In many armed conflicts and throughout history, rape and sexual violence were used as a weapon of war, as a tool to terrorize, intimidate and humiliate populations.
During Croatia’s independence war, 1500 to 2200 persons, mainly women, are thought to have been victims of aggravated forms of sexual violence (1). Many of these victims, though, weren’t able to report the violence and the crimes to which they were subjected to, because of the social norms and the stigma which surrounds rape and sexual violence.
While many victims suffered the repercussions and the trauma of this violence in silence, others stepped forward!
In 1992, a group of feminist anti-military women’s rights activists founded the Centre for Women War Victims (ROSA) to react to war violence against women and to encourage violence victims to speak out and share their stories. Over time, the trauma of the victims became apparent. Most women were unemployed or lived in difficult economic conditions. Further, they’ve lacked access to the psychological and social support that must be provided to victims of violence.
In 2010, ROSA, along with other organization from former-Yugoslavian countries, launched the ‘’Women’s Court Initiative’’ which aimed at creating a space for the women’s voices and for their testimonies of the injustices they have experienced during the war and the peace time, in both private and public spheres. The initiative also aimed at reinforcing women´s organized resistance to promote the culture of non-violence and reestablish inter-ethnic dialogue. The initiative also enabled women survivors to file criminal charges against perpetrators, through providing legal consultations and support to victims.
These efforts, along with unremitting lobbying from other women and human rights organization, culminated in the adoption, in 2015, of a law granting compensation to rape victims in the 1991-95 war of independence, by the Croatian parliament.
This law was considered a first of its kind in recognizing rape and sexual violence as war crime, and providing victims of dignified financial compensation.
This platform is part of the Axis 1 "Strengthening the capacities of equality actors" of the Priority Solidarity Fund "Women for the future in the Mediterranean" funded by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and led by the European Institute of the Mediterranean, in the framework of the project “Developing Women's Empowerment” labelled by the Union for the Mediterranean.