SOS for progressive Serbian women

Associate member of PES W
Budapest, Ljubljana, Tallinn

Andrevlje, May 15, 2011


Serbia has a proportional electoral system, like Israel (the whole country is one electoral unite).

Serbian government has recently accepted to amend Serbian Law on parliamentary elections according to the suggestions of the Venetian commission. Political will is there to get rid of two articles – the one which made possible that the party decides who of the people on the list would actually seat in the parliament after the elections and the one which stipulates that the party can cal off any of their elected MPs for whatever reason (bianco resignation). Progressive women of Serbia warmly support these solutions.

At the same time the government decided to adjust the quota regulations to the new situation. It made two proposals:
The government has proposed an article (40a) stipulating that every fourth candidate on the list has to be from the less represented sex, and that at least 30% of all candidates on the list have to be from the less represented sex. This means de facto lowering of the quota on the lists to 25%.

The good part of this governmental proposal is stipulating that any MP from the less represented sex who has to be replaced for any legal reason, has to be replaced by the MP from the less represented sex.

Human rights activists, especially those from incredibly vibrant civil society women organizations, but also coming from academia, political parties, trade unions and media, are fighting for equal representation of women from 1990. (SI W and CEE Network for Gender Issues from European Forum for Gender Equality are continuously supporting this women’s movement from 1994).

First results from this movement have stared to be seen after 2000, when a strong crosscutting women’s coalition succeeded to lobby successfully for the establishment of the gender equality state mechanisms, enactment of equal opportunity act, 30% quota regulations and the most gender sensitive Constitution in entire Europe.

Unfortunately our sister party, the Democratic Party, crucial party in all the governments after the fall of Milošević, has never been united on these issues, including some most visible women from this party.
Serbia has enacted 30 % quota for less represented sex on local level in 2003, and on national level in 2007, with strong opposition coming from several so called progressive, democratic parties. Decisive votes for the national level legal quota paradoxically came from the Radical Party!!!

After 2008, due to the fazing out of the Stability Pact, withdrawal of most of the strong donors for the work of the women’s movement from the Balkans, due to the growing disappointment of progressive women activists with overall political, economic and social developments of Serbia, hardly hit by recent economic crises, women’s movement started to dwindle and their lobbying efforts lost the momentum.

Never the less when the recent process of amending parliamentary elections law has started, women’s and human rights organization came together again and started to lobby for their amendment which should enable Serbian women to keep the level of the rights they have already gained. They proposed:

Quota rules should stipulate that every third candidate should come from the less represented sex on the list.
This women’s rigts coalition also gave strong support to the rule of replacing an out going woman MP by the next woman MP.

These efforts led to no result!
Two parliamentary bodies rejected the proposal of the “every third” rule. Even worse, there are roomers we could not neither confirm nor reject by now, that the whip of the DP parliamentarians, a woman MP, proposed to reject the governmental amendment of the replacement of the woman by a woman MP!

In this situation, one woman MP, coming from the League of Social democrats of Vojvodina (also our siter party), decided to personally take over the civil society led initiative and she tabled the amendment on every third person on the list to be from the less represented sex. She is also ready to speak in favor of the governmental proposal on replacement of the woman MP by the next woman MP from the list.

The final decision will be taken very soon. The last parliamentary debate on this law will take place on May 19, 2011. In the NDI organized Academy for Women Leaders, taking place from May 12-15 in Andrevlje, Vojvodina, the participants estimated that Serbian women’s movement alone will not be able to win this time without serious support form the male leaders of the SI and PES.

In Tunisia today, women are getting parity and zipper in the new electoral legislation. They were the decisive part of the Tunisian uprising for democracy. For more than two decades, Serbian progressive women were in the fore front against nationalism, wars, against conservative backlash in the SEE region, in the struggle for a new, European, really democratic Serbia. Today they need help not to loose the meager fruits of their strife. They need solidarity and support from male leaders from SI, from PES, from all progressive women and men from European Union.

Reporting: Sonja Lokar, Executive Director of the CEE Network for Gender Issues

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