Bosnia failing wartime rape victims, survey shows

27 January 2015 by Nidzara Ahmetasevic, Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Despite growing concern for and openness about wartime rapes in Bosnia, the thousands of women estimated to have been raped during the 1992-1995 conflict there are still largely neglected by the state and society, concludes a leading NGO dealing with victims.

Sabiha Husic runs the NGO Medica Zenica, which helps Bosnia's wartime rape survivors
Image caption: 
Sabiha Husic runs the NGO Medica Zenica, which helps Bosnia's wartime rape survivors (Medica Zenica)

Medica Zenica, one of two NGOs dealing with rape survivors continuously since the war, conducted a survey in 2013 and 2014, finding that Bosnia’s existing institutions “do nothing for survivors”. This creates a society in which wartime rape victims are stigmatized. Medica, as the organization is called for short, also found that local judiciary institutions are still not sufficiently equipped or sensitized to secure protection for witnesses who testify about rape.

Research on the long-term consequences of war rape came from in-depth interviews with 59 women whom Medica worked with since the war’s end. The conclusions were presented in the report ‘We are still alive! We have been harmed but we are brave and strong’. But getting a figure on the number of women raped during the Bosnian War is hard; the stigma surrounding sexual violence means few survivors talk about their trauma. Today’s estimations span 20,000 to 50,000.

Claiming rights

Want to read more?

If you subscribe to a free membership, you can read this article and explore our full archive, dating back to 1997.

Subscribe now