Voice of America: Child marriages an issue for girls in Serbia as well

Girls in Serbia often suffer various forms of discrimination or gender-based violence, and the most drastic issue are child marriages, according to the nongovernmental organization "Atina".

A social worker from that organization, Andrijana Radoičić Nedeljković, told the Voice of America that girls face inequality almost from conception.

"We had the opportunity to see it in practice; several years ago, we had an escalating situation related to abortions of female children. However, even later, when a girl is growing up, her unequal position is increasingly reflected in the way that she is much more susceptible to risks and violence."

As is the case globally, the most drastic issue in Serbia are child marriages; as “Atina” says, not only Roma girls are exposed to them, but all those from poor backgrounds.

In 2018, about 1,000 girls were married off, with the youngest one “Atina” registered being only 11 years old.

"Professionals and general public will easily justify this phenomenon with some cultural forms or traditional, customary law. However, there is nothing cultural, nor customary, in it. This is a violent practice that actually occurs only because girls are viewed as less valuable to the family."

"Zero tolerance for violence"

Not only girls from poor backgrounds are discriminated. A research conducted by the Incest Trauma Center found that one in three girls are victims of gender-based violence, and data of the Center for Gender and Policy Studies indicates that 76 percent of girls are discriminated against just because they are girls.

"This means that she was exposed to insults based on physical appearance, sexualization, objectification, and various forms of violence that happened to her while growing up. When we talk about the 21st century, we cannot fail to mention digital violence, with girls being more exposed to violence on the Internet than boys".

"Atina" notes that violence against girls is not recognized in the system as a separate issue. However, they say that the main part of the solution is not in the establishment of new institutions, but in a deep reform of the society.

"This entails work with parents, work with children, youth, zero tolerance for any form of violence against girls, regardless of where they come from... Because, if at some point we begin assuming that it is normal for some girls to be married, and some not, that it is normal for some girls to experience violent sexual intercourse, and some not - we participate in the approval of that violence," concludes Andrijana Radoičić Nedeljković.

In addition, a fight must be maintained against the stereotypes of a traditional, patriarchal role of a woman which still seems to be strong - even among girls.

A research conducted by "Atina" showed that 81 percent of girls in Serbia believe that a mother should sacrifice everything for her children, and 92 percent think that women are worse drivers than men.

For NGO Atina, text translated by Marija Pantelić.

The original text can be read via the following link: https://www.glasamerike.net/a/polo%C5%BEaj-devoj%C4%8Dica-u-srbiji/5618188.html