SERBIA: More Women Entering Serbian Politics

Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Southeast European Times
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Last year, Serbia passed a bill regulating gender equality, but the traditional Balkan notion that women belong at home is slow to change.

Still, the vice-president of the Gender Equality Council and state secretary in the Labour and Social Policy Ministry, Snezana Lakicevic, says women have far more opportunities in Serbian politics than was the case even a few years ago.

"We have a female parliament speaker, deputy prime minister, justice minister and, for the first time ever, a woman in a high position in the defence ministry, the assistant minister," Lakicevic told SETimes.

She added that in the Serbian judiciary women hold the highest posts, including at the helm of the Constitutional Court and state prosecution.

Lakicevic, a member of the ruling Democratic Party (DS), says men are no longer wary of women in politics, but women still have to fight hard for their position in political parties.

"Full equality in political parties still requires a lot of work [for women]. We cannot ignore that every political party in Serbia today has a female vice president," Lakicevic said.

While Serbia made big progress in implementing gender equality, she said, a rise in domestic violence cannot be overlooked.

Women face a more difficult economic situation than men, a higher percentage of women are unemployed and salaries of employed women are lower than those of their male colleagues, she added.

Jelena Trivan, DS spokeswoman and a representative in the parliament, says stereotypes are still strong in Serbia.

"We all have to be disgustingly ugly; otherwise, we are merely the mistresses of respectable men. There is still the stereotype that women achieve success through shortcuts, rather than on their own merit," says Trivian. "The assumption is that a woman is not able to hold any serious post or do any serious work, and if she manages to do so, she argued her way up in a not so professional manner."

According to Trivan, there is still a lack of women in decision-making positions.

"Women are rarely in the highest posts of party hierarchy and local political authorities. Serbia has some 150 municipalities and just three female mayors. Women seldom head party committees and essentially wield very little influence," Trivan says.

Despite Serbia's gender equality regulations, Trivian says the country has a long way to go in fighting prejudice.