ZAGREB, March 16, 2019 – Protesters who rallied in Zagreb on Saturday to show solidarity with victims of violence said “Croatia needs zero tolerance to violence” and read out the demands they will put to the government on Monday.
Several hundred protesters rallied in King Tomislav Square, carrying banners with messages against domestic violence – “Love doesn’t hurt”, “Violence is not a family matter”, “Let’s not give in”, “We are all responsible”, “A crime, not a misdemeanour”, “Zero tolerance”, “I’m a victim of domestic violence too”, “The victim is never to blame”, “Brave people” and “Actions speaker louder than words”.
Protesters said domestic violence was on the rise, with 145 such crimes reported in 2015, 330 in 2016, of which 279 against women, and 552 in 2017, including 464 against women. They said that in 90% of the cases domestic violence was tried as a misdemeanour, including 16,000 such cases in 2015, 13,000 in 2016 and 12,000 in 2017.
Protesters said 91 women were killed in Croatia over the past five years, accounting for 47% of all murders. In 70% of the cases, the murderer was a person close to the victim and in over a half they were their partners.
The organisers of today’s #SaveMe protest demand the immediate enforcement of all measures necessary to reduce violence, notably in the family, to improve the work of institutions and the legal framework, and to raise public awareness.
They called on the authorities to take a more serious approach to domestic violence, to improve regulations and to stop treating victims and perpetrators equally. They demand better cooperation between prosecutors, the police and welfare centres, as well as protecting the dignity and safety of victims during legal proceedings.
Furthermore, they demand additional training for professionals working with victims of violence and more money for associations working on the protection of victims.
Today’s protest was prompted by a recent case in which a father threw his four children from a balcony on the island of Pag. Protests were also held in Dubrovnik, Šibenik and Split.
Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Saturday took part in a Zagreb protest for stronger protection of victims of domestic violence, saying violence should be treated as a crime and that punishment should be stricter as that was the only way “to reduce this phenomenon, which is really big in society.”
Speaking to reporters at the #SaveMe rally, Plenković said he did not consider it a protest but an initiative he supported.
He recalled that on March 8 last year he announced the ratification of the Istanbul Convention and that his main arguments in its favour had been very similar to those heard at today’s rally.
Plenković said domestic violence was an everyday phenomenon happening to many women and children, “which is the first true problem of the tissue of our society.” He reiterated the five main messages he made in parliament ahead of the ratification of the Istanbul Convention last year to show that the government was applying European mechanisms in the prevention of domestic violence and victim protection.
The goals are stronger prevention, stricter punishment for perpetrators, greater support and care for victims, strengthening all the institutions involved in this issue, and raising public awareness, Plenković said.
He said he had tasked Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković with drawing up amendments to the Penal Code to increase punishment and to make sure the police, whenever possible, qualified violence as a crime and not a misdemeanour.
Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy Minister Nada Murganić will continue to work on improving the implementation of the national strategy for protection from domestic violence, including by increasing funding for hotlines and safe houses, Plenković said.
He said he and his ministers would meet with representatives of the #SaveMe initiative on Monday and ask that civil society organisations and NGOs continue contributing to dealing with this problem. He said he had come today as prime minister as well as a citizen concerned for victims of violence, and that it was good that individuals, groups of citizens and the government worked on the problem together.
Asked when the Penal Code could be amended, Plenković said the amendments would not be extensive, applying to only several articles, and that “it could be done by the summer recess.”
He said it was necessary to raise awareness among judges with regard to domestic violence and to prioritise the prosecution of such crimes by better organising the work of courts, with the support of the Justice Ministry.
Asked if the public could expect his cabinet to do everything to prevent and reduce violence, Plenković said they were doing their best and that domestic violence did not start yesterday and would not stop tomorrow as it was facilitated by new technologies. “It’s time we all make a step forward together, fully aware that we are doing something good.”
Asked to comment on the criticisms of Minister Murganić, notably regarding her statements about domestic violence, and the fact that one of the demands at today’s protest was her resignation, Plenković said he had not heard this demand and that the minister had apologised for the statements.
He said Murganić’s job, dealing with welfare, families, demography and youth, was “demanding” and that “she is doing a very good job, resolving problems and giving her all.”
As for criticisms that Murganić’s department was understaffed, Plenković said salaries were raised at her initiative and that, as of July, more money were set aside from the national budget and the European Social Fund.
More news about the issue of domestic violence can be found in the Politics section.