Monday, 10 May 2021

Courts Rarely Process Sexual Harassment in the Workplace - Survey

ZAGREB, 10 May (Hina) - More than 71 percent of those employed in Croatia have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, in most cases, they have been women, and there is an increasing number of complaints, however, they are still rarely processed by the courts, a survey presented on Monday shows.

The courts are not sensitized to process cases of sexual harassment in the workplace, partially because of the poor and confusing legislative framework with four laws that cover that area. Victims often aren't aware that this is a criminal offense and don't know either whom to or how to report that they have experienced sexual harassment, gender equality ombudsman Višnja Ljubičić said presenting the survey results.

The survey was conducted by an independent expert for combating violence against women, Dunja Bonacci Skenderović, on a sample of 448 people, 16 years since the last similar survey was conducted in Croatia by the ombudsman's office.

The latest survey, although it was not conducted on a representative sample, indicates that three in four women and half the men experienced sexual harassment in the workplace and that in 61% of the cases the abusers were their superiors.

The explanation for such a high percentage of men is the fact that only 32 men completed the questionnaire. The survey also lacks gender segregation which would show whether that 50% of men were harassed by women or other men.

Gender-conditioned harassment

"In order to be able to talk about gender-conditioned harassment, it needs to be said that 60% of women were harassed exclusively by men while it is unclear who harassed the 50% of men," said Ljubičić.

As far as reports of sexual harassment of men are concerned, her office has received only one complaint by a man who was harassed in the education system by his school principal, while several men reported they were harassed because of their sexual orientation.

"Men who were sexually harassed because of their sexual preference were harassed by other men and not women," underscored Ljubičić, adding that it is important to supplement this survey.

The majority of victims of sexual harassment in the workplace keep that a secret. As many as 83% of those surveyed had not reported these cases due to lack of confidence in their employers that anything would be done after they reported it, said Bonacci Skenderović and underscored that sexual harassment in the workplace is a criminal offense.

The Criminal Code is currently being amended with regard to sexual harassment which, Ljubičić said, should in future treat it as gender-conditioned violence. Court proceedings will be launched ex-officio based on reports made to the police and the statute of limitations will no longer be limited to three months, but ten years instead, she said.

For more, follow our lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

The Guardian: Croatian Police Accused of Sexually Abusing Afghan Woman

ZAGREB, 7 April, 2021 - A woman from Afghanistan claims that she was sexually abused by Croatian border police, and even held at knifepoint, after crossing the border, the Guardian said on Wednesday.

According to a dossier from the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), the incident occurred on 15 February, in Croatian territory, a few kilometres from the Bosnian city of Velika Kladuša, the British newspaper said.

In the report the woman said she tried to cross the border with a group of four others, including two children, but they were stopped by an officer who allegedly pointed a rifle at them.

The Afghans asked for asylum, at which one of the officers laughed, after which the woman was singled out for a search, the Guardian said, quoting her as saying that she insisted that he should not touch her because she was a woman and a Muslim, after which the officer slapped her.

The officer allegedly touched her breasts and behind, and ordered her to remove all her T-shirts, which she refused. The five migrants were then taken away in a police vehicle, after which the police again hit the Afghan woman, ordering her to strip naked and starting to sexually abuse her, at one point putting a knife to her throat.

The police physically assaulted other migrants from the group as well, and ordered them to walk back to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Guardian said.

It added that the European Commission condemned this alleged act and called on the Croatian authorities to investigate all allegations and punish those responsible.

DRC secretary general Charlotte Slente was quoted as saying that despite the Commission’s engagement on the migrant issue on the Croatian border, there had been no progress in recent months either in investigations of reports of brutal treatment by police or in the development of independent border monitoring mechanisms.

According to the Guardian, the Croatian Interior Ministry said there were no recorded dealings with "females from the population of illegal migrants" on the day in question and that Croatian police, by saving the lives of hundreds of migrants from minefields, rivers and snow, showed not only an organised and professional approach in the protection of the state border but humanity as well.

The Interior Ministry says the Croatian police are persistently portrayed as brutal without a single piece of evidence and that illegal migrants, when they fail to cross the border, are ready to falsely accuse those same police of abuse, the Guardian said.

According to the DRC, since May 2019 almost 24,000 migrants have been illegally pushed back to Bosnia, including 547 between January and February 2021.

For more about violence against migrants in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

PM Andrej Plenković, Women's Room NGO Talk Measures Against Violence

ZAGREB, 10 March, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Wednesday met with a delegation of the Women's Room NGO to discuss measures to curb violence against women and they agreed on the preparation of a national strategy to combat sexual violence.

Maja Mamula and Anamarija Drožđan-Kranjčec from the Women's Room informed the Prime Minister of the activities of their organisation, which includes the Centre for Victims of Sexual Violence which provides direct help and support to victims of sexual violence.

The talks underlined the need for raising public awareness of the problem of sexual violence, strengthening prevention and implementing education about that problem at all levels.

The two sides agreed on drafting a national strategy for the prevention of sexual violence, which will involve all relevant departments and civil society organisations.

There was also talk of amendments to the Criminal Code regarding the combatting of sexual violence, which have been prepared and should soon be put to public consultation.

The main amendments concern redefining the prosecution of sexual harassment to enable its ex-officio prosecution, which is something the government has already announced.

Under the amendments, there will be no statute of limitations on child abuse.

The meeting also discussed activities implemented by the Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy in order to establish shelters for victims of violence in all counties, the related media campaign and cooperation with civil society organisations.

The Women's Room delegation welcomed the fact that the need for a strategic document to combat sexual violence had been recognised as well as the announced legislative amendments.

Prime Minister Plenković thanked the delegation for their cooperation and work on raising awareness of the problem of violence, notably their activities in providing support to victims of sexual violence.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.