The following report and photos from a reproductive rights’ protest where two women’s rights activists were recently arrested while protesting regressive “prof-life” policies in Croatia was submitted by local One Billion Rising Coordinator, Rada Boric:

The situation in Croatia concerning women’s rights but also the secular character of the state due to the Catholic Church  is more than worrisome and women’s rights are particularly in danger, especially sexual and reproductive rights. The situation is similar in all the region – our authoritarian nationalistic governments are ‘mirroring’ each other – right to abortion is already banned in Macedonia and it is daily threatened in Croatia.
We are witnessing, with the new right wing Croatian government in office ( last half a year) a kind of a conservative counter-revolution, aggressive attack to civil society, media, culture and education  (with the new minister of culture Zlatko Hasanbegovic who is more ideologist of the neoconservative politics then minister (he is revising history, claiming that ‘anti-fascism is a platitude’ ).

“Walk for Life, Family and Homeland” organized on May 21 in Zagreb is ‘copy paste’ of the similar ‘walks for life’ held in January in Chicago or most recently in Rome ( May 8). It was obvious, although the organizers – different catholic organizations, wanted to ‘mime’ it as promoting ‘culture of life’ that the Church via own civil organizations  wanted to demand ban to the right to abortion. (Immediately after the formation of Croatian
state women’s sexual and reproductive rights declined – today we have, with the valid law on right to abortion several hospitals in Croatia that due to the doctors using ‘consciousness objector’s rights do not perform medically assisted abortion).

Three years ago same organizers managed to organize referendum to change definition of marriage in our Constitution – marriage as understood to be between man and woman. We are worried but we are firm in our decision and commitment to defend our rights, this is why we have organized several protests, including one on May 21.

Our counter-protest ‘Defend the Right to Choice’ was organized by numerous women’s organizations and informal groups, including Women’s Network Croatia – recently organized protest in front of Croatian Constitutional Court (which was forced by catholic organizations to revise the Law on rights to freedom of choice concerning the birth of children – in fact to ban the abortion, and the Court might revise it in the near future)  with the support of different civil society organizations, cultural workers, actors, singers, artists…

The counter-protest had an aim to show that the walk was not ‘for life’, but against women,  sexual and reproductive rights of women,  and that there were different families in our society (referring to the definition of marriage and family to be only the right of heterosexuals as neoconservatives claim).

When ‘the Walk’ was passing by the place where we had our program (The Walk had 5.000-7.000
people, and there were some 500 of us – but counting their financial support – tea-shirts, flags, balloons –  and clergy among them and people brought by buses from small towns, including Herzegovina…) we came closer to the street with different banners (banners stating: Only in secular state gender equality is possible, Women are fed up, Feminism=Antifascism, Church and state clerks keep your fingers away from my ovaries, etc.) and started whistling…

Two young women, one painter Dunja Jankovic and singer DunjaErcegovic, known as Lovely Quinces dared to confront them. Dunja Ercegović just stood in front of them  with her guitar. They were both taken away by the police. We waited for two hours and police let them out, after the surveillance cameras showed there are no basis for charges against this two young women. When recently in Sweden a woman stood alone in front of the nazi-protesters marching through Stockholm, she rightfully became heroine. In Croatia police is letting neo-fascists to walk freely while attacking the freedom of media and violate women (journalist Mirjana Rakic).

Croatian women’s movement and Women’s Network Croatia would need support in future, we are aware, due to the attack to civil society (Governmental support to the National foundation for the development of civil society was cut in half) that we would need feminist support and solidarity to address current ‘conservative revolution’.

Rada Boric, Women’s Network Croatia