Ljupka Trajanovska

Analyst and Research Associate at Center for Research and Policy Making; MA in Gender, Violence and Conflict at University of Sussex

Guest blogger for UK in North Macedonia

Part of UK in North Macedonia

8th March 2021 Skopje, North Macedonia

International Women’s Day- Will women’s safety ever be a priority and a human right?

The global campaign theme this year was announced as “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” The successful managing of the pandemic by women leaders has highlighted the need for more women in decision-making positions globally, not excluding the Republic of North Macedonia. A recovery process will follow and without assessing and taking into consideration the harms done and the specific needs of women and men; we will not have equal rehabilitation. While we aspire for more women in leading positions worldwide to achieve an equal future, we mustn’t overlook the obstacles those women are facing along the way.

Another 8th of March. Another year in which we celebrate women’s fight for social, economic, and political equality- a fight that appears to be against the endless war on women. The patriarchal capitalistic system has imposed multitasking as a required skill for women’s survival in the COVID-19 world. Working from home, taking care of the children, their well-being, education, and entertainment, taking care of the home, while being at constant risk of losing your job, mental health disorders and gender-based violence.

For a whole year, the world is fighting against a faceless enemy named COVID-19 which initiated the most dangerous battle in the war on women. Hundreds of thousands of women and girls around the world have been helplessly constrained into four walls with the perpetrators of their violence. What should have been a quarantine that protects us from a deadly enemy, became a prison cell shared with very familiarly faced perpetrators for women. Surveys show that women are twice as likely as men to be killed in their homes. Two-thirds of women killed with firearms in North Macedonia were killed in their private spaces. Gender-based violence rates have immensely increased during the pandemic.

‘A woman killed by her husband in the village Arachinovo’

‘In Skopje, 27-year-old man beat a woman to death’

‘In Gostivar, a husband killed his wife with a knife and an axe’

‘Two minors have raped and killed a 67-year-old woman in Strumica’

These are some of the tragic femicide cases which happened in the period 2020-2021. In some, the police failed to act upon report due to lack of personnel, while in some, due to lack of covid-19 protection equipment. We can’t help but wonder is women’s safety ever a priority for the police?

Furthermore, all our lives have been relocated from the streets, offices, institutions, working places to the online space. Consequently, for many women, the threats against their dignity, reputation, personality, well-being, mental health, physical appearance, which were everyday realities in the public spaces, have been placidly transferred in the cyberspace. Imagine yourself helplessly standing on the main square in front of 5000 men who are passing by and commenting loudly about your looks, what would they do to you, shouting random offensive words while the policemen are standing around them and not doing anything to protect you. Sexual harassment was the reality for hundreds of women and girls in the online space, while their pictures and private information were shared in the group Public Room for a whole year.

Photo credit: Vanco Dzambaski

Nevertheless, some lessons were learned. The adoption of the new Law on prevention and protection from violence against women and domestic violence at the beginning of the year was a significant step towards the establishment of sustainable access to justice for women and girls in North Macedonia. However, without effective harmonization of the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Law with the Istanbul Convention women will not be entirely protected. Violence against women is traditionally established on a structural, institutional, and personal level in our country. Therefore, women will have to continue the fight for social, economic, political justice, and equal rights today and every next day. The lack of men’s support, collaboration and solidarity will only delay and impede the gender equal future.

Note: British Embassy Skopje offers its blog platform for guest posts. The views expressed in the guest posts are those of the authors.