On 25 November, the OSCE launched a campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina and other countries across South-Eastern and Eastern Europe during the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence. The campaign aims to end the silence on violence against women (VAW) by informing the public about the alarming situation, raising awareness of the extent of the problem and offering solutions.
In December, 700 posters will be distributed to police stations across the country to raise awareness of violence against women and the role of police in combating it.
The campaign is based on key findings of the 2018 OSCE-led Survey on the Well-being and Safety of Women, for which more than 15,000 women were interviewed. It covered 7 OSCE participating States: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Moldova and Ukraine. The research was also conducted in Kosovo. Over 2,300 women in Bosnia and Herzegovina participated in the survey.
The Survey showed that violence affects women of all ages and from all parts of the country, regardless of personal circumstances. Two out of three women interviewed in Bosnia and Herzegovina consider violence against women to be common, and one in 4 think it is very common.
One out of four women in Bosnia and Herzegovina consider domestic violence to be a ‘private matter’ that should remain within the family. The OSCE report covering Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found here: https://www.osce.org/secretariat/423470
“According to the OSCE Survey, half of the women in BiH have experienced some form of violence since the age of 15, with only 15% of women reporting non-partner violence. Women in BiH are subject to alarming levels of gender-based violence which is simply unacceptable. Concrete steps must be taken to ensure the well-being and safety of women. Governments should allocate adequate funds to increase the awareness of and access to support services for survivors of violence against women and should ensure perpetrators are brought to justice. This must be a priority for all, regardless of where they work and what position they occupy” said Kathleen Kavalec, Head of the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Media have an important role to play in combating violence against women by informing the public about the issue and in particular, about the importance of reporting such cases. As the OSCE Survey revealed, only 3% of women interviewed in BiH reported the most serious incident of sexual harassment to the police and 51% of women did not talk to anyone about it. Shame, economic dependence, fear of retaliation by the perpetrator and distrust in institutions are the main barriers to reporting.
The impact of violence is serious and long lasting and the implications for the health and well-being of women are complex and widespread. Survivors are often left with feelings of fear, shock, embarrassment or anger. Around 3 in ten women suffered from long-lasting psychological conditions, such as feelings of vulnerability, depression, a loss of self-confidence and difficulty sleeping. Violence against women is a result of gender inequality, harmful norms and cultural beliefs. Violence against women is not a private matter.
It is of greatest importance that the relevant ministries and institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina , together with non-governmental organizations and the media, implement regular information and awareness-raising campaigns to change the perception of traditional gender roles and stereotypes and bring attention to the consequences of VAW on individuals and society. Promoting available victim support services and informing the public on how to prevent violence are extremely important. Preventive measures include: establishing zero tolerance practices, delivering adequate sentences for perpetrators, and engaging men and boys to speak out against VAW and girls.
We all can report and need to help empower women to report any case of violence to the police at 122.
Assistance is available for women who experienced violence through use of the free SOS Lines 1265 (FBiH) and 1264 (RS).