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Joint Statement of Women-Human Rights Activist from the Balkan Region Toward Gender Based Violence on the Internet

We, the women from the Balkans stand together in solidarity with all women victims of gender-based violence and ask our competent institutions to thoroughly and promptly investigate the case with the groups on the Telegram platform (such as: Balkan Room, Public Room, Gevgelija Hub, Serbian Room, Smokva, etc.), in order to sanction the perpetrators and to protect the victims from their further victimization.

Exactly one year after the appearance of such a group on the Telegram Network in Macedonia, which is used for sexual harassment of girls and women by posting photos of them without their consent and in a pornographic context, as well as personal data about the victims, we witness new cases of this kind of abuse not only in this country, but on a regional level. Although the administrators and the creators of two of these groups have been arrested, we believe this is only the first step in accessing justice that we must provide to all victims of this type of crime. The institutional silence that we face sends a clear message that violence against women is tolerated, that is not punishable, that perpetrators are encouraged to continue their behaviour and that victims are left to remain intimidated, ashamed and muted. The abovementioned cases in Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia have shown that only a small number of perpetrators are prosecuted and that the those that are prosecuted are pursued for the crime of “production and distribution of child pornography”, which prevents the protection of the adult victims.

Women from the former Yugoslavia countries, to whom we have provided free legal aid and other services for years, have experiences that testify to numerous shortcomings in the conduct of proceedings. Women have no trust in the police and consider reporting to be in vain, due to the practices of inaction, disbelief and relativization of the victims’ experiences. Imposing misdemeanour sanctions and warnings on perpetrators instead of documented and reasoned criminal charges, as well as inadequate enforcement of prohibitions on approaching and contracting victims, results in continued and intensified violence, often followed by serious consequences for the victims’ health, which in some cases can even cause death. 

Regarding the public prosecution offices, we constantly notice an untimely initiation of indictments, inefficient or negligent management of pre-investigation and investigative procedures that resulted in untimely or in no provision of relevant evidence, as well as failure to take measures against the perpetrators to prevent continued violence against the victims. All of these institutional oversights have become even more visible with the emergence of sexual violence and harassment of women in the digital sphere, which, although is massively occurring and is numbering thousands of female victims in the Balkans, does not receive an adequate institutional response or an appropriate public support. On the contrary, discrediting experiences, blaming, embarrassing and double victimizing are the dominant narratives that women face. It is obvious that the silent institutions are additionally encouraging the functioning and the maintenance of such groups in the digital space, while the girls continue to face danger for their personal safety and have a violated dignity and health. Unfortunately, the easiest way to humiliate a woman is to portray her in a sexual scenario, which only speaks about the insurmountable stigma that still marks female sexuality as shameful and indecent, and labels victims in this context not as victims, but as women who “sought this for themselves”.

Thus, the stolen photographs, combined with the misogynist, the sexist and the violent comments, and the treatment of women as objects without integrity, feelings, desires and traumas, speak of serious, deep-rooted misogyny values in our region that must be comprehensively and radically addressed. But, in order to begin solving the problem, we must first name it. This is not a problem of personal data abuse and it cannot be solved with such a limited approach. This is a problem of gender-based violence, with the purpose of humiliating, blackmailing, silencing and oppressing girls and women, and if it is not treated as such, the perpetrators will succeed in this goal.  

Today we are aware that there is a regional network of harassers, i.e. opening and administrating of Balkan groups whose aims is to humiliate and sexually harass women. Unfortunately, what we do not see is the possibility of networking, connecting and cooperating with the intent to clear these groups between the institutions and the system.

This case is a chance for the institutions from all over the region to show that they stand for women’s rights and protection against gender-based violence, not just declaratively, but in practice! Hence, we ask the Public Prosecutor’s Offices in the region to immediately and thoroughly clear the cases with the Telegram groups that are acts of crime. We ask the Ministries of Interior Affairs to continuously undertake preventive activities and to put a stop to the existence of these groups. We must not allow to maintain a situation in which the victims are multiplying and the institutions are quiet and are failing to perform their given functions.

Jointly and in solidarity!

