Regarding the launching of the national event "Children’s Week”, the Protector of Citizens, Mr. Zoran Pašalić, reiterated today that it was necessary to amend the relevant legal and other regulations concerning child rights protection with a view to improving the position of the most vulnerable population category.

The Institution of the Protector of Citizens had been very successful in protecting the rights and best interests of the child since its establishment 13 years ago, and the new Law on the Protector of Citizens will significantly improve child rights protection in every sense, both in terms of prevention and protection, but also in terms of effectiveness of the protection implementation, Mr. Pašalić said.

Deputy Protector of Citizens for Child Rights, Ms. Jelena Stojanović, highlighted that during this year majority of problems in child rights protection had occurred during the state of emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

There had been problems because the competent Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs was not prompt in recognizing the needs of special categories of children, nor had it pointed out to other decision-makers the specific needs of e.g. children with autism; however, further to the urging by the Protector of Citizens, those omissions had been rectified, Ms. Stojanović said.

“We will continue to continuously and very carefully monitor the work of all competent state bodies and institutions tasked with protecting child rights and urgently react to all their omissions in the work in order to provide children with the highest degree of their rights and interests protection”, Ms. Stojanović stated.

On the occasion of "Children’s Week", the Protector of Citizens organized an online survey with the children from the Youth Panel of the Protector of Citizens as participants. The main impressions of the Youth Panel members regarding the state of emergency were the feeling of boundedness, isolation, fear, but also the acceptance of the new way of schooling, while most of the participants in the survey liked distance learning.

“I felt somehow closed, I can’t go anywhere when I would like to meet my friends”, “I felt closed, both physically and mentally, I was bored, I was listless and tired, deprived of freedom", "At the beginning of the state of emergency, I was a little nervous, everything that could be closed (schools, shopping malls, colleges, theaters ...) was closed,” - these were some of the inputs of the young about their experience regarding the state of emergency.

“The advantages are that they put less pressure on us, we may sleep longer, and as for the disadvantages I single out that it is harder to learn school subjects ", “It's an advantage that I don't have to study to get a mark and that we are at home ", "Distance learning can never be as good as in person learning," the representatives of the "Youth Panel" said.

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.

The Protector of Citizens requested the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia to lift the ban on the alienation of the new vehicles 60 day from the day of purchase and was assured from the competent ministry that this measure would be withdrawn within 24 hours.

The Protector of Citizens learned from citizens that the Serbian Ministry of Interior banned new vehicles buyers to alienate the vehicles for 60 days from the day of purchase of the vehicle, and the measure was applicable to new vehicles purchased in car showrooms.

The Protector of Citizens asked the Ministry of Interior of Serbia to withdraw this measure because it is contrary to the laws and the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia as it restricts the property rights of new vehicle owners without any legal basis.

The measure prohibiting the alienation of vehicles will remain in force for the purchase of used vehicles.

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.

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