Throughout the Western Balkans, women are harassed, raped, beaten and killed. Often this is done by their partners. It is a staunchly conservative region, with a long tradition of male dominance, but the problem has increased since the wars of the 1990s, a political, economic and social crisis that has continued since the end of conflicts.
This was reported by AP.
Women's groups across the Western Balkans organized protests to draw public attention to the violence and demand action. Help lines and shelters for women have also been set up. Activists accuse the authorities of indecisive actions to protect women and counter the culture of impunity.
Violence against women in Bosnia
The article notes that in August 2023, the public in Bosnia and in the region in general was shocked, in the city of Gradacac, a man killed a woman with a shot to the head in an Instagram live. The killer was the victim's former partner. Over the past 10 years, 3 women have been murdered in Bosnia with a population of 3.65 million, and five more have survived assassination attempts.
Most countries in the Western Balkans have adopted laws and regulations to combat violence against women, but activists argue that the laws are inconsistent. For example, Bosnia is one of the first countries to ratify the Council of Europe's Istanbul Convention on Violence against Women. However, the problem has only worsened, said Vanja Makanovic of the Autonomous Women's Center in Serbia.
"We have signed all relevant international declarations, resolutions and conventions, but their application is questionable. Too many people still see (domestic) violence as a personal issue, a personal matter for two people. They don't understand that this is a social problem," Makanovic said.
In this context, one of the main problems in Bosnia is lenient sentences for violence and murder of women. Only one murderer was sentenced to 40 years in prison in a case where the victim was a woman.
Violence against women in Kosovo
The situation is similar with violence against women in Kosovo. There, after the rape of an 11-year-old girl by five assailants in 2022, street protests broke out demanding safety for women, leading to the resignation of the police chief. Later that year, citizens protested over two murders in Pristina. There, a 63-year-old geography teacher was killed with an ax by her husband. Another woman, who was pregnant, was tracked down outside the hospital before giving birth and killed by her husband.
In total, 2000 women have been killed by partners or husbands in Kosovo with a population of 2 million since 66. And only one criminal was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Makanović believes that part of the problem is that "institutions are not responsible" and there are no consequences for mistakes in handling cases. This discourages women from turning to the state for help.
Measures to combat violence against women in the Western Balkans
After a surge in violence and murders of women, in 2017 Serbia began implementing a special law to deepen cooperation between agencies, take immediate action against attackers and create local working groups to prevent violence.
At the same time, in Kosovo, the Ministry of Justice sent out text messages to warn of violence and encourage women to report attacks. High-ranking officials there have publicly called for tougher penalties for criminals and criticized past practices.
A few years ago, Bosnia passed a law to prevent domestic violence, and the authorities promised to do more.
But in societies that have survived wars, where economies and institutions have collapsed, and where ethnic, political and social divisions are often fueled by power rather than opposed to it, legal change alone is not enough, experts say.
Vesna Stanojević, who runs a network of safe homes for women in Serbia, believes that violence persists and will continue.
"It happens that we accept women who have been beaten so that they cannot walk, move their heads, who have come after the hospital, who are going to give birth, who have abdominal injuries. Where did they (the attackers) learn this? Who is a role model for our children? We have to educate, and we (societies) obviously don't," Stanojevych said.
According to her, there are now more than 40 women and children in shelters run by the organization.
"In 32 years of my work Sometimes more, sometimes less, but in general there is always there," Stanojevych added.
In Congo, more than 100 women have reported sexual violence by WHO staff who worked there during the Ebola outbreak. The organization paid $250 each to the victims.
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