Ljubljana related

08 Mar 2021, 12:01 PM

STA, 8 March 2021 - Žiga Turk, an opinion leader who served as minister of education, science, culture and sport in the 2012-13 Janez Janša government, has been declared the winner of the Silver Thistle for the most sexist quote in the past year for his Twitter comment on rape.

"If sex is a mere recreation, then rape is no worse than a foul. If sex is not recreation, the basic premise of the progressive view on the issue established since 1968 falls," was the tweet, posted on 5 February, that won Turk the censure.

Out of 23 sexist statements shortlisted, Turk's won the most negative votes in an online vote between 19 February and 5 March involving 1,667 people. The winner was declared at the conclusion of the 22nd feminist and queer festival Red Dawns on Sunday, held online.

In explanation, the web portal Spol.si said the author of the most sexist statement believed the 1968 revolution turned rape into a sporting offence, as if to say that free choice about sexuality should be conditional on accepting the opinion of rape.

According to the portal, Turk's comment relativises sexual violence, which comes at a time when colleges in Slovenia are examining students' allegations about being sexually harassed by professors.

He says it will be perfectly clear to anyone who has read his statement through to the end that he considers rape the worse crime.

He finds the award irrational because he has publicly supported the "only yes means yes" concept of the crime of rape and deems it outrageous because he believes the award is a punishment for his support for the incumbent government.

The Silver Thistle is awarded annually by the Red Dawns collective and the editorial board of spol.si in cooperation with the interested public.

08 Mar 2021, 11:54 AM

STA, 8 March 2021 - The Slovenian PEN Centre and Mira, the women's committee at the centre, warned of violence against women ahead of Woman's Day, 8 March, while the Manager Association warned of inequalities at work, aggravated by the Covid-19 epidemic. A number of online discussions on the problems and potential of women will be held today.

The Slovenian PEN Centre and Mira addressed a letter featuring a list of eight demands to the government, National Assembly and Slovenian citizens ahead of Woman's Day. Their main demand is redefinition of rape and protection of the rights and duties of citizens in line with the Constitution.

They oppose a model of society that does not allow women to decide freely on giving birth, and call for a legal restriction of hate speech on social media.

They also warn of women and female writers being subjected to physical attacks, mocking, censorship and violations of rights in the pandemic year.

Woman who are publicly stating their opinion are often intimidated, and women - be it politicians, authors, journalists, experts or any other public figures - are targets of smear campaigns more frequently than men, they said.

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Seen in Ljubljana, Photo: JL Flanner

The PEN centre and Mira believe that the ban on assembly as part of epidemic measures has narrowed down the possibilities of men and women to stand up to this.

Due to the pressure on the STA, public media and government representatives of ministers who cannot directly and independently communicate with the media, the public and media life is being subjected to censorship and self-censorship, which puts the fundamental right of democracy - the freedom of speech - at risk, they wrote.

According to the Manager Association, the epidemic has made differences between men and women in professional settings worse.

Results of last year's survey by consulting company McKinsey show that one in four women in the US is thinking of quitting her job during the epidemic although she did not even consider this in early 2020. This could jeopardise the results of decades of efforts to achieve gender equality in business, the association warns.

However, this crisis is also an opportunity to make companies more flexible and sympathetic, and create equal opportunities for both sexes, the association said, pointing to appointments of several women to senior positions in Slovenia in recent months.

The epidemic has increased gender inequality, because women took on most of the burden related to providing for children and distance learning as well as household choirs, because men mostly work in the more profitable sectors and because the sectors dominated by women have been more affected by the epidemic.

"This is why it will be an even greater challenge to increase the share of women in top positions in business - in Slovenia it currently stands at about 25%, according to data by the European Institute for Gender Equality," the association said, noting this would be one of the goals of the national programme for equal opportunities of men and women until 2030, which is now in public debate.

One of the measures from the programme is also improving digital competences of women. Slovenia is currently faced with a great challenge of gender segregation in the digital sector, as more than 80% of men are currently educated and employed in this sector, the association said.

