EU Rural Reviews
In July of the year 2008 the Croatian Parliament passed a new Gender Equality Act that is expected to contribute to enhancing the participation of women in politics. This law calls for special procedures, i.e. quotas that should ensure 40 percent of the less represented gender in the government bodies. Besides this, according to the Law on Political Parties, the parties will be allocated an increase of ten percent in funding for the less represented gender. At the round table discussion on the topic of measures for the increase of participation of women in politics, that was held ending of February 2009, Gordana Lukač-Koritnik, Croatian ombudsperson for gender equality, judged the introduction of the quotas as a step forward in realization of larger women's participation in politics. However, she warned that the under-representation of women will be sanctioned only after the third election round, i.e. after 12 years, pointing to the slow-moving process of gender balancing, ad least in terms of the law enforcement.
„A Woman's Place is in the Garden and the Kitchen"
During the last local elections (2005) in Croatia, percentage of women on party candidate lists that passed the election threshold was 10, 7%. In the total number of submitted party candidate lists for last local elections the ratio of women and men as holders on candidate lists was 7:100 (6, 8% women holders on candidate lists). At this moment, in Croatian Parliament, Social Democratic Party (SDP) has 32% of women MPs, Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) 19%, Croatian People's Party (HNS) 16%, Croatian Peasant Party (HSS) 16% and other parliamentary parties do not have women members in the parliament. In the total of 566 towns and municipalities in Croatia only 29 women are mayors, which makes some 5% of the total number of mayors in Croatia.
Political activism in Croatia, in its institutional form, trough bodies of the Parliament (Sabor), Government, county assemblies, and city and municipality councils in spite of the established legal and institutional form of equality still prefers men in the roles of politicians.
Zorica Gudelj, president of the municipality council of Podgorač, is the only woman holding one of the 105 presiding positions in 35 municipalities in Osječko-Baranjska County. Although the county has over 330.0000 inhabitants, half of which are women, only one of them managed to obtain a chair position that is predominantly reserved for men.
Zorica Gudelj lives in Poganovci, small village near the town of Đakovo and states that her neighbours still look upon women in politics with distrust. „ It is still very, very difficult. There is a lot of insulting. There is hardly a session that goes by without verbal abuse, insults – "what do you care about politics or the village, a woman belongs to the garden or kitchen"…but they have learnt to live with the fact. You know, at the day you are born and at the day you die there is always some gossip going around."
(article "Hrvatski sabor izglasao zakon o ravnopravnosti spolova", author D. Hedl, www.slobodnaevropa.org)
At the last session of the Board for Gender Equality that was held with the agenda of women at local elections, member of Parliament, Gordana Sobol said: "New Gender Equality Act brings a series of improvements in relation to women participation in politics and local elections to take place in May 2009 will be a chance to show it.„ at the same time expressing her disapproval over the fact that from the list of all invited party chiefs only one party chief (Silvano Hrelja, Croatian Party of Pensioners – HSU) attended the session. Vice-president of Parliament, Željka Antunović, not without bitterness, added: "In the first five years, when a woman starts her political career she is deemed "young and immature" and in the next five years she swiftly becomes "old and worn out". We need to step out from this mindset as soon as we can."
Lack of participation in the representative bodies and diminished role of women in decision making in Croatia has its particulars connected with historical and political events taking place in last two decades. During 1980's and 1990's while Croatia was a part of Federation of Yugoslavia, women made some 16-25% of national assembly as the existing legal provisions foresaw and actively promoted political participation of women and youth. After the declaration of independence in the 1990's women held 4, 6% of places in the national representative body with the slight increase after the subsequent elections (2005) in the amount of 7,9% leading to the percentage of 17, 8% of women members of parliament after the parliamentary elections in 2007. This increase in the distribution of representative places in the parliament can mainly be attributed to advocacy efforts and pubic campaigns carried out by non-governmental organisations advocating for women issues and democratisation in cooperation with women members of political parties.
In the introduction of the policy paper on National Policy for Promotion of Gender Equality 2006-2010 it is stressed that although women make up more than half of total population of the country they do not proportionally participate in the processes of political decision making nor do they possess equal access to the full participation in many other areas of economic and social life. Various studies show, that during their political engagement, young women come upon double discrimination, by age as well as gender, which makes political activism not particularly attractive as a life choice.
