This and the previous weekend were completely painted in purple, the color of the informal feminist collective “Women’s Solidarity”, which initiated a series of protests in front of the Informer editorial office in Terazije. These girls called us, furious and affected by the “mega-exclusive” interview with a serial rapist that was published by the tabloid Informer, to finally stand by our women, and each of us has at least one that we love, that we admire, that inspires us…
Relativization of violence
To recall, the Serbian public was upset when the serial rapist Igor Milošević was released. Paralyzing fear hung over Belgrade like a cloud of smoke, and almost no woman felt safe anymore. And as if all that wasn’t enough, the climax is reached with the publication of the aforementioned interview, which not only further upset us all but also reopened the wounds of every victim. Because of this, many citizens gathered in considerable numbers to express their anger and displeasure at giving media space to a serial rapist, but now it’s not just one interview, it’s a series of headlines in various newspapers that very often relativize violence against women and not call it by its real name. No, it’s not a family tragedy, it’s femicide. No, these were not quiet, peaceful, and withdrawn men, these were abusers, rapists, and murderers. No, it’s not just anger about the interview, it’s anger about knowing that no one guarantees women’s safety and security.
We spoke with Anita Marković from “Women’s Solidarity” and we are conveying her views and the views of the organization that first raised the public to its feet.
– The protests shook the public in every sense. So far we have organized 3 protests and each subsequent one was more attended. In addition to the positive reactions during the protests and the support we receive from other allied women’s organizations, we monitor reactions through social media. Every day, women and men contact us with words of gratitude, support, and interest in further actions. We also receive support from individuals from the region, and some media from Italy, Germany, and Austria contacted us for a statement about the events. This tells us everything about the importance of these outings on the street, about the need to create safe women’s spaces and hear women’s voices.
This protest includes, but also goes beyond, the issue of Informer’s interview with serial rapist. That interview, the decision to conduct it, and the manner in which it was conducted, is a picture and opportunity of the public’s attitude towards the problem of violence against women. We demand respect for the female voice and the female experience.
– The topic of violence against women and women’s fear of it is not something that earns money and brings publicity. – points out Anita Marković and adds that women face different types of violence on a daily basis and that it takes women’s lives.
This is precisely why the members of “Women’s Solidarity” ask that women be believed when they report fear of violence and violence itself.
We are fed up with the blame being put on us – that we didn’t protect ourselves enough and that we didn’t behave well enough.
– The problem of violence against women requires an adequate response and prevention, for which the institutions, as well as the media, are responsible. Giving media space to thugs, promoting violence and thugs is equal to complicity in violence – says Anita, referring to the question about the set goals, in addition to the specific interview that was the initiator of the “revolution”, but also about the reaction of the public from the country and the region.
In response to the question about the reaction of the competent state institutions, as well as the political elite, Anita Marković says that that part of the public, which is addressed at the protests, is also shaken, in one way or another.
– After the first protest, we witnessed the need of the editors of the tabloid Informer to suddenly present their interview with a serial rapist as an act of saving the public (women) from abusers. We have seen that the people’s deputies have played a part in defending and praising the work of the Informer and that the president himself has contributed to it. On Saturday, President Vučić commented on the protests, trying to put our rebellion in the context of political games between the government and the opposition, while on Monday we could see that the Provincial Secretariat for Social Policy also announced that in the case of last week’s murder of a two-year-old girl, the Center for social work “scheduled” and calls the responsible person to account. We still do not receive concrete answers from the authorities regarding our demands, but it is obvious to us that they have stirred and scared the women’s rebellion. – thinks Anita.
The activist sees the protests as something new for the local public, and the reactions and wide interest in the country and the region, especially the reactions or the absence of a factual reaction from the competent institutions and authorities, speak in support of this.
– Attempts to take away our legitimacy and silence us through the political struggle between the government and the opposition will always be failures. Men’s violence against women knows no people, state borders, or government, it is a problem that women have been facing for generations. Now the time has come when our experience will be talked about, and those who don’t want to listen will have to!” – Anita is adamant.
The basic request of “Women’s Solidarity” and the citizens gathered through their support is the removal of the video of the interview from Informer’s YouTube page, which, they say, despite all the warnings about the potential traumatization and retraumatization of women, is still available on their channel. This requirement also applies to all other media portals where the interview is shared in video or text format. Otherwise, asks Anita, “…how can we believe that this society of ours truly cares about women’s issues and that there is no place for women’s rebellion on the streets when they do not want to fulfill such a simple request?” The next request is about the cessation of public financing of media that unethically report on violence against women.
– We do not want public money to be used for additional profiting on women’s humiliation and fear. We demand a registry that will ensure the monitoring of all rapists and abusers and that will ensure adequate supervision for them. Such records are foreseen in the Strategy for the prevention and fight against gender-based violence against women, in 2021 it was said that it is being prepared, but we demand that it be a priority. Women’s lives cannot and must not wait. We also call for all the media to be responsible and to follow the Guidelines for reporting on violence against women, which were compiled by Journalists Against Violence – Anita called for a strong response from the public.
Embrace the rage
Anita Marković points out that patriarchal society takes away power, voice and security from women through various mechanisms.
– Women’s solidarity gives us the strength to reclaim and defend what belongs to us. We continue this fight for the safety and freedom of women and girls even more strongly and decisively because of everything we experienced at these three protests. On the streets, all the women together created a space where, at least for a moment, all the imposed rules of the patriarchal society stopped — the women were not silent, the female anger was embraced, and female togetherness and solidarity reigned. The experiences women shared, the strength and emotions they showed, gave me a sense of duty and courage to fight for a life without violence that we — all women — deserve! – concluded Anita, sublimating feelings and impressions from previous protests.
We also asked some of the citizens, participants in the protests, for their impressions and reasons for going to the protests.
For me, protest means the way to freedom. The freedom to stand up for my rights, to say out loud everything I feel. This was one of the first protests I went to and now I’m sure I’ll be going to many more. The anger felt in the mass of women, who are fighting for the same thing, the feeling that you are not alone and that we were all there to give a voice to those who could not/were not allowed to come, is an indescribable feeling.
I have never been to protests before, it was an unusually beautiful and strange feeling to hear screams, roars, whistles, applause, and anger, to feel the energy of rebellion. I was on the verge of tears a couple of times, it was really emotional. I had goosebumps most of the time. I felt like I was going to war. It is unnecessary to explain why I took to the streets, of course, I am affected by the fact that we women throughout history are forced to fight for basic rights and our place in the system. It was important for me to be there. I was very glad to see men in the crowd who truly support us because this is not and must not be only a women’s fight.
Women have woken up for all of us. They stood up to fight for their rights. They are no longer afraid, and they are no longer just the “prettier and more gentle half” if you ask us they are not stronger, but the strongest. And we sign, angry women will save the world!
We hereby thank all the girls, women, and girls who bravely stand on Terazije and guard our fire. Maybe it’s that fire that was supposed to light up all the streets that were too dark to walk alone. Maybe this is the fire that will illuminate the media’s darkness.
Women, we stand with you!
Photo credits: Iva Jovanović i Ksenija Pantelić