Within the campaign ‘16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence’ and HeForShe campaign, UN Women in Bosnia and Herzegovina will publish interviews with men who advocate gender equality in their community on the campaign website www.16dana.ba. The views expressed herein are those of the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the views of UN Women or any other agency of the United Nations.
Dennis Gratz is the representative of “Naša stranka” party in the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He studied law, then obtained a master’s degree in the European regional master’s program in democracy and human rights, and in 2007 defended his doctoral thesis and became a doctor of philosophical sciences at the University of Hamburg. Gratz is a member of the Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms in the Federation Parliament. He recently participated in the reading of the play Seven, which is based on interviews conducted with women whose lives and work exemplify the fact that the persistent struggle for the realization and protection of their rights is not useless.
What does your work on combating gender based violence consist of?
At the local policy level, “Naša stranka” advocates for amendments to the municipality budget, through which we requested support in financing safe houses. At higher government levels, we advocate for the complete reform of protection for vulnerable groups. This is currently under the Law on Social Protection, Protection of Civilian War Victims and Families with Children. We believe that the existing criteria are discriminatory. Women survivors of sexual violence still do not get the attention they need, especially in terms of acknowledging their status as civilian victims of war. There are some examples of progress in the region, but there is not enough interest to make change. It is still taboo, and in most cases associations that deal with this issue are left behind. Twenty years after the war it still seems like we haven’t learned anything. I use this opportunity to invite everyone involved in the discussion on this topic to send their proposals so that we can work on it in Parliament. We will then see how the ruling majority will react.
What do you see as the key priorities for women to gain the same opportunities as men?
I believe that the key priority is addressing the issue of maternity leave. This burning issue results in inequality between men and women when it comes to the labor market. If the state takes responsibility for the provision of funds for maternity leave periods, we can prevent discrimination in a proactive manner. I’m not convinced that we will soon see lawsuits for discrimination in employment on this basis, so we have to start with concrete steps and establish the Family Fund of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina to undertake these obligations.
What is the position of women in political life in BiH?
Political parties do not provide the same financial support for women’s campaigns as they do for men’s, and therefore in spite of guaranteed participation on election lists, women do not reach the 40% stipulated by the Election Law. However, the solution is not to have closed party lists, but rather to educate and inform women to actively participate in decision-making bodies of the parties. In “Naša stranka” we promote the “Initiative 50%,” but we do not notice any substantial change in other parties. Just a glance at the photos taken at the ‘important’ meetings of ruling parties will make it clear.
What harmful stereotypes about women are you aware of, and how do you think society should deal with gender based violence?
Every day I challenge my own prejudices. I believe that every day we should point out the little things we do or say that can make things better or worse. The way we react to noise we hear from a neighboring apartment, do we look away if we see something on the street – it all starts with us and what we do in real life situations.
What has motivated you to take party in reading the play Seven?
The need, as parliamentarians, to provide support to combating violence against women. I would like that at the end of this mandate I can tell myself that we have done enough to raise awareness about this issue, that we have made concrete steps to protect survivors, that we have made a step forward. Worst of all is that it will certainly not be the case, because our government and our political elites are not interested about the vulnerable groups’ issues.
In your opinion, what’s the role of men in creating a society that supports equal rights for all?
I do not think that the roles in achieving gender equality should be divided into “male” and “female”. We all are responsible for achieving gender equality.
Can you tell us about a woman who inspired you in work or life?
I could mention historical figures or globally recognized women, but I believe it is sufficient enough just to look around us. Amela Kuskunović, Vildana Bešliju, Amra Zulfikarpašić, Amela Topuz, Sanja Lazar, Varja Nikolić, Sabina Ćudić, Nasiha Pozder – all of them MPs and councilors who every day make a difference in their local communities. They are true role models, women who are struggling to change the environment in which they live.