„Women in the Local Government – Inversed Pyramid"
At the round table discussion on the topic of increase of women participation at the local level that took place on 20th of February 2009, women representatives of Government, political parties and nongovernmental organisations warned that the proportion of women in the local government is extremely worrying.
Smiljana Leinert Novosel, PhD. researcher and lecturer from the Faculty of political sciences has, in her address entitled "Women in the Local Government – Inversed Pyramid" stressed that the situation with women's political participation in Croatia is inversed in comparison of the so called "classical model" where more women politicians can regularly be found on the lower levels of power with the proportional decrease as the level of government rises. On the parliamentary level, women members of parliament make up some 20% of Sabor with only 11% of women representatives participating at local levels of government (towns and municipalities). In comparison to the countries with longer democratic tradition where the principle of equality is largely supported as the leading concept in government, countries with shorter democratic traditions, to which Croatia belongs to, the attention is placed on economic and general life quality matters that place women in the back positions, especially in smaller communities at local government level. Critical mass of 30% of women necessary to achieve the so called "women contribution" in the politics has not yet been achieved anywhere in Croatia, regretfully said professor Leinert Novosel.
At the same discussion, while analyzing possible reasons for the under-representation of women in the politics, ombudsperson for gender equality Gordana Lukač-Koritnik, stated that one of the frequent explanations for such situation is the problem of balancing of private and career life due to which the specific position of women is negatively influencing the creation of opportunities for progress in the career, be it political or business related.
Most important indicator of unequal position of women is the above fifty percent share of women in the unemployed population (over 60% percent with the permanent tendency for increase). Various research show different forms of discrimination in getting employment and professional advancement of women, unevenness in the sector representation, lower income, under-representation in the political-decision making and frequency of family violence over women. Significant progress can be seen only in the increase of awareness of gender inequality, especially when talking about violence against women, employment and equal opportunity in income generation conditions.
„Women without adequate leverage cannot do much and in that case they are regarded simply as the "ornament of democracy". I, myself was against quotas before but my personal experience made me change opinion."
The statement of Jadranka Kosor, Vice-president of Croatian Government and Minister of Family Affairs, War Veterans and Intergenerational Solidarity commenting the new Gender Equality Act that introduces quotas to election legal frame (at the round table discussion on the topic of increase of women participation at the local level that took place on 20th of February 2009).
Talking about the upcoming local elections at the round table discussion, Jadranka Kosor, vice-president of Croatian Government stressed that these elections will be a particular test after which it will be evident how many women candidates for municipality and city mayors and county prefects did each political party nominated. "Women should be support to each other" said vice-president of Croatian Government. She also commented the role of the media and added that women are mainly present on TV when the topic is close to women issues, but when the topic is economy or general politic TV screens mainly show men. She concluded with a statement that women should be given a chance to take positions where the real power and money are, not only in traditionally accepted "women" topics such as family, welfare services etc.
Hloverka Novak-Srzić, Editor in chief of the news programme of Croatian National Television, was supposed to report on the TV coverage of the under-representation of women in local government, at the round table discussion. Instead of her deputy editor in chief, Dražen Majić appeared. According to the national policy for promotion of gender equality passed by Croatian Parliament, Croatian National television – HRT is obliged to inform Croatian citizens on gender sensitive topics.
In reply to question of Helena Štimac Radin, head of Office for Gender Equality on the lack of such topics on TV, Majić said to the participants of the round table that they should "lobby more and press on for visibility, as topics like that do not really interest the TV editors".
"You should lobby more and press on for visibility, as subjects such as these do not really interest our TV editors. As far as inviting women politicians to participate in our TV shows, it is more of a matter of policies of political parties. Personally, I often invited guests in talk shows such as "Otvoreno" talk show and I know that parties, that is, their spokespersons determine whom are they going to send as a representative to talk about certain subject. We have no influence over that. In 80 percent of cases men are those who appear on TV, only every fifth guest in our shows is a women politician, and they come when the topic is more oriented towards women, such as family violence, social welfare and gender equality. Spokespersons dictate and create image, I am in no position to tell them whom to send. The presence of women on TV is a political question. In regards to upcoming elections we have agreed to enhance the coverage in all, especially regional shows."
Dražen Majić, deputy editor in chief of the news programme of Croatian National Television, at the round table discussion on the topic of increase of women participation at the local level that took place on 20th of February 2009.
