18. ožujak, 2018

15 and 16 March 2018 – Regional Conference “Implementation of the Istanbul Convention of the Council of Europe – Challenges and Next Steps”

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The Agency for Gender Equality of BiH, the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees, under the project “Strengthening the Capacity of Institutions for Addressing Gender-Based Violence in BiH” organized a conference “Implementing the Istanbul Convention of the Council of Europe in BiH – Challenges and Further Steps”. The two-day conference, held on March 15 and 16, presented an analysis – mapping of the existing situation and analysis of established standards and practices within BiH for the protection and prevention of gender-based violence in BiH in relation to the obligations established by the ratified Istanbul Convention. The results of the research were presented by Dr. Džamna Vranić, Jasmina Mujezinović, Dr. Medina Mujić, Dr. Aida Pilav and Dr. Marina Hughson.

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On behalf of  the Bonaventure association, one of the focus groups was actively involved by our expert associate; dipl.iur.Aida Vrućak, who is also the author of this text.

After presenting the results of the research, the participants were divided into five focus groups, each of which had the task of defining the problems in meeting the obligations and standards in accordance with the Istanbul Convention and defining the priority objectives and measures for the implementation of this Convention. The first focus group was to harmonize the BiH legal framework with the Istanbul convection. The other group discussed standards of support and assistance to victims of gender-based and domestic violence. The third group analyzed the legal and institutional organization of the social protection sector, and the fourth group in the health sector. Finally, the fifth group had the task of analyzing how a data collection and analysis system could be established.

On the second day of the conference participants were addressed by the head of the UN Women office in BiH, Deputy Head of the Office of the Council of Europe for BiH, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Sweden to BiH and Head of Mission USAID in BiH. They emphasized the importance of the implementation of the Istanbul Convention and only the development of awareness of gender-based violence as a social rather than a private issue within the family, and stressed the need for cooperation between the civil sector and the state institutions. After that, representatives of Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro met with participants on the way, the challenges and the problems in implementing the Istanbul Convention confronting those states. Representative from the Pécs Secretariat for Health AP Vojvodina presented a very important project called Stop-Care-Cure, which is being implemented in Vojvodina since 2016 and is scheduled to last until 2019. The project implies the opening of crisis centers for victims of rape and sexual violence. There are 7 such Centers in Vojvodina. It is particularly important to educate health workers about how they should act in case victims seek medical assistance. Two guidelines were issued, ie the protocol on the treatment of health workers in rape cases. About 1000 health workers have gone through education, and the planned number is 1500.P

Focus group conclusions are presented. It was concluded that a systematic approach to implementation of the law, the need to build an efficient system, and the establishment of a co-ordinating body is needed, and it is concluded that it would be most efficient for the co-ordinating body to be a joint commission of both Houses of BiH Parliament. It was found that the necessary changes to the Family Law were found and that a judge who would have realized during the proceedings that a certain legal provision was not in accordance with the Constitution or did not contribute to the protection of human rights would have to suspend the proceedings and ask the Constitutional Court to plead with the presiding judge whether there is a specific norm in contradiction with the Constitution, whether it is discriminatory and whether it would violate human rights by applying such a norm. Such an approach, which is permitted under the applicable positive law, would allow for more effective protection of human rights, and avoid long-standing proceedings before higher instances, which may last for years, and would bring the case much faster before the Constitutional Court. It was also concluded that work with the perpetrators of violence is very important and for the purpose of working with the perpetrators of violence, it is necessary to establish standards for working with these persons and to carry out adequate training of the Mental Health Center personnel who would receive a certificate and only certified persons could carry out treatments with perpetrators of violence. It is necessary to establish minimum standards at BiH level, strengthen local community responsibility, and address the problem of accessibility to women living in rural areas, as well as to establish the possibility of financing institutions, in addition to institutions providing free legal aid to provide free legal aid victims of violence. It is necessary to unify legislation at all levels, as well as to include a victim of violence as one of the categories in social protection laws in those cantons in which they have not already done so as to increase the capacity and resources available to social work centers. Within the fourth focus group analyzed by the health sector, it was concluded that a standardized protocol on treatment in health care institutions should be established in cases of gender-based violence. Regular awareness-raising campaigns on this issue are needed, as well as education of health workers, including knowledge of relevant legal regulations. BiH’s special problem is that there is no statistical data that would allow us to see the real state of affairs. In this context, the focus group proposed to map and rank all the indicators, and to create a database in which all these indicators were recorded.

It was concluded that specific thematic conferences should be organized on certain issues as some issues are very complex. Given all the issues addressed at this conference, we hope that such conferences will continue to be a joint effort by the non-governmental and governmental sector to contribute to gender equality in BiH. We are glad that BONAVENTURA was part of this event and that we were able to contribute to addressing gender-based violence through focus group work.