Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my honour, as Deputy Prime Minister in charge of human rights and the Minister of the Family, Veterans Affairs and Intergenerational Solidarity, to welcome you on behalf of the Croatian Government.
Allow me to take this opportunity to say that I am proud that we are hosting this Seminar, and especially proud of the importance of its theme – men’s active participation in combating domestic violence. It is my conviction that we shall not only hold many high-quality discussions, but that together we shall also:
- contribute to the creation of a suitable environment for more effective prevention of violence against women, including domestic violence, by men, and
- go one step farther so that the specific role of men may be recognized, upheld and used as an example of desirable behaviour in every society.
- Mrs. de Boer-Buquicchio, the Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe,
- Mrs. Mayanja, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Special Adviser on Gender issues and the Advancement of Women,
- and all other participants, particularly representatives of non-governmental organizations and all other respected experts and esteemed guests, and representatives of the media,
allow me to officially open the “Seminar on Men’s Active Participation in Combating Domestic Violence”, and to simultaneously thank the Council of Europe, which organized the Seminar in cooperation with the Croatian Government. This is the second of five planned regional seminars as part of the “Council of Europe Campaign to Combat Violence Against Women, including Domestic Violence”. The Republic of Croatia has actively contributed to this Campaign through the work of its expert, Dr. Dubravka Šimonović, who previously chaired and currently co-chairs the Task Force to Combat Violence Against Women, including Domestic Violence.
For Croatia, the organization of this event is an opportunity to enhance its prior support with active involvement in the Council of Europe’s efforts to combat violence against women, including domestic violence. We are particularly pleased that this Seminar constitutes a concrete contribution to actualization of the Action Plan from Warsaw, and particularly to the further development of one of the Campaign’s primary messages, according to which “Domestic violence dictates men’s active participation with the objective of combating violence against women”.
In this context, it is necessary to shed light on the role and status of men as both perpetrators of violence against women and domestic violence, but also as potential victims of domestic violence. This also prompts us to take further steps: to find effective measures to ensure men’s active participation in the prevention of this form of behaviour, and to foster their more active involvement in protection of victims. Success requires something more as well: overcoming stereotypes and eradicating the culture of silence, because the privilege of privacy, even men’s privacy, does not encompass domestic violence. That is why the slogan of our national Campaign is: “There is no justification for violence.”
In this, we need the help of the media. For if we truly look back, we can see that the media in Croatia have altered the image of certain successful men – when it was revealed that they were perpetrators of violence, the public began to perceive them as such, and their knowledge and former power were soon forgotten. We shall attentively monitor the activities of individual countries that are attempting to come to terms with such violent individuals not only in the courts, but also by exerting public moral pressure. It will be interesting to see the preventive effects achieved in countries that opt to make public the identities of convicted child abusers and perpetrators of domestic violence.
One of the key tasks in overcoming all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence, is to enlist the active participation of men. It is good to see high governmental officials, local leaders and popular performing artists voice their commitment to equality of the sexes and non-violence, but we need many more of them: we need enlightened teachers, trade union leaders, factory managers, top-level civil servants, public figures, kindergarten instructors and above all enlightened male parents and spouses. We need all of them to condemn violence against women and domestic violence, to fight stereotypes and to encourage all other men to actively oppose such behaviour and bring an end to the culture of silence.
However, we must also view violence from the aspect of human rights protection. Here the state bears immense, and almost exclusive, responsibility. For example, we can ask ourselves if we have done everything in our country by law and in practice to reduce the number of firearms, which are, as a rule, held by men. Or what must be improved to take a firearm, which most often become instruments of violence, from a person identified as a potential perpetrator of violence? Had more been done, many families today would be much happier.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Following up on the recommendations of the Action Plan, Croatia has joined the “Campaign to Combat Violence Against Women, including Domestic Violence”. The nation-wide Campaign Implementation Committee was established, and it has already carried out many activities that were firmly endorsed by Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader. The ambitious Campaign Implementation Programme at the National Level has been aligned with governmental policy, and the achievement of its clearly designated objectives, such as legislative changes, securing of finances, improvement of victim protection, enhancement of the data collection system and public awareness-raising, are challenges we are prepared to confront, even in the context of implementation of this Seminar.
Due to the need for action in local communities, I have personally, as Deputy Prime Minister, called upon all local authorities to prepare local programmes to implement the Campaign to inform the public of the forms and harmfulness of violent behaviour in the family and the need to prevent it, and of methods to aid and protect victims.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Permit me to say just a few more words about Croatia’s Campaign. After we launched promotion of the Campaign on 25 November 2006 when observing the International Day Against Violence, we concentrated on its further promotion and public awareness-raising. Therefore, a number of round table discussions were held on the topic of economic violence against women and financing of NGOs involved in victim protection, while by means of billboards and jingles and television spots (playing in the background), the public was additionally informed of the need to combat violence.
