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OSCE calls for gender balance in politics and an end to gender violence

The need for more gender-balanced political representation and the urgent need to end violence against women were the main topics at the two-day regional expert conference entitled Transforming Politics: Male Politicians as Critical Actors for Gender Equality and Eliminating Violence against Women. The conference, held in Sarajevo on 5 and 6 June, brought together more than 70 participants, including parliamentarians, party leaders, representatives of government agencies and members of civil society from South-East Europe. It was jointly organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A special session was devoted to tackling violence against women, with a particular emphasis on the link between such violence and the misuse of small arms and light weapons.

“We must take comprehensive action across all institutions and also focus on areas that may not be immediately linked to violence against women, such as the misuse of small arms and light weapons,” said Thomas Busch, Deputy Chief of the OSCE Mission in BiH. “Ending violence against women not only improves the safety of women, but also of society as a whole. This is a serious responsibility and we must recognize that unless all women are safe, we cannot hope to have a prosperous society.”

The conference also focused on women’s political participation in public life. Despite some progress, the OSCE region is still far from achieving balanced gender representation. Men continue to dominate key legislative and executive positions, especially as party leaders, speakers of parliament, heads of government, heads of state and mayors.

“For the sake of our societies and ourselves, let us think big. We need male and female politicians to work together not only to increase the number of women in politics, but also to promote good governance for greater gender equality in all our political institutions,” said Yulia Netesova, Head of the Democratic Unit Governance and Gender at ODIHR.

Duška Jurišić, Deputy Minister of Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, emphasized that most previous strategies have empowered women, but also shifted responsibility for their own position in politics and tackling gender-based violence onto them. “It is very positive that among the current male participants, politicians of Bosnia and Herzegovina with different political leanings, there is a sense of responsibility, as well as of the need and interest in gender equality and in the prevention of violence against women,” she stated. Deputy Minister Jurišić emphasized that the road is still long, considering that eight femicides have been registered in BiH in the last nine months. “It is difficult to talk about progress, but it is good that there is consensus on the conviction, as well as on the view that much more needs to be done in the field of prevention,” she said.

The conference is part of the OSCE’s broader efforts to promote equal representation of men and women in political, public, security sector and family life, and to prevent and address violence against women in all its forms. This initiative is also part of a larger SALW project implemented by the OSCE Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina that is helping authorities address security challenges related to the illicit possession, misuse and trafficking of small arms and light weapons and ammunition for that. The project is financially supported by Austria, the Czech Republic, the European Union, Germany, France, Liechtenstein, Norway, Slovakia, Türkiye and the United States.

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