Several NGOs have also warned that the health, and social and economic crises have deepened the known problems of women and created new ones. Violence against women is on the rise and it is time for action, SOS Telefon and Iskra said in their call to the government, which was backed by the Karitas Safe House for the Primorska region and the 8 March Institute.

The SOS hotline said that between 1 January and 30 November 2020 an almost 13% rise in the number of cases of domestic violence had been processed by police.

Several events will be held today to mark Women's Day. The PEN centre will host an online reading, and the Office of the European Parliament in Slovenia will host an online debate on the role of women in the fight against the virus.

The Association of Slovenia Journalists will host an online debate on female journalists in the Slovenian society and the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Science and Arts on women's jobs, from factories to offices.

The National Council, the upper chamber of parliament, will mark the day with a debate entitled To Be Successful and to Be Happy.

Women's Day highlights the issue of violence against women every year. In Slovenia, legislative changes redefining rape in line with the principle that only yes means year sponsored by the government, which the 8 March Institute has also been campaigning for, are expected to bring positive changes.

Recently, a debate on violence against women was sparked by actor Mia Skrbinac speaking up about sexual harassment at the Ljubljana Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television.

The United Nations began celebrating 8 March as Woman's Day in 1977 to commemorate the day when women working in the textile industry in New York staged a protest against inhumane working conditions and low pay in 1857.

05 Mar 2021, 11:28 AM

STA, 5 March 2021 - A Moroccan man has been sentenced to 15 years in prison with a final decision for raping two Slovenian students in 2019, newspapers report on Friday. He will also be expelled from the country for five years after having served the sentence.

The decision is final as the Ljubljana Higher Court has rejected the appeal from Ali Safini, 37, and upheld the ruling of the Ljubljana District Court that found him guilty on two counts of rape.

According to the newspapers Delo, Slovenske Novice and Dnevnik, the Moroccan committed the two rapes in the span of a few days in October 2019.

As judge Deja Kozjek announced the sentence last September, she said he had coerced both victims into having intercourse by using threats and physical force. His attitude to the victims was disrespectful and humiliating.

For the first rape, he got 11 years in prison and a five-year banishment from Slovenia, and for the second he received a five-year prison sentence and a five-year banishment from Slovenia.

The sentences have been merged into 15 years in prison and a subsequent five-year banishment from the country. The time served in detention, where he has been since the end of October 2019, will count into the sentence.

According to the police, Safini had already served a two-year prison sentence in Slovenia for a robbery with elements of violence. He was released from prison in September 2019.

25 Feb 2021, 12:21 PM

STA, 25 February - The government adopted last night changes to the penal code redefining rape. Under the changes, rape will no longer have to involve force, as the changes incriminate interference in sexual integrity without consent.

Victims will no longer have to prove that they had put up a fight. Under the changes, those involved must express consent to the sexual act either implicitly or verbally, the government said after the session in a press release.

Consent is defined as the consequence of free will, which means it cannot be subjected to any sort of duress. The changes also include the condition that a person must be capable of making such a decision. This excludes victims under the age of 15, who are presumed not to be in condition to consent to sex.

The Ministry of Justice started thinking about changes following several rulings that followed the rule that a sexual act can only be considered rape if the perpetrator used force.

Meanwhile, the March 8 Institute is collecting voter signatures to push a similar redefinition, campaigning under the slogan Only Yes Means Yes.

The feminist NGO was critical of the government's latest step today because, it believes, the authorities bulldozed the efforts of numerous volunteers and voters by pushing the amendments even though they knew that the NGO had collected the required 5,000 signatures in less than a week.

The March 8 Institute was planning to table its proposal today, but the government has beaten it to it.

Even though the government's move makes it seem as if all efforts had been in vain, that is not true since a sea change has been witnessed in societal attitudes towards rape and sexual abuse, the organisation said, highlighting that it planned to back any proposal that would enforce the affirmative model of consent.

The opposition Marjan Šarec Party (LMŠ), SocDems (SD), Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) and the Left also criticised the government today for what they see as an unfair step in relation to civil society and self-promotion, noting that the adoption of changes had not been on the agenda of yesterday's government session. The parties submitted the NGO's proposal today since they had not been aware of the government's move yet.

