Prof. Dr Zorana Mihajlović, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia and President of the Coordination Body for Gender Equality
I am extremely proud of Serbia’s involvement in the global campaign “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence” that started on 25 November with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and lasting until 10 December, when the International Human Rights Day is celebrated. Through a number of activities conducted during these 16 days Serbia will rise with the entire world and say: “Stop violence against women!”
More than 30 mothers, sisters and wives have been murdered as of the beginning of this year through domestic violence and in intimate partner relations, a large number of them by illegal firearms, as was the case in Žitište. A total of 196 women have been killed since 2010, with estimates indicating over 320 women victims of violence during the past 10 years.
The implementation of a decisive agenda for combating violence against women, as per the mandate of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, involves everyone, including line ministries and institutions, local self-governments, civil society and citizens of Serbia.
The National Assembly, acting upon the proposal of the Ministry of Justice, adopted the Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence a few days ago. This law is important not only because it will regulate the issue of punishing violent offenders, it will also provide for greater protection for victims, unified data gathering and penalties for those failing to act in accordance with their legally prescribed official duties. This is an important law aimed at punishing offenders and reducing the number of women victims of violence.
We initiated the implementation of the project “Integrated Response to Violence against Women and Girls” in Serbia in early September, in partnership with line ministries and UN agencies. The key goals of this project are drafting a new National Strategy against Violence, establishing a National Help Hotline, support to victims of violence, work with offenders, prevention of violence among children in schools, working with youth.
Also under way is the implementation of the campaign under the slogan “Report weapons. Prevent violence. Until it's too late.” in cooperation with the European Union and UNDP SEESAC, intended to have two types of results. One the one hand, we want to increase public awareness of the risks posed by firearms, particularly illegal firearms in households and the need for reporting them, since they can be used as a tool for violence, while on the other hand, that we cannot turn a blind eye to violence and we must report it and prevent it.
Serbia was the 8th country in the world to ratify the Istanbul Convention on Violence against Women in 2013. The Convention started being applied in August 2014, and in June next year – 2017 – we will report to the GREVIO committee tasked with monitoring the application of this Convention. This Convention was ratified through the joint efforts of the state, particularly the Women’s Parliamentarian Network and civil sector, and represents a true example of synergy in cooperation.
You will note that during all 16 days important buildings in Belgrade will be lit in orange, as a symbol of an optimistic future, free of violence against women and girls, starting with the buildings of the Government, the National Assembly, the Assembly of the City of Belgrade, the Bridge on Ada, the Belgrade Victor and “Albanija” Palace.
I am pleased that the number of activities against violence is on the increase and I hope the effects will be sustainable. I would like us to introduce a new statistic. Instead of the number of murdered women, we should start counting violent offenders who will be punished by the law for their violent behaviour. The new Law on the Prevention of Family Violence will help with this, along with the involvement of all of society, starting from the family, the school, the neighbourhood. Let us all rise and declare that a real man never raises his voice or his hand against a woman.
We are a proud nation, so let us be proud of the fact that we have no violence in Serbia. Let us all grow together and fight to achieve a vision of development that will serve to achieve a common and better future for all of us. Violence against women is nobody’s private affair. Let us keep women safe, let us keep one another safe.