Croatian People's Party member, Morana Paliković Gruden, as a former member of the press reminded Majić that the journalists habitually design the concept of their shows by themselves and as such select their guest speakers. Rada Borić, member of European Women's Lobby asked Majic why the television, for the last eight years, thoroughly covers the topic of shipbuilding industry where the lay off of some 20.000 men is expected and at the same time rarely or never covers textile industry where some 36.000 of women is expected to be laid off.
„Lack of 'Political Will'"
CESI (Centre for Education, consulting and research) in 2007 did a study on institutional mechanisms of gender equality in Croatia that was published in a volume "Feminism and the State". Founding of committees for gender equality on local and regional level was set by National Policy for Promotion of Gender Equality with the Implementation Programme 2001-2005 with its area of work also developed in the paper on National policy for gender equality 2006-2010. By amendments of the Gender Equality Act from July 2008 local committees are legally defined as local mechanisms and their importance is therefore stronger within the local and regional self-government. CESI's research has shown that the basic criterion in appointment to county committees for gender equality (regional level) was party representation in county assembly. In large number of cases the committees held meetings very rarely, "on needs basis". Members of the committees were mostly women, although there was a certain number of a male members present in each of them. The topics discussed by the committees were predominantly dealing with family violence and issues of youth and children. In rare cases was the subject of the session participation of women in government bodies, their representation in executive and representative branch of government or managerial positions in executive or supervisory boards of state owned companies.
Almost all examinees stated that the committees have no political power to influence the decisions of regional and local self-governments and that they are not sufficiently linked with local self-government bodies (horizontally) or within the system of national mechanisms of gender equality (vertically). The answer given by the most to the issue of the lack of improvement of women's status in spite of existing policies of gender equality was largely the lack of "political will". It is interesting to note that this rather vague term is equally used by women activists and experts, state officers and politicians as well as ordinary citizens.
In June 2000 a special session of General Assembly of United Nations took place: Women 2000 – Gender Equality, Development and Peace, (Beijing 5+) which evaluated results of Beijing Platform and confirmed and amended guidelines by which member states of United Nations are to create national mechanisms and supporting laws for the mainstreaming of gender equality. A Croatian delegation also participated in the work of this convention, for the first time in country's history constituted of representatives of non-governmental associations as well as state officials. This confirmed the interest (political will) of the coalition Government to embrace equality and improvement of women's status as important segment of state politics.
Societies that foster the principle of equality as the guiding concept of social governing, build it trough proactive approach of the individual in community issues, nourishing the cooperation and association in the community supporting active participation. Inclusion of women in the processes of decision-making at local, regional and state level and broad support to equality in Croatia, as well as in other countries that deal with this matter, is predominantly based on the discourse within the society, accepting differences as specifics and promotion of values of personal freedom, tolerance and rule of law. In the end, that means that the voice of the "silent majority" is not heard only in election time but that the visible participation of women in political instances is recognized as of value to the community.
In this year's Women's Day message of the General Secretary of United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon it is stated: "Changing mindsets and the habits of generations is not easy. It must involve all of us – individuals, organizations and governments. We must work together to state loud and clear, at the highest level, that violence against women will not be tolerated, in any form, in any context, in any circumstance. We need economic and social policies that support women's empowerment. We need programmes and budgets that promote non-violence. We need a positive image of women in the media."
|In Croatian Parliament, Social Democratic Party (SDP) has 32% of women MPs, Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) 19%, Croatian People's Party (HNS) 16%; Croatian Peasant Party (HSS) 16% and other parliamentary parties do not have women members in the parliament. Parties are required to nominate 40% of women on candidate lists for the upcoming local elections, however if they do not meet the terms they will in reality not be sanctioned. A political party can be fined with the sum of 40.000 HRK in elections for members of town councils and county assemblies and with 20.000 HRK in the elections for members of municipality councils. However the fine will have to bi paid only if this happens three times in a row (third round of elections), to be exact - after 12 years!?|
In the total of 566 towns and municipalities in Croatia only 29 women act as a mayor, which makes some 5% of the total number. On last local elections (2005) in Croatia, percentage of women on candidate lists that passed the election threshold was 10, 7%. In the total number of submitted candidate lists for last local elections the ratio of women and men as holders on candidate lists was 7:100 (6, 8% women holders on candidate lists). In many municipalities women do not participate in government as members of councils and that puts Croatia on the low 30. place of the total of 41 country members of the Council of Europe.