Reaction: The indifference towards violence against women is concerning and unacceptable

Reaction: The indifference towards violence against women is concerning and unacceptable

A 19-year-old girl from Kičevo reported a Skopje taxi driver for touching her on her body during the ride”; “Her boyfriend beat her up and shot her”; “A man from Kavadarci beat up his ex-girlfriend and her 6-year-old daughter”; “A 14-year-old girl met a boy on Instagram, he video-recorded her, and then forced her to have sex with drunk and stoned men” …

This is just a fragment of headlines running on the Macedonian media reporting various forms of gender-based violence that we have been reading recently over our morning coffee. Instead of creating communities and environments where every woman can feel safe and free, we can see that, in absence of proper systemic care and interest for the life and the well-being of girls and women, misogyny and violence emerge from every pore of our society.

As Gender Equality Platform, but also as women activists, feminists and citizens, we are disgusted at the indifferent and uninvolved way in which the institutions treat the gender-based violence, proving them to be not only incapable of promoting the prevention of gender-based violence, but a complete failure, too, in providing protection, giving way to the most extreme form of violence against women – femicide.

We are concerned that accusations against victims – the “she asked for it” narrative – which is rooted in hatred against women as an asset, has become an increasingly employed response to violence. We are concerned that gender-based violence, instead of being eradicated, is becoming normalised and spills over into all facets of our existence (both in the physical and in the digital space). We are concerned that sexism is passed down as a social norm to new generations which, in absence of a systemic support, comprehensive sexuality education and adequate moral and ethical compass, (will) not only perpetuate this culture of violence, but (will) also perpetuate it in its ever more extreme form.

Locally, regionally and globally we have seen more and more cases of violence that start on the Internet, but end in blackmail, rape and/or other forms of violence in the physical space. Girls and young women have been particularly exposed, as was the case of the 14-year-old victim, who was threatened and blackmailed into being continuously raped at several different locations in Veles by a number of male persons, now detained. While institutional response, including justice for this victim and justice for all victims of gender-based violence, is essential to this fight, at the same time, we have to place our focus on perpetrators, who treat women’s bodies and lives as their personal property that can be disposed of. How can we prevent this tendency? How should we deal with the fact that, underneath each media post about gender-based violence, our public univocally comments that “it was her own fault”? How should we perceive the phenomenon that a protest was announced to take place today, organised by young men, in support of Andrew Tate, an influencer openly promoting hatred and violence against women, who is currently in detention suspected of human trafficking and rape? How should we perceive the phenomenon that, with a few honourable exceptions, majority of boys and men feel unaffected and fail to see the need to stand in solidarity in the fight against gender-based violence? What kind of community is this which approves of and celebrates, or turns a blind eye to, violence?

Victims have been reporting violence increasingly, but the violence has not been curbed at all. This merely proves that the system of prevention and protection is not functioning. At the same time, the public opinion shows that the more girls and women are free and empowered, the more present is the double victimisation. “In order not to be attacked / raped / killed, you should stay at home” is more or less the average position regarding this issue. Although it is degrading to even join a discussion with such a narrative, we want to point out that the figures and the reality show something else. Not only is a woman the least safe at home, but there is not a single place where a woman can feel safe. In such circumstances, it is simply unsafe to exist as a woman.

It has been exactly two years since the local protests against gender-based violence. This mobilisation has produced minimal institutional shift regarding this issue, and a comprehensive, dedicated, multisectoral and, above all, honest commitment in this fight is still lacking. The non-involved stance afforded to gender-based violence has resulted in our becoming immune to the news of yet another abuse, yet another rape, yet another harassment, yet another femicide.

Faced with this horrid reality, we are demanding an urgent institutional mobilisation and an urgent adoption of amendments to the Criminal Code in an effort to align it with the Istanbul Convention. We demand an urgent systemic support for every woman or girl who has survived any form of violence, we demand functional services equally located in all regions, we demand that the trend be stopped of curtailing the domestic funding and appropriate support to all organisations providing such services to the citizens.

As women’s organisations and organisations engaged in human rights promotion, we demand solidarity from all of you in our fight for systemic response to violence against women. Let us be reminded: the state which fails to take action is a state that commits the rape, and the silence of fellow-citizens amounts to their complicity. We will engage in the fight for justice on all fronts!

Members of Gender Equality Platform:

  1. Tiiiit! Inc.
  2. Fight like a Girl (Bori se zenski)
  3. Women Civic Initiative – ANTICO
  4. Women’s Forum
  5. Association for Equal Opportunities SEMPER
  6. Association for local and rural development
  7. Association for Support of Marginalized Workers STAR-STAR
  8. Association for the Promotion of Gender Equality Akcija Zdruzenska
  9. Association for Emancipation, Solidarity and Equality of Women – ESE
  10. Association for Educational Development Ekvalis
  11. Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities Skopje
  12. Coalition ‘Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities’
  13. LezFem
  14. Network for Protection against Discrimination
  15. National network to end violence against women and domestic violence
  16. National Council for Gender Equality
  17. Organization of Women of the City of Skopje (OWS)
  18. Organization of women of municipality of Sveti Nikole
  19. Women’s Organization “Kumanovka”
  20. Reactor – Research in Action
  21. Rural Coalition
  22. Stella
  23. TAKT
  24. Helsinki Committee for Human Rights
  25. HERA – Health Education and Research Association
  26. HOPS – Healthy Options Project Skopje
  27. Humanitarian Association “Mother”
  28. Center for Research and Policy Making – CRPM