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Statements

The Protector of Citizens Zoran Pašalić indicated to the competent authorities today that persons with disabilities of any category (mental / intellectual, sensory or physical disabilities) are among the most vulnerable sections of the population amid Covid-19 pandemic, together with the elderly, and that it was therefore essential to include that vulnerable group in the support measures of the Government of the Republic of Serbia.

The Protector of Citizens joined the appeal by the National Organization of Persons with Disabilities (NOOIS) to the authorities, to make additional efforts and not to cut down community support services, such as supported housing, personal assistants, children personal companions and geronto-housewives.

Mr. Pašalić also warned of a serious problem regarding the personal assistance service operation, in particular the arrival of assistants to the homes of persons with disabilities during the movement ban, as well as the provision of necessary support and assistance to immobile or disabled persons by relatives, friends or persons privately engaged during the restriction of movement in a state of emergency.

Mr. Pašalić indicated that in the state of emergency, it was necessary to take additional protection measures and provide assistance to the inhabitants of substandard Roma settlements, primarily in hygiene packages and food packages.

On the occasion of 8 March, International Women's Day, the Protector of Citizens, Mr. Zoran Pašalić, highlights that many women and girls in Serbia today face inequality, gender-based violence and problems in exercising economic and social rights. Gender stereotypes and prejudices are still present, and discrimination against women is visible at every step. Vulgar insults hurled at women, particularly ones with a successful public life job, are not condemned by a society strongly enough or sanctioned by state authorities.

The disadvantaged status of women in the labor market, underrepresentation, particularly those from vulnerable groups, at the decision-making posts in Local Self-Government Units, coupled with dysfunctional gender equality mechanisms within the local self-government prove that women do not exercise their rights completely. Furthermore, Mr. Zoran Pašalić calls attention to the fact that the comprehensive Law on Gender Equality has not been adopted, and we are also faced with situations where the authorities partially act upon the Recommendations of the Protector of Citizens in the field of gender equality.

Regarding gender equality, in 2019, the Protector of Citizens most often received complaints in the field of exercising the right to salary compensation during leave, pregnancy leave, maternity leave and child care, the rights of pregnant women and mothers, as well as domestic and intimate partner violence.

Mr. Zoran Pašalić said that when the number of women murdered in domestic partner violence was added up to these data (more than 320 women in one decade), we would get a gloomy image of a woman who was yet to struggle for a dignified position in society.

The Protector of Citizens points out that the elderly need support and understanding in order to preserve their dignity and exercise their rights. It is necessary to combat the social exclusion and isolation of the elderly and to take measures dedicated to their active participation in society, the prevention of poverty and the improvement of financial position of the elderly, in the area of providing community services, health and social care, personal and family life, said the Protector of Citizens, Zoran Pasalic, on the occasion of the International Day for Older Persons.

The most common problems faced by the elderly are poverty and neglect within the family, including disposition of their property without their consent, dissatisfaction with exercising the right to material support when they are in a difficult financial and life situation due to lack of income or insufficient amount of income, and when they are in poor health condition, exercising the right to the assistance and care of another person is difficult.

Although domestic violence has ceased to be a “private family matter” and a taboo topic, violence against the elderly is not recognizable and visible enough. The elderly are less likely to report violence, especially when the perpetrators of the violence are their children; in such situations – primarily because of loyalty to their own children – older and infirm parents are willing to suffer the most cruel forms of violence, rather than to seek protection from the system. In one case, which the Protector of Citizens investigated on its own initiative, an elderly woman was a longtime victim of her son's violence. She was kicked, slapped, punched, insulted and belittled. Still, she did not want to press charges against her son, in order to protect him from prosecution. Although the victim did not report him, the police, guardianship authority and the health institutions were aware of the violence but failed to take action to protect the victim and prevent the recurrence of violence. Despite the history of violence against the elderly by her son, police officials did not estimate that there was a risk of violence, and the guardianship authority, instead of violence, was concerned with “repairing family relations between mother and son”. The extent to which the police, health care and guardianship authority estimates were incorrect, and the activities inadequate, was shown by the unfortunate tragic death of the victim, who died at the hands of her own son, which is unacceptable.

The lack of support services is still present, especially home support services that are often necessary for this group of population, given that the elderly often live alone and do not have relatives to care for them. These problems are particularly pronounced in rural areas, where elderly women living in single households are in a particularly difficult position, Pasalic said.

The Pride Week, which began on September 9, ended today with the Pride parade, a traditional stroll through Belgrade under the slogan “I'm not giving up”, and representatives of the Protector of Citizens participated in it. For the sixth consecutive year, the competent authorities ensured the peaceful organization of the Pride Parade in Belgrade, by implementing the necessary security measures. On this occasion, the Protector of Citizens emphasizes the need to adopt laws regulating same-sex marriages and legal recognition of gender identity, in accordance with the requirements of the organizers of this year's Pride Parade in Belgrade, but also the need to fully implement existing laws and the need to raise awareness of the entire society about the importance of respecting and fully exercising the rights of LGBTI persons.

This year, the Protector of Citizens once again points out that intolerance towards LGBTI persons is still noticeable in our society and that these persons face intolerance, hate speech and hate crimes, so it is necessary to make additional efforts on education about tolerance, non-discrimination and non-violent society, as well as to sanction any violation of the rights of members of the LGBTI community. The Protector of Citizens points out that preventive and educational activities are lacking, and that there is no education of students on sexual and reproductive health, which would cover the topic of LGBTI persons and their rights, and no campaigns have been organized to raise public awareness about persons of different sexual orientation and gender identity.

During the Pride Week, representatives of the Protector of Citizens participated in the conference “After 2020: LGBT+ community in the era of populism”, organized by Civil Rights Defenders, as well as the opening of the #LOVEISLOVE: No to Discrimination! exhibition at the French Institute in Serbia, which consists of posters of the Council of Europe campaign against hate speech, and the campaign to promote tolerance towards LGBTI persons, launched by the Da se zna! (Let it be known) association.

In the case that reasonably raised doubt about illegal eavesdropping of journalists, a control conducted established there was no eavesdropping, but that the information about the (legitimate) intentions of certain journalists were obtained in a different , improper way, outside the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior. In order to eliminate irregularities the Ombudsman has sent a series of recommendations that the Ministry of the Interior thoroughly implemented, in accordance with the Law, and of which the Ombudsman was informed. This reduces the space for similar irregularities in the future and improves the work of the Ministry of Interior and the respect for citizens' rights.

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