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News 10 Mar 17

Far-Right Role in Domestic Abuse Law Alarms Croatia Feminists

The inclusion of conservative groups with no known experience in the issue of domestic violence in the working group for Croatia’s ratification of Council of Europe Convention on preventing domestic violence has angered activists.

Sven Milekic
Illustration. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Senado Federal

Women’s right activists expressed dissatisfaction with the Croatian government's decision to include right-wing activists in the working group for drafting the law on the Croatia’s ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women.

The Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy Ministry has now published the composition of the working group for drafting the law – which is expected this year – which includes different experts in the field.

However, it also includes a member of the ultra-conservative "In the Name of the Family" NGO, Ivan Munjin, as well as Ivan Prskalo, from the civic initiative Ordo Iuris.

Sanja Sarnavka, a veteran human rights expert with over 20 year's work on violence towards women, another member of the group, told BIRN that the two organisations had “never dealt with the issue of victims of violence to the best of my knowledge.

“When you look at their CVs, they are also quite young. Munjin started only in 2016 to deal with volunteers for his NGO, while Prskalo is a lawyer, but not human rights one, but working in some sort of a corporation,” she noted.

She said she was even more surprised that they were named to the working group without a public tender.

Sarnavka said that she was even more shocked that someone from an informal NGO like Ordo Iuris, with no visible expertise in the field, had been included.

She said it was unacceptable for individuals and organisations that oppose signing the Istanbul Convention to work on drafting the law for the ratification of the Convention.

Munjin, on the news site Narod.hr – connected to In the Name of the Family – wrote an opinion text in February in which he said the Convention would result in “a new sort of violence” towards women and victims of violence “by imposing gender ideology” on them.

His NGO played a role in triggering the referendum in 2o13, which effectively ended the possibility of introducing gay marriage in Croatia.

Ordo Iuris's branch in Poland opposes the Convention, due to its definitions of gender, while the position of its informal branch in Croatia is unknown.

But the conservative group was one of those that called on leftist Croatian theatre director Oliver Frljic to be banned from entering Poland, because his play, "The Curse", criticised the Catholic Church and late Pope John Paul II.

Prskalo was also a speaker at a panel that criticised gender ideology and sexual education in schools during Trafest 2016, a traditionalist conservative gathering held in the coastal city of Dubrovnik in October.

Minister Nada Murganic, on the "Otvoreno" TV show on Wednesday, defended the choice of members of the working group, saying it was politically “plural … because we wanted to include people of different orientations”.

But Sarnavka said the issue of violence against women and domestic violence should not be seen as an issue of political ideology, left or right, "but a non-ideological issue of expertise”.

She said other conservative associations and individuals that also deal with the issue might have been included instead.

Another member of the working group, Neva Tolle, from the Autonomous Safe House in Zagreb, which offers shelter and help to women and children victims of violence, told BIRN that she was also unpleasantly surprised.

“It’s highly unusual for the working group for drafting a proposal for ratification of the Istanbul Convention to contain people who publicly declare themselves as against the ratification,” she said.

Tolle said she was sceptical about what these two members could do to contribute, fearing that they may just “obstruct the process”.

Following BIRN’s inquiry to the ministry about the two members on Thursday, the Ministry replied by offering an official reply “at the beginning of next week”.

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