Serbian Minister Makes Sexist Remarks

Published: 23 December 2015

Country: Serbia

Serbian_Minister_GasicFor a while it seemed like the Serbian Defence Minister Bratislav Gasic will lose his position because of the sexist insult to a reporter two weeks ago. He said, in front of cameras and many reporters and while one female journalist crouched down to get out of her camera operator’s shot: “I love female journalists who get down on their knees easily”.

As the Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic is the man who decides about almost everything in the country, including when and how the Christmas lights will be lighten up, he also announced that Gasic will have to leave the Government. “We need to protect women in Serbia. It was a bad message for all women. A minister cannot afford to say that,” Vucic said. But officially Minister Gasic still holds the ministerial position.  In the meantime, Serbian journalists and their associations organised a protest in front of the Government building calling all the colleagues to defend the proffesion.

According to some opinions, the media situation in Serbia is deteriorating. There is no ultimately free public or private television or radio station. There are only few media where the voices critical of the Government and especially the Prime Minister Vucic can be heard. The EU progress report highlighted that the contitions for full exercise of freedom of expression are not in place.This includes treaths and violence towards journalists. The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic warned last year against online censorship in Serbia, while according to Reporters without Borders’ Press Freedom Index Serbia is ranked 67, which is a 13 position fall comparing to 2014.

As the sexist comment of Minister Gasic went viral quickly, he apologised the same day saying that “in too many occasions we do not treat women fairly. However, the minister disregarded the other side of the story and has yet again offended journalists by not allowing them to ask any questions at the press conference held after the incident.

In Serbia though, not everyone agree that Gasic’s comment was sexist and offensive. In days after the incident B92 reporter was attacked via social networks, as if she is to blame for minister being fired. This once more shows that there is strong discurs that justifies the disrespectful behavior towards women and that part of society does not recognise gender equality as important segment of democratic society.

MDI’s executive director Milica Pesic has pointed out in the interview for the Radio Free Europe that “if this is the terminology used by the someone from the Government why we are supprised when a citizen kills his wife or sister. This is all part of the culture in which the really important issues and important progresses are not discussed in order to make us feel as equal members of societies we live in”, Pesic said.

However the patriarchal rhetoric is perpetuated by the media and journalists as well.  Women are predominantly placed in the household/family/parental domain, much more than men. President of coordinating body for gender equality of the Serbian Government, Zorana Mihajlovic, has recently pointed out that she has been asked colour of her socks, whether she tattooed her eyebrows and if she is planning more children and even weather she would agree to be photographed nude for certain magazines. These are questions that Mihjalovic cannot imagine her male colleagues being asked.

Recently published Global Media Monitoring Project 2015 for Serbia showed that only 8% of news in all tematic areas are about women, while gender equality is even more marginalised topic featured in only 3% of news. Reporting is not gender sensitive and less than 1% of reports challenge gender stereotypes.