Public Policies Often Ignore Women’s Needs and Gender Gap

Gender neutral laws are one of the main factors of perpetuating gender inequality in Montenegro. Laws that are supposed to be ‘’equal for all’’ ignore the inequality of women in many areas – it was the conclusion of today’s conference organised by the Institute Alternative.

At the conference ‘’Gender Equality and Public Policies in Montenegro: More Than Quotas’’ there were presented key findings on the gender mainstreaming and public policies, with special focus on the laws in the field of labour, healthcare and entrepreneurship, which were adopted in 2019.

Nikoleta Pavićević (IA), the author of the analysis, said that although assessment of the impact that policies may have on the position of women and men is mandatory when making decisions, this legal duty is ignored by decision makers. She added that this is illustrated by the Labor Law, stipulating, due to the pressure by owners of companies, that women employed on short-term contracts who take pregnancy leave would not have that period count towards the 36-month term required to obtain permanent employment.

She pointed out that the improvement of women’s rights is often more a consequence of ‘’automatic’’ alignment of legal provisions with EU acquis, and not a result of analysis and consultations with women and men. Such harmonisation of legal solutions with EU acquis, although contributing to better protection of rights, is not based on a detailed analysis of the current situation and different practical and strategic needs of women and men in the sectors which address specific problems encountered by women in Montenegro.

Božena Jelušić, President of the Gender Equality Committee in the Parliament of Montenegro, pointed out the importance of a gender-sensitive Parliament, but also gender-sensitive budget planning. In that sense, her suggestion is to launch an initiative for additional empowerment of women through agro-budget and by proposing a special fund for women in agriculture.

She particularly pointed out the problem of representation of women in management positions in education. ‘’Although education is feminised, women are not in decision-making positions’’, she said. Moreover, she would initiate that in the selections of school principals, in the case of equal qualifications, preference is given to women.

Ivana Zečević, Head of the Directorate for Development of Small and Medium Business in the Ministry of Economic Development, said that we have a significant progress in the last five years when it comes to women who are business owners (7,000 of them) and that 14 municipalities have female entrepreneurship programs. She also announced that the Ministry of Economic Development will make a detailed evaluation of the achievements in the last four years and determine strategic directions, but also the main obstacles. She concluded that the progress has been made in creating a business environment, but not to extent of the women’s needs – where the issue of tax relief for women in the first years of business, as well as providing the funds are still the main issues.

Irena Joksimović, Head of the Directorate for Work Affairs in the Ministry of Economic Development, said that in certain parts of the new Labor Law, women’s rights have been significantly improved compared to the previous law. As significant improvements, she mentioned a day off for prenatal care visit for employed pregnant women, earlier use of parental leave by fathers in case of multiply pregnancy, as well as a pause for breastfeeding during working hours, which is extended from 60 minutes to 2 hours.

Nina Milović, Head of the Directorate for Organisation and Functioning of Health Care in the Ministry of Health Care, said that it is necessary to provide more comprehensive analysis of women’s health in the community, identification of health problems, women’s needs of all ages and risk factors to women’s health, so that women’s health care programs could be defined.

All conference participants agreed that the area of gender-based statistics is especially underdeveloped and the evidence is the fact that there are no reliable data about gender pay gap or a comprehensive database of women’s entrepreneurship.

During the discussion, the problem of abuse of contracts on temporary and occasional jobs were also discussed, as those are the contracts which are often concluded contrary to the law and which have negative effects on women’s position. Also, the importance of a gender analysis of the response to the coronavirus pandemic is emphasised, as well as advocacy in order to create a gender responsive support measures for women, especially for those in vulnerable groups, which were missing from previous packages of measures adopted during the pandemic.

The final version of the analysis presented at today’s conference, will be  available soon on the website of the Institute Alternative.

The analysis was made within the project ‘’More Than Quotas: Gender Mainstreaming and Public Policies in Montenegro’’, implemented by Institute Alternative, with financial support of the Ministry of Justice, Human and Minority Rights.

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