Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is punishable by up to 40 years in prison. The government did not enforce the law effectively.
Domestic violence is punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment. While the law provides women the right to obtain a restraining order against abusers, the government did not enforce the law effectively. The Council against Family Violence reported that 19 women were killed in family violence through July.
The Law on the Prevention of Family Violence came into effect on June 1. The law strengthens protective measures for domestic violence victims by temporarily removing the perpetrator from a home from a minimum of 48 hours to a maximum of 30 days. It also requires that police, prosecutors’ offices, courts, and social welfare centers maintain an electronic database on individual cases of family violence and undertake emergency and extended emergency measures. Data from these institutions are to be part of a centralized database of evidence run by the Office of the Public Prosecutor.
Under the new law, after making an initial determination that there is either actual violence or the immediate threat of violence, the police officer carries out a risk assessment. If the officer establishes an imminent danger of domestic violence, the police can issue an urgent measure that temporarily removes the perpetrator from the home and/or temporarily prohibits the perpetrator from having physical or direct contact with the victim.
The police officer must then notify the competent basic public prosecutor, who then evaluates the risk assessment conducted by the responding police officer. If the prosecutor concludes there is an immediate threat of domestic violence, the prosecutor is obliged to submit a motion to the court to extend the emergency measure.
The Ministry of Justice reported that from June 1 until October 31, there were 17,000 cases of domestic violence reported, and courts issued 6,000 rulings to extend emergency measures, including removing the perpetrators of violence from family homes.
Women’s groups said there were clear flaws in how institutions interpreted and implemented the law. Since the entry into force of the Law on the Prevention of Family Violence, criminal indictments or charges were filed against 574 persons.
According to Office of the Public Prosecutor statistics, in June public prosecutors filed motions to extend the emergency measures against 1,212 persons, of which the court upheld 1,174 (97 percent). In July, 1,339 motions were filed to extend emergency measures, of which the court upheld 1,292 (96 percent).
The official agencies dedicated to combating family violence had inadequate resources. The Ministry of Construction, Traffic, and Infrastructure dedicated around 10 million dinars ($100,000) to support reconstruction and renovation of 10 safe houses throughout the country.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a crime punishable by imprisonment for up to six months in cases that do not involve domestic abuse or a power relationship and for up to one year for abuse of a subordinate or dependent. The government did not enforce the law effectively.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .
Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, but the government did not always respect these laws.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents. The law on birth records provides for universal birth registration. Some Romani children were not registered at birth. Subsequent birth registration was possible but complicated (see section 2.d., Stateless Persons). Children who are not registered do not have access to public services, such as health care.
Education: Education was free through the secondary level, but compulsory only from preschool through age 15. Ethnic discrimination and economic hardship discouraged some children from attending school. In Romani and poor rural communities, girls were likely to quit school earlier than boys.
Child Abuse: According to media reports, children were victims of family and peer abuse, as well as cyber bullying and online harassment. According to UNICEF, one in three two-year-olds was beaten by his or her parents. Police usually responded to complaints, and authorities prosecuted child abuse cases during the year. Psychological and legal assistance was available for victims. Children were accommodated in safe houses for victims of family violence.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18. A court can allow a minor older than 16 to marry if the minor is mature enough to “enjoy the rights and fulfill the responsibilities of marriage.” Of 165 Romani women interviewed, 150 said they were married before the age of 18 or were forced into marriage by their family at 18.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: While the law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and the government enforced the law, both activities occurred. Evidence was limited, and the extent of the problem was unknown. The minimum age for consensual sex is 14, regardless of sexual orientation or gender.
According to the ombudsman, amendments to the criminal code introduced in 2016 enhanced protection of children from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, but the legal protection against criminal offenses against children had not been fully established.
Displaced Children: According to local NGOs and media reports, an estimated 2,000 homeless children lived on Belgrade’s streets. Most of these children were not registered at birth, and the government did not provide them any systematic support.
