Project: Roma in Serbia: How safe they feel and do they see improvements?

Commissioner for Protection of Equality Nevena Petrusic: State institutions are main discriminators

Number of complaints for discrimination is on a constant rise in Serbia said Commissioner for  Protection of Equality Nevena Petrusic. The largest number of complaints is related to the field of employment, while the state institutions are observed as main discriminators. „Number of complaints is increasing each year. This means that we (as the institution) are much more visible today,  and that citizens do not want to suffer discrimination," said Petrusic on the occasion of submitting the regular annual report to the Serbian parliament's committee on human and minority rights and gender equality. 

She specified that during 2014, there were 885 cases processed, and six criminal charges and one proposal for initiating criminal proceedings were filed. She also stated that a large proportion of complaints are related to discrimination of groups, especially Roma minority.
As she pointed out, the greatest number of complaints – 224 cases – are connected to employment, 124 to ethnicity, 97 to a medical condition, followed by old age, disability, and religious orientation, gender, marital and family status. "Citizens are most willing to talk about discrimination in employment, and the huge number of complaints refers to those who perform the function of public authorities, at all levels," said Petrusic, adding that the largest number of complaints is coming from individuals, while 21 percent of complaints were filed by the non-governmental organizations.
Roma and women are the most discriminated groups, while the largest social distance is towards HIV positive and LGBT persons, against which people have most negative prejudices. There is also a considerable distance toward refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.
According to the survey done for the Commissioner, one third of the respondents did not know that hate speech is prohibited by law, and 50 percent of respondents believe that discriminated persons are themselves responsible for their situation.
Petrusic also noted that discrimination is to some extent a result of ignorance, mentioning that the main task of her office is to inform citizens about discrimination - from children to judges.