Violence against women has been recognized as a relevant social problem in Croatia. The Ministry of Interior reported an increase of family violence from 7.200 cases in 2002 to just over 19.000 in 2007, the victims of the vast majority of which were women and children. Several authors coincide that after the wars in the Balkan region domestic violence was exacerbated by financial and social instability; negative war effects; the rise in alcoholism and drug abuse among men and the legacy of violence from war time as well as the availability of firearms.

In the last years, Croatia has attempted to tackle this challenge by creating legal and policy framework consistent with European Union and United Nations standards and commitments. Hence, the official policy addressing violence against women has been significantly improved in recent years. Today, the major national laws and strategies for fighting family violence exist such as the last Law on Protection against Family Violence of 2008, a wider National Strategy as well as accompanied documents.

Although domestic violence was originally a criminal offense it was expelled from the Criminal Code of 2013 leaving it in the sphere of misdemeanor sanctions for which only a maximum penalty of 90 days of imprisonment could be ordered. In another hand, according to the Advocates for Human Right’s report, it was found that domestic violence in Croatia is often exacerbated by troubling practices in law enforcement and the judicial system inflicting a new form of violence on victims coming from institutions of the State who should protect them.


Domestic violence against Women in the Conditions of War and Economic Crisis – Vesna Nikolic-Ristanovic

Family violence among women in Croatia: Gap between policy and public health/health promotion actions – Gordana Pavlekovic – European Journal of Public Health – September 2013

The Act on Gender Equality 2008

National Policy for Gender Equality 2011-2015

(Rules of Procedure in Cases of Family Violence)

Implementation of Croatia’s Domestic Violence Legislation, The Advocates for Human Rights, Autonomous Women’s House Zagreb and Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation, 2012

October 2015.

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 created on: Tuesday, October 1st, 2013



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Slavica, from Croatia, 52 years old, construction technician, unemployed, mother to 2 sons of 16 and 17 years old.

Slavica is a well educated woman who has suffered for more than 15 years unthinkable physical and psychological abuse by a husband who suffers from a personality disorder.

Her ex-husband beat her up, maltreated and psycholocically abused her for years. He used to make her and their children sit at the table in silence, without allowing them to speek to each other, without moving, she need only look at him… while he enjoyed their pain and suffering for hours.

But, Slavica, in tears, says that much of the torture her ex-husband put her through does not hurt that much because “he is sick and has lost his mind”. What hurts her most is the mistreatment from the institutions who were supposed to help and support her when he beat her up and tried to kill her with a hatchet. She says that he tried it so many times that she stopped counting, but that the last time when he tried to kill her the police accused her and did not even mention him or the hatchet.

From institutions such as the police and the social services, she has experienced unimaginable humiliation as if she had been the one who was abusing her husband.

Eventually he kicked her out of the house and took away her children. She found shelter in a Safe House. Everyday she went to her sons’ school. It was the only way to see them. She had to take care that they would not see her, so that their father would not mistreat them or beat them up.

One day she managed to ‘kidnap’ her own children and take them to the Safe House. When she took them from school they were hungry and dirty. They have psychological problems to this day.

When I asked her if she has managed to find peace and what makes her happy besides her children, Slavica says that “on the day he pays alimony for the kids i go to the first shop and buy myself a pack of cigarettes because my husband never allowed me to smoke, not to mention buying cigarettes because he knew how much cigarettes made me happy.”

Slavica said “So when I bought them for the first time without fear I felt such victory and liberation over a simple pack of cigarettes, because they were the symbol of my freedom and happiness!”