Violence Against Women in Serbia
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Population of women: 4,978,7700/9,855,900
Life expectancy of women (at birth): 77
School life expectancy for women: 14
Women's adult literacy: 96%
Unemployment of women: 21%
Women engaged in economic activity: 46% 

Source: U.N. Statistics Division, Social Indicators, updated June 2011




Last updated 7 August 2009


The Republic of Serbia became an independent state in 2006. After the breakup of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Montenegro created a new state, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which existed from 1992 to 2003, when it was reconstructed as a State Union of Serbia and Montenegro. In 2006, Montenegro declared its independence from the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro which resulted in both Montenegro and Serbia becoming independent countries. The Republic of Serbia is the legal successor to all ratified Conventions and Treaties.

Organization of Government

The Republic of Serbia (RS) is constituted as a parliamentary democracy based on the rule of law. The National Assembly is the supreme representative body and holder of constitutional and legislative power (Article 98 of the Constitution of RS.) The Government is the holder of executive power in the Republic of Serbia. Judiciary power is unique in the territory of the Republic of Serbia. Courts are separated and independent in their work and they perform their duties in accordance with the Constitution, Law and other general acts, when stipulated by the Law, generally accepted rules of international law and ratified international contracts (Article 142 of the Constitution of RS). Ratified international treaties and generally accepted rules of the international law are part of the legal system of the Republic of Serbia. Ratified international treaties may not be in noncompliance with the Constitution. Laws and other general acts enacted in the Republic of Serbia may not be in noncompliance with the ratified international treaties and generally accepted rules of the International Law (Article 194 of the Constitution of RS).

Human rights legal framework

The Republic of Serbia has ratified seven fundamental international treaties on human rights and has accepted the competence of 4 United Nations Committees. Until now, ten Applications have been submitted against Republic of Serbia to the above-mentioned Committees, but none before the CEDAW Committee.

Even though the state has been implementing the doctrine of monism, the Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women is unfamiliar among the broader public and representatives of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government on all levels – it is not typically adduced as a legal source for elimination of discrimination against women. The courts do not adduce provisions of the Convention, and the Convention is not implemented directly. The state is not taking pro-active measures (public campaigns, dissemination of information about the Convention) to make the Convention a frequently used and legally binding instrument for protection of human rights of women. From: Voice of difference from Serbia: Alternative report to the CEDAW Committee, pg. 17

So far, the Republic of Serbia has ratified 33 Conventions of the Council of Europe. The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and its fourteen Protocols were ratified in 2003.

Gender equality legal framework

By the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia (2006), the State guarantees equality of women and men and develops a policy of equal opportunities (Article 15). Prohibition of discrimination is proscribed in Article 21 (gender neutral definition of discrimination). Sexual orientation is not explicated as a personal characteristic against which discrimination is prohibited. According to Article 26 paragraph 3, forced labour is prohibited. Sexual or financial exploitation of a person in an unfavourable position shall be deemed forced labour. Articles 62, 63 and 66 prescribe equality of spouses, the freedom to procreate (formulation "Everyone shall have the freedom to decide whether they shall procreate or not”) and special protection of the family, mother, single parent and child.

Under the Criminal Code of the RS (Official Gazette of the RS 85/05), a breach of equality is liable to punishment (Article 128). The Family Law stipulates that:  "A woman is free to decide about childbearing" (Article 5, paragraph 1) and in paragraph 2, “Mother and child shall enjoy special protection in the Republic of Serbia. A Proposal on the Law on Gender Equality is currently before the Parliament.

Institutions for promotion and protection of gender equality are: Parliamentary Committee for Gender Equality (2003) (; Government Council for Gender Equality (2004);  Directorate of Gender Equality within the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy (2008) (⟨=sr);  Committee on Gender Equality within the Assembly of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina (; Provincial Secretary for Labour, Employment and Gender Equality (2002) (; and Local Municipal Committees/persons for gender equality.

The new Constitution takes a conservative political and legal course, and despite its gender-sensitive rhetoric it is difficult to conclude that real progress toward establishing equality and the principle of equal opportunity has been made. "Depoliticized topics" (e.g. family violence, a right to education, possibly even employment) may be the areas in which the state will be making efforts, but it is less likely that in the redistribution of economic, social and political power it will observe guaranteed principles of gender equality. The re-traditionalization of society resulted in the growing influence of the Serbian Orthodox Church on state policy.  There is no public information related to criminal sentences for the criminal act Breach of Equality (Article 128), nor is there reliable and available information on how many women have filed charges or a lawsuit for discrimination, of which kind, in which area and with what outcome. Also, there is no data on discrimination, charges or a lawsuit of women who belong to minority and marginalized groups (such as Roma women, lesbian women, women with disabilities, foreign women and others.) From: Voice of difference from Serbia: Alternative report to the CEDAW Committee, pg. 14 and 15

The legal framework for discrimination

The Constitution of the Republic of Serbia (November 2006) provides a gender-neutral definition of discrimination, rather than a definition of discrimination against women in accordance with Article 1 of the Convention. Sexual orientation is not explicated as a personal characteristic against which discrimination is prohibited.