SIGNATURES

  1. NVO ASTRA
  2. Alternativni centar za devojke
  3. Autonomni ženski centar, Beograd
  4. NVO ATINA
  5. Ženska pomoć sada – SOS telefon za žene i djecu žrtve nasilja
  6. Kolektiv mladih žena FEMIX
  7. Udruženje građana “Žene za mir”
  8. Udruženje “Žene juga” Pirot
  9. BeFem feministički kulturni centar
  10. Žene u crnom
  11. ROZA Udruženje za radna prava žena
  12. Rekonstrukcija Ženski fond
  13. Ženergija Hub
  14. Impuls Tutin
  15. Centar za ženske studije, Beograd
  16. Incest Trauma Centar – Beograd
  17. Kulturni centar DamaD
  18. Centar za podršku ženama, Kikinda
  19. UŽ TEUTA-TIM, Trstenik
  20. Udruženje građanki FemPlatz
  21. Ženski centar Šabac
  22. Fondacija CURE- Sarajevo
  23. Ženska soba – centar za seksualna prava
  24. Romski centar za žene i decu DAJE
  25. Centar za žene žrtve rata – ROSA
  26. B.a.B.e. Budi aktivna. Budi emancipiran.
  27. Ženska udruga IZVOR
  28. Udruženje Romkinja Osvit – Niš
  29. Udruga žena Romkinja u Hrvatskoj “”Bolja budućnost”
  30. Udruga žena Vukovar
  31. Ženska grupa Karlovac “Korak”
  32. Centar za devojke
  33. Sigurna ženska kuća
  34. Centar za razvoj zajednice LINK
  35. Udruga za ljudska prava i građansku participaciju PaRiter
  36. Udruženje žena Peščanik
  37. UG “ Romani cikna” Kruševac
  38. …IZ KRUGA – VOJVODINA, Novi Sad
  39. SOS za žene i decu žrtve nasilja, Vlasotince
  40. Labris – organizacija za lezbejska ljudska prava
  41. PAOR- Panonska Antifašistička organizacija
  42. Centar za podršku i razvoj civilnog društva “DELFIN”
  43. Ženski centar Užice
  44. Inicijativa Verujem ti
  45. Bibija Romski ženski centar
  46. Inicijativa Nećemo Prećutati
  47. Centar za ženske studije, Zagreb
  48. Forum žena Prijepolja
  49. SOS Rijeka – centar za nenaslje i ljudska prava
  50. Udruga žena Nit
  51. Sigurna ženska kuća
  52. Udruga ”HERA” Križevci za zaštitu i promicanje ljudskih prava
  53. Ženska mreža BiH
  54. UŽ “SEKA” Goražde
  55. Fondacija “Lara”
  56. IN fondacija
  57. Inicijativa Građanke za ustavne promjene
  58. Centar ženskih prava
  59. Inicijativa građanki/na Mostar
  60. Helsinški parlament građana Banjaluka
  61. Fondacija Udružene Žene Banja luka
  62. Udruženje žena “Priroda” Bratunac
  63. NVO “SPES”
  64. Udruzenje žena Romkinja”Bolja buducnost” Tuzla
  65. Ženska romska mreža ”Uspjeh” Bosna i Hercegovina
  66. UG ToPeeR Doboj, Republika Srpska, BiH
  67. Udruženje “Uspešne žene Kostolca “ Republika Srbija
  68. Udruženje žena Fenomena
  69. Women’s Rights Center (Centar za ženska prava)
  70. Human Right Action (Akcija za ljudska prava)
  71. ANIMA- Center for Peace Education (ANIMA – Centar za mirovno obrazovanje)
  72. SOS Hotline Berane (SOS Telefon Berane)
  73. SOS Hotline Podgorica (SOS Hotline Podgorica)
  74. Women’s Safe House (Sigurna ženska kuća)
  75. Association of Youth with Disabilities (Udruženje mladih s hendikepom)
  76. NGO Juventas (NVO Juventas)
  77. NVO Spektra
  78. Центар за младински активизам ЦМА КРИК
  79. Здружение за дислексија АЈНШТАЈН 
  80. Здружение за одржлив развој СФЕРА Интернешнал Битола
  81. Здружение на граѓани – Младите можат
  82. Центар за едукација и развој – ЦЕД
  83. Европско здружение на студенти по право – ЕЛСА Македонија
  84. Здружение за мултикултурна интеграција Инклузија
  85. Здружение на правници ЛЕГАЛ Тинк
  86. Регионална ромска образовна младинска асоцијација
  87. Здружение СВТ Алумни Скопје
  88. Центар за интеркултурен дијалог
  89. Фондација за интернет и општество Метаморфозис
  90. Здружение на граѓани – Ромаверзитас 
  91. Лидери за едукација, активизам и развој
  92. Креактив 
