Croatia: Report by the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women

Rashida Manjoo, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, released a report in June on her findings from her mission to Croatia in November, 2012. The report outlines the situation of violence against women, the steps local and government bodies have taken to preventing and responding to these issues, and remaining obstacles to achieving women’s equality, safety, and empowerment in Croatia. The report examines violence against women as it occurs in the home, in the community at large, and transnationally. It also analyzes instances in which the Croatian government may perpetuate, perpetrate, or condone violence against women. The latter includes a review of the situation of women in institutions and detention facilities.
 
Although Manjoo praised the existence of legislative safeguards for women suffering from domestic violence, such as the Law on Protection against Domestic Violence (LPDV), she was critical of the lack of implementation of these laws. For example, insufficient focus on determining the primary aggressor in a domestic violence case means that victims may be arrested when their perpetrators are arrested, and may face charges for fighting back against their attackers. The Special Rapporteur also heard examples of inadequate protection for victims who report instances of domestic violence, despite the fact that these women are at a risk of reprisals from their intimate partners. Case law also provided an obstacle for victims of domestic violence; Manjoo cited the 2009 European Court of Human Rights decision in Maresti v. Croatia that forces prosecutors to choose between misdemeanor and criminal charges. Under the LPDV, long-term protective measures are only available under misdemeanor charges. Finally, required mediation in divorce cases under Croatia’s Family Law does not acknowledge the risks mediation presents to a victim of domestic violence.
 
In terms of violence outside the home, there have been several recent positive legislative developments, though many challenges remain. The Government Office for Gender Equality created a protocol for responding to sexual violence and in late 2012 the Government adopted the Rules of Procedure in Cases of Sexual Violence. Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal in Croatia, but fear of reprisal still remains an obstacle to reporting for many women. However, there have been several convictions for workplace sexual harassment since 2010.
 
Manjoo recommends increased focus on implementing existing policies and national plans addressing violence against women. Effective implementation will depend on the devotion of financial resources to this issue (for example, for increasing the number of shelters for women) as well as gender-sensitivity training for the healthcare, social work, legislative, and law enforcement sectors and increased cooperation between these sectors. Manjoo also recommends that Croatia ratify relevant international conventions (such as the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence) and amend existing national laws to fill holes in legislation on domestic violence, especially regarding stalking and protective orders. Finally, Croatia needs to improve its psychosocial, medical, legal, and economic support of women victims of wartime violence and prosecute their perpetrators according to international law.