The Justice Ministry told the STA that the yes-means-yes model had been adopted in the government-sponsored changes despite different stances on the issue in the past. Hence, during the parliamentary procedure both proposals could be merged, the opposition confirmed.

18 Feb 2021, 12:05 PM

STA, 17 February 20121 - Collection of 5,000 voter signatures in support of an only-yes-means-yes [samo ja pomeni ja] rape law got under way on Wednesday amid controversy over accessibility of one of the administrative offices in Ljubljana where verified signatures can be submitted. 

The law to redefine rape and sexual violence to use affirmative consent standard is being proposed by the NGO Inštitut 8. Marec, which has 60 days to collect the needed signatures to put the bill forward to the National Assembly.

Signatures in support of the proposal can be submitted in person at an administrative unit or using an electronic signature via e-Administration [see here].

The NGO complained that voters were unable to fill in the form at one of the Ljubljana administrative unit's offices without prior appointment this morning despite assurances by the authorities that this would be possible without appointment during office hours.

The NGO argued that such practice was tantamount to obstruction of basic democratic procedures constitutional rights, urging the relevant authorities to allow unhindered submission of voter signatures.

The Public Administration Ministry and the Ljubljana administrative unit denied the allegation of obstruction to signature registering, explaining that due to coronavirus infections a special counter for signature registration at the Linhartova unit could not be secured so voters can submit their signatures by prior appointment or wait for a free time slot.

A special window for signature registration is available in the Tobačna unit.

Provided enough signatures are collected, the National Assembly will read the proposal following the same procedure as other bills.

You can sign your name here

03 Feb 2021, 12:01 PM

STA, 2 February 2021 - The NGO Inštitut 8. Marec filed an initiative in parliament on Tuesday to collect 5,000 signatures in support of its legislative proposal redefining the crimes of rape and sexual violence. The NGO proposes such crimes be treated in line with the consent principle "yes means yes".

A petition for redefining rape and sexual violence had been filed in January 2019. The then Justice Minister Andreja Katič promised changes in this respect, but neither the previous not the current government have proposed any systemic changes, Mojca Lukan from Inštitut 8. Marec told the press today.

"Because those in power are thus sending the message to victims of sexual violence that it was their own fault, we've decided to draw up a proposal ourselves," Lukan said.

The head of the NGO, Nika Kovač, said they had opted for the harder way because they did not want anyone to score political points.

"We heard voices yesterday bravely sharing their experiences, now is the time for us to form a movement together, to say 'it's enough' and change the legislation," she said, adding this was the only way to have fewer victims and to help victims speak up.

Currently, the law says sexual crimes must involve the use of force, which forces the victims to resist actively, thus risking even greater violence, Kristina Krajnc from the NGO said.

This means the perpetrators are often found not guilty if the victim is asleep, unconscious or numb. Such was a case processed by a court in Koper where a man accused of rape was acquitted because the victim was asleep when the rape started.

This is why the NGO proposes the principle "yes means yes", which has been adopted by many European countries.

The NGO said many victims of sexual violence at university institutions had turned to them. "This is something that is happening in all institutions with hierarchic relations," Kovač said.

She also pointed to a series of accusations of sexual harassment on Slovenske Železnice trains, saying "absolutely nothing has been done yet".

After receiving an initiative for legislative changes, the parliamentary speaker has seven days to inform the ministry in charge of the voting rights register and to set the deadline for the 60-day collecting of signatures.

If all the conditions are met, the motion enters the legislative process and the National Assembly processes it like any other bill.

The Justice Ministry welcomed the initiative but indicated it would press ahead with a previously proposed model known as "no means no", which NGOs including Inštitut 8. Marec do not consider as going far enough.

The ministry said far-reaching changes to the criminal code were being drawn up concerning consent in crimes against inviolability of sexual integrity.

It said "no means no" had been recognized by an expert group as the most sustainable model in that it will give law enforcement an effective prosecution tool while providing legal certainty to all those involved in a criminal procedure.

18 Nov 2020, 12:39 PM

STA, 17 November 2020 - The Slovenian Catholic Church has updated its guidelines for the protection of minors and vulnerable individuals against sexual abuse, explicitly ordering all who work for the Church to report any suspicion of sexual abuse to the authorities. The Church's own investigation cannot be launched before a report to state authorities.

