Numerous NGOs and activist groups from the Northern-Bosnian city of Banja Luka organised a protest march on Friday titled ‘In solidarity against institutional violence against women,’ on the occasion of March 8, the International Women’s Day.
After gathering in front of the National Theatre building, the group walked to the main city square – Trg Krajine, where they laid their signs in the shape of a heart, reading their Draft Proposal for the Law on the Protection against Family Violence in Bosnia’s Republika Srpska entity.
“Today’s message focuses on institutional violence that women face every time they decide to report violence,” Milica Pralica, from the activist group Ostra Nula, said. “The problem is that officers working in those institutions additionally discourage women and insult them with all sorts of questions.”
Those institutions often ask victims to make peace with their abusers, she said, which is why the protesters demanded that institutions start doing their job and work in accordance with the law.
The Udruzene Zene Foundation representative, Nada Golubovic, said that violence against women has always existed and it will continue to exist.
“But when we talk about violence and discrimination in the workplace, then women are the ones to report it more often, but they refuse further processing out of fear of being sacked,” Golubovic said.
The SOS hot-line in Banja Luka receives four to five phone calls from women every day, complaining of family and gender-based violence.
“If we applied all the laws, then the situation would have been much better. But we have a lacking penal policy, and family violence is treated as a criminal offence, or a misdemeanour and abusers always receive lesser penalties,” Golubovic noted.
This year’s march was the eighth in a row, and it was organised by the Ostra Nula group, youth centre KVART, Association of women with disabilities Nika, Udruzene Zene Foundation, BASOC, Centre for the environment, Gradjanke za Ustavne Promjene Initiative, and the Network for Building Peace.
Bosnia’s State officials also marked the Women’s Day, saying that the fight for equality remains a common commitment of all members of the society and that no society can be prosperous without successful women.
Bosnia’s Council of Ministers Chairman, Denis Zvizdic, said March 8 should serve as an incentive to everyone to continue working on improving the position of women in Bosnia.
“Bosnian women proved, many times over, that they are true bearers and creators of all positive family and social values and progress in the country. A society cannot be prosperous without successful women, and therefore we should do everything to support Bosnian women.”
Bosnia’s Presidency Chairman, Milorad Dodik, said that International Women’s Day is an opportunity to point to the need for improvement of the political, economic and social status of women and to appreciate their contribution to family and the society as a whole.