Institutionalized Children: Children in orphanages and institutions were sometimes victims of physical and emotional abuse by caretakers and guardians and of sexual abuse by peers. The law on social protection prioritizes the deinstitutionalization of children, including those with developmental problems, and their placement in foster families. Children with disabilities who were housed in institutions faced problems including isolation, neglect, and a lack of stimulation and were mixed with adults in the same facility.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
According to the 2011 census, 787 persons in the country declared themselves Jewish. While the law prohibits hate speech, translations of anti-Semitic literature were available from ultranationalist groups and conservative publishers. Anti-Semitic books were widely available in bookshops. Right-wing youth groups and internet forums continued to promote anti-Semitism and use hate speech against the Jewish community.
Holocaust education continued to be a part of the school curriculum at the direction of the Ministry of Education, including in the secondary school curriculum. The role of the collaborationist National Salvation government run by Milan Nedic during the Nazi occupation was debated. Some commentators continued to seek to minimize and reinterpret the role of national collaborators’ movements during World War II and their role in the Holocaust. A court case brought by Nedic’s family for his rehabilitation was in progress before the Higher Court in Belgrade. In November 2016 the Association of Jewish Communities filed a request to participate in the rehabilitation case as an intervener. The Belgrade Higher Court rejected the request in February, arguing that extrajudicial cases did not recognize the institution of an intervener. The Appellate Court in Belgrade confirmed that decision in early September.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The government did not enforce these laws effectively. Persons with disabilities and their families suffered from stigmatization and segregation because of deeply entrenched prejudices and the lack of information.
The criminal code defines “sexual intercourse with a helpless person” as a crime separate from rape. Under the law taking advantage of persons with disabilities when the person is “incapable of resistance” has a shorter minimum prison sentence than rape of a person not defined as “helpless.”
According to a February report by Mental Disability Rights Initiative Serbia, persons with disabilities were exposed to discrimination in almost every aspect of life, including access to justice, access to health, education, employment, and political participation. Deputy Ombudsman Milos Jankovic told media on May 24 that the country needed to have local mental health institutions in order to help people with mental health issues and support their life in the community. He noted that many persons with a mental disability were accommodated in social care institutions because conditions were lacking to accommodate them in the community. Mental Disability Rights Initiative of Serbia research from late 2016 showed that women with disabilities in residential institutions were exposed to various forms of violence, including physical, psychological, sexual, and gender-based violence. Results also showed that, due to their very specific position and isolation from the outside world, a majority of women accepted violence as an inevitable part of their daily lives in institutions.
According to the World Health Organization, persons with disabilities represented 15 percent of the country’s total population. The law provides for all public buildings to be accessible to persons with disabilities, but public transportation and many older public buildings were not accessible. Many children and adults with intellectual disabilities remained in institutions, sometimes restrained or isolated.
The law also prohibits physical, emotional, and verbal abuse in schools. Children with disabilities (institutionalized and noninstitutionalized) generally attended school and, depending on parents’ preferences, could enroll in regular or special schools. Parents found that enrolling children with intellectual disabilities in regular schools was challenging and often chose to enroll their children in special schools. NGOs noted that children with disabilities faced discrimination in access to education and health care. Individualized support in education for children with disabilities was a problem because there were no clear and specified legal regulations for it.
The Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veterans, and Social Issues, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Health had sections with responsibilities to protect persons with disabilities. The Labor Ministry had a broad mandate to engage with NGOs, distribute social assistance, manage residential institutions, and monitor laws to ensure protection for the rights of persons with disabilities. The Ministries of Health and Education offered assistance and protection in their respective spheres. The minister of labor, employment, veterans, and social issues reported in May that his ministry’s budget increased by 40 million dinars (approximately $400,000) to help improve the status of persons with disabilities.
According to the National Employment Agency, the number of unemployed persons with disabilities in early May was 15,627–a decrease of 8.4 percent in comparison with 2016.
Independent observers and NGOs stated that Roma continued to be subject to the greatest discrimination of any ethnic minority in the country. According to the UN Human Rights Committee, members of the Romani community continued to suffer from widespread discrimination and exclusion, unemployment, forced eviction, and de facto housing and educational segregation. The Committee acknowledged the country’s progress on the issue of access to official documentation and registration, but expressed concern about the continued difficulties faced by internally displaced Roma in registering births and their place of residence, acquiring identification documents, and integrating into society.
