'Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity - Picture it!' is the UN slogan for this year's March 8 - the International Women's Day. It tells us that it is possible to have a world in which each woman and girl can choose to engage in politics, get an education, earn an income and live in a society without violence or discrimination. On this occasion, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon pointed out that, in order to truly transform the world, gender equality and women's empowerment must be a development priority beyond 2015. The world will never achieve a 100 percent of its goals unless half of the population cannot realize its full potential.
Therefore, it is important to stress on this occasion that, in spite of a significant improvement, the economic inequality of women is still the root of all other women's rights violations based on their gender, marital and family status or maternity.
The economic position of a vast number of women is bad, while the long-lasting economic crisis has additionally increased their economic inequality. Women's unemployment is bigger than that of men. Women have less control over assets and social resources; they are more frequent than men in informal employment with lower income rates, while spending more time doing unpaid work. Pregnant women and new mothers are particularly discriminated because their employment chances are smaller and they get easily fired. Employers often to not fulfill their obligations to pay for their employee's welfare, healthcare and pension related mandatory taxes. Employed women are often subject to derogation and even threats and blackmail at workplace. Too many girls and women are a target of domestic and other forms of violence burdening not only them as individuals, but the society in general. The Provincial protector of Citizens - Ombudsman (PPCO) institution has been pointing to these phenomena for years back now, asking from the authorities in charge to undertake mandatory measures for women's protection and to observe the regulations in force, esp. the Gender Equality Law.
The last visit of the Provincial Protector of Citizens - Ombudsman (PPCO) to the Otthon Home for Persons With Mental Disabilities in Stara Moravica showed that mortality of its beneficiaries increased over the last couple of years. Some beneficiaries have been in isolation since 2011, with no prospects of change or any idea of those in charge on how to improve their position in a foreseeable future.
The beneficiaries of the Home are people with no families or have been abandoned by them. The reason for the last visit of the Deputy Ombudsman Stevan Arambasic to Otthon was to get a first-hand insight into the health status of the beneficiary M. T., who has been in permanent isolation since 2011 and is undergoing a civil capacity deprivation procedure. This beneficiary has been practically isolated in inhuman environment for five years now, in a room with no running water or lavatory, its windows and doors barred. Despite recommendations to work with M. T. intensively with a team of experts in order to socialize him and reintegrate into a group, the Home claims that a lack of staff makes it impossible to implement any individual activities with him. Considering the time he has spent in isolation and his current psychological status, the Home management holds that the only solution for his adequate treatment and protection is transferring him to another welfare facility or a hospital.
This year's February 10 is the Safer Internet Day and its slogan is 'Let's create a better internet together'. The situation in children's protection form Internet violence in Serbia is still very unfavorable. The number of violence cases perpetrated using Internet or information and communication technologies is increasing constantly, esp. among its youngest users.
In 2013, the Provincial Protector of Citizens - Ombudsman (PPCO) implemented the 'Children's Exploitation on the Internet' research survey project supported by the Save the Children International. Its findings indicate that no legal act or a strategic document on the national level does neither recognize nor define children's exploitation by means of information and communication technologies (ICT) as a special form of violence against, harassment or abuse of children. The executive authorities in charge treat this issue primarily as a criminological one, so their proceedings in such matters are focused on penalizing perpetrators of the ICT based child exploitation crime and suppressing it once it has already happened, rather than on its prevention by informing the children and adults and their education on how to use the ICTs properly and preventively.
The Provincial Protector of Citizens - Ombudsman (PPCO) institution hereby points to the fact that in the City of Novi Sad there are many vacant buildings that cannot be put to use due to long-lasting legal proceedings concerning unresolved ownership issues. Their poor condition makes them a threat to public health and safety.
On 26 January 2015, the PPCO was addressed by I.B. from Novi Sad. He filed a complaint on behalf of the Tenants' Councils of several apartment buildings in Alekse Santica Street. The tenants hold their human rights are being violated due to residing in the vicinity of a vacant and unsafe residential and commercial building. It was built in 1993, but has never been put to use or maintained meanwhile. Besides parts of its facade crumbling and falling around it, presenting thus a threat to passers-by, the building is also being used as a public lavatory, with liquids flowing out of it onto the public surface. There is also a considerable amount of garbage in it, practically a small dumpsite, smelling terribly and being a potential infection source. Open, lidless utility holes all around it are a public safety threat, especially to the children attending a nearby preschool facility.
