Delegation of the European Union to Montenegro

Halacheva: The implementation of the Istanbul Convention is proceeding slowly and more needs to be done

20/03/2019 - 10:10
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Montenegro has made progress in the implementations of the Istanbul Convention - an international treaty on combating violence against women. However, this process is slow and more is needed in order to encourage women to report violence. This was concluded during the conference "Violence against women - the implementation of the Istanbul Convention and the resistance to retrograde processes" held in Podgorica.

The Head of the Political, European Integration and Trade Section at the EU Delegation to Montenegro, Plamena Halacheva, stated that combatting violence against women requires action, determination and a multi-disciplinary approach. It is a matter of education, legislation, persuasion, and positive examples of empowered women who managed to say 'no' to violence.

“For me, the first step towards empowerment is the recognition that women are not a ‘vulnerable group.’ This is a term I have been hearing often since my arrival in Montenegro, which I feel only exacerbates stereotypes and inequalities. There are 3.8 billion women on this planet – this is not a vulnerable group. Violence against women is thus not a phenomenon affecting an isolated group, but rather a threat to the security of half of the world population and the running of the global economy,” Halacheva said.

The EU commended Montenegro for aligning its Criminal Code with the Istanbul Convention and noted the significantly higher number of criminal complaints on gender-based violence in 2018, which, as Halacheva emphasised, could signal an increased confidence among victims to report this type of offence.

“However, we noted that the implementation of the Convention is proceeding slowly and more needs to be done to ensure effective victim support services, and better and more accessible legal aid. Measures to counter stereotypes and discriminatory practices, sex-selective abortions, as well as trafficking and exploitation of prostitution are needed to create and enable a suitable environment for women’s political participation, education and economic empowerment,” Halacheva concluded.

A recent study conducted by the UNDP and financed by the EU shows that one  in two or every other woman in Montenegro has been a victim of violence at some point in her lifetime, and one in five women suffered violence during the previous year. The UN Resident Coordinator in Montenegro, Fiona McCluney, stressed that violence destroys families,  deteriorates  one’s health and wellbeing, and ultimately is a significant financial cost - as much as 6% of the Montenegro`s annual GDP.

“A number of solutions are here, in our hands, and the only thing that is needed is the political will to put an end to the lack of accountability for non-performance and to tolerating violence against women. We need to tackle the power imbalance between women and men, traditionally assigned gender roles, and the discrimination women face on an everyday basis because of this. In addition, we need to improve the legislation, but also the health, justice, police and social services’ response to violence, and empower women to be economically independent.  And on the top of it, we need to ensure adequate sanctioning of perpetrators and the protection of victims,” McCluney said.

The Justice Minister, Zoran Pazin, said that the Montenegrin legislation is largely in line with the Istanbul Convention. The protection of women increased by introducing new criminal offenses and more severe punishments for domestic violence.

"Regardless of what has been achieved, we can and must do more in this area. However, we must be aware that violence against women cannot be completely eradicated only by laws and penalties. It is necessary that the entire society and all of us as individuals, both publicly and privately, raise our voice against violence against women and send a clear message that it cannot, and will not, be tolerated in Montenegro, " said Pažin.

The Istanbul Convention Conference was organised as a partner initiative of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Women's Political Network, and the Gender Equality Programme implemented by the UNDP and the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights, with the support of the Delegation of the European Union.

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