“Femicide, sexual harassment, period poverty and political participation of women are topics that dominated the public sphere in 2021, however, the rights of gender minorities were insufficiently discussed”, Ombudswoman Višnja Ljubičić says.
Still without response to violence among persons close to one another
“Over the past seven years there has been an increase in cases of domestic violence reported as crimes and a drop in the number of such cases reported as misdemeanors, both before and during the coronavirus pandemic, with 2020 seeing a 27% rise in the number of cases of domestic violence reported as crimes”, Ljubičić said.
“This was certainly also due to the pandemic, and such trends were recorded across the EU”, she said.
2021 saw a slowing down in the growth of criminal acts, which is still not insignificant and stands at 12%. The number of femicide cases dropped as well, but the share of women killed by persons close to them rose.
State institutions still lack a response with which to address the causes of gender-based domestic and general violence, including violence against women, she warned.
The increase in the number of crimes and the decline in the number of femicide cases is definitely owing to increased efforts police have been investing in recent years in raising awareness and educating staff about the problem.
Stricter legislative and practical definition of domestic and gender-based violence has possibly helped reduce the number of murder cases but that will be possible to determine with certainty in the future, she said.
Civic initiatives encourage victims to testify
Ljubičić warned that in 2021 there were 100 complaints of sexual harassment, a four-fold increase from the year before, which, she said, is owing to civic initiatives that provided the victims with a public platform to present their testimonies.
An increase in reports of sexual harassment was also recorded by the Ministry of the Interior, having registered 98 such reports, with 85 of the victims being women and 13 men, she said, noting that women were more frequently victims of gender-based violence, notably sexual.
Pay gap smaller, however, not owing to policies but pandemic
According to statistics on gross pay by gender, in 2020 and 2021 the pay gap between men and women decreased.
Standing at 13% in 2019, the pay gap almost halved in 2020, to 6.9% and went up mildly to 7% in 2021.
An analysis leads to the conclusion that the reduction of the pay gap cannot be attributed to an affirmative and planned economic policy but rather to the consequences of the pandemic on the labour market, with an increase in the share of work from home and a decrease in the number of days spent on sick leave to care for a family member, Ljubičić said.
Still no election gender quotas
Last year was marked by local elections and even though the share of women in local and regional government bodies grew by 2.9%, there is still no true implementation of gender quotas, with the 27% share of women in those bodies being still far below the legally prescribed 40%, the ombudswoman warned, noting that last year’s local elections were the second local elections at which fines were applied for proposers of slates not complying with the gender quota.
Ljubičić called on political parties to encourage equal participation of women in party structures and at all levels, and on prosecutorial authorities to consistently file misdemeanor charges against those not complying with the principle of equality. She urged local authorities to sign the European charter on gender equality at the local level and adopt an action plan.
Significant increase in hate crimes against LGBT community
In 2021 a significant increase in hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity was registered, and for the first time in ten years the Pride parade in Zagreb was marked by a number of verbal and physical assaults on its participants.
Of a total of 101 crimes motivated by hate, 13 were motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation and one by their gender identity, an increase of 75% from 2020 and of 133% from 2019.
The number of misdemeanors motivated by prejudice or hate based on sexual orientation was 315.
Asked if the significant increase could be also due to intolerant statements by politicians that could be heard often in the election campaign, Ljubičić said that inappropriate statements by politicians and other public figures can contribute to a rise in homophobia and intolerance.
Combined with the lack of systematic civic education at all levels of the education system, this can result in the demonstration of open aggression towards members of gender and sexual minorities, she said.
The ombudswoman also noted that one of the problems that was not being given adequate attention was the complex procedure of acquiring the right and access to medical services for gender minorities.
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