One Billion Rising puts focus on violence against women

14 Feb 2014

Zagreb, 14 February 2014 – Activists in Croatia once again joined enthusiastically in the annual dance protest One Billion Rising, which was organized globally on 14 February 2014 by the V-Day movement led by playwright Eve Ensler to fight violence against women. The motto of this year’s dance gatherings was Rise for Justice, with an emphasis on the lack of institutional support to fight violence against women. In all, this year’s campaign inspired thousands events in 200 countries.

Many famous Croatian musicians, artists and politicians supported the campaign. The main event in Zagreb was attended by President Ivo Josipović, Ombudswoman for Gender Equality Višnja Ljubičić, and the bands Elemental, Le Zbor and others. Other protests were organized in Split, Pula, Slavonski Brod, Zadar, Osijek, Čakovec, Križevci, Buzet and Novigrad. Ice hockey players from the Medveščak Zagreb team urged their fans in a video message to rise up, dance and demand an end to violence against women. As is now traditional, the One Billion Rising events were organized in Croatia in 2014 with the endorsement of the United Nations system. 

According to UN statistics, one of three women in the world will experience some kind of violence during her lifetime, resulting in a total of one billion abused women. Croatia is no exception. The figures are alarming: every 15 minutes a woman is physically abused; every year some 20,000 cases of violence are reported; and a rising number of women are murdered by their partners. 

To end violence against women, activists say, comprehensive support from institutions is needed as well understanding by policy-makers both to improve legislation and implement existing laws. Croatia has signed the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women, but it has not yet been ratified. Women’s rights activists used the protest to demand speedy ratification of the Convention, as well as other legal improvements and above all changes in institutional practices. For example, changes in the Criminal Law at the beginning of 2013 that eliminated domestic violence as a specific felony offense have led to offenders receiving only short sentences. Such a practice sends a message that violence against women is not a serious crime. 

Furthermore, more than two decades after the Homeland War, the legacy of wartime sexual violence in Croatia is still far from addressed. Research commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) estimates that 2,200 women were victims of rape or other sexual violence during the 1991-95 conflict, but only a few cases have seen criminal prosecution and survivors have received little assistance or compensation. UNDP is currently assisting the Ministry of Veterans’ Affairs to prepare a new law that would grant survivors recognition and status, and working together with women’s and human rights groups to provide psychosocial and legal support to survivors. 

“Rape is among the least reported crimes even during peacetime,“ said Louisa Vinton, UNDP Resident Representative. “We must break the wall of silence about sexual assaults, and one goal of the One Billion Rising campaign is to give strength to women who are afraid to report abuse.“