Women’s human rights are not a priority for the new Serbian government

Labris – Lesbian Human Rights Organization strongly condemns the shameful decision of the Assembly of the Republic of Serbia to adopt the new Law on Ministries, which was made on Saturday, April 26, 2014, by which the Gender Equality Directorate is abolished. Decision was made without establishing a new mechanism with a mandate to create, implement and oversee the implementation of gender equality policies and measures

This act violated the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, which obliges the state to implement equal opportunities policies and which states that acquired levels of achievement of human rights cannot be reduced. In addition, the abolishment of the Gender Equality Directorate is also an act which is opposite to the international standards that Serbia has adopted and proclaimed on its path to the EU accession.

During the parliamentary debate various excuses in the attempt to justify this decision could be heard, and varied form austerity measures and complaints about lack of efficiency and transparency, to the fact that this body served the interests of a small circle of people and civil society organizations, including the alarming statement made by Marija Obradović (MP of the Serbian Progressive Party) that there are more urgent issues to be solved in Serbia than women’s rights. In addition, Aleksandra Tomić (Serbian Progressive Party) also stated that the new concept of the Government exceeds the need for having a Gender Equality Directorate, with no explanation of how the new Government intends to deal with this issue in its future work.

Serbia's new prime minister via Reuters

Serbia’s new prime minister via Reuters

While Labris believes that there was a need to discuss and criticize the work of the Gender Equality Directorate, which is something that Labris has been doing continuously due to complete ignorance of the problems that lesbians in Serbia are faced with, Labris believes that the abolition of this institution is not an adequate solution but rather a dangerous step backwards and collapsing of the multi-year effort of the women’s movement to establish an institutional framework for the creation and pursuance of gender equality.

Bearing in mind the terrifying data, that (according to the CSO resources) during 2013 in Serbia more than 40 women were killed in the context of partnership and domestic violence, that every second woman in Serbia has experienced some form of violence, while one in three was physically assaulted by a family member, and that women are facing various forms of discrimination on every-day basis in the areas of labor, employment, education and health care, where particularly vulnerable multiply marginalized women are targeted ( such as Roma women, lesbians, single mothers, women with disabilities, women in rural areas, etc) we believe that the decision to revoke the Gender Equality Directorate as a key institutional mechanism for achieving gender equality, is irresponsible and inappropriate, and leads us to the conclusion that the promotion of human rights will not be a priority of the new Government.

This concern is further confirmed by the fact that, although covering diverse topics, in yesterday’s three-hour speech, made by the new Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, in the Serbian Parliament, importance of promoting gender equality and women’s human rights, as well as other marginalized groups, such as the LGBT community were not once pointed out.

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