Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes the rape of women or men, including spousal rape and domestic violence. The law was in most cases enforced. Sentences range from fines to jail, depending on the crime’s severity. Rape, including spousal rape, is punishable by a maximum of 15 years’ imprisonment. Conviction for domestic violence is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment. The law provides for stricter penalties for violence among closely related family members and violence against women. Sexual intercourse without consent is classified as rape, punishable with three to 10 years’ imprisonment. The law provides sanctions (fines and up to 90 days’ imprisonment) for misdemeanor domestic violence. The ombudsperson’s 2020 report noted during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a significant increase in domestic violence of a criminal nature, and women represented the vast majority of domestic violence survivors. The report stated that during the last two years there was a 50 percent increase in the total number of women killed and the number of women killed by intimate partners. In addition to domestic violence, the ombudsperson stated survivors of domestic violence still did not have adequate legal protection.
Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment of women and men. The maximum punishment for sexual harassment is two years’ imprisonment. The ombudsperson for gender equality reported a general lack of effective and dissuasive sanctioning of perpetrators, and judicial practice was generally not gender sensitive, due in part to insufficient education on international standards.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. Vulnerable populations, including persons with disabilities, had the ability to provide informed consent to medical treatment affecting reproductive health, including for sterilization. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence.
Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and rights as men regarding family, employment, labor, religion, inheritance, personal status and nationality laws, property, access to credit, owning or managing businesses or property, and voting. The law requires equal pay for equal work. The government did not enforce the law effectively. Women experienced discrimination in employment and occupation. The ombudsperson for gender equality in 2020 (the most recent data available) worked on 515 discrimination cases, a 2 percent increase compared with 2019. The largest number of complaints was related to the area of exercising labor rights (25 percent), followed by the area of social security, including social welfare, pension, and health insurance (23 percent) and administration (14 percent).
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
According to an opinion of the Council of Europe published on June 10, the country continued to apply the provisions of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (the Framework Convention) to 22 constitutionally recognized national minorities. The country has laws which provide for protection of members of national minorities from racial and ethnic discrimination and abuse. The legislative framework pertaining to national minorities is in conformity with the provisions of the Framework Convention. Comprehensive antidiscrimination legislation is in place as are structures to promote equal treatment and address individual cases of discrimination at national and regional levels.
The opinion noted, however, that discrimination against persons belonging to certain groups “persists,” notably for Roma and Serb national minorities, including returnees. The opinion also noted an increase in hate crime and “incidents of hate speech in the media and in political discourse” since the previous one. The opinion was also critical of the extent to which public debate related to national minorities was “dominated by antiminority rhetoric and prejudice, with persons belonging to the Serb and the Romani national minorities being the most affected.”
Constitutional provisions against discrimination applied to all minorities. According to the ombudsperson for human rights, ethnic discrimination was the most prevalent form of discrimination, particularly against Serbs and Roma.
According to the Serb National Council (SNV), the Serb national minority continued to face discrimination, including hate speech and anti-Serb graffiti. Serbs were subject to discrimination especially in Eastern Slavonia. The SNV also said members of the Serb national minority faced significant discrimination in employment, and there were unresolved, long-standing issues of registration of Serb schools in Eastern Slavonia and in the justice system, particularly with respect to missing persons and unprosecuted war crimes cases.
On May 5, police filed criminal charges against 21 individuals, including one minor, for inciting hate and violence after they participated in an early-morning rally on May 2 at which they chanted anti-Serb slogans, including “ubij Srbina” (kill Serbs). The incident occurred in the village of Borovo Selo near the town of Vukovar and coincided with the 30th anniversary of the killing of 12 Croatian police officers by Serb paramilitaries during the 1991-95 Homeland War (war in the former Yugoslavia). The commemoration date also coincided with Orthodox Easter, celebrated by ethnic Serbs in Croatia. Senior government officials strongly and swiftly condemned the incident. Prime Minister Plenkovic called the incident “unacceptable,” and President Milanovic stated it was a “disgrace and deserving of absolute condemnation.” Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milosevic, an ethnic Serb, stated he was “appalled by the messages” and promised that ‘‘they won’t stop the progress of peace.”
