Bosnia and Herzegovina: Increasing access to justice for survivors of intimate partner violence

“In state institutions I saw that everything is going slowly, everything is somehow unprepared for the violence, everything takes a lot of time and in violence there is everything, but time the least.” – Sara*, survivor of violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina


Campaign against femicide before COVID19
Campaign against femicide before COVID-19. Credit: Center of Women's Rights/Haris Badzic

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, women survivors of gender-based violence have limited access to information about their rights and face a slow, formal and bureaucratic judicial system. As a result, survivors can be left isolated, rarely benefit from protection mechanisms and are often re-traumatized.  

The Center of Women’s Rights is a civil society organization that works on improving protection mechanisms for women survivors of intimate partner violence. They run a project supported by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women that aims to strengthen the capacity of the legal system to effectively prosecute perpetrators of violence, using various strategies. 

As part of their project, the Center of Women’s Rights works with professionals within the protection system to change perceptions and increase understanding of gender-based and intimate partner violence. They organize seminars for judges focused on sensitization and to raise awareness on the impacts of prejudices and stereotypes on final decisions, as well as seminars for police officers, social and health workers to help ensure that these professionals can provide comprehensive, need-oriented and tailored treatment for survivors of violence.  

Esma*, a participant of a seminar for judges and prosecutors said: “I think that this type of education through sensitization must be constant, interesting, motivating. This would prevent cases from going to judges who are unaware.”

In addition, the Center of Women’s Rights has organized meetings of multisectoral and expert groups, which resulted in the submission of amendments to the law on the “Protection against Domestic Violence”, introducing the idea of a “Person of Trust” to support survivors of violence during court proceedings. In July 2021 the proposed amendments received support from parliamentarians of the House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

The Center of Women’s Rights also works directly to support women survivors to ensure they can access justice. As of March 2021, 404 women had benefited from free legal aid as a result of the project, opening the door to justice and to initiate proceedings.As women continue to face heightened risk of violence as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the essential work of the Center of Women’s Rights helps ensure that survivors receive the support they need. Find out more on how the organization has adapted to COVID-19: here.


Watch this video about how the Center of Women's Rights supports survivors of violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina:


*Names have been changed to protect their identity.