The Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe had a meeting in Belgrade today dedicated to the protection of equality and combating discrimination, violence against women and domestic violence.
The Committee meeting, chaired by MP Elvira Kovacs, was opened by National Assembly Speaker Maja Gojkovic, after which the Commissioner for Protection of Equality Brankica Jankovic presented the role of the Commissioner, priorities and state-of-play of equality and non-discrimination in Serbia.
Jankovic said that the Commissioner for Protection of Equality is the central institution for the protection of citizens against discrimination. She said that three years ago the Commissioner for Protection of Equality had initiated the establishment of a regional forum of equality bodies for a continuous fight against discrimination of all the citizens in the region. Saying that 10 years have passed since the adoption of the Anti-Discrimination Law, Jankovic added that the institution of Commissioner is especially dedicated to combating violence against women and domestic violence and the implementation of the Istanbul Convention. Jankovic said that in the coming period the Commissioner’s priorities will be to remove the barriers that cause discrimination, combat hate speech, work toward ensuring equality on the labour market and destroying prejudice and stereotypes of any kind.
Praising Serbia as one of the first countries to ratify the Istanbul Convention, the members of the PACE Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination proceeded to exchange views on violence against women and Serbia’s progress and challenges in the matter.
Committee member MP Dubravka Filipovski said that Serbia was one of the first 10 countries to ratify the Istanbul Convention, something the Women’s Parliamentary Network greatly contributed to. She presented the legislative framework and statistical data on violence against women in Serbia, adding that it is essential to keep working on the prevention of violence and the creation of a culture of non-violence in society.
State Secretary at the Ministry of the Interior Biljana Popovic Ivkovic and Tanja Ignjatovic of the Autonomous Women’s Centre also took part in the exchange. Popovic Ivkovic said that the Ministry of the Interior is taking the problem of violence against women very seriously. She said that the new legislation has made it possible for the police to take a new approach and enables the victims to stay in their environment which encourages them to report violence. The law also allows for violence to be reported anonymously and if the victims do not report violence because of fear, the people around them should do so. Popovic Ivkovic said that the number of reports is rising which means that the problem has become visible and told women that the state, society and the public are with them.
Tanja Ignjatovic of the Autonomous Women’s Centre briefed the Committee members on the regional project based on the Istanbul Convention, realized by 29 organizations from six Western Balkan countries. She presented the Autonomous Women’s Centre’s report on the implementation of the Istanbul Convention in Serbia concluding that a lot still has to be done to set up policies for the prevention of violence against women and domestic violence.
The members of the PACE Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination then moved on to the topic of women, peace and security – regional perspective. The members of the Sub-Committee on the Rights of Minorities will meet with the representatives of the institutions of AP Vojvodina and national minority councils in Novi Sad tomorrow to discuss the rights and protection of minorities.