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Young European 2007

At the Oratory Competition of the Faculty of Law University of Belgrade, held on January 27th 2007, IG Alpbach Belgrade has traditionally granted Young European Award to Ivana Adamovi? for her speech: "The Counseling Center against Family Violence"


Women shouldn’t believe!  But Science says something different.  If we have faith in science, we would see that science gave evidence that women’s smaller feet were evolved out of the need to work in the kitchen; a flexible spine so she can vacuum more easily and nimble hands to do household chores more quickly.

They said that God made us from a piece of Adam’s rib. Taking that starting point into account, it’s really a great result at the end of the day: Woman.  Can you imagine what greater perfection would have resulted if He had sacrificed one more of Man’s bones!

You said to us: “Not to be too independent, it kills your femininity.” My independence doesn’t kill my femininity but you are the only person who can do that. 

Don’t understand me wrong, I like your masculine chauvinism, but we prefer the certainty of science. 

The 21st century gave us total freedom from obeying men’s orders. Now we take our lives in our own hands.  We have become equals, except that your diapers are in blue whilst ours are in pink.

Now we can conclude that women have a better position than in the past.  … But is that really?  Let us compare the situation now with history.  According to the Serbian Civil Code of 1844 a woman is obliged to listen to her husband, to do what he wants her to do, and is not allowed to be separate from him.  Furthermore, she cannot offer presents belonging to the house without his permission, and she cannot accept them either.  She also requires permission to work outside of the house, she had freedom in some housework but not completely (for example, she had to ask her husband how much she could spend for the groceries for each meal). 

A woman was not taken into marriage to become a friend for a man, but only for giving him the benefits of bearing children, to raise them, and to work in the fields, the house and to listen to him… If she wasn’t able to do that, she would be taken back to her parent’s home, and another woman would be found to replace her.  In fact a woman’s ability to carry out these duties was evaluated before the marriage, and the groom had to pay an adequate amount of money, to the woman’s parents.  Husbands didn’t consider their wives as human beings with feelings needs and desires, she was only a tool in the house and another mouth to feed. 

Many years have passed by. We have adopted many Conventions which protect fundamental human rights, and women are now in an equal position as men.  That means that women are protected by law.  But is there consciousness in that?  Is there consciousness of the need to protect women?  In fact, this consciousness to protect women should exist even without the need of law.

In the past women were forced to obey, and today women are still having to obey and furthermore there is violence in the family towards women. 

Violence was a product of patriarchal society and traditional division into male and female roles. From the male perspective violence is an integral part of their inherited role of breadwinner, decision maker and protector. As a result, women take a traditional female role characterized by passive suffering.  If women did not accept this role, it is taken as an attack against the male identity.  The men’s reactions to these attacks are often violent displays of power, back towards their wives to re-assert their traditional master role in the family.  
A small group of people have become conscious of this perpetuation of violence, and these people have formed the organization “Counseling against family violence”.  
The Counseling Center Against Family Violence was established on the 8.7.1996. in Belgrade, as a nongovernmental, humanitarian organization. It is open to all women facing violence, and supports their need to find a way out of their situation.

Other than counseling, the organization has begun in 1.11.2000, The Shelter for Women and Children Victims of Family Violence.  One year later, the shelter expanded to two homes.  This sounds promising; however the reality is that the homes each have a capacity of 20-22 persons which is very small for the population of Belgrade. 

Furthermore, the homes are always looking for support because they are non-governmental organizations, and one of the two homes is was almost closed in 1.6.2004  because of lack of funds, fortunately the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Policy and the Democratic party have stepped in to help them continue operation.

Another key activity of the organization is The Shelter for women victims of sex trafficking”, the only shelter of this kind in Serbia.  Sex-trafficking is a cross-border crime, and since its establishment, the Shelter has housed and helped Moldavian, Rumanian, Ukrainian and Russian nationals.  In the Shelter, the women are offered psychological counseling, legal aid, medical checkups and vocational training to reintegrate them into society.

It is easy to see that there are too many reasons for discontent and unrest.  The world in which we live is far away from perfect, and it is hard to embrace it completely with open hearts.  We have to make this world better. So all of us can finally live in it, not just survive.

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