Numbers Speak

Violence Against Women in Serbia

The number of reported cases of violence against women is increasing. In 2016 the number of reports was 24 percent higher compared to 2015, which is as much as 57.8 percent higher compared to 2014. The Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence is being successfully enforced, but there is uncertainty in terms of effects on the protection of women and other victims.  According to the statistical data, women are most likely to be injured, raped or murdered by men they know and whom they often love.

Violence against women is a widespread phenomenon. Still, findings of different researches are difficult to compare due to many differences in the methodologies used. Women are most likely to be injured, raped or murdered by men they know and whom they often love. Foreign research data show that 13 – 61% of women suffer or had suffered physical violence, 6 - 59% sexual violence, and the prevalence rate of the psychological and emotional violence is 20 – 75%. In cases of violence against women with a deadly outcome, in 40 – 70% the perpetrators were intimate partners (which sharply contrasts with male homicide rate of 4 – 9 %).

There are also significant differences in the data related to Europe, which show that at least 20 to 25% of women experienced physical violence by their partners; over 10% of women experienced sexual violence with the use of force; and between 19 and 42% of women were victims of psychological abuse. Considering all forms of violence (including persecution), over 45% of women have had such an experience at some point. A research conducted in the EU countries (using a unified methodology) shows that every third woman over the age of 15 had experienced physical and/or sexual violence, most often by their partners.

In Serbia, most available data concern violence against women in partnership and family context. Research data obtained over different time periods, on different samples and using various methodologies show similarities and a consistent prevalence of violence against women. Almost every other woman (46.1%) had experienced at some point in life some type of violence, and every third woman (30.6%) was physically assaulted by a family member, and at least 6% experienced sexual violence. A research conducted in Vojvodina has confirmed these findings, and contributed information on the exposure of women to the threats of violence (27%), economic violence (11.4%), persecution (18.6%) and sexual violence (9%). A sample research carried out in Central Serbia has shown that in the past year 37.5% of women were exposed to some sort of domestic violence, and as much as 54.2% were exposed to it at some point in life. Differences in terms of regional dispersion of violence against women have also been observed (with the highest rate recorded in Belgrade), which stem from differences in the readiness to reveal the experiences of violence.

Based on the data available from media reports, there is a high rate of female homicide victims  in partnership and family setting, without any adequate social response.

A uniform administrative system of records of violence against women (all types of violence) and violence within family has not yet been established in Serbia. However, records kept by state authorities confirm the gender background  and frequency of the phenomena.

Each year centers for social work in Serbia  record an increasing number of domestic violence reports (Chart 2). This increase is a consequence of a greater willingness to bring violence out into the open and better exchange of information between public services (50% of all reports come from the police department). Although reports do not fully reveal the gender aspect of the phenomena, in the category of adult victims of domestic violence, women account for 81% of the cases (2016). Centers for social work most often register physical violence (47%), followed by psychological abuse (33%) and rarely sexual violence (1%), also without gender qualifications. In addition, despite citing children’s testimonies on domestic violence (most often violence against the mother) the data does not make it possible to determine the scope of overlapping between these phenomena.

The Ministry of Interior does not reveal publically the number of reports of violence or other forms of violence against women, or the number of initiated misdemeanor or criminal proceedings.

The statistical bulletins of the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia on perpetrators of criminal offences contain data on the number of criminal charges, complaints and judgments against adults, which confirm that most common perpetrators of domestic violence and sexual offenses are men, that they are most often perpetrators of serious crimes, and that these numbers are on a constant rise (Charts 3 and 4). However, due to the length of court proceedings it is difficult to directly compare the number of filed criminal charges and the number of convicted perpetrators in one calendar year.

The new Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence  (in application as of 1 June 2017) provides for maintaining a unified data record of cases of domestic violence (which would be maintained by the police, basic public prosecutor’s offices, basic courts and centers for social work), as well as the central electronic data record, but this system has not been established yet. The application of the law in the first two months had confirmed a large number of reports: in June there were at least 2,430 cases and in July 3,141 cases of domestic violence. In June 1,174 extended urgent measures of protection were imposed, and in July 1,292 (which is more by 118).

By ratifying the Convention of the Council of Europe on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, Serbia undertook to collect all relevant statistical data in regular time intervals on all forms of violence covered by the Convention, and to support research on the subject. It should be noted that gender insensitive research plans, specific statistical data, characteristics of the instruments used for assessment and characteristics of the sample can significantly affect the data, and cover up the violence perpetrated by men, and create a false image of gender symmetry of this phenomenon.