National Day of Combating Violence Against Women: Society is as effective as it protects those most vulnerable

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Violence is inadmissible, the Government has zero tolerance for violence, it was pointed out on Thursday at the meeting of the National Team for Prevention and Action on Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, and emphasized the importance of prevention and cooperation of institutions with associations, media and providers of social services.

The conference was held on the occasion of the National Day of Combating Violence against Women, which is commemorated on 22 September, with Minister of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy Marin Piletić and Minister of Justice and Public Administration Ivan Malenica recalling judge Ljiljana Hvalec, lawyer Hajra Prohić and party Gordana Oraskić, the three women murdered in court by Gordana's husband during the divorce proceedings on this day in 1999.

Minister Malenica: Society is as effective as it protects those most vulnerable

Minister Malenica stressed that the Government wants to send a clear message that violence is not acceptable, won't be tolerated and will be most severely sanctioned.

"Society is as effective as it has instruments and power to protect those most vulnerable, and victims are certainly vulnerable", he said, adding that everyone gathered at the conference was aware that the focus of everyone in the system should be on the victim, not the perpetrator.

The protection of the victim should be a priority, we have worked on this so far and will continue to do it together with you in the future, he told the conference participants.

He stated that a victim and witness support system had been established within the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration as well as victim and witness support departments within courts (seven county courts - in Zagreb, Vukovar, Osijek, Zadar, Split, Sisak and Rijeka), announcing that ten more departments would be established (at the municipal courts in Split and Zagreb and the remaining county courts).

"By doing this, we wish to guarantee institutional assistance for each victim. However, without your extra-institutional action, without your commitment to the victims, your support and assistance, the victim and witness support system is not complete", he highlighted.

A national media campaign under the slogan "#empathynow - For a violence-free society" was launched last year and has continued this year, so the campaign video was shown during the conference, featuring Dino Hvalec, the son of the tragically deceased judge.

Violence against women and domestic violence is definitely a recognized public health problem and represents a serious violation of human rights, Minister Piletić pointed out, adding that it negatively affects women's overall well-being and prevents them from effective and full participation in society.

Highlighting the Government's policy of zero tolerance to domestic violence and violence against women, the Minister pointed out that women's shelters have been set up in all Croatian counties during this Government's term, with and a total of 25 shelters in place now.

Since 2019, he added, the work of counselling centres and associations for victims of violence has been financed, and Croatia is the fifth country in Europe to set up a free anonymous helpline of the National Call Centre 116 006, available 24/7, and to provide funding for its work i.e. its five employees.
He also added that a new social service was introduced in the Social Welfare Act, namely the psychosocial treatment for the prevention of violent behaviour, and that the National Plan for the Suppression of Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment 2022-2027 was in the development process.

Despite all this, Mr Piletić added, we unfortunately face crimes committed against women, proving that "there is always more that can and must be done to combat and prevent violence against women and domestic violence".

All stakeholders in the system need to work on intensifying cooperation, improving the protocol and the availability of information that can affect the prevention of violence, he said, emphasizing his Ministry's commitment to continuous education of experts, announcing the beginning of work of the Social Welfare Academy, which will organise professional trainings for social welfare employees.

Violence can never be justified, he concluded, pointing out the importance of an integrated approach to the problem, that is, the participation and mutual interaction of state bodies, the media and civil society organisations i.e. providers of social services.

During the conference, 16 contracts worth HRK 830,000 were presented to providers of counselling services and shelters for women and children victims of domestic violence, as financial support due to rising energy prices.

Caritas Director Jelena Lončar said in a statement to reporters after the conference that 57 percent of the premises for victims of domestic violence was currently filled in Croatia, stating that although in most cases one would strive to increase the percentage of occupancy, in this case she hopes that the percentage would go down next year.

"I hope that all of us who are factors in Croatian society, together with you, the media, who have an extremely important role in promoting action against violence, will do everything it takes to make today's society in Croatia truly a violence-free society", she concluded.

Lighting candles in memory of the murdered Gordana Oraškić, Ljiljana Hvalec and Hajra Prohić

Prior to the conference of the National Team, Justice and Public Administration Minister Ivan Malenica and Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy Minister Marin Piletić lit candles in front of the building of the Municipal Civil Court in Zagreb , where Gordana Oraškić, judge Ljiljana Hvalec and lawyer Hajra Prohić were murdered and clerk Stanka Cvetković was wounded in 1999 during divorce proceedings.

Photo: Hina