Over the course of the past few years there have been some very exciting developments for women in the Balkans and as such, for women everywhere. The Women in Black led the Women’s Court Initiative to support women in redefining and achieving justice for their war experiences and creating opportunities for testimony from some of the women. There was a great deal of effort in creating services leading up to the testimony as this is a very dangerous thing for the women to do and the women needed a great deal of preparation and protection. Without protection their lives were in danger. This was begun by providing leadership development trainings in 7 countries to prepare 45 women witnesses and prosecutors to testify about their experiences during and after the war. The women were also provided Self Care for the severe symptoms they still suffer from the rape and torture. In 2011 alone about 200 women’s groups organized over 100 events mobilizing 2,000 women participants in cities throughout the Balkans — the goal being to raise awareness of the Women’s Court.
The Women in Black, Belgrade network, has been going on since 2008. They have been pushing for prosecution of perpetrators AND their commanders, pushing pushing pushing that all be held responsible. What happened to these women is happening/has happened all over the world and rarely if ever is anyone held accountable. In fact the women are punished because they have been “touched” by the enemy, cast out and even murdered by husbands and family members. Some of the husbands have been wonderful but they are the minority. What these Balkan women have done, are doing is incredibly courageous. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Women in Black and their sister organizations in the Balkans. An experience that adds yet another layer of trauma for these women is that they have seen their perpetrators walking freely in their communities and even holding public office. So, in acknowledgement of the injustice, Women in Black with the support of other women’s organizations in the region began Women’s Court Initiative, a feminist approach to justice. At that time, they were barred from protesting the human rights abuse that occurred to the women during the war: in Bosnia there were approximately 90,000 women who were raped and tortured and in Kosova, 20,000 is the rough estimate. The number of women who have received remediation for their severe trauma — rape and torture — is in the hundreds while those who have experienced torture and rape is in the thousands – for example, 90,000 in Bosnia and 20,000 surviving in Kosova alone. The governments in the area have resisted dealing with the women.
And why haven’t we heard about The Women’s Court Initiative? And who is the “we” I am talking about? “We” are the privileged.
Some of my friends have said that these stories are too hard to deal with, that what these women experienced are just too painful. In other words, they choose ignorance. They feel that they, my friends, are too sensitive. The women to whom these horrors happened are also sensitive. In showing solidarity we have to know what has happened to our sisters. We have to be courageous enough to face their stories and let The Women’s Court Initiative know we support them and are here to Witness — the world of women is watching.