Human rights NGO cancels cooperation with Banja Luka over mayor's statements


Helsinki Citizens' Assembly, a Banja Luka based NGO working on the promotion and protection of human rights, harshly criticized the mayor of this northern Bosnian city, Drasko Stanivukovic, accusing him of “contributing to the atmosphere of lynch towards the LGBT activists and journalists with his statements,” and announcing the end of participation in an ongoing city-funded campaign.

“The mayor's statements such as ‘Banja Luka will remain a fortress of the traditional patriarchal family values’ are, at the very least, shameful and therefore the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly is cancelling all previously announced activities within this campaign including the panel scheduled for today, march 20 at 18 hours at ‘Staklenac’, titled ‘Inspirational women – How equal we are?,” the association said.

The statement comes days after an incident in Banja Luka, when a group of hooligans attacked LGBTQ+ activists and journalists following the ban of an event organised by BH Pride Parade association.

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Stanivukovic and President of Republika Srpska entity Milorad Dodik expressed a strong opposition to the announced event, explaining that they cherish traditional values.

The incident sparked strong reactions of the foreign embassies and organisations as well as associations of journalists and other civil society associations.

Referring to the mayor's words, the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly stressed that patriarchate is a form of a social organization that is marked by full dominance of men over women, which is expressed through various social practices and customs.

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“Every fourth woman has personally experienced this domination, and such statements coming from the mayor can be understood as a justification of the violence that women suffer in their families,” the association added.

It also emphasised that both Bosnia's entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska, have various laws and regulations in force that protect women's rights to freedom of choice, expression and decision-making, as well as all other rights that are called into question by such statements.

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“Ultimately, not wanting to desecrate what was left to us as a legacy by numerous courageous and free-thinking women, our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers, we cancel our participation in the campaign ‘For the Life of Women’, which is carried out in a city that not only propagates retrograde values but is not even able to protect women and girls in public space, thus sending an image of Banja Luka as a conservative, closed and life-threatening place for all those who do not fit into the constructed image of traditional, patriarchal and family values,” the statement said.