Compared to guidelines used until now, the new document says, for the first time, that "a religious worker is obligated to report to the Social Services, the police or the State Prosecution any suspicion, allegation or information of sexual abuse (irrespective of the time of the event)... at the earliest possible time".

The Church had previously held that sexual abuse allegations do not have to be reported in every case, especially when this goes against the wishes of the victim. Neither did previous guidelines include explicit instructions on reporting to state authorities.

"No form of autonomous and legal Church proceedings of investigation and resolution of sexual abuse may begin before it is reported to state authorities," the new guidelines say.

The document states that "religious workers", which involves the clergy as well as volunteers working for the Church, must cooperate proactively with state authorities in investigations and other proceedings related to the reported sexual abuse.

Adopted by the Slovenian Bishops' Conference on 5 October, the document is an overhaul of the 2014 guidelines, which were an update of the first guidelines adopted in 2006.

Compared to the 2014 document, the guidelines also lay down in more detail the Church legal proceedings in such cases, and provide more detailed instructions on reporting within the Church.

Among other things, the new guidelines mark the launch of a fund established in January to finance psychological aid to alleged victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by priests and other religious workers.

In accepting this sort of help, the alleged victims sign a statement that the use of these funds does not prejudice any Church law, criminal law or damages proceedings.

06 Oct 2020, 15:43 PM

STA, 6 October 2020 - Every fifth Slovenian was a victim of sexual abuse as a child, shows a recent survey commissioned by the Justice Ministry. Minister Lilijana Kozlovič announced on Tuesday that a bill enabling the country's first Barnahus for child victims of sexual abuse would be likely passed in 2021.

Slovenia has been striving to ensure a way for children involved in criminal procedures to avoid any potential victimisation in the future, said Kozlovič at today's press conference.

A step closer to this objective is setting up Children's House, a special institute where children who have been victims of sexual abuse or other criminal offences or have witnessed them would be treated holistically in line with the internationally established Barnahus model.

The project encompasses more than simply opening a few special facilities for child victims of sexual abuse; it also aims to amend relevant procedures and change attitudes of all who come in contact with abused children, the minister said.

As part of the project, which is held under the auspices of the European Commissions and the Council of Europe, the ministry also commissioned the survey, which aimed to assess the understanding of the issue among children themselves as well as adults and their response mechanisms to sexual abuse.

The results will serve as a way to provide services at Children's House which would be tailor-made for children and their parents.

The survey, conducted by the Ipsos social research institute, shows that the majority of Slovenians (almost 70%) think that child sexual abuse is a grave issue, however half of the respondents do not believe they would recognise the signs of such offences.

What is even more concerning is that many apply a very narrow definition to child sexual abuse. A third believe that it always involves a level of physical force and do not deem other types of sexual abuse what they actually are - sexual abuse.

A quarter of Slovenians also believe that exposing children to sex and pornography is not abuse, warned Nataša Mohorč Kejžar, the head of Ipsos.

Moreover, sexual abuse is a topic that Slovenians prefer to avoid - more than third of adults have not discussed it with their children, with most of them expecting schools to address the subject.

Another cause for concern is that 15% of the respondents think that victims are responsible for their actions. They perpetuate the harmful stereotype of a girl who is to be blamed for being abused due to the clothes she wears or her conduct.

One in five Slovenians experienced at least one type of sexual abuse in childhood, whereas one in seven experienced two or more.

In most cases, the respondents said that they had been victims of inappropriate touching or displays. Merely 6% pressed criminal charges, half of those went to court. One in four such cases saw trial without conviction, said Mohorč Kejžar.

The survey also inquired about the expectations for Children's House. Children mostly wish it would be a place where their stories would be heard and believed, whereas parents expect a safe space, professional services and immediate support.

Both children and parents deem it important that psychological support is available as well as support by the police and other health workers.

The minister said today that a facility which is to host Slovenia's first Barnahus had already been selected. She also pointed out that another project setting up a network of support centres for children in general across the country would follow the Barnahus project.

