Women in political life of BiH: Quotas respected only on paper


Although certain legal measures have been taken in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in particular the introduction of quotas in the BiH Election Law and the Law on Financing of Political Parties, there has still been no substantial change in the status and influence of women in political life. They are still on the margins of political power, without influencing policy formulation and implementation

At all levels of government in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there is a gender imbalance that is most pronounced at the highest levels. Thus, BiH has never had a single female member of the BiH Presidency who holds the position of head of state. Since the establishment of this position in 1994, only one woman has held the position of President of the Federation of BiH, in the period from 2007 to 2011.

No government in its full convocation had more than two ministers, out of a total of 17 ministries. Men also dominated as prime ministers in all ten cantons in the Federation of BiH, and among the 100 cantonal ministers there were only eight women, most often in the so-called classic women’s portfolios dealing with housing, social and health care, work and education.

Obstructions within parties

Although the legal framework in BiH guarantees all rights to women, the real situation is such that there is a lack of financial resources for the implementation of legal norms. Zlatiborka Popov-Momčinović, author of the book “Women’s Movement in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Articulation of a Counterculture” points out that based on the Law on Gender Equality in BiH, it is mandatory to form equality commissions at the local community level. Nevertheless, in many municipalities this body does not exist.

“Where they were founded, the commissions are mostly men. An even bigger paradox is that most of these men have never heard of the Law on Gender Equality, so at least the polls have shown, “explains Popov-Momčinović.

Insufficient support of political parties for women members in creating political programs and political affirmation is a great obstacle to equal representation of women in political life, although the statutes of political parties do not explicitly prevent women from participating in the work of party bodies.

Adil Osmanović, a member of the Party of Democratic Action in the BiH Parliament, is of the opinion that in some political parties women are obstructed by their colleagues, but that it is also the voters who largely make decisions.

“Political parties are somehow more inclined to propose men, which of course is not good. However, there is one other thing. When you have lists on which, according to the law, 40 percent of women must be, it is often the voters who decide not to pass those 40 percent of women to the legislature. Of course. it is up to us to change society and work to have as many women in the legislature and executive as possible, “Osmanović said.

The BiH Election Law says the quota for women’s participation in electoral lists is 40%. Although the law was respected in the last local elections in BiH, at least when it comes to lists for the state parliament, about 20 percent of women were elected at all levels of government in BiH.

“The Prime Minister of the Republika Srpska, Zeljka Cvijanovic, is a woman in the highest political position in BiH, but she is not spared discrimination. In the pre-election campaign, she was exposed to insults and inappropriate qualifications only because she is a woman, and the media most often did not condemn such behavior, “says Popov-Momčinović.

Within the division of power, women in BiH and FBiH are more represented in the judiciary than in any other branch. However, there is a disparity between the number of women working in the judiciary and the number of women holding senior positions in the judiciary or in higher jurisdictions.

Of the total number of employees in BiH, about 45% are women, according to the Statistical Office. It is worrying that there are far more women than men among the unemployed with a university degree, as many as 64%. At the same time, there are more women than men with a college degree.

In order to be successful in politics, women in BiH need much more skills than men, because they are also committed to other life roles, according to Vukota Govedarica, a member of the presidency of the Serbian Democratic Party.

“We live in a patriarchate. Women in BiH are viewed differently than, for example, in Brussels. It is assumed that she is the pillar of the family, so dealing with politics often does not fit into such a vision of reality, “Govedarica believes.

The implementation of comprehensive strategic security measures (Action Plan for the Implementation of UN Resolution 1325) has led to a more favorable environment for increasing women’s participation in police and military forces, although this increase is still most noticeable in lower positions.

The results of progress towards achieving gender equality are most visible in civil society, and to a lesser extent in the fields of science, technology, academia, media and religious organizations. The representation of women in managerial and managerial positions in the field of finance and business is very small.

Dragana Dardić, director of the Helsinki Citizens’ Parliament of Banja Luka, reminds that the Council of Ministers of BiH did not have any women in the last convocation.

According to her, the law has been violated, and without any sanctions at any time. A few years ago, the organization he heads filed a lawsuit against the BiH Central Election Commission.

“As there were no women in the Council of Ministers of BiH, we decided to react. We have learned that it is impossible to sue the Council of Ministers, as well as the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH. In the end, we filed a lawsuit against the CEC, which verified the mandates of the proposed members, “Dardic recalls.

She adds that the court’s response has been awaited for four years. “We received the answer just when their mandate expired. It was said that the court is not competent to discuss the decisions of the CEC. Thus, the law prescribes the obligation of all bodies at all levels of government to have a certain percentage of women. That is not happening and nothing is happening to anyone, “Dardic explains.

Patriarchal thinking

Danijela Majstorović, a professor at the University of Banja Luka, reminds that in the period of socialism, women were much more aware and that they fought for equality in a good way. He points out that a significant step forward has been made in that system in terms of women’s rights.

“It seems to us that we have fought and that we have all the rights that the feminist struggle has given us. This is not true. The problems caused by the patriarchal way of thinking are numerous.”

One of the trends that is often cited is that women do lower paid jobs. Even in academia, professions in which women are more represented are often those in which there is less money, such as the humanities, says Majstorović.

“I am pleasantly surprised by the fact that more and more men are working at the cash registers in supermarkets. Now we have a new expression: ‘cashier’, although it should always be emphasized that poverty is our common enemy,” she concludes.

It is very important that women’s discourse comes to light, to see the unpaid work that women do at home, including caring for children and elderly family members, says Danijela Majstorović.

“Unfortunately, feminists have a negative connotation in our society and language. Even the few women in politics tell a ‘male story’. No one mentions everything that goes with a career, and women strive for ideals that they cannot achieve. “

Vukota Govedarica, a member of the presidency of the Serbian Democratic Party, also believes that women are not equal to men in politics, regardless of the fact that legal regulations guarantee equality.

“Politics is a much rougher and harder job than it seems. That is why women are in an unequal position. “When the society condemns bad politicians and supports those who are truly fighting for true values ​​in the elections, then there will be more women in politics and in important positions,” Tadic said.

The visibility and presence of women politicians in public in Bosnia and Herzegovina is particularly low in the pre-election months. This is a consequence of the technique of gender domination applied by political party elites, as well as the fact that the media re-emphasize dominant ideologies and gender stereotypes about women in politics, which inevitably has a negative impact on their election results.

Author: Dragana Erjavec

This text was created within the project “Women’s Press Forum” funded by the Embassy of the United States of America in BiH. The contents of this text are the sole responsibility of the authors and the Association of BH Journalists, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Embassy of the United States of America in BiH.


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