The United Nations supports the rights of survivors to speak publicly, testify and report sexual violence, without fear and condemnation

Statement by the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Ingrid Macdonald, on behalf of the United Nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Over the past weeks, thousands of women and girls, and some men and boys, across the Western Balkans have shared personal testimonies of rape, sexual violence, harassment, and discrimination through the ‘Nisam trazila’ (‘I did not ask for it’) Facebook platform.

These testimonies have shed light on the prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence in homes, educational institutions, and workplaces.

We recognize the incredible bravery required to speak publicly. Sexual violence, abuse, and discrimination leave deep scars. Survivors often need years, or even decades, to decide to come forward.

The United Nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina affirms the right of survivors of rape, sexual violence, harassment, and discrimination to pursue justice. We call on the relevant authorities to ensure that those speaking up are protected and accorded the right to report perpetrators regardless of when these crime occurred. Systemic protection should include support services to survivors, including education, counselling, access to safe houses, and legal aid. 

These rights are integral to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s international obligations, as a State Party to the UN Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention), and the Council of Europe Convention on Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (Lanzarote Convention).

We welcome the steps made to change societal norms and narratives on gender relations. We also recognize the important steps made to harmonize anti-discrimination, gender equality and criminal legislation with international standards. We encourage the full alignment of the legislation on rape and sexual harassment with the Istanbul Convention and the Gender Equality Law, as well as to:

  • Ensure that psychological, legal and institutional support is available to victims of sexual violence and abuse, regardless of when crimes occurred.
  • Ensure prosecution of alleged perpetrators and that access to professions or institutions that involve contact with children or minors is restricted to those convicted.
  • Ensure adequate legal provisions and budgets are in place for protection of survivors and to support access to justice, remedies and reparations.
  • Support education both in and out of schools to promote positive gender relations and end gender discrimination.  

The United Nations supports all survivors and their quest for justice and redress. We are inspired by the courage of those who speak out. We are joining you: “You are not alone”.

This is a unique moment in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is an opportunity to change the narrative around sexual violence, shift the stigma from the survivors to the perpetrators and secure a safer and more equal environment for future generations.

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