The OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) called today for safety measures to be taken by governments in the country to protect women and children.
The results of the OSCE Survey on Well Being and Safety of Women in BiH showed that almost one in two women survived some form of abuse including intimate partner violence since the age of 15. In addition, 64% of women in BIH can be considered as conflict-affected, while the indicated prevalence of current partner violence is higher among those women whose current partner fought in a conflict that those whose partner did not. The Mission finds this data worrying in light of the current situation. Lockdown and self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic heighten the risk of gender-based violence. Women and children are the most susceptible to abuse and need increased protection in times like these and authorities are urged to ensure that they are kept safe from abusers.
In order to provide early warning and take proactive stance, the OSCE Mission to BiH is monitoring the situation with domestic violence and started collecting data on how responses to the COVID-19 pandemic influence the gender equality including gender-based violence.
The Mission urges all relevant institutions to respond swiftly and efficiently to cases of domestic violence abiding by the rule of law at all times.
There are different ways to reduce the risk of violence against women. Some would include, for example, information campaigns notifying the public that women’s shelters remain open during the coronavirus lockdown, allowing victims of domestic abuse to file a complaint, and providing new channels for women to report violence would also help reduce the risk. Law enforcement and prosecution should continue with their practice of affording victims’ access to emergency protection orders, especially during emergencies.
Kathleen Kavalec, Head of the OSCE Mission to BiH said: “The right of women and children to live free of violence at all times is essential. This is particularly required in times of families finding themselves in self-isolation. Swift actions should be taken to address their needs and undertake measures to provide adequate protection for them. We call for relevant authorities to address this problem in their public messaging, recognize that violence affects those who are heavily impacted by imposed measures such as elderly and children. They should be able to seek for help, and even encouraged to do so.” She stressed the importance of having access to information relevant to preventing and tackling the violence against women and children such as the online service: stopvawnow.org.
“The state of emergency is not an excuse for violence. We encourage men and boys to say Noto violence and keep themselves, their family and their community healthy and protected,” Kavalec said.
“Depending on the situation one lives in, some may feel anxious, crowded at home or isolated. Those under risk of domestic violence will have even harder time being locked in a place that is not safe for them especially without social contact,” said Elmaja Bavcic, Gender and Youth National Programme Officer at the OSCE Mission to BiH. She said that it is important to recognize such threats publicly and ensure victims are dully protected. “We all bear responsibility to prevent and protect those under risk of violence. We call all relevant institutions to review their messaging and ensure victims are able and encouraged to seek protection even during curfews”.
Survivors are encouraged to report domestic violence abuse. BiH has two SOS lines: both are free and active for calls. For advice on what to do, please call either 1265 for FBiH or 1264 for RS, to receive first instance psychological and social support. To report a violent act, please call the police at 122.