Thursday, May 23, 2019

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Unwanted physical contact, touching and getting into a woman/girl’s face or men masturbating in public, as the most explicit types of sexual harassment, have been experienced by every third girl in Serbia. The most common type of sexual harassment that every second girl in Serbia has experienced, is wolf-whistling, sending kisses and lip licking.

These are some of the findings of the research of the Autonomous Women’s Center (AWC) – “Young people and the experience of sexual harassment”[1], that provides insight into how widespread sexual harassment against young women and men is and their awareness about this phenomenon. According to the results of this research, almost 80% of young women and men have experienced some type of sexual harassment.

“Girls are significantly more exposed to various types of sexual harassment than boys and more of them recognize these types of behavior as sexual harassment. The research has also shown that young people often can’t name the types of behavior that belong to the category of sexual harassment”, says Sanja Pavlovic from AWC. The initiative that this organization is starting, together with other women’s organizations from Serbia under the slogan “I demand to be PROTECTED from sexual harassment” aims to encourage public discussion about society’s tolerance regarding various types of sexual harassment, and especially to encourage promotion of protection of students at universities from this type of violence.

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The most common type of sexual harassment in Serbia is “cat-calling”. Inappropriate nick-names such as “doll”, “honey” etc. are experienced by as many as 8 in 10 girls. On the other hand, only 1 in 10 boys will experience being called by similar inappropriate nick-names. Every other girl and every sixth boy has experienced being sent air kisses, wolf-whistling and lip licking. Unwanted text messages and phone calls with sexual content have been received by 6 in 10 girls and 3 in 10 boys.

Regarding awareness on and recognition of behavior that constituted sexual harassment, 95% of respondents stated “unwanted touching, unwanted physical contact”, 90% “unwanted phone calls and text messages with sexual content”, 84% “sending air-kisses, lip-licking, wolf-whistling”, 53% “calling by inappropriate nick names”.

“These and similar types of behavior have only last year in Serbia been qualified as a criminal offence, punishable by law by a fine or prison confinement for up to 6 months. It is exceptionally important to know that women and girls react differently to these types of sexual violence, but also that all actions with sexual connotation that make us feel humiliated or scared are, in fact, an act of crime”, Sanja Pavlovic adds.

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The “PROTECTED” action is a part of prevention activities that AWC and other women’s organizations have been conducting for the past three years, with the aim of decreasing tolerance for gender-based violence among young people.

If you want to know more about the types of sexual harassment or the campaign itself, visit our page “Protected”.


[1] The research “Young people and the experience of sexual harassment” is a field research that involving 602 young women and men respondents (18-30 years old) in Belgrade, Novi Sad and Nis, conducted by Ninamedia agency, for AWC, in June 2018.