However, at this point I believe it is vital to share with you that men who are active in public and political life have become actively involved in the Campaign. Thus, we have distributed badges bearing the Campaign’s logo and slogan to Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, President Stjepan Mesić, the presiding judges in courts throughout Croatia, and the Speaker of the Croatian Parliament and MPs. On all of these occasions, considerable support was expressed for our efforts, as well as calls for further cooperation, so that we shall continue in this work.
Furthermore, professional footballers have also become actively involved in the Campaign. A cooperation agreement during the Campaign was signed with the president of the Croatian Football Federation and the Croatian Premier League’s Association of Professional Clubs. At the European Cup qualification match played between Croatia and Macedonia on 23 March 2007, Croatia’s players came out onto the field wearing promotional jerseys which had the Campaign’s slogan printed in front and an image of a poster on violence against women on the back. This event garnered considerable media attention, and the Croatian Football Federation pledged to continue promotion of combating violence against women in its activities.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In Croatia in recent years, we have worked on the creation of a legal framework to struggle against domestic violence and violence against women. We have also affirmed the work of new institutions such as the Gender Equality Ombudswoman, the Gender Equality Office and the county gender equality commissions, and now we are reinforcing the role of gender equality coordinators in the civil service. In the interest of raising public awareness, we have proclaimed 22 September the National Day to Combat Violence Against Women, in memory of the tragic killing of three women on the same day in 1999, when they fell victim to a violent man during a court trial. We have also printed a directory of institutions that victims can contact for assistance, and an informative flier that provides victims with a first orientation for taking further steps in their own protection.
A considerable number of activities conducted in this area every day are based on the National Strategy for Protection Against Domestic Violence, 2005/7, which defines objectives and measures for their effective achievement. One of the measures I would like to emphasize in particular is the “programme of psycho-social treatment of perpetrators of domestic violence” and the adoption of the Rules on Rendering of Psycho-social Treatment. With this, we have created essential foundations for the just treatment of men who are perpetrators of domestic violence. Also, based on the Strategy, the Government has also adopted the Protocol on Procedures in Domestic Violence Cases which provides a detailed breakdown of the obligations and measures that the relevant authorities must undertake in cases of domestic violence.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We certainly agree that this sensitive process requires involvement at all levels, by all participants in the process to combat violence against women and domestic violence. In Croatia special efforts are being undertaken to improve activities in the judiciary – family sections have been established in municipal courts, and all domestic violence cases are accorded priority. In this way we are sending a clear message to everyone, and particularly to perpetrators of violence, that this is a social ill that must be sanctioned. In this we are being assisted by the now over ten newly-established family centres throughout Croatia, whose tasks include, among other things, prevention and awareness-raising, and providing information on the positive role of family members in combating domestic violence. The Government is also continually implementing measures to foster cooperation with civil society, which is invaluable precisely in the promotion of awareness and protection of victims. In this context, the Ministry of the Family, Veterans Affairs and Intergenerational Solidarity provides financial assistance to counselling centres for the protection of women and children that have been established in over ten counties.
The new National Gender Equality Promotion Policy 2006/10 highlights the positive values of international documents crucial to the incorporation of gender perspectives in all facets of life, thus including effort to combat violence against women. The implementation of the Policy will help ensure that awareness of contemporary standards in the field of gender equality, particularly where this pertains to violence, takes root among all citizens.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are one of those countries that wants to exist in a European context in which the slogan “zero tolerance for violence” will truly take life.
This is why in Croatia we are obliged to do more: to implement legislation but also institute new measures for their successful implementation, and particularly reinforce prevention and the role of men in combating violence against women and domestic violence at all levels and in all social groups. Because together with men, society as a whole must accept and be sensitive to their new role, for we must overcome stereotypes.
Therefore, ladies and gentlemen,
I must tell you that when speaking of violence against women there must be no taboo topics. This Seminar is a place to eliminate taboos and to give them the public attention to which they are entitled in an aware society and a society of universal inclusion. It would appear that here and now is our opportunity to initiate a broad process, to point out existing shortcomings in both regulations and practice, and to include men on an equal basis so that they can become a part of the synergy in the struggle against domestic violence and violence against women.
Great trust has been placed in us to host this Seminar, for which we are truly grateful.
I wish all participants successful and constructive work, and I would like to wish all of our guests a pleasant stay in Zagreb, a city that I hope will be recalled for its beauty and good people, and for the results of this Seminar.