I believe that the Serbian society must condemn all forms of violence and work together more to prevent violence, but also adequately punish all those who commit such acts. State institutions, the non-governmental sector and media support can all do their part to solve this issue in the 21st century.
Assistant Minister for Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue, Nina Mitić, speaks about discrimination and other forms of violence, personal experiences, the #metoo movement, the hashtag #ijasamžrtrva and anti-discrimination policy.
You are an assistant to Minister Čomić and you are in charge of anti-discrimination policy and gender equality. Do you think that the number of daily cases of discrimination and various forms of violence have been growing?
As an assistant to Minister Čomić, I am in charge of anti-discrimination policy and the promotion of gender equality in the line ministry. During the course of my work, I encounter a substantial number of cases of discrimination and various forms of violence almost every day. Unfortunately, violence is not just physical, as I am increasingly coming across cases of psychological and economic abuse of women. We, as a ministry, fight against all stereotypes and all forms of discrimination, by empowering the position of women in our society through the adoption of the Law on Gender Equality and the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination.
“I believe that women who are united and stand in solidarity could succeed. To that end, the #ijasamzrtva hashtag should come to life in the virtual community too”
These laws have, among other things, helped to encourage women to speak publicly and prevent gender-based violence against women and violence in general. Our common struggle requires the support of the wider community, including the understanding and support of the families of the victims. Family is the nucleus of society in Serbia, and I would like to use this opportunity to appeal to all families of victims of violence to support the victims in seeking justice for themselves.
What are your personal experiences and stories you have heard or your personal views on violence and discrimination against women?
It should be noted that I, regardless of my political and professional position, suffered violence through sexist, misogynistic and insulting comments at the expense of my physical appearance. Unfortunately, no one is spared or protected. Violence chooses neither time nor place; in fact, it can happen to anyone. The violence directed against me has further fortified my attitude to do the right thing in the fight for women’s rights and I will never give up. Personally, I encourage and support all women in the fight against violence and discrimination. I believe that the Serbian society must condemn all forms of violence and work together more to prevent violence, but also adequately punish all those who commit such acts. State institutions, the non-governmental sector and media support can all do their part to solve this issue in the 21st century.
What has left the biggest impression on you so far when it comes to celebrities taking part in the #metoo movement and similar movements in Serbia?
It is interesting to note that the #metoo movement was launched at the same time as the Sector for Anti-Discrimination Policy and Promotion of Gender Equality, which I helm and which is part of the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue. The biggest social changes are happening slowly, and it seems that the end of the previous decade was the turning point in the whole world, after which it became clear to everyone that women no longer agree to be subordinate to half of humanity. Women around the world have been encouraged to speak publicly about the degrading acts to which they are exposed. The #metoo movement has spread very quickly, and we have had several cases of violence in our country waiting for their day in court.
“The Constitution stipulates that generally accepted rules of international law and ratified international agreements are an integral part of the legal order of Serbia and are directly applicable”
I want to encourage women to report all such cases to the authorities and to know that they are not alone. Women make up the majority of the population in Serbia. We do not want to be abused just because we are women and we do not want anyone to look down on us. We want freedom and equal treatment in all segments of society. We want the violence to stop, forever. This is our struggle.
What do you think is the main topic that the movements such as #metoo and individual women should deal with in the future?
Changing social consciousness is the main thing that these movements are aspiring to. That is why I believe that the education of young generations is what we should focus on. We are all aware of the basic rules of behaviour in different situations, so we should establish a set of rules in male-female communication that will allow a clear distinction to be made between appropriate and inappropriate behaviour. On a personal level, I think we should work on interpersonal solidarity, since there are strong women who do not allow any kind of self-manipulation, and their experience is valuable for those women who are not so well-qualified to defend themselves. I believe that women who are united and stand in solidarity could succeed. To that end, the #ijasamzrtva hashtag should come to life in the virtual community too.
What is the current situation in the region or in our country like? Which direction should official procedures and policies take in order for the anti-discrimination projects to be implemented?
The Constitution stipulates that generally accepted rules of international law and ratified international agreements are an integral part of the legal order of Serbia and are directly applicable. If an individual believes that his or her human rights are endangered, they first need to contact the competent authorities and institutions in Serbia. Human rights in Serbia are also exercised before independent institutions. Also, they can be realized in proceedings before the court or in special proceedings before the Ombudsman, the Commissioner for Protection of Equality, the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Protection of Personal Data, as well as before the Constitutional Court. If someone does not get the protection he/she wanted and has exhausted all domestic remedies, there is a possibility to turn to international bodies and committees, and finally to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. It is important to underline that we, as representatives of the government, cooperate and exchange experiences related to human rights promotion with other countries, primarily European ones because we need to learn from each other. Resources are needed, both material and human because the advancement of human rights means changing social consciousness, and changing social consciousness is possible only by constantly working with people.
Lastly, what should we do in Serbia?
Human rights are divided into several groups – civil, political, economic, social and cultural. The one common thing that they have is that the rights of every human are innate. They validate the right of every individual to life, work, education, equality before the law, privacy and many others. The message we are sending is that education is the key to freedom for all, women’s solidarity should be empowered, institutions should be more sensitive to cases of violence against women, better prevention of all forms of violence both in the media and on social networks and a wider social action for equality through media campaigns. I hope that everything we do and all the results we achieve can contribute to the change of consciousness in Serbia. This process is arduous and long, but one day, no one will abuse women anymore. I hope that day is very close. Last but not least, I would like to quote Margaret Thatcher who said: “In politics if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman.”