Gender Discrimination Main Complaint to Ombudswoman

Total Croatia News

ZAGREB, April 8, 2018 – The largest number of complaints which the Gender Equality Ombudswoman received in 2017 concerned labour rights and employment as well as social security, and most reports were filed by women who complained about gender-based discrimination, the Office of Ombudswoman Višnja Ljubičić says in a report for 2017.

Of the 2,685 cases dealt with last year, as many as 66.7% referred to women, with 86.2% of the complaints being about gender-based discrimination.

The report notes a slight decrease in complaints regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation compared to the previous period, which, Ljubičić believes, shows that members of sexual and gender minorities should continue to be encouraged to more actively use available legal instruments of protection against discrimination.

Since the period of economic recession, most complaints have related to labour rights, employment and social security, accounting for 52% of all complaints, a 10% increase over 2016.

Ljubičić concludes in her report that the increase in the number of complaints reveals a growing interest of citizens in having state institutions deal with the violation of principles of gender equality and direct discrimination, with 23.9% of 426 processed cases having been brought to the Ombudswoman’s attention by members of the public.

In most cases, complaints were made by women, and the Ombudswoman is not surprised by this, saying that women account for 57% of the unemployed, are in the majority in sectors with below-average salaries, are the victims in most cases of sexual harassment in the workplace, and are underrepresented in senior positions in the business sector, accounting for 15% of management staff and 20% of staff on supervisory boards. They also do not have equal opportunities for promotion and have lower salaries than men, with the pay gap being around 11.3%.

In the field of work and employment, a woman’s age and motherhood are increasingly becoming an obstacle to their employment and promotion, while employers frequently use the expiry of a fixed-term employment contract as an excuse not to keep women on maternity leave.

Last year saw the continuation of negative demographic trends that have been present for the past few decades, with the number of newborns being the lowest in the last 100 years.

The Ombudswoman points to several trends that reflect the inequality of women on the labour market and contribute to negative demographic trends, and proposes measures to encourage fathers to exercise as much as possible the right to parental/paternity leave, which, she says, will, among other things, facilitate the return of new mothers to the labour market.

Even though a slight increase in the number of men taking paternal leave has been reported, from 4.42% to 4.47%, the report again shows that Croatia is the EU member country where men use the least paternal and parental benefits.

The Ombudswoman believes that measures enabling a better work-life balance are not being implemented sufficiently.

In the field of family relations and parental care, around 61% of complaints were filed by fathers who complained about the relevant institutions’ decisions on parental care while mothers who were victims of domestic violence complained about the lack of sensitivity on the part of professionals working with victims of domestic violence.

As regards cases of domestic violence, in 2017 women continued to be the most frequent victims of domestic violence. As for the gender structure of the offenders, 77% were men and 23% women, which is an identical percentage as in 2015 and 2016.

Of the total number of perpetrators of violence among related persons, 92% were men and 8% were women. Analyses of domestic violence cases reveal a growing trend of brutalisation with fatal outcomes, with 15 women having been killed by men close to them.

Ljubičić points to a worrying trend that shows that of all protective measures proposed by the police, the courts approved only 17%. Victims of domestic and partner violence still do not have adequate legal protection.

As for sexual and gender minorities, the Life Partnership Act which regulates same-sex relationships continued to be successfully enforced, the Ombudswoman says, proposing that hate-motivated crimes based on prejudice against homosexual citizens be prosecuted as crimes and not as offences, and that the system of gathering and processing information in court cases as well as the education of staff involved in such cases be improved.

In the field of education, action was taken in a number of cases that concerned the issue of gender equality in school books and other teaching material.

Positive changes were reported with regard to the promotion of integration of civics in primary and secondary schools and the introduction of content having to do with gender equality issues through that cross-curricular subject.

On the other hand, examples of gender stereotypes continued to come up in teaching materials, so the Ombudswoman sent the three largest school book publishers a letter with instructions to ensure respect for gender equality principles in the new edition of books for primary and secondary school students.

She notes that, based on an analysis of media content, one could not say that there has been a positive shift in the way media portray women, however, there has been an increase in critical thinking on the part of members of the public, who more and more report such inappropriate content, sexism and sexist statements.

The Ombudswoman also reports about sensationalism in media reports about violence against women and domestic violence, the use of gender stereotypes, degrading gender-based comments in cases of statements by public figures, and gender stereotypes and sexism in advertisements.

Promoting the principle of gender equality in political representation remains a major challenge. In the local elections of 2017, women were not a significantly underrepresented gender in terms of candidacies because of 47,601 candidates, 41.7% were women.

Despite their relatively good quantitative representation on candidates’ slates, other forms of inequality have remained. Women were the most represented in lower positions on slates, and only 15% headed the slates.

Regarding women’s reproductive health and rights, the Ombudswoman had contacted health institutions which generally responded positively to her recommendations and took action to ensure respect for all professional standards and ethical criteria.

She recommended consistent implementation of measures to guarantee comprehensive sexual education, provide women with access to family planning and a whole range of services concerning sexual and reproductive health, including modern methods of contraception and a safe and legal termination of pregnancy, as stated in decisions by the European Parliament and the Council of Europe.

The Ombudswoman also reacted to cases of discrimination against women in sports, and the complaints she received bore evidence of the subordinated status of women in sports.


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