Discrimination

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Praxis Points at Deficiencies of the Proposal of Law on Equality of Women and Men

At the session held on 2 February 2016, the Government of the Republic of Serbia adopted the Proposal of the Law on Equality of Women and Men (hereinafter: Proposal). Praxis supports the adoption of the Law that establishes systemic assumptions of the achievement of constitutional principle of equality of women and men and policy of equal opportunities in social and private life more comprehensively and consistently than the Law on Gender Equality.

However, we suggest the legislator should consider the solution proposed by the Article 13, Paragraph 1, Item 2, which establishes the obligation of the public authorities performing the works in the area of health and social protection to “organize and implement programmes for overcoming the problems of early pregnancies and intimate cohabitation where at least one person is younger than 16 years of age”.

Specifically, the proposed solution is disputable both in terms of terminology and concept. By opting for the terms “early pregnancy” and “intimate cohabitation” and by setting the age limit below 16 years of age, the Republic of Serbia, deviates, to some extent, from the ratified international standards and undermines the internal consistency of the legal and political framework of the regulation of all specific life situations. The Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, as well as by the UN expert bodies, as well as the Human Rights Council, as a special intergovernmental body of the United Nations, in its regular annual reports and general recommendations for the interpretation of the most important international treaties, formal or informal relationship of two persons of whom at least one is still a child, and is younger than 18 years of age, define as early (child) marriage. On the other hand, the National Strategy for Gender Equality for the period from 2016-2020 with the Action Plan for the period from 2016-2018 (“The Official Gazette of RS", No. 4/16) draws special attention to the problems of early marriages and adolescent pregnancies and childbirths.  The National Strategy for Gender Equality points out that in the general population there is 1.4% of women who have given birth before the age of 18, while as many as 38.8% of women from Roma settlements first had a child before the legal limit of the age of majority. Therefore, in order to comply with the defined international standards and ensuring of uniformity and consistency in the internal legal order, it would be advisable to replace the proposed terms "early pregnancy" and "intimate cohabitation" by the terms "teen pregnancy" and "early and child marriages" and set the age of their defining at 18 years, due to the fact that this is also the age of majority in our legal system.

In addition, having in mind early and child marriages, and consequently teen pregnancy as a frequent accompanying phenomenon, are dominantly perceived as a mark of tradition and culture of certain national minorities, primarily Roma national minority, it would be advisable within the considered Article 13 to add a new paragraph  that would explicitly indicate that culture, customs, religion, tradition or so-called “honour” could not be considered as  justification of these practices, as it is envisaged by the Article 5, Paragraph 12 of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (The Law on the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, „The Official Gazette of RS“, number 12/13), which came into force on 1 August 2014.

Also, we express concern over the failure of the submitter of the motion in the Article 26, Item 2, to recognize women and men of different sexual orientation and gender identity as especially vulnerable categories of survivors of domestic violence. Specifically, the above-stated article standardized the services of support and assistance to survivors of domestic violence (SOS phones, shelters for survivors of domestic violence, specialized psychological counselling, and support for persons who suffered sexual violence, programs for perpetrators of violence). The failure of the submitter to recognize women and men of different sexual orientation and gender identity as especially vulnerable categories of survivors of violence undermines the availability and effectiveness of protection against violence of the members of these marginalized social groups, especially given that the Strategy for Prevention and Protection against Discrimination (“The Official Gazette of RS”, number 60/13), and the National Strategy for Gender Equality for the period from 2016 to 2020 recognize men and women of different sexual orientation and gender identity as multiply discriminated categories of the population towards whom there is the greatest degree of social distance and who are facing an increased risk of violence.

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Praxis means action
Praxis means action
Praxis means action
Praxis means action