Response to violence against women should be united

On the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of violence against women, Centre for Civic Education (CCE) joins the appeals to institutions to start working more efficiently on the suppression of violence against women – both through the prevention, and through the efficient sanctioning and provision of adequate and sustainable support resources for an alarmingly high number of victims in Montenegro. CCE condemns every form of violence against women, from domestic violence, which comes as a result of state’s inefficient reaction, by slurring the suffering of victims of violence, to its unwillingness to create the conditions to realise full equality of women in the society.

Violence against women is the most brutal form of violation of human rights of women, their dignity, personal integrity in both physical and emotional sense, with far-reaching consequences that affect their environment – most often their children, as well as family and friends. Mild punitive policies for violence against women encourage violence as an acceptable pattern of behaviour. Efficient fight against violence against women is one of the indicators of functioning of legal state, which will also serve as a benchmark of Montenegro’s ability to integrate in the European and global community, but also to realise the essential social development. Apart from the consistent application of law, this problem requires an intervention through the system of education, as well as the awareness on the inadmissibility of violence, understanding of importance of respect of right of women and concept of gender equality.

Latest research indicates that every third women in Montenegro experienced some form of violence in her lifetime, or that some are still suffering from violence. Only in last two years, four women were murdered by their partners or former partners, while newspaper columns were regularly filled with news of cases of violence. This highly alarming statistic is just a fraction of real-life dimension of violence against women in our society. Due to the still widespread perceptions that it is shameful to talk or report the violence, many cases remain unregistered, while the cry for help of many women is muffed by leaden silence, which fosters a false image of honour and respect of those Montenegrin families where violence is a commonplace. Women, who eventually stand up and report the violence they suffer, seldom face an inadequate reaction from the institutions, leaving them ridiculed, discouraged, further victimized, and finally bound to continue their life with the oppressor. Hence, we require further efforts in the education and raising the awareness among the professionals who work on prevention and prosecution of violence against women in order to provide full support to women and their efforts to step out of the circle of violence and continue with productive personal and social life.

Our colleagues from NGO sector, who have been hard working for years to improve the rights of women and their protection, through the provision of numerous support services, are now facing the challenge of their sustainability. Namely, the state failed to secure permanent and stable sources of financing of those services despite being obliged to them by legal decisions, strategies and adoption of international documents.

Montenegro is a signatory to the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention). It was the first legally-binding international document which provided a comprehensive support to women from violence and domestic violence. Provision of its immediate implementation in practice would be of great significance for problem-solving in the event of violence against women in our society.

Also, the representation of women in decision-making positions is at an extremely low level in Montenegro, while this issue is even not on the list of priorities of male – decision-making officials. Unless we open the decision-making process for the equal participation of women there will be no specific progress in the area of respect of right of women and change in the economic and social gender inequality which is in the core of gender violence.

Broader social context and citizens’ awareness warn that Montenegrin society is still highly authoritative and traditionalist, which is an additional burden on the path of faster progress and understanding of women’s rights. CCE’s research on the perception of discrimination in Montenegro, from February 2016, noted that 80% of citizens want to follow a strong and unwavering head of the state, while 72% of respondents claimed that the most important role of women in the society is to be a good wife and mother.

CCE will continue to combat violence against women through the informal programmes of education based on which we aim to influence and rectify deeply rooted gender stereotypes, prejudice and discriminatory attitudes in relation to women, as well as through the support to every initiative which increases the level of understanding of concept of gender equality and human rights in general, as basis for the prevention and reduction of violence against women.

Petar Đukanović, programme coordinator