Prevention of Domestic Violence – SOS HELPLINE
Our society and institutions have been devoting increased attention to domestic violence in the last few years. There have been great advances in the creation of an agenda and mechanisms for prevention of violence and protection of victims through the joint work of civil society organisations and state bodies. The National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia adopted the proposed laws, and created conditions within the system for combating domestic violence more efficiently. According to media reports, domestic violence is the most prevalent form of violence in our society. There is an impression that it is constantly on the rise, and according to the data of women’s organisations, more than half of women have experienced some form of domestic or intimate partner violence. The data of the competent institutions also indicate a continued increase in reports of domestic violence cases to the police and centres for social work.
The consistent intentions of the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs to resolve the problem of domestic violence can be recognised in the work of the Department for Antidiscrimination Policy and Gender Equality, and in the practical approach to actual protection of domestic violence victims, and defining violence as an unacceptable behaviour model. By adopting the 2011 Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention), the Republic of Serbia took on the responsibility to undertake required legislative and other measures for establishing a non-stop free SOS helpline for the purpose of providing advice on all forms of violence included in the Convention. The advice is given to callers in a confidential manner, and with respect for their anonymity. The Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs is in charge of realising this service, according to Article 16 of the Law on Ministries (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 44/14, 14/15, 54/15, 96/15–state law, 62/17).
The Ministry has envisioned means for concrete action – help and support for women who have experienced violence. The introduction of the National SOS Helpline would create an opportunity for each woman in the Republic of Serbia who has experienced violence to access all information necessary for her protection and rights in the fastest way possible. The calls from all landlines and mobile devices will be free of charge for the caller. The Ministry is organising a public procurement for the National SOS Helpline service, which will be open for licensed associations which already provide helpline services. The aims of this project are to provide direct assistance to women who have experienced violence, and to establish and apply mechanisms for action in line with international obligations regarding human rights in the area of sexual and gender based violence (Law on Confirmation of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (“Official Gazette of RS – International Treaties”, No. 012/13)).
The expectation of the Ministry is that the introduction of the National SOS Helpline, with its clear preventive effect of informing the public, would provide direct support, empowerment and help to women who have experienced violence. The implementation of this activity will bring us closer to the European standards for solving this problem, and hopefully, to suppression of as much violence against women as possible.
Links for SOS Helpline