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Actions against two forms of discrimination

vendredi 1er août 2014

Towards legally invisible persons on one hand and internally displaced women facing gender-based violence on the other hand

Praxis is a non-governmental organization that provides legal aid to marginalized people in Serbia and advocates for their rights. It achieves these goals through awareness-raising activities, writing of reports, outreach education, expert support for reforms in 9 different areas : legally invisible persons (people who have not been entered in birth registers), nationality and statelessness, residence, social and economic rights, discrimination, child rights, access to justice, migration, and domestic violence.

It has offices in Belgrade and in Kraljevo, Central Serbia. At its office in Belgrade, I met Ćerim Gaši, representative of internal displaced people from Kosovo, and Bojana Balevic, Sexual and Gender Based violence coordinator : “I started with my neighbours, Ćerim Gaši, volunteer at Praxis”.

Ćerim Gaši works at the Serbian Public electricity company. He lives in Belgrade since 1999. He assists legally invisible persons living in Roma settlements in Belgrade’s municipalities, in registering in birth registry books, and applying for health insurance. He first started in Zemun, one of the seventeen municipalities of Belgrade, helping his neighbours, internal displaced people as himself, then joined Praxis as a volunteer in 2008.

According to him the main problem Roma people face regarding registration’s procedure is the lack of information and awareness of their own rights : many of them only speaking Romani language, they simply don’t know where and how to register. Ćerim Gaši therefore helps them to read what they need, and translates necessary information into Romani language.

The situation is however improving and M. Gaši encourages his community to go to the institutions by themselves. As part of the technical group formed for the purpose of providing assistance to members of the Roma Communities who are not registered in birth registry books, Praxis, also launched a campaign aiming at acquainting members of the Roma Communities with the manner of exercising their rights.

Theater play about legally invisible persons

Bojana Balevic is coordinator for Sexual and Gender Based violence program in Praxis. She use to work in a financial institution, but “had always wanted to help people”. She started to work for Praxis in 2006, as an administrative assistant. When she became coordinator of Sexual and Gender Based violence program, she realized that “this is something I will do for the rest of my life”.

Praxis’ activities in this domain consist in legal aid to internally displaced persons surviving from domestic or sexual violence, in-court representation, individual counseling, accommodation in shelters and safe houses, reintegration, housing programs, awareness-raising campaigns which are addressed to internal displaced women and refugees as well as to relevant authorities.

Bojana however underlines that not all of the women she works with have suffered from physical violence : they also face problems of integration, fears of the community, and sometimes even of their own family, “When you hear all their stories and see their strength, your only wish is to improve their living conditions and to do your best to help them, thus making their struggles easier.” She evokes a sometimes difficult cooperation with police and welfare organizations.

As pointed out in one of Praxis’report (2012), despite numerous protocols on measures of protection adopted by the Government these last three years, procedures are still too long and depend on the sensitivity of the state institutions’ staffs. The report "The weakness of the system of protection against domestic violence in seven pictures” (Praxis 2012) points “The problem of insensitivity among staff in state institutions”.


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