Author: Milica Stojanović Kostić

This is the devastating question that Kosovo women have been asking themselves these days. This thought is not only the final step of despair in a society whose women are being harassed, raped, beaten and, ultimately, murdered, but also a momentous indicator of an absolute dysfunction and liability of a system that does not care to protect women.

Presently, women are facing two options: either to keep quiet and endure until killed, or to rebel, report the violence and yet end up killed at, maybe, the Center for Social Welfare, or on the street, or in her own home. This begs the question: what kind of a choice is this? Obviously, the choice boils down to no choice at all, given that the penal policy itself is a big empty nothing.

During the last month alone, we have witnessed two femicides in Kosovo within the space of mere 5 days. The terrifying examples keep happening. In Gračanica, violence against women in bars is being recorded, posted on social networks, whereas domestic violence is a topic only in private conversations. Personally, I know of three such cases, and I responsibly claim this practice is gaining momentum – but how are the Police and the system responding to it?

Legal provisions governing the protection of women in Kosovo are so bad that make me, as a person with dignity, more than a little ashamed to write about it. Because I, Milica, tomorrow may get beaten up, report the case to the Police in Gračanica, and 48 hours on just hope that the abuser does not commit an even more extreme offense. Yes, I can but hope, because the paper with the restraining order can only serve to wave while and if he choses to let his sick revenge take the toll. How did I get so defenseless, a woman who most of all wants to live, work, and raise my child, to be free to do so?

In today’s society, and also in terms of legislation, the freedom of a woman is absolutely irrelevant if countered by a man.

There is a shocking example from a Kosovo courtroom, also confirmed by people in the know, when a man accused of violence against a woman in his statement to the judge says: But you didn’t understand, I was beating MY OWN wife! Therefore, in his mind, the Court wronged him because his wife is his property rather than a human being enjoying equal rights.

I find it to be the core of the failure of the system, the society, and the men. In perceiving a woman, her value and importance, her functions and purpose.

Then we all have to try and heal the consequences. As if they ever can be healed. And how to heal a child sent to a shelter for abandoned children or a foster family after his father killed his mother. How does one treat a child burdened for life by his foul father’s sins, by surrounding constantly pointing a finger at him, a child growing up deprived of mother’s love and caring. How does one heal this child?

How to heal parents who lost their daughter? How could pain ever diminish after someone cruelly and beastly takes away from you one you loved more than yourself, gave her life, taught her to be happy, to love? How does her mother heal?

She does not, consequences are incurable; they significantly affect the society, our understanding of the concept of goodness, of tolerance, of mutual respect!

I am fully aware that criticism without suggestions is but listing the problems, and that is why there are possible solutions that nobody still cares to consider. So let us give some thought about this scenario.
Where the assailant, upon report of committed violence, remains detained until the completion of the court proceedings, until the sentencing. We may also imagine that imprisonment replaces the fines as the sanction for violence against women.

Because a horrifying fact, cited as a statistics by the RSE based on data obtained from relevant institutions, states that “98 percent of those accused of domestic violence were sentenced, for example fined, while only 11 percent were sentenced to imprisonment”.

When compared with the ongoing sanctioning policy of the traffic police, it is appalling that sanction for beating up wife is less than for repeatedly failing to fasten the seat belt. It follows that the threat to participants in the traffic is greater than the threat to women.

The latest court conviction of the rapist of an 11-year old girl also demonstrates that the laws are more humane towards the rapists that towards their victims – if the latter are female.

The repercussions of wrongly founded postulates in the upbringing are not rectifiable. This makes it crucial that we, as a society, wake up and put our act together, meaning primarily targeting the youth, children, families. How? In particular, by introducing gender equality, tolerance and respect as a compulsory subject in school. Starting early with teaching the children the beauty of diversity in every sense. Raising parents’ awareness that their wrongful ways of upbringing can only result in the failure of their child, too. Empowering girls – and boys – in terms of mutual respect.

Because if we fail to step out of this daily pattern of purposelessly counting the victims, we shall not get very far. Statistics are important, identifying femicide is important, to wake us up, to make us begin to respond to it.

Dear moms, take a moment and imagine that your son killed his girlfriend, or wife, or your grandchild? It is a nauseating feeling, is it not? This is your cue, this is the thought to haunt you each day as you teach him how to behave towards girls at school, tomorrow towards female colleagues, women in emotional relations, on the street, in marriage.

Dear moms of girls, you too imagine that a son-in-law kills your daughter, beats or bullies her, and she dares not say a word because you taught her to keep quiet, she dares not return to you because you taught her not to. Are you ready to live with it? I know you are not. Hence, do not teach her to sheepishly heed all that men around her command her.

We all must be responsible, we as individuals, the society at large, activists, civil sector, because the system will only change once we change; otherwise, we will merely keep encouraging, in private conversations, our sisters, girlfriends, to stand up to the abuser and leave him, fully aware of horrible scenarios that may befall her upon reporting violence.

Therefore, break your silence!

Speak up and protect women when you can!

This content was funded by a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Pristina. The opinions, findings, and conclusions stated herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the State Department.

Alternativna in partnership with New Social Initiative.

Milica Stojanović Kostić

Graduated journalist with more than 10 years of work experience. Executive director of the NGO Pravo na Pravo (Right to right). Women’s rights activist. Founder and editor of the Women’s Info website and the ŽensCast podcast.

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