The draft Law on Gender Equality submitted to the National Assembly by the Government of Serbia on April 26, 2021, privileges specialized services for perpetrators of violence, for which funding is planned from the national budget, over specialized services for victims of violence that will be financed from the budget of local governments.
Although it supports the adoption of the new Law on Gender Equality, the Autonomous Women's Center is very disappointed with the decision of the Government of the Republic of Serbia to privilege the financing of specialized services for perpetrators by prescribing that funds for financing this service be provided from the budget of the Republic of Serbia (paragraph 2, Article 58 of the Draft Law), thus placing in an unequal position the financing of specialized services for victims of violence - Safe Houses and Crisis Centers for victims of sexual violence, for which funding is provided only from the local government budget (paragraph 3 of Article 58 of the Draft law).
This decision of the Government of the Republic of Serbia is in contradiction with the ratified Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, the so-called Istanbul Convention, which in paragraph 3 of Article 16 explicitly requires that "security, rights and support for victims of violence should be of primary importance". Although the draft law in Art. 56 contains an identical provision as the Convention, this provision is rendered meaningless by the fact of providing a privileged way of financing a specialized service for perpetrators of violence in relation to specialized services for victims.
The Autonomous Women's Center is not able to establish how this article was amended in relation to the Draft Law on Gender Equality for which the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue conducted a public debate, bearing in mind that the public debate was concluded without amendments on the proposed article.
If the Government of the Republic of Serbia decided to finance a specialized and very expensive service for perpetrators of violence, which has no guarantee for a positive outcome and safety of victims, then it could do so only under the same conditions as for specialized services for victims of violence. Worldwide, where there are specialized services for perpetrators of violence, those services are mostly paid for by the perpetrators themselves, because in that way they show a real intention to want to change their behavior, and to take responsibility for the damage done. In some cantons in Switzerland, perpetrators of violence bear not only the cost of such psychotherapeutic treatment, but also the cost of the woman and children staying in the Safe House in a situation where the perpetrator remained living in a shared house / apartment.
The Autonomous Women's Center believes that by not adopting the proposed text of this article as stated in the Draft Law, not only was great damage done, but also direct discrimination of victims in relation to perpetrators of violence as users of services. The Draft provided for the division of responsibilities and funding between the republic, provincial and local government budgets, which is only possible for regional services, and acknowledged the fact that poor local governments financed by earmarked transfers are unable to fund specialized services for victims of violence.