As usual, public debates on important laws and strategic documents are opened during the summer, and the Ministry of Youth and Sports "kept us busy" us by commenting on the new Strategy Proposal for Youth in the Republic of Serbia for the period 2023 to 2030. The Autonomous Women's Center submitted 19 proposals for amendments and supplements to goals and measures, the largest number in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights and one number in the area of gender-based violence. A third of the proposals were accepted (12 out of 19), and only one was rejected.
The Autonomous Women's Center based its proposals and explanations on accepted international agreements, as well as domestic laws, strategies and regulations. The largest number of proposals was accepted (12 out of 19), partially accepted (6 out of 19) and only one was rejected.
The supplement of "sexual" or "sexual and reproductive" (health and rights) was accepted under Sub-goal 5 related to a healthy and safe environment for young people. Proposals related to Measure 5.1, which refer to sexual and reproductive health (HIV and other contagious and sexually transmitted diseases), were also accepted. Also, the introduction of a new indicator (7) within Special Objective 5: Created conditions for a healthy and safe environment and social well-being of young people was accepted. (The share of young people using modern contraceptives (disaggregated by sex), young people suffering from sexually transmitted diseases (disaggregated by sex) and the number of teenage pregnancies (under 16 and under 18). Proposals to classify/track certain indicators in relation to gender (e.g., mental health) were also accepted.
We can also consider as accepted two proposals that are marked as partially accepted, which refer to counseling programs on sexual and reproductive health for young people within the health system (Indicator 2 under Measure 5.1. (Number of LGUs that have available and free counseling services for youth in the field of health...).The intention of the AWC was to provide such a service in all health centers in Serbia, bearing in mind that it is currently provided in just over 20 LGUs, but the submitter of the Strategy was of the opinion that it is not necessary that the service be provided within the health system, but in cooperation with the health system, which is an absolutely correct proposal (it potentially represents an extension of the AWC proposal, but we still have to monitor the implementation of the measure).
The general proposal of AWC on target values was partially accepted. The Proponent of the Strategy stated in the explanation that the existing state of gender equality and available resources were taken into account (which is in accordance with the Law on the Planning System and the Regulation on the Methodology of Public Policy Management, Analysis of the Effects of Public Policies and Regulations). Agreement was expressed with the comment/proposal of the AWC that the differences between the sexes should be reduced more quickly and that setting high goals can encourage increased responsibility of all actors, so it was stated that they will once again review the target values.
The share of young people exposed to different types of violence, coupled with the proposal to count the violence experienced instead of the reported one (regardless of whether it was reported), was partially accepted (the part that includes the addition of sexual violence, along with physical and psychological violence), but it is not acceptable that the risk be evaluated regardless of the number of reports, with the explanation that the goal is to increase the number of persons who are empowered to report violence. Although this seems to be an acceptable rationale, it should be kept in mind that the empowerment to report violence must be accompanied by an improvement in the institutional response when it is reported, including the reduction of secondary victimization, as well as a serious investment in institutional resources (people, knowledge, responsibility, technology and time ), so that increased reporting would not be accompanied by the same or even lesser measures of investigations, charges and convictions (as is currently the case with reports of domestic violence, sexual harassment and stalking).
Supplement to Measure 5.1. (Support to programs that contribute to the development of healthy lifestyles), was accepted by adding provisions on reproductive and sexual health, but it was not singled out as a separate measure, which was the proposal of the AWC. The proposal to supplement the description of the situation regarding the risky sexual behavior of young people in Serbia was accepted. The proposal regarding the media literacy indicator was also partially accepted, with the explanation that it refers to "literacy in the broadest sense and no area should be specifically specified", and the AWC proposal emphasized stereotypical gender roles and gender-based violence.
In connection with Measure 5.2. and Indicators 2 and 3 it was proposed to specify what types of security problems/risks are concerned (because without this it will not be clear in which areas there has been improvement), but the proposer stated that "The Indicator refers to all types of security" (?). In connection with the second AWC comment on the same measure (that the target values are extremely low), the proposer replied that "The target values in both indicators have increased". However, it seems to us that this will not solve the problem of monitoring progress in security. Also, AWC proposed that in Measure 5.2. in Indicator 6, all types of gender-based violence be specified, in accordance with the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, and the proposer replied that "This classification of data is very difficult to obtain, especially since some types of violence overlap or the person is exposed to different types of violence...", but that in Measure 5.2. all forms of violence specified by the Convention were additionally specified.
Finally, the only proposal that was not accepted was that in Indicator 4 within Measure 5.1. the specification "prevention of risky sexual behavior and improvement of reproductive health" be supplemented with the explanation that this indicator includes "all projects aimed at young people at health risk and at young people from groups at risk of social exclusion", so it would also include projects related to suggested topics. It remains to be seen whether the reports on the implementation of this measure will classify the data according to topics and target groups.
All in all, the AWC's effort to improve the Proposed Strategy for Youth in the Republic of Serbia for the period 2023 to 2030 could be considered successful. Also, it has been noted that the proponent's explanations are quite correct (regardless of whether we agree with them), which is quite different compared to the experience with the explanations of other ministries on public policy documents commented on by the AWC in the previous period.
The AWC proposals can be seen HERE.
The report on the public debate on the Strategy Proposal can be seen HERE.