The OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) digitally launched the report “Responses to COVID 19 pandemic – Human Rights and Gender Analysis” today, 18 November 2020.
This report examines whether gender and human rights considerations were sufficiently taken into account when developing the crisis response and looks into the negative consequences of certain measures on vulnerable communities. The report also discusses the impact of the crisis response on human rights and fundamental freedoms, the economic activity of citizens, and on rights to social protection.
“The battle to contain COVID-19 has impacted everyone, but certain groups have been more impacted by pandemic-related restrictions than others,” said Kathleen Kavalec, Head of the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina. “In tackling the pandemic, certain policy decisions taken by BiH authorities had a disproportionate impact on more vulnerable sectors of the population. It is critical to learn from this experience to guide the development and implementation of future measures.”
The report shows that some emergency measures in BiH raised serious human rights concerns – concerns that have also tested other democracies. For instance, the complete prohibition on movement for persons over 65 years of age and, in the Federation of BiH, under 18, was found to be a violation of the right of freedom of movement and declared unconstitutional by the BiH Constitutional Court on 22 April 2020. In an urgent pandemic situation, it is not unreasonable to temporarily curtail certain freedoms in the interest of bringing the disease under control. However, the potential unintended consequences of certain measures on vulnerable populations was not sufficiently taken into account. For example, the disproportionate effects these measures had on gender equality was not considered, nor what their impact on different categories of men and women would be.
These outcomes suggest an insufficient understanding of human rights-based responses and the lack of proper gender analysis, as well as a general lack of awareness on the need for more systemic inclusion of cross-cutting issues in an emergency response.
The OSCE Mission report provides recommendations for how to improve an emergency response in the future. This complex situation calls upon experts, practitioners, and academia to continue to collaborate, record, analyse, and learn from the experiences BiH is going through.
This report is part of the OSCE Mission to BiH wider efforts in increasing awareness of the importance of gender, diversity, and human rights in the official pandemic response.