Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina is still widespread


The OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) marked 21 March – the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by digitally launching the report on “Discrimination in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Public Perceptions, Attitudes, and Experiences”.

According to the Report, a vast majority of the population (87%) see discrimination as a widespread problem in BiH. Discrimination was perceived in several places of employment (75%), such as employment in public institutions, as well as payments and career advancement, dismissals, access to employment, profession and self-employment and work conditions. Rampant discrimination was reported against groups such as Roma (81%) migrants (73%) and LGBTIQ persons (70%). The report paints a meaningful if troubling picture of the status in BiH concerning discrimination.

“The Mission is dedicated to fighting discrimination – a phenomenon which our survey shows BiH citizens believe is omnipresent in many areas of life,” said Head of the OSCE Mission to BiH Kathleen Kavalec. “This is a serious problem because discrimination stands in the way of building an inclusive society that can work together to solve urgent challenges, in the interests of all citizens. Indeed, the need for this kind of broad co-operation has never been clearer than it is today. OSCE continues to play a crucial role in working with authorities and citizens to tackle discrimination – in the interest of all in BiH.” Kavalec added.

Starting from the support for adoption of the BiH Law on Prohibition of Discrimination in 2009, the Mission has supported numerous efforts aiming at strengthening mechanisms that address discrimination. Efforts included supporting the BiH Judiciary, Ombudsman Institution, and Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees in exercising their respective anti-discrimination mandates.

In 2016, the Mission also supported the adoption of amendments to the BiH Law on Prohibition of Discrimination and helped train more than 800 judges and legal professionals on international and European anti-discrimination standards and mechanisms. Other efforts to combat discrimination include multimedia awareness raising, and educational project “On the Margins”. The project is aimed at challenging stereotypes surrounding the Roma community, combatting discrimination against the most vulnerable communities in BiH, and encompasses initiatives for inter-religious dialogue and increasing access of vulnerable groups to their social and economic rights.

“Unfortunately, discrimination against persons with disabilities in BiH is still widespread,” said Alma Mujanović, president and co-founder of the Sign for a Word Association and a member of the Youth Advisory Group at the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina. “I say this as an MA student, as a citizen of this country, and as a deaf person fighting for her rights and the rights of all marginalized groups in BiH. Awareness of sign language is very low and therefore the information around us is not adapted to this group. That is why I actively advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities, for raising awareness of the sign language, as well as for the equal inclusion of persons with disabilities in society.”

The report was based on the first survey on discrimination conducted in BiH since 2011, which provides unique, up-to-date, and comparable insights into the attitudes towards, and forms and prevalence of discrimination in BiH. The survey also measured individual experiences with discrimination and attitudes towards others. Overall, the report showed a negative picture of the prevalence of discrimination in BiH, but some more positive indicators did surface: 77% of those queried supported the desegregation of schools, more than 72% have no problem to work with colleague with a serious disability, and almost 99% indicated they would not avoid those with a lower education than themselves.

“Some people say that Roma are ‘the people who live next to us’, but I would disagree with that,” said Dalibor Tanić, journalist, activist, and editor of the Roma portal “UDAR”. “We actually live with you and we are part of the identity of BiH and every other country we live in. Even though our existence in this region reaches far into the past, we remain the most discriminated minority community. Prejudices are much stronger than any success we achieve. The only way to change your attitude about us is to get to know us better and start looking at us as people who live with you.”

This OSCE Mission report showed that work is needed to ensure non-discrimination in BiH, for the benefit of all people in the country. The Mission’s continued work on combatting discrimination and promoting human rights has an important role to play going forward. The report provides a great basis to shape projects and programmes and develop fact based policies aimed at combatting discrimination.


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