In an interview for the website Queer.hr, Ivana Radačić, associate at the Ivo Pilar Institute and active member of civil society, commented, among other things, on the record low number of women in Parliament in the last ten years:
Q: How would you comment on one of the lowest percentages of women in Parliament in Croatian history, which is far below the EU standards? Do you think that in Croatia there is still gender based discrimination? How is that form of discrimination usually manifested?
A: I think that the under-representation of women in all government bodies and on all levels of decision-making is very problematic from several aspects, including the symbolic level from which the message is sent, and testifies to the omnipresence of patriarchy in our society. I believe that sex discrimination still exists all around us, and it manifests itself, apart from the problem of under-representation of women in almost all social spheres, as different forms of violence against women, workplace discrimination and human rights violations.
Apart from the need to change the cultural patterns in order to abolish gender stereotypes which are particularly evident in criminal procedures against sexual assaults, we need many other law reforms. I believe it is unacceptable to sanction domestic violence as misdemeanor, for which the maximum sentence is 90 days in prison (while in practice a fine is usually imposed instead), even in the cases of severe and repeated violence, as was the case with a recent murder in Zagreb which was preceded by a misdemeanor procedure against the perpetrator.
In my study of rape verdicts of the County Court in Zagreb I came across a case where the woman was a victim of brutal domestic violence for years, and more than ten times this violence was treated as a misdemeanor before it was brought before the Municipal Court, when the woman spoke about the rapes for the first time – over 30 instances, for which the Country Court had given a conditional discharge.
Helle Thorning-Schmidt is heading the four-party alliance that won September’s general election and will soon become the first Danish woman PM.
The coalition of center-left parties, led by Thorning-Schmidt, has broken a decade long right-wing dominance and come to power in Denmark. Thorning-Schmidt, also known as Helle Gucci because of her designer clothes and handbags, has headed the Social Democrats since 2005 and is credited with uniting the party which she inherited in a state of disarray after the 2005 election loss.
She has accomplished the previously unthinkable task of drawing the far-left Red Greens and the centrist and market liberal Social Liberal Party into the same coalition, which also includes the centre-left Socialist People’s Party. The coalition is considered by many as more significant than her becoming Denmark’s first woman PM. “The fact that she is a woman is secondary,” said Ann Linde, the international secretary for the Social Democrats in neighboring Sweden.
Thorning-Schmidt’s gender has in fact barely been mentioned during the campaign, and observers say they do not expect gender equality to rise higher on the agenda with her in charge.
When it comes to the economy – the main focus of the election – she has moved increasingly left, now fiercely defending Denmark’s early retirement system. She has also called for higher taxes on the wealthy, although she and her family live in one of Copenhagen’s poshest neighborhoods.
Because of her good financial situation, sophistication and designer clothing, it was at first difficult for the party base to accept her; however, because of her accomplishments, the initial resistance to her image quickly wore off.
Center for Education, Counseling and Research – CESI has published the book Women’s Voices in the 2011 Parliamentary Elections [PDF], resulting from the work of Women’s Platform. The book includes an analysis of electoral lists, electoral programs and TV commercials.
By analyzing electoral lists we wanted to determine to what extent did political parties adhere to the quota of 40% of the under-represented sex, and we additionally analyzed the representation of young women on the lists. The basic question posed in the analysis was in what way do election programs address gender equality and to what extent they recognize gender issues as socially relevant. We especially analyzed the following topics: framing gender questions (are they being mainstreamed or ghettoized), is gender equality defined as a basic social/political value, do programs refer to laws and existing strategies, do they mention the employment of women, women’s entrepreneurship, unequal pay, social programs that are relevant to women (nurseries, elderly care, the extended stay in schools), maternity and parental benefits, mandatory leave for men, political participation of women, reproductive and sexual rights and freedoms (abortion, medically assisted fertilization), issues concerning the reproductive health and birth rate (gynecology clinics, pregnancy, obstetrics), violence against women, introducing sex education in schools, gendered aspects of education (gender segregation in the professions), LGBT persons and their rights, women with disabilities and ethnic minority women. When setting up these topics, we used the demands listed in Women’s Platform 2011 as guidance.
Snježana Vasiljević, Law Faculty Professor and longtime Center for Women’s Studies associate, published a book on the issue of multiple discrimination: Similar and Different – Discrimination in the European Union and the Republic of Croatia. Until now, multiple discrimination has been an insufficiently treated topic in Croatia, and it was first mentioned in the UN’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The issue of multiple discrimination is in the focus of the project AD ACTE which deals with discrimination in the field of political participation of women, with an emphasis on national minority members.