The Law against Discrimination, adopted in May, 2009, prohibits discrimination based on sex, gender and sexual orientation and qualifies it as severe form of discrimination (Articles 13 and 20.) It also prohibits discrimination at work, and gives an explanation as to whether or not affirmative action is considered discrimination. The Law institutes a new mechanism for protection – a Trustee for discrimination, to whom everyone whose right has been violated can submit application. The Trustee doesn’t exclude judicial protection.

The Labor Law contains a definition of discrimination that encompasses direct and indirect discrimination. The definition of the principle of equal pay for equal work or work of equal value has been upgraded. Progress has been made in defining harassment and sexual harassment. Nevertheless, the Law also contains measures that can eventually prove to be counterproductive for women. The Law on Employment and Insurance in Case of Unemployment is the first law of the RS that has introduced affirmative action for vulnerable categories and especially women. From: Voice of difference from Serbia: Alternative report to the CEDAW Committee, pg. 18.

The legal framework for sexual violence

The Criminal Code of the RS in its chapter Criminal Offences against Sexual Liberty envisages sanctions for the following criminal offenses: Rape (Art. 178) (includes coercion); Sexual intercourse with an infirm person (Art. 179) (taking advantage, without coercion); Sexual abuse of a child (Art. 180); Sexual abuse misusing the position of authority (Art. 181); (par. 2 Art. 181 enumerates "persons held in confidence" who are in a position to abuse the trust of children: "teachers, kindergarten teachers, guardians, adoptive parents, parents, stepfathers, stepmothers or other persons who by abusing their position or authority commit statutory rape or an equivalent act over a minor who had been entrusted to him/her for learning, upbringing, guardianship or care, shall be sanctioned..."); Unlawful Sex Acts (Art. 182); Pandering (of minors) (Art. 183); Mediation in the Act of Prostitution (Art. 184); Showing pornographic material and exploitation of children in pornography (Art. 185). Provisions of all articles are gender-neutral. Legal proceedings for criminal offenses against sexual freedoms in Articles 178 and 179 against a spouse and for offense in Article 182, paragraph 1 are instituted at a motion. From: Voice of difference from Serbia: Alternative report to the CEDAW Committee, p. 32 and 33.

These legal amendments have decriminalized sexual harassment, noted as a serious concern by the CEDAW Committee. see Concluding comments of the CEDAW Committee, 38th Session, May-June 2007, p. 4 and 5, par. 21.

Legal framework for protection from domestic violence 

The Criminal Code in its chapter Criminal Offences against Marriage and Family incriminates acts of domestic violence (Article 194) by prohibiting any use of violence, threat to inflict violence on life or body, or impertinent or reckless behavior with the intention to harm the tranquility, physical integrity or mental health of family member. The penalties for this act vary whether the perpetrator uses weapons, dangerous tools or other devices able to cause severe physical or psychological pain, or where severe physical or psychological injury occurred, where the act was committed against a minor, or when the death of a family member occurred. The last paragraph prohibits violation of protective measures ordered by a court in accordance with the law.

The penalties in this article are lower that they were when domestic violence became a criminal offence (in 2002), and that fact was also noted in the Concluding comments by the CEDAW Committee. See Concluding comments of the CEDAW Committee, 38th Session, May-June 2007, p. 4 and 5, par. 21

Article 10 of the Family Law prohibits domestic violence. Domestic violence, as stated in Article 197 par 1, is behavior of a family member that harms the physical integrity, mental health or tranquility of another family member. Protection is guaranteed to a broader group of persons that can be considered as family members (for example: persons who live or lived in the same family household, couples who were or still are in an emotional or sexual relationship, or who have or are expecting a child, even though they have never lived together in a shared household.) Five different protection orders are described in Article 198, which include eviction, restraining and non-molestation orders.

Legal  framework for trafficking

The criminal act of human trafficking is regulated under Article 388 of the Criminal Code. Other articles important for this issue are: Trafficking in children for the purpose of adoption (Article 389), and people smuggling, regulated as Illegal crossing of the state border and people smuggling (Article 350). The Government of Serbia adopted the Anti-Trafficking Strategy in December of 2006. On July 5, 2004, an Instruction on Conditions for Approving Temporary Residence to Foreign Nationals – Trafficked Victims was issued by the Minister of the Interior of the RS. In October of 2004, the Government of Serbia passed a Decision to set up an Anti-Trafficking Council as an expert advisory body of the Government. The members of the Government Council against trafficking (2005) are: Minister of Interior, Minister of Education and Sport, Minister of Finance, Minister of Labor, Employment and Social Policy, Minister of Health and Minister of Justice. The Witness Protection Law was passed in 2005 (Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia, no. 85/2005). From: Voice of difference from Serbia: Alternative report to the CEDAW Committee, pg. 39

Compiled from:

Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia, Women and men in Serbia, Belgrade, 2008, at

Constitution of the Republic of Serbia (Official Gazette of the RS 98/06), available in English at (14.07.2009., 15:51)

Criminal Code (Official Gazette of the RS 85/05) (14.7.2009.,16:10h)

Family Law (Official Gazette of the RS 18/05), available only in Serbian on (18.7.2009., 20:51h)

Voice of difference from Serbia: Alternative report to the CEDAW Committee, March, 2007, available in English on


Concluding comments of the CEDAW Committee, 38th Session, May-June 2007, available on (31.7.2009, 14:13)

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