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29. September 2022 - News

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Legal recognition of children born out of wartime rapes

A huge step has been made in the parliament of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a draft law on civilian war victims was debated, which would grant legal recognition to children born out of wartime rapes. After decades of silence on the fate of the ‘children born of war’, as well as the human rights violations their mothers had to endure, there is now cause for hope. Our partner organisations continue to be involved in the drafting of the law.

A draft law passed unanimously by the Parliament of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina on July 26, 2022, was open for public debate for a period of 45 days. This public discussion sought to find out how the law can be improved and implemented, before the final draft is passed. The important aspect of this law is that legal recognition will be granted not only to survivors but also to the children born out of the rapes. They will gain rights and visibility.

A historic moment – Children born out of wartime rape in Bosnia will be legally recognised for the first time

After years of campaigning to achieve acknowledgement of their existence, their status and the consequences which they have to live with, on July 14 this year children born from wartime rapes in Bosnia and Herzegovina were first legally recognised in Brčko District when a law on civilian war victims was passed there. This is also one of the first cases worldwide of legal recognition of children born out of wartime rapes. Now there is hope that corresponding laws will also be passed in Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“We as ‘children born of war’ need to be defined as civilian war victims so we can receive benefits from the state. This will give us the same opportunities and benefits that children of fallen soldiers and war veterans have had since the war ended. This law will provide benefits in every aspect and I hope we will be able to take advantage of these benefits, because that is what we have been waiting for our whole life.”

Ajna Jusic, president of Forgotten Children of War Association

Public relations work to benefit the women and children affected

In order to ensure that as much expert advice as possible is integrated into the new law and its implementation, our partner organisations Medica Zenica, Vive Zene and The Forgotten Children of War continue their important advocacy work, along with TRIAL International Bosnia and Herzegovina. They were also involved in campaigning for the law to be debated in parliament at all, and they have submitted practical suggestions for the rights which need to be associated with the legal recognition. For example, they are calling for the right to free psychosocial counselling, free health insurance and an improvement in employment opportunities.

“The entire world should know that the issues of female survivors and of children born of war are beyond political ideology.”

Ajna Jusic, president of Forgotten Children of War Association

These are necessary because both survivors and children of wartime rape still experience widespread stigmatisation, exclusion and discrimination. The comments and modifications collected during the period of public discussion of the draft law are now being worked into the draft. At the end of this phase, the law will be passed. However, parliamentary elections are due in Bosnia and Herzegovina so this process could take some time.

Women’s rights organisations: Key to societal change

For many years, our partner organisations in Southeastern Europe have been working in many ways, including political advocacy, to ensure that survivors of sexualised wartime violence and their children can experience justice and an end to the stigmatisation.

“Women’s rights organisations are the key to change in society in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They will continue with their advocacy and activities despite all political and economic difficulties.”

Sabiha Husic, Director of Medica Zenica

Tenacious commitment to the rights of survivors and their children

There are different legislatures in the different parts of the country, which continue to make it extremely difficult for those affected to receive support such as pension payments and free medical treatment. It would be an important milestone if legal recognition can be achieved for children born out of rape.

“Women’s rights organisations are aware that each election year demands additional energy and time, but they will not give up the fight for wartime rape survivors and the rights of children born out of wartime rape. We want to ensure that they are able to exercise their rights and feel respected in their family and community, without discrimination or stigmatisation.”

says Sabiha Husić, Director of Medica Zenica.