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November 25: I don't Want to be Beaten Up

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Last Monday, November 25, 2013, the International Day for Elimination of the Violence against Women was observed all over the world, marking the start of the “16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence” campaign which will end on December 10, the International Human Rights Day.

CURE Foundation posted silhouettes to replace the women murdered by their partners (Photo: Ženskaposla.ba)CURE Foundation posted silhouettes to replace the women murdered by their partners (Photo: Ženskaposla.ba)

This year, the Day for Elimination of the Violence against Women was marked with a campaign for promotion of Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Fighting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (the Istanbul Convention), adopted in 2011. After the Parliament of Serbia ratified the Convention, it needs to be accessed and ratified by two more CoE member-states to enter into force.

Organizations from Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia joined the campaign for promotion of the Istanbul Convention with the “I sign“ online and offline petition.

The campaign aims to change the awareness of the whole society and each and every individual that no form of violence should be seen as a legitimate means of resolution of problems. The campaign informs the citizens about the obligations that the states undertake with the ratification, including comprehensive protection for women and efforts to prevent violence, prosecution and sanctioning of perpetrators and establishment of an effective and efficient system of monitoring of the implementation of the Convention.

In Croatia, the campaign is led by the Centre for Women Victims of War ROSA which, in cooperation with its partners and another two dozen organisations from the Croatian Women’s Network and the PETRA Network, works to inform the citizens about the contents of the Convention.

The ROSA Centre, in cooperation with the Croatian Women’s Network, the Parliamentary Committee for Gender Equality of the Croatian Sabor and the European Women’s Lobby organized a thematic session, on November 25 at the Sabor, which discussed the importance of the Istanbul Convention.

The Association Domine, based out of Split, partner organization in the “I Sign” campaign, organized a street action in Split’s Marmontova Street yesterday, November 26.

In Serbia, the activists of the Autonomous Women’s Centre organized the “I Sign..” action on the Republic Square in Belgrade.

“I SIGN THAT... I DON’T want to live in fear, I DON’T want to be beaten, I DON’T want to be forced into marriage, I DON’T want to be followed and persecuted, I DON’T want silence after I cry for help, I DON’T want to see violent perpetrators enjoying freedom”, states the Autonomous Women’s Centre on its website.

Serbian Skupština (the Parliament) ratified the Istanbul Convention of the Council of Europe which means that Serbia accepted the obligation to introduce new criminal offenses such as persecution and sexual harassment and to change the legal definitions for rape and domestic violence in the national criminal legislation.

The official statistics for 2012 shows that more than 9,000 women and children in Serbia were victims of domestic violence. This year, 41 women were murdered in Serbia, compared to 29 in 2012. Another cause of concern is the fact that 80% of all rape victims in Serbia chooses not to bring charges against the rapists.

The OSCE Mission in Montenegro and the National Office for Gender Equality organized a press-conference on the occasion of the International Day for Elimination of the Violence against Women and the start of the 16 Days of Activism Campaign.

Waldemar Figaj, the acting Chief of Mission of OSCE in Montenegro said that women’s rights are human rights and that truly democratic societies don’t accept violations of those rights.

“Violence is not a ‘personal matter’ or a problem that should be left to the victim to deal with it alone. It is a problem of the whole society, knowing that we can’t ensure democratically, socially and economically developed society if a major portion of the population continuously suffers from different forms of violence. The excuse of traditional society and values should not be allowed to stand as obstacle for freedom and cover for the marginalization of women”, Figaj said. (portalanalitka.me).

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the activists of the CURE Foundation marked the start of the 16 Days of Activism with a street action in front of the Cathedral in Sarajevo.

This year, the CURE Foundation presented cardboard silhouettes representing women who should have stood there alive today but were murdered, most of them by their intimate partners, over the past two years. (Read more about the event on the zenskaposla.ba website).

In Skopje, the National Gender Equality Council, the HERA Healthcare Education and Research Association and the National Network Against Gender Violence and Domestic Violence warned that many things provided in adopted strategies and protocols are not being applied in practice.

The three organisations warned that the national system for prevention of domestic violence faces many challenges – the lack of sufficient number of shelters that offer 24/7 support and services to the victims; healthcare institutions not being legally obligated to report domestic violence to competent authorities; the lack of proper response to reports of domestic violence by law enforcement authorities; and the lack of proper decentralized system of advisory offices that would work with perpetrators of domestic violence.

The organizations also presented the Macedonian “I Sign” campaign.

On the International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women, the European Centre for Minority Issues in Kosovo (ECMI Kosovo) reiterated its commitment to the fight against gender-based violence and presented the “Empowering Communities in Kosovo against Gender-based Violence” Project which will start on January 1, 2014.

ECMI Kosovo believes that women from minority communities are victims of double discrimination: their socio-economic, political and cultural marginalisation is worsened by an endemic gender divide.

“Statistics show the high prevalence of domestic violence affecting these communities, highlighting their particularly vulnerable condition. However the issue of domestic violence is largely ignored, among others due to the absence of a sufficient number of shelters and the lack of NGOs operating in the sector”, kažu iz Evropskog centra za manjinska pitanja na Kosovu.

By the time of writing of this report, there were no reported activities in Albania to mark November 25, the International Day for Elimination of the Violence against Women. (Sanela Gojak and Dejan Georgievski)

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