IZ KRUGA VOJVODINA at the conference of the Provincial Protector of Citizens – Ombudsman

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President of the Steering Committee of IZ KRUGA VOJVODINA, Milesa Milinkovic, participated in the conference The Role of Health Institutions in Protecting Women from Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence organized in Novi Sad on March 10, 2023, by The Provincial Protector of Citizens – Ombudsman. Milesa Milinkovic talked about violence against women with disabilities and their experience in the Health System. 

The representatives of independent institutions, the Provincial Secretariat for Health, health institutions, and citizens’ associations dealing with the protection of women from violence from multiple marginalized groups addressed the conference. Forty health workers from health institutions from various municipalities of Vojvodina listened to the presentations.

An associate professor, dr. Dragana Coric, the provincial ombudswoman opened the meeting. She presented the network Life without Violence which rounds up institutions dealing with the prevention and suppression of domestic and intimate partner violence, and monitors and marks their work. She pointed out that a small percentage of reported violence, only 2 %, is recorded by health institutions, although 10% of violence escalates during pregnancy.

Deputy Provincial Secretary for Health, Assistant Professor. Faculty of Medicine, Olivera Ivanov, talked about the role of The Provincial Secretariat for Health in supporting the health department during the provision of support to women victims of domestic violence and pointed out the importance of specialized support services Center for Supporting Women from Kikinda provides to women that experienced sexual violence in general hospitals in Kikinda and Zrenjanin and at the Clinics for gynecology and obstetrics of the Clinical Center of Vojvodina in Novi Sad.

A manager of the Emergency Center of the Clinical Center of Vojvodina, Prof Dragan Nikolic, talked about recognizing violence and the procedures when reacting to gender-based violence. He emphasized the significance of following general and special protocols for treating women exposed to violence as an indicative stepping stone in combating violence. Furthermore, he pointed out the importance of individual risk evaluation as a significant link in fighting violence.

Prof Ljiljana Mladenovic Segedi presented the work of The Center for Victims of Sexual Violence within The Clinic for Gynecology and Obstetrics of the Clinical Center of Vojvodina in Novi Sad. She highlighted the importance of sensitization and continuing education of health workers and named Guidelines for Treating Women Survivors of Sexual Violence, prepared by the Center for Victims of Sexual Violence, as a positive example of educative material for health workers.

The representative of IZ KRUGA VOJVODINA, Milesa Milinkovic, started with the presentation of programs and services for protection from violence in domestic and intimate partner relationships the organization provides to women with various types of disabilities via different available channels to women with and without disabilities. Milesa Milinkovic underlined that women with different types of disabilities are exposed to higher risk from gender-based violence than women without disabilities and that they experience various forms of gender-based violence from family members, spouses and intimate partners, friends, colleagues and employers, and employees of the institutions. However, according to the research conducted by IZ KRUGA VOJVODINA in 2020, women with disabilities rarely report violence, only 19,8%. Some of the causes of the statistic are bad experiences women have with protection service providers relating to the inaccessibility of premises where the service is provided, lack of information, only one way of providing services (in person), prejudice, and unkindness of service providers. Moreover, Milesa Milinkovic talked about dealing with women with disabilities and emphasized some material points, such as talking to a woman calmly, without pity, in a safe and confidential climate, in a language adapted to a woman that is receiving the service, directly addressing the woman with a disability and not her assistant, companion, or sign language interpreter. She emphasized the need to avoid making decisions in the name of a woman with a disability because the woman knows best what she can or cannot do.

A member of the Association of Roma Students, Julkica Stefanovic, talked about the difficulties Roma women experience when accessing services for protection from domestic and intimate partner violence. Nadezda Sataric, from the citizens’ association Power of Friendship – Amity, talked about violence towards elderly persons and indicated that they suffer violence from their children, grandchildren, and partners and that this problem needs more attention. Adviser for the patients’ rights in Health Center Novi Sad, Mihajlo Knezi, stated that after The Law on Patients’ Rights from 2013, patients submit more than 200 complaints about violations of their rights in health institutions of Novi Sad annually.

At the end of the conference, the following conclusions were formulated:

Health professionals should follow the Special Protocol of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Serbia on the Protection and Treatment of Women Victims of Violence when dealing with women survivors of violence.

Multisectoral cooperation of all institutions for protection from domestic violence and violence against women, and particularly of institutions for protection from sexual violence, is necessary to avoid secondary victimization.

It is necessary to pay special attention to the treatment of women victims of violence from multiple marginalized groups (Romani women, women with disabilities, elderly women, etc.) to provide them with adequate protection from violence against women;

In working with women survivors of domestic violence and intimate partner violence individual approach is momentous;

Healthcare professionals should become more familiar with the provisions of the Law on Patients’ Rights.

Documenting violence by health professionals is particularly important because a medical document in which physical injuries and health conditions after the violence are recorded can be used during the forensic medical examination.

News about the conference is, apart from our website, published on the official website of the Provincial Citizens’ Protector – Ombudsman, the official website of the citizen’s association The Power of Friendship -Amity, and RTV Vojvodina broadcast a piece about the event.

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