Mirka Honko of the Council of Europe's Children's Rights division meanwhile expressed support for Slovenia's Barnahus project, calling it a flagship project in Europe and hoping it would inspire other member states to follow suit.

The full report on child abuse in Slovenia can be read here

02 Sep 2020, 20:15 PM

STA, 2 September 2020 - Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro has invited Slovenia in a letter to join Poland in withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention, a European treaty aimed at preventing violence against women, the newspaper Delo reported on Wednesday.

Poland, which finds the treaty "harmful" because it requires schools to teach children about gender, proposed to Slovenia that a new convention be drawn up.

Several versions of the new convention were reportedly mentioned, including one that would promote protection of children in the face of moral corruption and the definition of a child based on the 1989 UN convention but with an addition that the child's life starts at conception.

It would also include a definition of the family as exclusively one consisting of a father, mother and a child or children, and the possibility of marriage only between a man and woman.

Ziobro has labelled the Istanbul Convention a feminist invention that wants to justify homosexual ideology. He announced Poland's intention to withdraw from the convention at the end of July, thus causing a stir both in Poland and abroad.

Thousands of Polish people gathered at protests around the country, and the EU and the Council of Europe expressed regret at the decision.

The Istanbul Convention is the first internationally binding instrument for prevention of violence against women, from rape to domestic violence and genital mutilation. It has been drawn up by the Council of Europe, the oldest human rights organisation in Europe.

Slovenia signed the convention in 2011 and ratified it in 2015, the same year as Poland.

In Slovenia, 80 MPs of the 90-member parliament voted in favour of the ratification. The EU signed the convention in June 2017.

After signing the convention, Slovenia amended the act on preventing domestic violence and explicitly banned corporal punishment of children.

The government has not stated its opinion on the convention yet, but MP of the ruling Democrats (SDS) Branko Grims, who according to Delo voted in favour of the ratification in 2014, commented on Poland's announcement on Twitter in July by saying that Slovenia too should withdraw from the convention.

Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry told the STA later in the day that it had received Poland's letter. However, the ministry sees no reason to withdraw from the convention or to amend it, a stance which has been made clear to Poland as well.

The ministry received the letter on 25 August and its reply reads that the convention is an important international legal instrument regarding preventing and tackling domestic violence and violence against women.

"The ministry believes that the convention sets good foundations for facing societal challenges and paves the way for values, such as equality and decency for all our citizens," said the ministry, adding that international law, EU law and Slovenia's law ensure appropriate legal frameworks in this area.

Hence, the ministry does not see any reason to come up with a different treaty. Moreover, changes proposed by Poland would entail amendments to Slovenia's law and constitution.

The letter has been sent to the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal opportunities, said the Justice Ministry, since it concerns relevant issues for the former ministry as well.

The Modern Centre Party (SMC), of which Justice Minister Lilijana Kozlovič is a member, said earlier that withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention would be unacceptable.

"Slovenia as a state should not be even considering that," said Janja Sluga of the SMC, highlighting that the convention primarily aimed to ensure a Europe without violence against women and children and to protect decency and equality of all citizens.

Poland's initiative jeopardises Slovenia's constitutional and legal system, she said, adding that it would push us back to the dark times when women and children's abuse was a norm.

Asked whether the government could withdraw from the convention on its own even though it was parliament who had ratified it, she said that the question should be addressed to parliament.

29 Aug 2020, 09:00 AM

Siol.net reports that the public debate on changes to Slovenia’s rape law has now concluded, with support for adopting a definition based on consent in place of the current system. The proposed amendment will now go back to the Ministry of Justice where the final version will be prepared before being presented to the National Assembly for a vote.

The current law in Slovenia defines rape based on coercion, and thus if no force is used, or the victim is unwilling or unable to say “no”, then no crime is said to have been committed. This attracted considerable attention in early 2019, when a man who raped a woman was charged with criminal coercion rather than a sex crime, because the woman, passed out drunk in the man's apartment, did not - and could not - resist. The man, from Koper, received a 10-month sentence.

The proposed changes would make every non-consensual sexual act a criminal offence, including those during which the victim did not physically resist the perpetrator or say no out of fear, shock or any other circumstances preventing such action.

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