Croatia: New Law Recognizes Rape as a War Crime

Twenty years after the end of the Balkan wars, the Croatian parliament has approved a new law that officially recognizes sexual violence as a war crime. Thousands of women were systematically raped and tortured during the Balkan conflicts, including during Croatia’s war for independence from Yugoslavia. However, prior to the enactment of the new law, war-time rape survivors in Croatia were not entitled to any government compensation or aid. Now, victims may claim a monthly stipend, as well as access to free counseling services, legal support and medical aid. The Croatian organization Centre for Women War Victims (ROSA), which spent six years lobbying for the new law, says many women who were raped during the war continue to suffer social stigma, trauma and shame. The organization hopes that access to compensation will help victims stand up for their rights.