Action Coalition on Gender-Based Violence launched in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Banja Luka, 3 December 2021 – The hybrid (online and offline) event “Together for a society free of sexual violence”, held today at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Republika Srpska marked the launch of the Action Coalition on Gender-Based Violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a part of the global Generation Equality campaign. The goal of this campaign is to achieve gender equality and create equal opportunities for all women and men.
The Action Coalition on Gender-Based Violence will work to coordinate efforts to end all forms of violence against women, all over the world. The focus of the Coalition in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) will be on addressing sexual violence and sexual harassment.
Opening remarks were provided by Tanja Slijepac on behalf of the Gender Center of Republika Srpska, followed by a reflection on the goals of this Action Coalition by Ingrid Macdonald, Resident Coordinator of UN in BiH. Keynote addresses providing an overview of the current situation and priorities in preventing sexual violence in BiH were provided by Samra Filipović Hadžiabdić, Director of the Agency for Gender Equality of BiH at the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees, and Fatima Bećirović, Project Coordinator at the Gender Center of the Federation of BiH.
“Sexual harassment, as a form of gender-based discrimination, is prohibited by the laws of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said Filipović-Hadžiabdić. “It is necessary to ensure all required support for survivors of sexual violence, in line with the standards set out by the Istanbul Convention. The issue of sexual violence demands taking a stand of zero tolerance to violence. Our joint goal is to create a society with zero tolerance to all forms of gender-based violence and to enable women to realize their full potential.”
The participants emphasized that it is imperative to recognize and condemn all forms of sexual violence and harassment and include all stakeholders in its elimination and prevention.
“At the beginning of the year, the 'Nisam tražila' [I did not ask for it] movement saw thousands of women make testimonies of personal experiences of sexual violence,” said David Saunders, UN Women Representative in BiH. “This Action Coalition will lobby for change with decision-makers at the highest levels, to ensure legislation criminalizes all forms of sexual violence; to address shortfalls in prosecution and ensure all perpetrators are held to account, and to provide quality protection services for all survivors in their communities and homes. Finally, we have to work on advancing prevention. Victim-blaming must stop and men and boys have to be involved in this process.”
Ambassadors of Sweden, Austria, the United Kingdom and the United States of America to BiH – Johanna Stromquist, Ulrike Hartmann, Matt Field and Eric Nelson – also sent video messages of support for the Action Coalition. The event was also streamed via Zoom and Facebook Live.
Local examples of institutional commitments to combat sexual violence and sexual harassment were showcased by Gorica Ivić from United Women of Banja Luka; Nevena Blagojević Podrić, Advisor at the Section for Social Affairs of the City of Banja Luka; and Darja Softić Kadenić, Minister of Justice for Canton Sarajevo.
Recognizing the fact that violence against women and girls in BiH, and cases of sexual violence and harassment revealed by the “Nisam tražila” movement, are severe violations of the human rights of women and girls that affect their general well-being and prevent them from full participation in society, the event participants signed the Declaration of the Action Coalition on Gender-Based Violence in BiH. This confirmed their dedication to upholding the highest standards in their efforts to eliminate violence against women. This mutual declaration is an open document that invites new signatories dedicated to the efforts to end sexual violence and harassment.
The event was organized by UN Women, with the support of Sweden, and in partnership with the Agency for Gender Equality of BiH, Gender Center of Republika Srpska, Gender Center of the Federation of BiH, World Health Organization and the United Nations system in BiH.
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