Women's situation

Many Bosnian women are living with painful memories of the war that took place in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the early 1990s and the abuse they were subjected to. But women’s experiences of the war were ignored and no women were present at the peace negotiations that decided how the conflict was to be solved.

The peace treaty, the Dayton Peace Accord (1995), was drafted in a way that reinforces the fragmentation of different ethnic groups, something that has hindered Bosnia-Herzegovina’s rebuilding process. The treaty also failed to include a gender perspective.

Even after the war, women have largely been excluded from the official rebuilding processes. That said, the women’s movement has played an important role. Women activists made contact with women from different ethnic groups early on and together they have fought against recurrent nationalist tendencies.

No redress for victims of sexual violence

During the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 20 000  women were subjected to sexual violence, according to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Twenty years later, these women have still not received any form of redress, they are often stigmatised whereas few perpetrators have been convicted. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague has been facing a lot of criticism since trials have been lasting for too long, and many war criminals are still walking free.

After the war, many people felt the need for a stronger identification with their own ethnic groups. Among other things, this has resulted in religion gaining more power in some parts of society, which has subsequently decreased the efforts to promote women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Law on Gender Equality, adopted in 2003, is in theory very progressive. However, its implementation has been far from exemplary. It is still socially acceptable to discriminate against women within marriages – through physical, psychological and economic violence – as well as to refuse women the right to property or inheritance.

Unemployment and poverty

Women are at significantly greater risk of ending up in poverty than men. Despite an increase in the number of women in the labor market, there is still a discrimination when it comes to the proportion of women in management and better paid positions.

Women are particularly discriminated when it comes to maternity leave. The regulation of maternity leave is not harmonized throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina. In many places, women don’t have access to paid maternity leave and they often have difficulty to get a job after becoming pregnant and having children.

Few women in Bosnia-Herzegovina occupy elected seats of power, although this figure is slowly rising. According to electoral legislation, political party lists must be made up of at least 40 percent women. In the 2014 election, 19.03 percent women were elected to all levels of government. 40.96 percent of the candidates for the House of Representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia-Herzegovina were women, but only 10 women (23.81%) were elected.

Senast uppdaterad: 2015-06-25