16 Days of Activism - Campaign 2013

The Women against Violence Network, Autonomous Women's Centre and the Women’s European Lobby Network Serbia, as part of the joint campaign of the European Women’s Lobby and the Council of Europe[1]

REQUEST FROM THE STATE OF SERBIA TO CHANGE
THE DEFINITION OF THE CRIME OF RAPE

Rape continues to be one of the most brutal forms of violence against women which in the majority of cases remains undisclosed and unpunished. In order to bring to light the fact that many victims of sexual violence do not receive help and protection, in 2013 the European Women’s Lobby launched the Barometer on Rape[2] which covers 32 European countries. The Barometer shows that almost all countries don’t have services for victims of sexual violence, and that most European countries lack adequate legal regulations which would protect the victims of these criminal offences.

Definitions of the crime of rape have evolved during the last ten years – from definitions based on use of force and threat to use a force, with a requirement that the victim tried to resist, to definitions stating that rape is every act which was not explicitly and freely consented to. However, the Barometer shows that definitions based on use of force are still prevalent in most European countries – Serbia included.

The European Court of Human Rights holds that definitions based on use of force fail to adequately protect women from sexual violence, while on the other hand, definitions based on absence of consent are more in line with the human rights principle of protection of physical integrity.

The European Commission’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, called the Istanbul Convention, which the State of Serbia had just ratified, explicitly demands that states change the legal definition of the crime of rape in order to make punishable every act of sexual penetration, regardless of the form and nature of this act, committed against a person who had not given consent. The Istanbul Convention goes a step further and requests that consent must be given voluntarily as the result of the person’s free will assessed in the context of the surrounding circumstances.

For this reason women’s organizations in 32 European states are organizing and implementing a joint campaign demanding justice and support for all those who had survived rape.

Current Legislation, Practice and Procedure in Rape Cases

Republic of Serbia’s Criminal Code states that the criminal act of rape is an act which has been committed with use of force or threat of use of force, which implies that women must try to physically resist the rapist. Also, judicial practice and legal theory hold the opinion that only those acts where there has been penetration by the male sex organ can constitute rape – even in cases in which children are victims. All other forms of penetration – by hand or other object – as well as coercion to perform oral sex, are not considered to be a crime of rape or coerced sexual act, but are prosecuted as prohibited sexual acts.

Punishment for the basic form of the criminal offence of prohibited sexual acts (paragraph 1, Article 182 of the Criminal Code) is a fine or up to 3 years in prison, even in cases where children are victims.

The Criminal Code also states that marital rape will be prosecuted if the victim joins the legal prosecution, and not ex officio, even if there is evidence proving that a criminal offence had indeed happened.

There are no General or Specialized Protocols for actions of the institutions in rape cases. Rape victims give statements to the police and are then sent to the gynecologist for examinations, where vaginal swabs are taken. During the gynecological examination the victims are not tested for sexually transmitted diseases or HIV, are not given pills for immediate contraceptive protection nor are they offered to speak with a psychologist. Additionally, if the victims have other injuries on their body, those injuries will not be properly examined by the doctor of forensic medicine, other biological traces will not be collected from the victim’s body or clothes, and the victim will not be tested for rape drugs. If victims choose to be examined by the doctor of forensic medicine they will be obligated to pay for that exam – and the fee is at least 5,000.00 dinars (approximately 44 €, or 59 $). This is because of the fact that the Institutes for forensic medicine are part of Medical Faculties, regulated by the Ministry of Education and not by the Ministry of Health.

In Serbia there are no Rape Crisis Centers, no specialized, free support services for victims in which medical, psychological and legal help and support could be found in one place.

In Serbia state institutions do not conduct representative research on sexual violence. The only data available is data from the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia which shows numbers of reported, prosecuted and convicted persons for this criminal offence and the data from the Autonomous Women’s Center from 2003 – showing that only 6% of women living in Belgrade reported sexual violence committed by their partner.

Statistical Data on Criminal Offences against Sexual Freedom[3]

Table – Number of reported, prosecuted and convicted persons for the criminal offences against sexual freedoms from 2000 to 2012

 Year 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Adults reported 386

386

400

408

472

479

374

455

405

448

387

414

372

For rape 203

169

164

142

154

114

127

164

142

177

138

131

121

Adults prosecuted 213

279

274

221

217

245

300

274

313

281

209

255

322

For rape 94

142

115

99

60

79

81

87

108

84

75

87

x[4]
Adults convicted 169

224

231

183

178

194

236

214

256

238

164

190

244

For rape 77

113

95

81

50

68

67

71

88

77

62

59

67

Data regarding criminal act of rape

Penalty statistics
  • in 2009 – 77 convicted, all to prison sentences
  • in 2010 – of the 62 convicted, 2 received suspended sentences, 1 was found guilty but set free
  • in 2011 – 59 convicted, all to prison sentences
Victim’s statistics
  • in 2009 – data exist for 64 victims – out of which 26 were children (7 of them bellow the age of 14, and 19 between the ages of 14 and 18), 63 victims were female and 1 was male
  • in 2010 – data exist for 56 victims – out of which 18 were children (1 child was bellow the age of 14, and 17 were between the ages of 14 and 18), 52 victims were female and 4 were male
  • in 2011 – data exist for 48 victims- out of which 13 were children (5 of them were bellow the age of 14, and 8 were between the ages of 14 and 18), 44 victims were female and 4 were male

Data regarding criminal act of prohibited sexual acts

Penalty statistics
  • in 2009 – out of the 86 convicted persons, 26 received suspended and 13 monetary sentences
  • in 2010 – out of the 47 convicted persons, 14 received suspended and 3 monetary sentences
  • in 2011 – out of the 58 convicted persons, 18 received suspended and 18 monetary sentences
Victim’s statistics
  • in 2009 – data exist for 71 victims- out of which 43 were children (23 of them were bellow the age of 14, and 20 were between the ages of 14 and 18), 64 victims were female and 7 were male
  • in 2010 – data exist for 47 victims- out of which 21 were children (9 of them were bellow the age of 14, and 12 were between the ages of 14 and 18), 43 victims were female and 4 were male
  • in 2011 – data exist for 77 victims- out of which 52 were children (36 of them were bellow the age of 14, and 16 were between the ages of 14 and 18), 68 victims were female and 9 were male

Data on European countries:

In the Czech Republic, one to two rapes per day are officially recorded.

In Denmark, the Crime Prevention Council makes statistics based on data from the rape centers and the police. They estimate that: 2000 rapes are committed in Denmark every year; 500 cases are reported to the police; in 300 cases the charges are brought and in 150 cases there is a conviction.

In France, an official survey done in 2005/2006 showed that 198,000 women between 18-59 years old are victims of actual rape or attempted rape.

In the Netherlands, a recent study (2012) revealed 15% of women between 25-70 years old and 8% of women between 15-24 years old were raped at least once in their lives.

In Sweden, data for 2011 shows that there were 6120 rapes of women and girls, out of which 3388 were cases where the woman was 18 years or older. During that period criminal charges were brought against 1030 perpetrators, while only 151 were convicted.

In Ireland, 21% of perpetrators of sexual violence against women were their partners or ex-partners. 90% of perpetrators were known to the survivor of rape (data from 2011).

Report prepared by Vanja Macanovic
Autonomous women’s centre, Belgrade


[1] Act against rape! Use the Istanbul Convention!
[2] 2013 EWL Barometer on Rape - Report
[3] Source: the Republic Institute for Statistics
[4] this data hasn’t been provided in the official report of the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia for 2012