Thursday, August 17, 2017

After the complaint of the Autonomous Women's Center, the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, for the first time in Serbia, established multiple discrimination against a women with experience of domestic violence on the grounds of her personal characteristics - sex and nationality.

In the Commissioner’s opinion, who acted upon the complaint of the Autonomous Women's Center, it was stated that the experts working at the City Center for Social Work committed multiple discrimination against a women by refusing to record her report on domestic violence, despite the fact that they knew that "her former partner was convicted for domestic violence". Like the Commissioner, we remind that such non-compliance violates the applicable laws, regulations and protocols on the treatment of institutions in situations of violence against women.

It was found that discrimination was made on the grouds of her sex, because the experts working in the City Center for Social Work were guided by prejudices about the role of women, which is a violation of her rights. It is particularly important to point out that in the opinion of the Commissioner, discrimination based on nationality was also made, since it was found that the treatment of employees in this case indicated their stereotypical attitudes about the roles and behavior of Roma women, "the so-called customs and the lifestyle of the Roma population in which violence is viewed as something that is implicit."

"This is the first complaint on multiple discrimination in the situation of violence against women, although it is widely known that domestic violence differently and disproportionally affects women, and this is the most common reason why otherwise solid laws and procedures are not respected in practice. It is extremely important that discrimination on the grounds of nationality is confirmed, since the Roma women are ’particularly vulnerable’ and do not receive support from the institutions which suits their position and needs", says Tanja Ignjatovic from the Autonomous Women’s Centre. Therefore, we welcome the recommendations made by the Commissioner to the City Center for Social Work, and especially the one that requires that this institution makes a written apology to a woman from whom they refused to report the violence.

This case pointed to another 'invisible problem' in the centers for social work that implement the program of work with the perpetrators of violence. "There is a serious risk that professional workers of the custody authority find themselves in conflict of interest in two incompatible roles - the role of assessors and authorities who, ex officio, should provide protection against domestic violence and the protection of children's rights, and the role of the provider of services to the perpetrator of violence. There is insufficient and specific knowledge about the phenomenon and the gender nature of domestic violence. At the same time, widespread prejudices about women, in particular 'atypical' victims and women coming from 'vulnerable groups', increase the risk that employees in the Center for Social Work violate women's rights and unacceptably put themselves in the situation of protecting the perpetrator of violence", says Tanja Ignjatovic.

The Autonomous Women's Center reminds that the lack of trust in the statements of women is the most common reason why they do not report violence or that their applications are not considered with due care, which is the obligation of all state bodies.