News 07 Sep 12

Bosnia Women Victims of Wartime Sexual Violence Supported

A regional conference on victims’ rights in Sarajevo agreed that is time to achieve justice for women victims of wartime sexual violence in terms of reparations and complete rehabilitation.

Denis Dzidic
Conference in Sarajevo                        Photo by Denis Dzidic

The conference organized by the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, and Bosnia's Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees, aimed to agree a programme for improvement of the status of women victims of wartime rape in Bosnia.

Saliha Djuderija, Assistant Minister for Human Rights and Refugees, said the goal was to set up a legal mechanism, which would be implemented across Bosnia, regulating all the rights to which women victims of sexual violence would be entitled, from healthcare to justice.

“We believe the situation has improved somewhat but when we look at the general position and needs of the victims, especially in the sense of re-socialization, rehabilitation and reparations, little has been done," Djuderija said.

The minister said inequality of laws regarding rights of victims of war between cantons and entities is a big problem, and it is essential to adopt less discriminatory mechanisms.

“As soon as you change place of residence in Bosnia and try to keep your rights it’s a problem, because your rights do not follow you across the country," the assistant minister noted.

"You cannot keep them if you travel from Republika Srpska to the Bosnian Federation. There is also a fundamental difference in the scope and quality of services that different cantons allow victims," Djuderija added.

Beside around 50 representatives of victims’ associations from Bosnia, the conference was also attended by guests from Serbia, Croatia, Kosovo and international women’s organizations.

A former victim of sexual violence in Bosnia and a member of the Association of Camp Detainees, Enisa Salcinovic, said that 20 years after the war ended, Bosnia finally had a “statewide system of aid.

"I am happy this aid program is being planned and it means a lot to us women victims of sexual crimes in war. The reparations that women will get will help improve the overall status of women,” Salcinovic said.

UNFPA's Director for Bosnia, Nuzhat Eshan, said she hoped that the exchange of experiences between countries in the region would lead to agreement on “the best solutions for the dignity and human rights of the victims”.

Madeleine Rees, General Secretary of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, said the only way for countries in the Balkans to become fully democratic is to improve the status of women, especially women victims of war.

The conference also highlighted the need to prosecute all pending sexual crimes cases and started an initiative to form a regional mechanism to bring together all NGOs working with women victims of war.

Jasmina Muric, member of the Serbian office for gender equality, supported the idea.

"I believe that regional initiatives will help us achieve justice, which is vital for us all to keep living together and move forward with European integration,” she said.

The conference took place in Hotel Bristol in Sarajevo on September 5 and 6.

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