advantages of this measure.

The new Law on Domestic Violence Prevention additionally prescribes coordination of efforts by the public prosecution offices, police and centers for social policy. AWC has been training experts on this type of coordination and inter-sectoral cooperation (by organizing so called “case conferences”) in 2003, and in 2004 we published our first collection of “good practice” examples. At the beginning of December we will publish our third collection of good practice examples from Vojvodina.

The Law stipulates that police stations, basic courts, basic public prosecution offices, and centers for social policy keep records on domestic violence cases. The Autonomous Women’s Center has been lobbying for unified record keeping for the past 10 years, and since 2010 we have been requesting a centralized system of record keeping. In cooperation with the Provincial Secretariat for Labor, Employment and Gender Equality of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, we have developed software for electronic centralized record keeping.

Since 2011, with cooperation from the Ombudsman, we have been lobbying for the introduction of stalking to the Criminal Code, which has now been adopted, as well as for changes in the definition of rape and sexual offenses.

In the period from 2012 to 2016 we held 106 meetings, public debates, round tables, and conferences, that were attended by more than 1500 participants, and where we advocated for said legal changes – most of which are now contained in the new Law on Domestic Violence Prevention, or in amendments to the Criminal Code.

Taking all of this into consideration, we can’t help but take credit for these positive changes.

Considering our experience in seeing many personal and family tragedies caused by violence, as well as the insights this position gave us into the protection system and capacities of professionals who constitute this system, we are worried regarding how this law will be implemented in practice.

The state has already had the legal means at its disposal to react decisively to violence, but it hadn’t done so. The new law will take effect on June 1st 2017, and the same people who previously worked at police stations, prosecution offices, courts and centers for social work will still be working there – which, even though new trainings and specialization programs for them are planed, still poses a challenge since they have not previously reacted adequately to cases of violence. This is why it’s important to secure a good monitoring mechanism, and define individual responsibility for not taking action in such cases in accordance to the letter of the law.