On the logo of the Center for handicap « Out of Circle » from Belgrade, the “Circle” is represented by the wheel of a wheelchair. The center is specialized in the fight against discrimination and violence towards disabled people. The Center of Women in Action of Velika Plana is a feminist and operational association. I would very often remember these two places throughout my trip in NGOs. When I presented the project, I found enthusiasm as a response. With very shocking numbers and situations threw in. Explanations.
In Velika Plana, small rural village about one hour and a half driving from Belgrade, Jovanka and Alessandra explain to me. In 2003, the added a hotline to the counseling they were already offering to the women victims of domestic violence. For a better covering of their needs but also because the phenomenon is important here. I ask them how many cases involve the use of firearms . « Around 60% , if you consider direct and indirect threats. The rest mainly involves other objects ». I, probably as you are now, was seized with questions. I kept on thinking and asked. Why such a contrast with all the previous numbers I had heard before ? What factors made the difference with other places?
Alcohol was mentioned. Masculinity was mentioned. To these, I would certainly add the « village effect », because the geographic element usually explains a lot of human attitude. One needs to imagine Velika Plana. One main street that seems to never end, intersecting with smaller, narrower, and deserted alleyways. If one enters any of them, it appears that apart from rare small stores, only houses and gardens populate the landscape. The typical example of a small village, rural, where everybody knows everybody. And like very often in those kind of cases, patriarchal. Physical violence against women in houses isn’t rare as the 800 calls the association got last year show. So is gun ownership. Ironically, both representatives of the Ombudsman of Serbia and of the social services, with whom I was to meet later, spontaneously used the same image to depict guns and countryside.« A trophy» on the shelf of the chimney. And finally, I know this image. French countryside is peopled with inveterate hunters, proud of their long rifles. In France, it is estimated that 400 women are killed each year by their partner. But the story doesn’t say with what.
Needless to say, it raised quite a few eyebrows when the Center for women in action opened in 1999. Not only it was going to fight for women, and notably battered women, but it was also the first non lucrative association ever founded on the village…
But still, even when writing those lines to you, I’m still surprised at the size of the phenomenon. 60%, it’s absurd.
Same speech in the association « Out of circle »,which made me face a reality I would have never imagined. That disabled people could suffer discriminations, I was aware. But I had truly never thought about someone trying to deliberately hurt them. Psychologically or physically. I was dumbfounded. Olivera explains : « Here, the number of years of jail a rapist is given is reduced when it is committed on a disabled person ».
Olivera goes on : « 3 /4 of the cases we deal with include domestic violence. If the disability results of birth, the closer family is generally responsible for mistreatment. In the case of “life accident”, the partner is more likely to be the perpetrator. Guns? She acquiesces with her Head and timidly starts to tell me a couple of stories. She adds : “This population is victimized twice. There’s no shelter equipped to take care of disabled adults. There are three choices : To live under violence and under the threat of a gun, go to families when they are willing to take this responsibility, integrate, if lucky, an institution with available capacities. (rest homes…) ”
Olivera will eventually finish with these words, that stayed with me on my way : “A firegun is the same threat for a disabled or for a valid woman. But the consequence is different because a disabled woman can’t decide to escape from it and save her life ».
Posted By Fanny Grandchamp
Posted Jul 29th, 2009