Violence against women and domestic violence in relation to the Istanbul Convention

AuthorKrstic, Ivana
10 Violence against women and domestic violence in relation to the Istanbul
10.1 General (legal) context
10.1.1 Surveys and reports on issues of violence against women and domestic violence
In 2018, the OSCE conducted a survey on the Well-being and Safety of Women in
Serbia.197 It included a quantitative and qualitative component, covering 15 expert
interviews; a survey of a representative sample of 2 023 women aged 18-74 living in
Serbia; 8 focus groups with women from various backgrounds; as well as 4 in-depth
interviews with women on the violence they have experienced. The survey on a
representative sample revealed a number of trends and findings about the prevalence of
violence against women (VAW) in Serbia, confirming that it is a significant concern. More
than a quarter of interviewed women personally know someone who has been subjected
to VAW. Twenty-two per cent of women surveyed said that they had experienced physical
or sexual violence by their partner or non-partner since the age of 15, and 18 % of women
by their ex-partner. Ten per cent of women with current partners said they had
experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of their current partner. Very few
women who have experienced violence have reported it to the police. Three out of ten
women believe domestic violence is a private matter and nearly a quarter hold the victim
responsible or believe that they exaggerate claims of abuse or rape. They are also
prevented from reporting due to feelings of shame, and fear or mistrust of the police,
social workers and healthcare professionals, caused by the perceived stereotypes among
representatives of these professions. In addition to shame, and mistrust of services,
economic dependence and fear of retaliation by the perpetrator and the main barriers to
The survey showed that women of all ages, from each income group and in all parts of the
country are exposed to VAW. Many women surveyed have heard of services to help
affected women (73 %) but few women have accessed those services and only in cases of
the most serious incidence of physical and/or sexual violence. Only 3 % contacted a
women’s shelter and 1 % a victim support organisation. The survey revealed that
numerous barriers prevent women from accessing services. Particularly in rural areas,
support services are simply not available, while other women face physical barriers to
access or lack long-term and practical support with respect to housing and money. Where
support services exist, they are insufficient, and their consistency and quality need to be
improved. The key experts, who were interviewed for this study, shared that there is a
need for pluralism in service provision and advocated for partnership between the State
and civil society organisations.
The expert interviews also identified some gaps concerning data collection on VAW and
underlined the importance of the planned development and implementation of one unique
database. They also referred to the insufficient protection of victims during court
proceedings, and the need to improve training for professionals. There are four main
conclusions that derive from this survey: 1. Cultural norms and attitudes contribute to
gender inequality and violence against women; 2. Violence against women is
underreported; 3. The provision of services needs to be improved, including multi-sectorial
cooperation; 4. There are gaps in the implementation of legislation and in data collection.
In July 2018, Serbia submitted its first report to the GREVIO (Group of Experts on Action
against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence),198 which contains a lot of
197 Survey on the Well-being and Safety of Women in Serbia, OSCE-Led survey, 5 July 2019,
198 Comments submitted by Serbia on GREVIO's final report on the implementation of the Council of Europe
Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (baseline Report),
received by GREVIO on 3 July 2018 GREVIO/Inf (2018) 9, 40-41,

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