Ending violence against women

SOS phone ringing at the Belgrade main square. Photo: Mondo/Goran Sivacki
Photo: Mondo/Goran Sivacki

Half of all women in Serbia have suffered some form of violence. Prevention, protection, prosecution and referral mechanisms on domestic and other violence against women in Serbia are inadequate despite the adoption of general and specialized protocols and the 2017 Law on Prevention of Domestic Violence.

In the past 10 years alone, more than 300 women in Serbia have been killed as a result of gender-based violence.

UN Women in Action in Serbia

UN Women assists the Government of Serbia to implement the global norms and standards enshrined in its international commitments, most notably the CEDAW Committee Recommendations and the Istanbul Convention of the Council of Europe.

In 2017, UN Women launched the EU-supported regional programme Implementing norms, changing minds, and agreed on specific initiatives in Serbia. Anchored in the CEDAW and the Istanbul Convention, the Programme aligns with EU accession standards. Fostering partnerships with women’s organizations and with a focus on the most disadvantaged women, the Programme aims to end gender-based discrimination and violence against women in the Western Balkans and Turkey.

In 2020, the Programme expanded to include implementing, monitoring, and advocating for the integration of the Law on Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW) into policies that address COVID-19’s impact across the region.

In Serbia, the Implementing Norms Programme will:

  • Strengthen women's voice and agency to advocate for the development and implementation of laws and policies in line with CEDAW and the Istanbul Convention;
  • Promote social norms to prevent gender discrimination and violence against women;
  • Improve police and service providers’ capacities to ensure that quality services for women subject to violence are accessible and available;
  • Improve the quality standards for shelters based on a gendered understanding of violence against women;
  • Build service providers’ digital skills so they can use online applications to deliver SOS and psychosocial support;
  • Increase free legal aid services professional staff and their capacities;
  • Develop protocols for femicide review, internal state investigations for state institutions, and service provider responses to violence against women;
  • Support relevant groups to develop individual safety plans for survivors of violence;
  • Provide economic reintegration opportunities for Roma women survivors of violence.

Since 2019, UN Women Serbia, in partnership with the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia, the Commissioner of Protection of Equality and women CSOs, is implementing the Improved Safety of Women in Serbia project. Funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the project has a long-term goal for women and girls in Serbia to live free from gender-stereotypes and violence.

Under this initiative, UN Women Serbia, the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia, and the Commissioner for Protection of Equality work with government institutions and CSOs to advocate for ending violence and to increase awareness of the causes and consequences of violence. The project promotes changing norms to advance gender equality and women’s rights, with particular emphasis on women living in rural areas.

The project focuses on increasing knowledge and capacities of police officers, justice sector professionals, and Member of Parliaments so they are aware of the latest means – such as electronic bracelets that alert domestic abuse victims if their attacker is nearby –  to protect victims against perpetrators of violence.

Violence against rural women is under-reported. Social norms often prevent women from obtaining information on protection. In cooperation with the Commissioner for Protection of Equality, the project supports outreach activities that inform rural women of and give them access to mechanisms that protect them from violence and gender-based discrimination.

The project also trains journalists in avoiding gender-stereotyping in reporting about violence against women and girls and femicide, and develops guidelines and recommendations for ethical and non-discriminative reporting about such violence.

UN Women, with UNDP, UNFPA and UNICEF, also carry out the joint UN project, Integrated Response to Violence against Women and Girls in Serbia, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). It focuses on improving responses to violence and ensuring safety and services for survivors of violence. To tackle this complex issue, the project activities include engagement with government, NGOs, media and the social, judicial, police, education, and health sectors.

Within this project, UN Women is working to increase knowledge and sensitivity of relevant professionals and improve the support services and protection of women in vulnerable groups, and victims of sexual violence in Vojvodina.