On 10th December 1948 the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today, 66 years later, some of its articles seem utopian.
The seemingly utopian character of the Declaration is a consequence of numerous and unresolved issues, such as unemployment, corruption or discrimination, that weaken people's trust with the institution, generate poverty and inequality, question justness of social arrangements, cause tension, are conducive to violence, favor the status quo concerning gender based social divisions and stand in the way of exercise of rights, especially socio-economic ones.
The consequences of these problems are the gravest with the most vulnerable: the children, women, elderly and, in case of unemployment, people under 30 and over 50.
Observation of the rights of persons with disabilities (PWDs) is essential for improvement of their position in the society. PWDs face many physical and social obstacles and challenges, esp. those related to prejudices concerning disability. This leads to discrimination, most devastatingly affecting women with disabilities who are usually already marginalized on gender basis as well.
The major issues of PWDs are inadequate living conditions, high unemployment rate, poverty, social invisibility and isolation and inadequate or lack of (physical) access to both the authorities and cultural, healthcare and welfare institutions, public transportation, information and communication technologies.
Violence against women and girls is the most common form of human rights violations. This is indicated by the data that every third woman in the world, as well as in our country has been beaten, forced to have a sexual intercourse or has experiences some form of abuse, while the perpetrator is usually a man from her immediate surroundings. The police register over 20,000 calls for protection in such cases annually, while welfare centers register over 9,000 victims of domestic violence. According to the incomplete/partial data of the Provincial Protector of Citizens - Ombudsman (PPCO), the police in the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina (APV) have intervened over 4,000 times in cases of domestic violence in which the victims were usually women and the perpetrators were their current or ex partners. Unfortunately, several tens of women have also lost their lives to domestic violence last year.
This year's International Children's Day is celebrated in the light of 25 years from the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. At the time, the Convention was a novelty in the international law because it was the first international document focusing exclusively on children.
So far the Convention on the Rights of the Child has been ratified by around 200 UN member states. One of them is the Republic of Serbia, which also ratified the two Optional Protocols to this Convention. In April 2014, the third of these Protocols, that on the Communication Procedure from 2012, came into force. This Protocol provides for the possibility of a child her-/himself to address an international, neutral authority for protection of its rights rather than a local court or another national authority.
The International Men's Day is a chance to point to the issue of men's and boys' health, promotion of gender relations and equality and invite men to get involved in promotion of gender equality. Without a partnership-based approach to building of an equal opportunities world women cannot achieve equality.
Therefore, the Provincial Protector of Citizens - Ombudsman (PPCO) points to the necessity to promote adoption of a program focusing on preventive men's health preservation activities, as well as the reproductive health of both women and men. Creating a partnership between men and women is necessary for improvement of everyone's health. As decision-makers, men and women can improve the current situation significantly by planning for (more) funds and more positive measures in all fields related to women's and men's health when planning a healthcare budget, including a better preventive care by means of providing for timely checkups, better material conditions and contemporary treatment methods.
A number of citizens addressed the Provincial Protector of Citizens - Ombudsman (PPCO) with complaints pointing to the problem of purchase and selling of parking space, aka parking places in the yards or surrounding plots of apartment buildings. The complainants state that some of the flat owners claim their exclusive right to use the common parking space based on a purchase/sales contract for their flats which includes this space as well under the name of 'parking place'. Since there is always limited parking space in these buildings and far less 'parking places' than flats, most of the residents cannot park their vehicles in their yards even when there is free space to do it because it brings about conflicts with alleged 'owners' of the 'parking places'.
After a thorough insight into the regulations in force, the PPCO concluded that they regulate ownership only over garage space, which is specially designed and designated for vehicle parking. Other land, open, roofed or semi-covered space which is not a designated garage space could not be a subject of ownership and/or a contract relying on such basis.