The last post was only to familiarize you with the issue of armed domestic violence, as many of you were probably not familiar with this issue and particular problem. Few links are made to guns in domestic violence fields and few links are made from domestic violence to guns… and this is the problem.
Now you may wonder why Serbia is part of the “Disarming domestic violence” campaign, wondering about the scale of this issue in the country and more generally, in the Balkans.
The issue is relevant to the Balkans because of its past: It is well known that the brutalizing effects of wars last longer than the conflict themselves. Thus, it is proved that family violence increases during and AFTER the conflict because the return of traumatized combatants can bring violence directly into the home. These difficulties are exacerbated by the transition phase these countries are now experiencing, which make them face high levels of violence, crime, human insecurity, political turbulence and economic crises, as the unemployment rate here in Serbia suggests (an average 15% of the population). All this lead to a rise in general violence, and this is particularly true for women. Some have come to affirm that “domestic violence is the most widespread form of violence throughout the region, and that women are the primary victims of it”.
All the following data come from a report published in 2007, compiled by an independant researcher, Mirjana Dokmanovic, and published by the SEESAC (stands for South Eastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse) under the name “Firearms Possession and Domestic Violence in the Western Balkans : A Comparative Study of Legislation and Implementation Mechanisms for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons”
The Balkans are characterized by the important presence of guns: the previous conflicts increased the proliferation and easy availability of small arms and light weapons, both legally and illegally possessed : it is striking to know that guns issued by national authorities to civilians and former soldiers in order for them to take part in the conflicts were kept as “war souvenirs”, later legalized and registered by their owners. And this was only made possible because there is a long established cultural tradition of owning a gun in the Balkans.
Thus, data gathered indicates the following: It is estimated that in Croatia there are approximately 968,000 firearms in civilian hands, growing to 2,047,300 in Serbia. In Albania, 200,000 guns are owned by civilians whereas in Montenegro, it is up to 175,000 and in Kosovo, 400,000 small arms. In the three last cases, one has to consider that the small size of the population makes these numbers very high because the demography doesn’t exceed two to three million inhabitants.
In a word, with a population of 19.6 million people, the civilians of the Western Balkans own around 4,280,000 firearms and this doesn’t take into account unregistered data.
As explained in the previous post, there’s an overwhelming dominance of men as both victims and perpetrators of armed violence and crimes committed with Small Arms as they constitute 99 % of the perpetrators of firearms crime and represent 85% of the victims; But still, women make up 15% of the victims while only 1% is responsible for committing crimes.
Domestic violence is also a widespread phenomenon in the Balkans: If surveys, conducted mostly by women’s NGOs, suggest a high level of unreported cases of domestic violence, the available data indicate that 1/3 to 2/3 of women in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have experienced partner abuse, a similar situation to the Serbian. In another way to put it, every fourth ‘ever-partnered woman’ has experienced physical or sexual violence making domestic violence a burning and common issue in the Balkans.
What is the impact of small arms on domestic violence? If official statistics on armed domestic violence are largely unavailable, NGOS and social workers have started to fill up the gap and gather data. Here is what we know on the link between domestic violence and the use of arms in the peninsula.
A survey conducted by the Victimology Society of Serbia in 2001 included a particular section on the influence of small arms on domestic violence. It found that 7% of women who experienced domestic violence were attacked or threatened with firearms, these cases being repeated more than five times in 30% of the reported cases.
In Montenegro, if considering the 2002- 2007 period, 9% of all women who turned to the SOS hotline in Podgorica were threatened by firearms while 12 women were actually murdered by firearms used by family members or intimate partners on the same period. A more recent report, conducted in 2007 on a sample of 1500 women who sought assistance from a shelter, showed that 90% had been threatened with firearms.
A year before, in 2006, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, women shelters data estimated that 70% of the 206 victims of domestic violence they were helping had been threatened with firearms. In the first half of 2007, this rose to 74% when considering the 127 victims of domestic violence they were housing.
Data is even worse in Montenegro: In 2006, out of the 50 women victims of criminal offences against life and physical integrity, 14 % went through experiences involving firearms. In women’s shelters, 90% of victims had been threatened with firearms by their partners among which 27% of the perpetrators had participated in the war.
In Kosovo, during the 1st half of 2007, NGO recorded 33 cases of domestic violence among which 17 cases involved threat with a firearm.
Report available on http://www.seesac.org/reports/Domestic%20Violence.pdf
So the problem is very serious in the Balkans … Only?
I had the opportunity upon the very first days of my arrival, to meet with some important French businessmen, full of themselves, sure of themselves, as the French like to be…. When learning the work I was doing here on linking domestic violence and the use of arms, one of them assured it was without any doubt, a serious issue in Serbia where people were like this, and women were like that… He couldn’t be more wrong.
I’d like to take the opportunity of that short cut to give an overview of this burning issue worldwide and explain the need of an INTERNATIONAL campaign. This armed domestic violence takes place as much in Northern developed countries as in the so called developing countries. In France for example, whether this business man likes it or not, 33% of women killed by their partners are shot. The potential danger for women is revealed when one considers that guns are, contrary to the common thought, pretty common in this country: Out of 100 persons, 30 own guns, representing a rather important part of the population. In the US, which has 96 guns per 100 people, 66% of women killed by their partners are shot too. Generally, it is estimated that having a gun at home increases the risk of murder by 41%, but for women, this risk is even more prominent as they are three times more likely to be killed… This situation is certainly as bad in developing countries: In South Africa, for example, a woman is shot dead by her partner every six hours…
This armed domestic violence must not be considered as a geographical or an economical issue; At the roots of it, lies a gender-based problem evolving in a conducive environment because of the abundance of arms worldwide. Spread the word. Be aware. Advocate.
Posted By Fanny Grandchamp
Posted Jun 17th, 2009