  93. Секција на млади на Сојуз на синдикати на Македонија
  94. Здружение Станица П.Е.Т. Прилеп 
  95. Македонско здружение на млади правници 
  96. Опции за здрав живот – ХОПС / Healthy Options Project Skopje – HOPS
  97. Фондација Отворено општество – Македонија (ФООМ)
  98. СУБВЕРЗИВЕН ФРОНТ Скопје / Sexual and Gender Minorities Association SUBVERSIVE FRONT Skopje
  99. Младински образовен форум – МОФ / Youth Educational Forum – YEF
  100. Period. The Menstrual Movement Skopje
  101. Здружение на правници Роми
  102. Reporting Diversity Network 2.0 
  103. Хелсиншки комитет за човекови права – Скопје / Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia
  104. Коалиција Маргини / Coalition Margins
  105. Здружение на граѓани за промоција на женската активност Тиииит! Инк. – Скопје / Tiiiit! Inc. – Skopje
  106. Здружение за локален и рурален развој / Association for Local and Rural Development
  107. ЛезФем / LezFem
  108. Организација на жените на општина Свети Николе / Organization of Women of the Municipality of Sveti Nikole
  109. Здружение за едукативен развој – Еквалис / Association for Educational Development – Ekvalis
  110. Хуманитарно Здружение „Мајка“, Куманово / Humanitarian association “Mother”, Kumanovo 
  111. ТАКТ / TAKT – Together Advancing Common Trust
  112. Рурална коалиција / Rural Coalition
  113. Реактор – Истражување во акција / Reactor – Research in Action 
  114. Национален совет за родова рамноправност (СОЖМ)
  115. Мрежа Стела / Stella Network
  116. ХЕРА / Health Education and Research Association, HERA
  117. Акција Здруженска / Akcija Zdruzenska
  118. Здружение на граѓани за еднакви можности „СЕМПЕР, Битола / “Association of equal opportunities “SEMPER”, Bitola
  119. Женски Форум Тетово / Women’s Forum Tetovo
  120. Женска граѓанска иницијатива АНТИКО / Women’s Civic Initiative – “ANTICO”
  121. Националната Мрежа против насилство врз жените и семејно насилство
  122. Здружение за локален развој – Камењане / Association for Local Rural Development – Kamenjane
  123. Здружение за промоција на статусот на жените во македонија „Женска акција“, Радивиш / Association for Promotion of the Status of Women in Macedonia “Women’s Action”, Radovish
  124. Здружение на граѓани „СУМНАЛ / “Association of Citizens “SUMNAL”
  125. Здружение на граѓани „Флоренс Најтингел“, Куманово/ Association of Citizens “Florence Nightingale”, Kumanovo
  126. Здружение на социјални работници на Град Скопје / Association of Social Workers of the City of Skopje
  127. Кризен центар „Надеж“ / Crisis Center “Hope”
  128. Здружение на турчинки во Македонија, „ДЕРЈА“ / Organization of Turkish Women in Macedonia,“DERJA”
  129. Организација на жени на Град Скопје, ОЖС / Organization of Women of the City of Skopje, OZS
  130. Организација на жени „Кумановка“, Куманово / Organization of Women “Kumanovka” , Kumanovo
  131. Организација на жени на Општина Велес / Organization of women from the municipality of Veles
  132. Женска граѓанска иницијатива „КЛЕА“, Битола / Women’s Civic Initiative “KLEA” – Bitola
  133. Младински центар за еднакви можности / Youth Center for Equal Opportunities
  134. „Една може“ Скопје / “One Can” Skopje
  135. Здружение за родова еднаквост „Визија“, Кавадарци / Association for Gender Equality „Vision“, Kavadarci
  136. Комора на психолози на Република Северна Македонија / Chamber of Psychologists in Republic of North Macedonia
  137. Здружение на жени ромки и млади „Лулуди“ / Roma Women and Youth Association “Luludi”
  138. Скај Плус Струмица / Sky Plus Strumica
  139. Медуза – феминистичка платформа / Meduza – Feminist platform
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