Invisible, unpunished: the persistence of economic violence in the Balkans
Economic violence is recognized by law in Bosnia and Serbia.
Yet in Novi Sad, Serbia’s second city, a spokeswoman for the first instance court said the court had registered only two direct cases concerning economic violence since the adoption of the law against domestic violence in Serbia in 2016.
Prosecutors dropped the first, while the second is pending. BIRN also contacted the Department of Justice but received no response.
“This type of violence very rarely appears as an independent case of domestic violence, but it is present along with other forms of abuse,” said Novi Sad court spokeswoman Svjetlana Radovanovic. “Most often this happens alongside physical and psychological abuse.”
The problem lies in finding the evidence, Radovanovic told BIRN.
“Our justice system may not have experience with these types of cases, so I can’t say if we had certain types of evidence that indicate how to recognize the economic form of violence,” he said. she stated.
In the Bosnian town of Tuzla, Nedeljko Jurkic of the local social services center said that while economic violence is widespread, official complaints are “sporadic”.
“Every year maybe a dozen reports, maybe even less,” he told BIRN.
Arben Murtezic, director of the Training Center for Judges and Prosecutors in Bosnia, a state body that works to train judges and prosecutors, said the law needs to go further in defining economic violence.
“As far as I know, we don’t have any verdict on economic abuse,” Murtezic told BIRN. “This type of violence appears, according to my knowledge, with other forms of violence… Even in these verdicts, I have been able to observe, there is no specific mention of economic abuse.”
“It is very difficult to isolate economic abuse. I don’t know exactly what a hypothetical case of economic violence would look like, where there are no other types…I think it’s important to know more about this. Precisely because we don’t know, we must learn.
Riznic said it was vital the phenomenon was better recognized so authorities could then help a victim “stand on their feet”.
“Of course you have to report the violence, but what comes next? It’s a real question that women face when they finally leave because they have nowhere to go,” she said. “Very often they cannot live normally and with dignity on the salary they have.”
Padejski suggested the use of a “halfway house,” a rented and subsidized apartment that a victim could use after leaving a safe house. Then there are issues of property rights and compensation.
“A woman who has spent her whole life working, building a house or apartment and living a family life after experiencing violence should be supported to initiate property proceedings and take the property that is legally hers,” said Padejski.
“Victims of domestic violence rarely do this. They usually run like hell and only initiate the procedures they have to.