Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is punishable by up to 40 years in prison. Advocates believed that only a small percentage of rape victims reported their attacks because of fear of reprisal from their attackers or humiliation in court.
Violence against women continued to be a problem. Domestic violence is punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment. The law provides women the right to obtain a restraining order against abusers. Domestic violence cases were difficult to prosecute because of the lack of witnesses and evidence and the unwillingness of witnesses or victims to testify. While authorities generally acknowledged high levels of domestic violence, there were no reliable statistics on the extent of the problem. According to media reports, through August 1, family violence had claimed the lives of 11 women.
The few official agencies dedicated to coping with family violence had inadequate resources. There were 12 safe houses for women in operation, all of them operated by NGOs; in a few cases, local municipalities contributed financial support. In addition, a Romani humanitarian organization opened a shelter in Lazarevac for Romani women victims of violence. All safe houses also accommodated the children of the women in residence. According to media reports, approximately 15 percent of women who sought refuge in safe houses returned to their abusers.
On June 26, the Autonomous Women’s Center announced the creation of a free mobile phone application, called “Safe,” which enables women to send an urgent call for help to their friends, police, the local center for social welfare, or an SOS hotline. As of August 14, this application was downloaded 799 times.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law does not specifically prohibit FGM/C. During the year there were no reports of FGM/C.
Sexual Harassment: Women continued to suffer from sexual harassment. The law provides that sexual harassment is a crime punishable by imprisonment for up to six months in cases that do not involve abuse or a power relationship and for up to one year for abuse of a subordinate or dependent. Public awareness of the problem remained low, and women filed few complaints during the year.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and to have the information to do so. They have the ability to attain the highest standard of reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. The government permitted health clinics and local health NGOs to operate freely in disseminating information on family planning under the guidance of the Ministry of Health. There were no restrictions on the right to access contraceptives, nor for emergency health care, including services for the management of complications arising from abortion. Men and women received equal access to diagnosis and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.
Discrimination: Women have the same legal rights as men, including under family, labor, property, and inheritance laws, but the government did not always respect these laws in practice. Women experienced widespread discrimination in employment, access to credit, wages, owning or managing businesses, education, and housing. The law provides for equal pay, but employers frequently did not observe these provisions in practice. Women earned on average 11 percent less per month than their male counterparts and were underrepresented in most professions. Women also faced discrimination related to maternity leave (see section 7.d.).
On April 27, the parliament adopted the Law on Ministries, which abolished the Directorate for Gender Equality, causing concern for some domestic NGOs.
During the year the Center for Free Elections and Democracy published research which found that citizens believed women, and Romani women in particular, were subject to the most discrimination of any group in the country. Discrimination was most frequent in hiring and employment, the study found, with the state and its institutions as the major discriminators.