Media quoted a member of parliament representing national minorities saying there remained cases of Romani patients being separated from other patients at a local hospital in northeastern Croatia. Local authorities denied the allegations, saying Romani patients were equally treated and that segregation of Romani students was no longer present following a 2010 antidiscrimination ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (Orsus v. Croatia) involving Romani children in the country’s schools.
Birth Registration: Authorities registered all births at the time of birth within the country or abroad. Citizenship is derived by descent from at least one citizen parent or through birth in the country’s territory in exceptional cases.
Child Abuse: The law provides stricter penalties than were imposed previously for grave criminal acts of sexual abuse and abuse of children. Penalties depend on the crime’s gravity and include long-term imprisonment if the child dies as a consequence of the abuse. Child abuse, including violence and sexual abuse, remained a problem. The trend of the number of complaints continued to increase, and the ombudsperson for children reported in 2020 (the latest year data was available) receiving 1,923 requests for assistance and complaints, 10 percent more than 2019. Among the complaints in 2020, those regarding children’s personal rights dominated. Complaints increased regarding judicial protection, connected to the actions of police officers, employees of social welfare centers, special guardians, courts, and state prosecutors’ offices.
According to the ombudsperson’s report, complaints pointed to the need to sensitize officials better regarding the needs and rights of children. There was a small decrease in the number of complaints associated with family and institutional violence against children, due, according to the report, to movement restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic and the reduced ability of children to contact trusted individuals to report violence and abuse. Complaints were most frequently reported by parents, followed by institutions such as schools and kindergartens. The ombudsman for children reported in 2020 that complaints of violence committed against children decreased and claimed many crimes remained unreported.
On April 4, media widely reported on a child abuse case involving a two-and-a-half-year-old girl who died in the hospital after sustaining serious injuries allegedly at the hand of her mother. Both parents of the girl were immediately arrested, and the mother was charged with inflicting grievous bodily injuries, while the father was charged with violating the child’s rights, child neglect, and abuse of the girl and her three siblings. The parents were reportedly suspected of abusing the girl between November 2020 and March 31. After a preliminary report that noted administrative errors at the local social welfare department, including returning the girl from a foster family to her parents, the head of the Center for Social Welfare in the town of Nova Gradiska was relieved of his duties. Minister of Labor, Pension System, Family and Social Policy Josip Aladrovic told reporters on April 26 he supported a ministry report that identified welfare-service issues in Nova Gradiska. He also presented an action plan aimed at improving the social welfare system, which envisaged the hiring of 200 new staff, assessing that the system’s main issues were poorly connected institutions and a shortage of expert personnel, supervision, and support.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18; children older than 16 may marry with a judge’s written consent.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children; the sale, offering, or procuring of a child for prostitution; and child pornography. The law provides for jail penalties ranging from six months to long-term imprisonment for the sexual exploitation of children, depending on the age of the victim and severity of the crime. Authorities enforced the law. The Ministry of the Interior conducted investigations and worked with international partners to combat child pornography. The ministry operated a website known as Red Button for the public to report child pornography to police. The minimum age for consensual sex is 15.
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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.
The World Jewish Congress estimated the country’s Jewish population at 1,700. Some Jewish community leaders continued to report anti-Semitic rhetoric, including the use of symbols affiliated with the Ustasha and historical revisionism. Members of the Jewish community were also affected by historical revisionism and anti-Semitism. President Milanovic, Speaker of Parliament Gordan Jandrokovic, Deputy Prime Minister Milosevic, and Culture and Media Minister Nina Obuljen-Korzinek marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27 by laying a wreath in the Jewish section of Zagreb’s Mirogoj Cemetery. Civil society organizations, including the Croatian Antifascist League and the SNV, issued a statement on January 27 demanding a law to ban and criminally prosecute the use of Ustasha insignia, denial of World War II concentration camps, and glorification of pro-Nazi Ustasha war criminals. The initiative came just days after the Jewish Community of Zagreb initiated a discussion in parliament on a bill to outlaw Ustasha insignia. The government issued a statement strongly opposing any form of discrimination, exclusiveness, or intolerance, and stressing the importance of Holocaust education.
