Almost every second woman in Bosnia and Herzegovina has experienced some sort of violence, according to official statistics. Experts claim that the situation is becoming more and more complex, and women more and more jeopardised.
Bosnia's Republika Srpska (RS) region has seen four murders of women over the past 11 months, who died as victims of domestic violence.
“Two were wives, one intimate partner and one daughter-in-law. Four men were identified as perpetrators, of which two were the spouses, one intimate partner and one father-in-law,” according to the RS Ministry of Interior.
In 2018, there were two such cases in the RS.
As for the Federation (FBiH), Bosnia's other semi-autonomous entity, its authorities recorded five murders of women from January to October this year with all cases having been resolved except the tragic death of a girl from the southern city of Mostar, Lana Bijedic.
“In two of those cases the suspects were related, while the victims and suspects in other three cases had no family ties,” said the FBiH Police Administration.
Although the data collected by the police and statistic agencies usually serve as the basis to determine the range of violence, it is the fact that domestic violence is usually not reported with the police, healthcare institutions or support services.
Lack of information on helplines is one in the series of obstacles for the women who wish to report violence, while other obstacles include the feeling of shame, lack of trust in institutions and financial dependency.
Although the legal framework in Bosnia and Herzegovina exists, the organisations that provide support to the victims assess that the laws treating the violence against women are not adequately exercised, especially in the part concerning the punishment of perpetrators.
“Experts say that domestic violence, in practice, is often treated as offence in both entities and not as a crime, which portrays the perception of police officers, prosecutors and courts that violence is not a serious problem,” according to a study conducted by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2018.
The study that encompassed more than 2,300 women from Bosnia and Herzegovina aged between 18 and 74 showed that 48 percent of them have experienced some sort of violence since they were 15.
Dzelila Mulic-Corbo, a psychotherapist who runs the Safe House in Sarajevo, said that the lack of adequate sanctions sends a message that “it is not worth it to go through the hell ,because women indeed live in fear, shame, with low self-esteem and facing many obstacles.”
“And then when they get the courage to report violence and start the whole process, the perpetrator gets suspended sentence,” she told Anadolu Agency.
There are institutions and individuals who work with the women who experienced violence but the country lacks programmes dealing with perpetrators as well as the psychotherapy programmes of work with the families, which are usually left on their own, she added.