The Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia Maja Gojkovic opened the gathering on “Combating violence against older women” on occasion of the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, stressing that the Serbian Assembly has recognized the importance of the topic and wants to raise general awareness on the violence and neglect the elderly, as an especially vulnerable category, are faced with.
Gojkovic said that, though we speak more openly about violence these days, violence against the elderly is rarely discussed and the question is how much we know about the problem and how efficient the prevention and protection mechanisms are.
The Serbian Assembly Speaker said that population aging is a demographic trend of the 21st century which no country should neglect and according to projections by 2041 the elderly, especially women over 80, will make up more and more of our country’s population which is why it is important to start improving the quality of lives of the elderly today.
“As a society, we need to stand up to the stereotypes and prejudice that the elderly are weak, infirm and a burden to their environment. That is often the trigger for discrimination, abuse, neglect, even violence”, said Gojkovic
However, violence and discrimination trouble older women more than men and according to the research, done among others by Red Cross Serbia, conducted in 19 countries, older women said that they had been discriminated against in employment, healthcare, financial services, access to development programmes, property ownership and management as well as heritage, especially older women living alone, with disabilities or in rural areas.
“Violence against elderly women is present but hidden. For years, they suffer at the hands of their spouses, children or other family members, but they most often keep quiet and rarely report it”, said the Serbian Assembly Speaker, adding that the cause is most often fear, embarrassment and shame, fear of being judged by people around them and sometimes even because they do not know who to address.
Gojkovic said that to understand the depth of the problem we have to tackle mind-set still dominant in patriarchal and rural areas where women often wonder if they are to blame for the violence they suffered and men often feel they have the right to punish their wives if they are dissatisfied with their housekeeping or behaviour.
Gojkovic said that besides physical and psychological violence, there is also economic violence manifested in the fact that the husbands are the property owners and many women who had lost their jobs in the process of privatization find it more difficult to get new employment than their male counterparts.
“Combating violence, violence against the elderly included, can give results only through an efficient, comprehensive and systemic cooperation of all the institutions”, said Gojkovic, stressing that the Law on Prevention of Domestic Violence, which came into force in June 2017, is expected to contribute to a better and more efficient protection of the victims of domestic violence, among them the elderly as well.
Gojkovic said that women need to be educated about their rights and told unequivocally that violence needs to be reported, not be something to be ashamed of, and the National Assembly is ready to use its legislative power to help in the care of the elderly and their protection against violence.
“Together, our whole society – institutions, civil society organizations, the media, has to do more to spread a positive image of aging, the elderly’s enormous contributions to society and the role they have today, as well as to topple the prejudice about the role of women, especially in patriarchal environments”, said Gojkovic.