Today, in the Media Center, the first baseline report on the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence in Serbia has been presented. Although GREVIO welcomes the state’s commitment to eliminating gender-based violence against women, as well as legislative changes taken in this direction, there are a number of areas that need urgent response and improvement, such as a small number of underfunded specialized services for women with experience of violence, mainly provided by NGOs. The urgency of establishing a consultative dialogue with women’s organizations is also emphasized, as well as the need to ensure adequate and long-term financing for the specialized services they provide.
Autonomous Women’s Center, which has submitted the alternative report on the implementation of the Convention to the GREVIO Group, is satisfied with the largest number of presented findings and recommendations. It remains to be seen whether and how many recommendations will be included in the new strategic document on preventing violence against women.
The GREVIO report was released at the right time, at the time the development of a new Strategy to Prevent Violence against Women and Domestic Violence begins. It will be an opportunity for the state to show the strength of its commitment to preventing gender-based violence.
The GREVIO report confirms that most specialized services are provided by women’s organizations, but notes with concern their growing isolation, especially regarding Roma women’s organizations, the lack of political support and funding for their services.
The report states that the small number of specialized services for women with experience of violence, most commonly provided by women’s organizations, is generally limited to the problem of violence against women in a family context. They are insufficiently accessible and poorly funded, which is particularly evident regarding services for Roma women and girls, women with disabilities, women at risk of forced marriage, persecution, sexual violence or sexual harassment. The report further states that in most of Serbia there are no centers for victims of rape and sexual violence and that women’s organizations with years of expertise should be involved in their work.
The report emphasizes that it is necessary for children who witness domestic violence to be provided with specialized support, in a safe environment, preferably in their home, not to be separated from a non-abusive parent - most often mothers, by implementing eviction orders and contact ban to the perpetrator of violence. The importance of ensuring that all incidents of violence perpetrated by the parent are taken into account when entrusting the child and determining the visitation model is also highlighted.
The need for a more rigorous criminal justice response to the largest number of types of violence women are exposed to is recognized. Difficulties are noted in the implementation of the law for all types of violence, especially due to the persistent lack of understanding of the seriousness of these acts, their trivialization in the media and the public. It is also stressed that the criminal offense of rape is still defined as an act committed with the use of coercion, force or threat, rather than a sexual act that the victim does not consent to, as required by the Convention. Conviction rates for most forms of violence against women are confirmed to be extremely low, with an increased number of dismissed criminal charges. In the convictions, the full extent of sanctions is rarely applied; they are low, often suspended. Attention is focused on the restrictions to access to free legal aid, especially for women exposed to other forms of violence, but also on the criteria for providers who neglect the long-standing expertise of women’s NGOs.
The report also lists a number of other findings and recommendations that can be read HERE.
In case you have not read the alternative report of AWC, please download it HERE.