Thousands of Bosnians rallied on August 14 in several cities following a triple murder in the town of Gradacac and after the killer posted a video he recorded during the homicide on social media.
Violence against women has been increasing in Southeast Europe since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic but people started raising their voices against institutional passiveness over the past few years.
Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Bulgaria at the beginning of August, while several Western Balkan states held protests in previous years, all of them urging the authorities to step up to effectively tackle violence against women.
In Bosnia & Herzegovina, Nermin Sulejmanovic murdered the woman he was living with, Nizama Hecimovic, and two others, posting a video on social media. That sparked outrage in the country where the victims’ families accused the authorities of being partly responsible for the tragedy because of their carelessness and ignorance.
Hecimovic was first beaten and then killed by Sulejmanovic, who then killed two more people, wounded several others and finally committed suicide.
Meanwhile, the governments of Bosnia’s two autonomous entities – the Muslim-Croat Federation and Republika Srpska – declared August 16 a day of mourning for the three victims. However, this decision too has divided the politicians in the state-level government where those from Republika Srpska declined to support the decision on a day of mourning for the whole country, saying these decisions are taken only by the authorities of each entity.
The rallies started after the funeral of Hecimovic and some politicians also took part in them. The mayor of Sarajevo, Benjamina Karic, urged the institutions to take responsibility and urgently amend the legislation.
Among the main demands of the protesters is that the authorities should define femicide as a special form of crime.
According to local NGOs, around 20 women have been killed in Bosnia in the past two years by their spouses. Meanwhile, 48% of women were victims of some form of violence by a man after the age of 15, according to an OSCE study carried out in 2018 and quoted by Euractiv.
After the triple murder in Gradacac, the Sarajevo Film Festival (SFF) decided to organise a public discussion on violence against women, N1 reported.
“Regional authors, actors, and actresses have approached the theme of femicide through various directorial methods and motivations, but its persistence is undeniable. Films that address the issue of violence against women, and femicide as its most extreme form, raise questions about the personal and social responsibility carried by artistic and media actions. Their complex societal imagery demands systematic analysis, especially in light of the real murders of women and other forms of gender-based violence witnessed in today's society," the SFF noted.