On Tuesday, June 27, 2023, the Autonomous Women's Center (AWC) held an online expert meeting on The needs and rights of minor children and other family members after femicide. That is the second expert meeting intended for women's civil society organizations within the Strong Resistance Movement of women human rights defenders for protecting women victims/survivors of gender-based violence and their children project, funded by the European Union. Forty-six representatives of women's organizations from the countries of the Western Balkans and the European Union attended the meeting.
The lecturers, Lili Ben Ami, an activist from Israel, and Titti Carrano, a lawyer from Italy, shared a set of experiences from these two countries related to laws, advocacy, professional guidance, judicial practice, and support services for recognizing the rights and needs of minor children and other family members after femicide.
Lili Ben Ami spoke from the perspective of an activist but also a victim - the sister of Michal Sela, who was killed by her husband in 2019. After her sister's murder, Ben Ami founded a foundation that bears Michal's name and dedicated it to the fight against domestic violence through innovation and modern technology. This organization changes public policies through advocacy and proposes systemic, sustainable solutions to support vulnerable women and children. Thanks to the advocacy of the Michal Sela Forum, Israel passed a revolutionary law that ensures the automatic loss of custody for any person accused of spousal murder, attempted spousal murder, or child rape.
In Italy, the family perspective prevents recognizing violence against women and children. Risk assessment is not carried out in court proceedings, even though the Istanbul Convention requires it, and gender stereotypes cultivated by individual judges undermine their impartiality in several ways, shared Titti Carrano, an expert from Italy. She pointed out that despite some reasonable legal solutions in Italy, there is still a tendency to prioritize preserving the father-child relationship, regardless of violence. The law that entered into force in Italy on February 16, 2018, contains provisions aimed at economically dependent minor and adult children of victims of homicide committed by a spouse (even if separated or divorced) or a partner (even if the relationship is terminated). The law, however, does not recognize the gender component when it comes to victims and perpetrators of crime.
The prevailing impression of the expert meeting participants is that the legislation in Serbia does not follow the needs of the femicide victims’ family members and that the laws in Israel and Italy take the child's welfare into account much more. Several female participants from the organizations supporting victims pointed out that they needed to hear how other countries have solved the custody problem. They would like the laws to allow them to more effectively help minor children and other family members of women killed by their partners.
The Autonomous Women's Center (AWC) will continue to address this topic and call on representatives of women's organizations, as well as the institutions of the Republic of Serbia, to appropriately recognize the needs of femicide victims' family members, especially their minor children, and to become more actively involved in solving the problems they face.