Task Forces


Women’s Rights:” Where are we today compared to yesterday?

By Prof, DR Zorana Z. Mihajlovic

Writing a text about women's rights, I thought: everything that was, is and everything that must be, can it be presented in a few thousand characters? All the strength, tears, struggles and fights of women from around the world for a single thing: equal opportunities for women to participate in social, cultural and political life, just like men do. It seems simple, but for centuries it has been impossible, and for centuries half of the world's population, women, who suffer discrimination and gender domination, have lived in stereotypes, physical, and psychological violence.

Looking back at the years before the New Era, we remember Aristotle who said that "a woman's character should be seen as something incomplete", or Thomas Aquinas who said that "a woman is a man who has failed". Still, we saw some progress in 1791 when Olympe de Gouges wrote the first declaration of women's rights or when we remember John Stuart Mill's ardent commitment to women's voting rights, or Karl Marx who thought that the progress of a society was measured by the condition and position of women in it.

Then we come back to the present, the 21st century, when women are denied the right to education, to decide about their own bodies, when they are so discriminated against, seen through stereotypes, and so abused that the question of women's, or what actually should be human rights, is being reviewed, and it is impossible not to wander how much more equal are woman today compared to a few centuries ago?

Today, we are still called stupid, whores, cows and all sorts of names because we fight against the prohibition of abortion, violence, media lynch against women who were raped, today some politicians offer us money to go to bed with them, explain to us that we should rock the child and remain silent at home, today some female politicians are objects of "erotic fascination" of other so called politicians, so more is heard about the depth of a woman's cleavage than how many faculties she has graduated from, how many successful projects she implemented, how many books she wrote, or doctorates finished..

And then when they want to praise a woman who achieves great results and makes difficult decisions, then the stupidest comment ensues - "she's not a woman, she has a man's brain, and she has balls."

How humiliating...what discrimination!

No, a woman has her female brain, and her own reproductive organ.

Today, there is no gender equality in any country in the world, so the humanity has been defeated, because men still rule and decide, showing it by investing trillions of dollars primarily in the military, arms, conflict and wars, and not in access to education and social protection for every child in the world, for every girl in the world. Although girls rights are basic human rights, politically important too, there are too few who genuinely, with their position, strive to improve the situation. In electoral campaigns, this matter is overstated and left at the mercy of those who play with these rights.

Hand in hand, as sisters, go democracy and women's and girls' rights. The more conservative the country is, the more right-wing it is, and the more noticeable the rightists are on the political and media scene, the more threatened the rights are. I remember the MPs from Serbian radical party who, while I was defending the laws in the Parliament, took out women's underwear from his pocket and waved them at me and without an argument against my elaborations, talked about the length of my skirt.

Women are in all societies, and especially in ours, a vulnerable category.

We are still asked about our age, when and if we are going to give birth, looked under our skirts, explained that we are guilty of abuse and rape, forbidden to decide about our bodies, marriages are arranged for us, we are sold as slaves.. we are looked down at, made to prove ourselves, and a woman's word is still worth less than a man's word. Joy is greater when a woman carries a male child. Today, still, most men, including young men too, with even 30% of girls believe that slapping does not constitute violence, and to this day the media will rather give publicity to the rapist to describe how he raped, than help us fight this social evil preventively. Neighbors will remain silent to the painful cries of an abused woman next door, but will at the same time hurry to call the police if someone plays music too loud.

That is why gender equality is neither a number, nor an explanation that the percentage of women in parliament is a few percent higher than in the EU, or that a woman is a head of a bank. No, because even when women are part of the government, parliament, or a company, some other men decide what their policy will be, and they still have to care more about their clothes and physical looks in order to excel than about what they have achieved.

Women’s right is the right not to have to carry pepper spray when coming back home late, not to suffer and experience psychological, emotional, physical, and digital violence at every step, whether at home, at work, on the street, in the store, and not to count 350 murdered women in the last 11 years just because they are women, but the consistent application of all laws, the effective work of all institutions, early education, and a common social consensus that we must together establish equal conditions for both women and men.

Women's rights are not only enacted laws on gender equality, fight against violence, strategy on gender equality, an action plan, gender-responsive budgeting – albeit all hard work – but the drafting of by-laws, their implementation, monitoring, gender-responsive appreciation and respect. Because if there were gender equality, then many female professors would have long ago become deans, and rectors, women chiefs would have long ago become directors of their institutions, they would be equally and not 20% less paid for the same job as men, and many other women, although they finish college faster than men, and prevail in the PhDs finished, would have found the right place in society and thus contributed to its progress.

That is why when we are slowly entering the new 2023, like every woman, I wish good for my country, for all the people in it, for every girl who will grow old here and for every woman who fights every day for survival and progress. I do not accept whining, constant intimidations by invisible problems, I do not accept thoughtlessness and constant conflict, the desire for some imagined battles that are not there – and that is the difference between us and them – women and men.

It is our duty not to remain silent, to fight together, and to find ways for families and society to thrive. The message is clear: We are fighting to have the same opportunities as men. We are not taking anything from anyone. We are not asking for anything more than what belongs to us by birth.

And so may the New Year bring us many changes in favor of the rights of all the girls who are yet to come.

Women dream with their eyes and defend with their strength.

Happy New Year 2023!

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