Bodies known as national minority councils represented the country’s ethnic minority groups and had broad competency over education, media, culture, and the use of minority languages. Ethnic Albanian leaders in the southern municipalities of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac, along with Bosniaks in the southwestern region of Sandzak complained they were underrepresented in state institutions at the local level. The UN Human Rights Committee noted in its third periodic report on Serbia its concern about the low representation of minorities, including Roma, in government bodies and public administration.
The law requires all residents to record changes of residency. Authorities denied some displaced persons (mostly Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians) access to government services because they lacked regular identification documents, which could be difficult to acquire if adequate documents were not filed at birth, or if the registry books with their registration were lost during the conflicts of the 1990s. To meet the address change requirement and deregister from their original addresses, displaced persons from Kosovo were required to travel to the location of relocated civil registries from Kosovo, which were held in municipalities scattered throughout the country. The law provides a special court procedure for the ex post facto establishment of time and place of birth in order to facilitate subsequent civil registration.
The government took some steps to counter violence and discrimination against minorities. The stand-alone government Office for Human and Minority Rights supported minority communities. Civic education classes, offered by the government as an alternative to religion courses in secondary schools, included information on minority cultures and multi-ethnic tolerance.
On June 30, the government launched a campaign called “Together we are all Serbia” to raise awareness of the country’s cultural and linguistic diversity. Campaign video clips were aired on national television network RTS.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Although the law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, violence and discrimination against members of the LGBTI community were serious problems. There were no formal regulations for the legal consequences of adjusting or changing one’s sex. There was no right to a preferred gender in the absence of surgical intervention.
According to LGBTI activists, about 60 percent of the country’s population still believed homosexuality was a disease and 20 percent believed LGBTI individuals were criminals. According to research from the NGO Civil Rights Defenders, individuals presumed to be LGBTI were targeted for physical violence in schools.
According to LGBTI activist Dragoslava Barzut, 72 percent of the LGBTI population was exposed to verbal intimidation because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, while 26 percent suffered physical violence. According to police data, from January 2012 until February 2017, 45 cases of hate crimes against LGBTI persons were reported. LGBTI activists stated it was rare for hate crimes to be prosecuted under Article 54a of the criminal code, which prescribes harsher punishments for hate crimes. Activists called for the creation of protocols and procedures to ensure hate crimes were correctly identified and prosecuted by law enforcement and prosecutor offices.
The majority of attacks were never resolved and perpetrators never identified. NGOs stated that attacks against activists remained unsolved because of a lack of political will to punish perpetrators. LGBTI activists also claimed that the inadequate government response to violent acts against the LGBTI community encouraged perpetrators to target them for abuse. In its March 23 session, the UN Human Rights Committee raised its concern about high number of acts of discrimination, intolerance, and violence against LGBTI persons.
On April 29, a transgender person was severely injured in front of a Belgrade nightclub. Police identified three out of five attackers, two of whom were minors, and filed criminal charges against them. Police also launched internal control procedures against a police officer for unprofessional conduct when the victim was reporting the attack at the police station.
On May 8, three transgender persons reported to NGO Egal that an unknown man attacked them at a pizzeria in downtown Belgrade. Police and an ambulance arrived promptly and, after they were treated for injuries, the three victims gave statements at a police station.
In October a man who attacked an individual who was crossdressing in 2014 was sentenced to one year of probation. Activists criticized this sentence as being too light because the attacker was not prosecuted under Article 54a of the criminal code, which proscribes harsher punishments for hate crimes.
On September 17, the Belgrade Pride parade was held for the fourth year in a row to promote LGBTI rights in the country. Police shut down a large portion of central Belgrade to secure the route and ensure there was no harassment of parade participants. Nearly 1,000 demonstrators marched through central Belgrade amid a heavy security presence of 500 law enforcement personnel. No security incidents were reported.
In June, Ana Brnabic, an LGBTI businessperson, became prime minister of the new government, making her the first openly LGBTI prime minister.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
According to the commissioner for protection of equality’s 2016 annual report, there was significant prejudice towards persons with HIV/AIDS.