Women March for Rights Across the Balkans

Belgrade March 8 protest. Photo: BIRN

Women March for Rights Across the Balkans

Women in several Balkan countries staged rallies on International Women’s Day, demanding better rights and more equal treatment.

Women in Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Romania held protest rallies on International Women’s Day on March 8, to draw attention to the plight of women in their countries, where traditional patriarchal values remain prevalent.

In the Serbian capital of Belgrade, demonstrators held banners reading “Work, not hunger. Food, not weapons”, wanting to draw attention to ongoing issues with inequality, sexual violence, discrimination and poor quality legislature when it comes to the protection of women rights in Serbia.

Under the slogan “We march, we don’t celebrate”, women in Kosovo’s capital, Pristina, called attention to the discrimination and double standards imposed on them in a country where victims of domestic violence are often at the mercy of a justice system that fails to protect them.

In Bucharest, Romania, two feminist NGOs staged a peaceful protest in front of court headquarters, to voice their anger at sexual abuse and violence against women.

Women in Montenegro also joined the wave of demonstrations held on March 8 across the region.

In Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, feminist groups organised the annual “night march”, saying that March 8 is “the day we go out onto the streets, the day when we celebrate every fight, every woman’s voice that spoke about treatment in hospitals, maternity hospitals and gynecological clinics all over the country.”

Last year, hundreds of Croatian women spoke out about the traumatic experiences they suffered during childbirth in their country’s hospitals, thrusting the issue of obstetric violence into the spotlight.

According to a study by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs, published in January, the prevalence of domestic violence against women in the Western Balkans is high, while rates of reporting such violence to institutions are extremely low.

The study warned that murders of women in the context of domestic and intimate partner violence seem to occur frequently, but are not adequately documented.

It added that femicide also a serious problem in countries of the Western Balkans; however, it is difficult to present reliable data, as official data are often unknown or unpublished. Due to this, women’s rights NGOs often collect data on cases by analysing media reports.

The protest on March 8 in Belgrade. Photo: BIRN

Women rally for their rights on International Women’s Day in Belgrade. Photo: BIRN

Gay rights activists participated in the Women’s Day rally in Belgrade on March 8. Photo: BIRN

Kosovo citizens protested for women’s rights in Pristina on March 8, under the slogan “We march, we don’t celebrate”. Photo: BIRN/Atdhe Mulla

Kosovo citizens used International Women’s Day to call for improved rights. Photo: BIRN/Atdhe Mulla


An activists in Podgorica yells through a megaphone during the women’s rights rally on March 8.

Maja Zivanovic