Necessary political will and decisive systematic response of the state to achieve gender equality

On the occasion upcoming 8 March – International Women’s Day – the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) warns of statistics that indicate a growing number of women who experience various forms of violence, which are not adequately followed by the reaction of the institutions regarding the tightening of sanctions.

In addition, images of sexist and misogynistic behaviour are present in private, public and online spheres, underpinned by gender stereotypes and patriarchal patterns, which persist and make it difficult to achieve gender equality. The CCE’s research on discrimination, hate speech, misogyny and other forms of digital violence, conducted in October 2022, with the support of the Canadian Embassy, indicates that there is a huge increase in the perception of discrimination against women compared to the previous waves of research from 2019 or 2016. Hence, nowadays, 64% of respondents believe that women are discriminated against in our society, while this percentage was 42% in 2016, or 34% in 2019. The deconstruction of gender stereotypes and prejudices is progressing very slowly, as indicated by the finding that half of the respondents believe that the most important role of a woman in society is to be a good wife and mother.

Furthermore, it is recognized that women engaged in public affairs are greatly exposed to public attacks and hate speech, and that this is more frequent than in the case of their male colleagues. Also, digital misogyny on social media and portals directly affects women’s freedom of expression, as it aims to silence and intimidate them, as we witness in the online space where women are positioned in third place as targets of hate speech, but also through examples of attacks on women who are holders of public offices, active in public and political life.

The priority needs to eradicate all forms of discrimination through legal protection mechanisms and to address deep-rooted behaviours that degrade and discriminate against women is also recognized in the EC’s latest report. Ignoring the obvious and unacceptable has also led to an increase in cases of gender-based violence. The murders of women who previously reported violence must be a topic to which decision-makers will pay due attention, primarily through the improvement of the system that must protect to women victims of violence.

Although gender equality in political life is one of the mechanisms for achieving general gender equality, there is still a significant difference in the participation of men and women at different levels of political decision-making. This is fostered by the position that men are still cited as better politicians, even though are underlined views that women are worthy of high positions. At the local elections, held in 2022, the never-sanctioned practice of violating the precise legal provision on the fulfilment of the minimum quota continued, and we have only one female candidate in the presidential elections.

The index of equality between women and men places Montenegro in 67th place among 190 countries included in the World Bank report, which focused on the impact of laws on women’s economic opportunities.

Montenegrin society is still far from achieving gender equality, for which political will and a decisive systemic response from the state are necessary – from the education system through teaching young people about the culture of respect for human rights, diversity and breaking down prejudices and gender stereotypes that are the basis of discrimination, to more effective action of the judiciary system whose series of inadequate reactions undermined trust in the possibility of protection and punishment of gender-based violence. Furthermore, it is necessary to work on a culture of dialogue, which includes arguments and tolerance for different opinions instead of distorted inherited patterns of behaviour and prejudices and demonstrations of primitivism.

As a sign of resistance to the continuous violation of women’s human rights, the CCE team will tomorrow join the 8 March marking of International Women’s Day through the march, which will be held in Podgorica, organized by the Center for Women’s Rights.

Maja Marinović, programme associate