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Stigmatisation of sexual violence survivors decried at Kosovo Assembly

Vasfije Krasniqi-Goodman has spoken out against the societal negligence and prejudice towards survivors of sexual violence at a special session of the Kosovo Assembly, calling for institutions to pay attention to crimes involving sexual violence during the war.

On Monday, the Kosovo Assembly held a special session dedicated to raising public awareness about survivors of sexual violence from the Kosovo war.

Opening the session, Speaker of the Assembly Vjosa Osmani spoke of the “unforgivable error” of “inaction, prejudice, stigma and distrust” leading to survivors of sexual violence being silenced. 

“Women in Kosovo, who have been subjected to vicious violence by the genocidal Serbian state apparatus, have been denied the right to testify about these crimes, both due to stigmatisation and lack of effective justice,” Osmani stated, before hailing the filing of an indictment in a case involving wartime rape by the Kosovo Prosecution on Friday.

“In solidarity with these survivors we remember all the victims of the last war and demand justice for them,” Osmani said. “Today’s account at the highest institution testifies to the importance of women’s voices.”

Osmani then introduced Vasfije Krasniqi-Goodman, one of the only sexual violence survivors from the Kosovo war to speak publicly about her experiences, including at the US Congress.

“It is a tremendous honour for me to be here in the highest institution of Kosovo,” Krasniqi-Goodman told the Assembly. “You already know that I have had the opportunity to speak in different parts of the world, but I have never felt how I feel in Kosovo today.”

Krasniqi-Goodman thanked those who had supported her and other victims of sexual violence, before addressing the stigma she feels has been placed on sexual violence survivors, including by their own families. “Our country, our society stigmatizes us,” she said. 

“Where were you 21 years ago? Were you hiding in the attic while the woman was raped? Where did you find the courage to abandon her? Where are the sons who kicked their mother out of the home after she was raped? They kept their wife, because they didn’t know that their wife was raped as well. Where were you when Jeta, a seven-year-old, was raped? And now what are you doing to make it easier for us? All of Kosovar society should be ashamed, you who victimise us every day,” Krasniqi-Goodman asked. “We want protection and support, because what happened to us was a war crime, and you have not been there to protect us.”

She added that the time had come for women to receive the justice that was denied to her. “You have to change because we have had enough. We do not forgive you for what you have been doing to us for the last 20 years,” she said. 

Prime Minister Albin Kurti also addressed the session, stating that cases involving wartime sexual violence should be treated with the utmost seriousness, adding that the government is ready to meet any requests made by the prosecution to increase its capacities.

“Rape during the war is the worst atrocity that has occurred, but has never been discussed with Serbia,” Kurti said at the session. “Without the punishment of war crimes we cannot have peace.”

Vetevendosje MP Saranda Bogjuevci also addressed the Assembly, proposing the creation of a day of remembrance for victims of sexual violence in Kosovo. 

“Justice is key for the survivors and recognition of their suffering is justice,” Bogujevci stated, proposing  that “April 14, the date Vasfije was raped, to be the date we remember the victims of sexual violence in Kosovo.”

09/03/2020 - 14:14

09 March 2020 - 14:14

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