Reaction to Platform for Gender Equality: Apathy towards violence against women is worrying and unacceptable

The apathy towards violence against women is worrying and unacceptable


"A 19-year-old woman from Kičević reported that a taxi driver from Skopje touched her on the body while transporting her"; "The boyfriend beat her and shot her", "A man from Kavadar beat the ex-girlfriend and her 6-year-old daughter"; "A 14-year-old girl met a boy on Instagram, he filmed her, then forced her to have sex with drunken and drugged men"...

These are just some of the headlines in the Macedonian media related to various forms of gender-based violence that we read this morning. Instead of creating communities and environments where every woman is safe and free, we see how without proper systemic care and concern for the lives and well-being of girls and women, misogyny and violence emanate from every pore of our society.

As a Platform for Gender Equality, but also as activists, feminists and citizens, we are appalled by the apathetic and declarative way in which gender-based violence is treated by the institutions, which are not only incapable of working on the prevention of gender-based violence, but also completely fail in the field of protection, which leads to the most extreme form of violence against women - femicide.

We are concerned that victim-blaming (the 'you brought it on' narrative), which is rooted in misogyny as a value, is becoming an increasingly common response to violence. We are concerned that gender-based violence, instead of being eradicated, is further normalized and spills over into all spheres of our existence (both physical and digital). We are concerned that sexism is passed on as a social norm to new generations, who, in the absence of systemic support, comprehensive sexuality education and an adequate moral and ethical compass, not only (will) perpetuate this culture of violence, but (will) perpetuate it in increasingly extreme forms.

Locally, regionally and globally, cases of violence that start on the Internet and end with blackmail, rape and/or other forms of violence in the physical space are increasingly represented. Girls and young women are particularly exposed, as in the case of the 14-year-old victim, who, under threats and blackmail, was continuously raped in several locations in Veles, by several men who are currently in custody. While institutional resolution, i.e. justice for the victim, as well as justice for all victims of gender-based violence, is key in this fight, we must also focus on the perpetrators, who treat women's bodies and lives as their property to live off of. How to stop this tendency? How do we deal with the fact that under each of these media reports on gender-based violence, our public unanimously says "it's her own fault"? How do we look at the phenomenon that a protest organized by young men was announced today in support of Andrew Tate, an influencer who openly advocates hatred and violence against women, and who is currently in custody on suspicion of human trafficking and rape? How should we look at the phenomenon that, with honorable exceptions, most boys and men do not feel affected and do not feel the need to stand in solidarity in the fight against gender-based violence? What kind of community is it that approves and celebrates, or turns a blind eye to violence?

Victims are reporting more and more violence, and the violence is not decreasing at all. It shows that the system of prevention and protection does not work. At the same time, public opinion shows that the more free and empowered girls and women are, the more prevalent double victimization is. In order not to be attacked/raped/killed, you should sit at home, is more or less the average attitude on this issue. And while it's degrading to even enter into a discussion with that narrative, we want to point out that the numbers and the reality show otherwise. Not only is a woman least safe at home, but there is no space in which a woman is safe. In these conditions, it is simply unsafe to exist as a woman.

Exactly two years have passed since the local protests against gender-based violence. That mobilization has led to minimal institutional movement on this issue, but a comprehensive, dedicated, multisectoral and, above all, honest commitment to this struggle is missing. The declarativeness with which gender-based violence is treated, leads to being immune to the news of another abuse, another rape, another harassment, another femicide!

Faced with this terrible reality, we demand immediate institutional mobilization and the immediate adoption of amendments to the Criminal Code for compliance with the Istanbul Convention. We demand adequate system support for every woman or girl who has survived any kind of violence, we demand functional services equally represented in all regions, we demand that the trend of reducing domestic funding be stopped and adequate support for all organizations that provide these services to citizens. How