Stepping up to end gender-based discrimination and violence

gender equality
Picture taken by Danish Embassy in Belgrade

In a bid to reach a gender equal world, it is important to use everybody’s potential and thus move away from traditional gender roles to inclusive societal structures.

This was concluded on Monday 10th of October in a regional Gender Equality Forum organized by the Nordic countries and the Serbian Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The forum, which took place in Belgrade, saw discussions on how to improve the lives of women in Serbia and the rest of the Western Balkans.

Randi Bjørgen a senior advisor of the confederation of Vocational Unions in Norway, was one of the speakers. She highlighted that despite the fact that Norway is often recognized as a front-runner when it comes to gender equality we still have a way to go. Women in Norway still earn 85% of what men earn. Some steps have been taken, for example, 10 years ago a law was passed that requires company boards to be represented by at least 40% women. Companies are obliged to report on gender gaps in salaries and say what steps they are taking to close the gap. DNB, the biggest bank in Norway has put aside funds to do this exactly. Parental leave in Norway is 15 weeks for the mother and 15 weeks for the father. On the top of that, parents can decide how to share 16 more weeks between themselves.

It is no doubt that gender equality is one of the core values of Norwegian society today and steps are regularly taken to further equality. Gender equality is a policy priority both at home and abroad. This is why the Nordic countries and Norway participated in the gender equality forum and why the Norwegian embassy supports initiatives in Serbia to end both gender-based discrimination and violence.

Progressive legislation has been adopted in Serbia as well, to tackle gender-based violence, because violence against women is still a far too common occurrence. However laws should not only be written, they need to be implemented. The Serbian Ministry of Interior and UN Women work together to improve the safety of women in Serbia, piloting a new innovative system of protection through electronic bracelets and training the police and the judiciary to know how to respond to these crimes. After the Criminal Code on preventing domestic violence entered into force, 9403 cases were reported. Being able to respond quickly and correctly to victims of domestic violence will strengthen the belief in the functional judiciary system that will create positive ripple effects in Serbia. Realizing the intersection of discrimination and violence will contribute to overcoming barriers in Serbian society today. These are important steps forward.