On February 5, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlic-Radman attended a ceremony to reinstall a damaged stumbling block (Stolperstein) for Chief Rabbi Miroslav Salom Freiberger, organized by the Center for the Promotion of Tolerance and Holocaust Remembrance, in partnership with the Bet Israel community and the Stiftung-Spuren Foundation. Grlic-Radman expressed regret that the monument was damaged, sending a clear message on behalf of the government regarding the importance of preserving collective memory and paying respects to all victims of the Nazi regime. He said that the country’s efforts and commitment to the culture of Holocaust remembrance had been recognized by the international community and that the country would chair the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in 2023.
On April 22, the president, prime minister, speaker of parliament, and representatives of victims’ groups (Jews, Roma, Serbs, and antifascists) commemorated the victims of the World War II Jasenovac concentration camp and condemned the World War II Nazi-affiliated Independent State of Croatia (NDH). Prime Minister Plenkovic called the atrocities committed under the NDH “the most tragic period in Croatian history” and underlined that patriotism cannot be contrary to the tolerance of others.
On August 26, Prime Minister Plenkovic told reporters the use of the salute was already banned by law and stated potential amendments of the law would be discussed.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Persons with Disabilities
Children with disabilities attended all levels of school with nondisabled peers, although NGOs stated the lack of laws mandating equal access for persons with disabilities limited educational access for those students. While the law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, building owners and managers did not always comply, and there were no reported sanctions.
The government did not always effectively enforce the law’s prohibitions of discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities, including in access to education, employment, health services, information, communications, buildings, transportation, and the judicial system and other state services.
The ombudsperson for persons with disabilities described the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on persons with disabilities in her annual report. The report stated that, although persons with disabilities were prioritized for protection from the virus, there was a “notable lack” of professionals available to assist persons with disabilities during the pandemic. The report also noted deficiencies in social services for those with special needs, necessitating a move to care homes for some of them where individual attention was not possible.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Societal discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS remained a problem. The NGO Croatian Association for HIV (HUHIV) reported some physicians and dentists refused to treat HIV-positive patients. HUHIV reported violations of the confidentiality of persons diagnosed with HIV, causing some to face discrimination, including in employment, after disclosure of their status. There were reports that transplant centers refused to place HIV-positive patients on their lists of potential organ recipients.
HUHIV reported that the government’s National Plan for Fighting HIV helped combat the stigmatization and discrimination of persons with HIV or AIDS.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Representatives from minority groups said the law’s prohibitions of discrimination in employment and occupation, nationality laws, housing, access to education, and health care based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression were not consistently enforced and reported sporadic incidents. LGBTQI+ NGOs noted the continuation of the judiciary’s uneven performance in discrimination cases. They reported members of their community had limited access to the justice system, with many reluctant to report violations of their rights due to concerns regarding the inefficient judicial system and fear of further victimization during trial proceedings. NGOs reported that investigations into hate speech against LGBTQI+ persons remained unsatisfactory. On July 3, during the Zagreb Pride parade, there were incidents of violence and spitting on participants, verbal abuse, and the burning of a rainbow flag, according to the organizers’ statement and media reports. The attacks allegedly took place during and after the march, and police arrested several suspects. During a July 6 meeting, Prime Minister Plenkovic reportedly stated that the entire governing coalition would openly stand against violent incidents such as the ones that occurred after the Pride Parade. He asserted there was no room in Croatian society for hate speech, and he praised Deputy Prime Minister Milosevic for his participation in the Pride parade.
On May 17, in a Facebook post on the occasion of International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, Rijeka’s Archbishop Mate Uznic asked forgiveness from homosexuals who felt rejected by the Roman Catholic Church. Uznic expressed regret that there were still Catholics who disagreed with the spirit of the apostolic exhortation of Amoris Laetitia, released by Pope Francis in 2016, which stated, ‘‘every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while every sign of unjust discrimination is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence.”
The Zagreb Pride organization reported on August 13 that a group of LGBTQI+ tourists from several different countries were thrown out of the Lost in the Renaissance Festival on the southern Adriatic island of Korcula. The organizing Aminess Hotels and Campsites company and the mayor of the city of Korcula strongly condemned the incident and expressed sincere regrets.
On April 21, the Zagreb Administrative Court granted same-sex couples the right to adopt children. The court ruled in favor of a same-sex couple who had challenged a 2019 law meant to increase the number of foster parents. Soon after the court ruling, however, the Ministry of Labor, Pensions, Family and Social Policies announced it would appeal.