KORICE_eng. IIThe Constitution and the key laws

The Dayton Peace Agreement recognizes the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of gender and it stipulates direct application of the European Convention on Human Rights and the CEDAW Convention. Unfortunately, despite the civil society initiatives the Constitution still does not recognize gender equality as a basic constitutional value in Bosnia and Herzegovina.[i]  BiH is one of the first countries in the Western Balkans to have passed a Gender Equality Law (ZoRS).[ii] After it was passed in 2003 the Law was amended once, and the amended version was adopted in 2010.[iii] The Law guarantees gender equality and equality of opportunity in all spheres of life.

The Gender Equality Law BiH: a) prohibits discrimination (direct and indirect) and recognizes specific forms of discrimination (harassment, sexual harassment, incitement of discrimination);[iv] b) prohibits gender-based violence (including domestic violence); c) guarantees equal opportunity in education, employment and work, access to social care and healthcare, sport, culture, the media and other spheres of life. The Law sets solid foundations for gender equality, but its practical application is limited, because most laws have not been harmonized with it, and the ones which have been, have mostly not been implemented, which is demonstrated by the low number of women on executive boards of institutions at all levels of government.[v]

Although ZoRs stipulates the possibility of filing discrimination complaints to the Institutional Mechanisms for gender equality (ARS BiH, GC RS and FBiH) the number of complaints is consistently very low and has not surpassed 10 in any single year.  If this is compared to the similar statistics in other countries of the Western Balkans we can conclude that it is not an accurate reflection of reality.

Gender discrimination and sexual harassment are also prohibited in the 2009 Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination (ZZD). The 2015 data is not yet available,[vi] but the 2013 and 2014 data indicates that these mechanisms are not being used. In 2013 and 2014 there was only one registered case of sexual harassment and only 39 cases of discrimination based on gender (and social standing). Therefore, the possibility of legal protection through the Institution of the Ombudsman needs to be better communicated to the public, and made more accessible to citizens.

Institutional mechanisms for gender equality

The Gender Equality Law BiH prescribes institutional mechanisms for gender equality. The key institutional mechanisms are the Gender Equality Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ARS BiH) at state level and Entity bodies: The Gender Centre of the Federation of BiH and the Centre for gender Equality of Government of Republika Srpska.

These mechanisms have played an important part in 2015, by providing opinions on whether Executive acts in compliance with the Gender Equality Law BiH and by working on proposals of specific policies which aim to improve the position of women and men in the BiH society. Gender Equality Agency BiH and the Gender Centers of the Federation and Republika Srpska have conducted campaigns and research projects, organized trainings, published studies and developed international and regional cooperation. In July 2015 ARS BiH provided the follow-up information to the CEDAW committee, in line with the 2013 Concluding Observations, and so they continued their reporting on international documents.[vii]

However, there is still not enough understanding within the Executive as to why institutional mechanisms for gender equality are even necessary. The fact that the existing mechanisms have so few employees is disconcerting. For an example, the ARS BiH has only six full-time employees, which significantly limits the scope of their work. In June 2015 information surfaced in the media that the Gender Centre of the Federation of BiH will be closed down,[viii] as a part of the wider reform of Federal institutions and bodies. All three Gender Equality institutional mechanisms do not have sufficient funds for programs and public polices. For an example, the implementation of the Gender Action Plan is completely contingent on the Financial Mechanism for the Implementation of the Gender Action Plan (FIGAP), a mechanism that depends in its entirety on the support of international development agencies. On the other hand gender equality is still not sufficiently included in the work and policies of other institutions and therefore there is still need to work towards gender mainstreaming, as well as capacity building in the existing institutional mechanisms for gender equality.

2015 was yet another year that did not see the establishment of permanent gender equality bodies at the level of cantonal government.  Only two cantons have a government coordination board. Taking into consideration the fact that cantons are the ones in charge of some of the vital questions like employment, education and healthcare it is particularly disconcerting that there are no contact persons and no bodies in charge of gathering and analyzing data, proposing measures and supervising their implementation with the aim of improving the lives of women and men. It is apparent that the Gender Centre of the Federation of BiH cannot address all of these issues due to their limited capacities, and so a more systematic solution at cantonal level is needed.

Parliamentary working bodies on gender equality

After the General Election in 2014 Parliamentary Gender Equality and Equal Opportunity Commissions/Boards were established in the legislative bodies at state, entity and cantonal level.

However, the levels of activity of these commissions/boards vary. So, for an example the Cantonal Assembly Gender Equality Commissions only meet once a year, while the Gender Equality Commission of the House of Representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly BiH did not meet its quorum three times in a row and so could not reach decisions in the second half of 2015. The Gender Equality Commission in the House of Peoples of the Parliament FBiH was only formed at the end of September 2015, a year after the general election in 2014.

However, despite the issues with the inactivity of its members the Gender Equality Commission in the House of Representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly BiH maintains contact with the civil society organizations and frequently makes specific proposals for improvement of the position of women and men in our society. This Commission is one of the few to have its own legislative proposals, which is uncommon since most laws are proposed by the Executive, party clubs or the MPs themselves. In December 2015 the Commission unanimously adopted a proposal of the Law on Changes and Amendments of the Law on the Council of Ministers BiH, which introduces a gender quota for the Executive. Work on regulating of artificial insemination has been started at the same Session.

Public policies for gender equality

The Second periodic Gender Action Plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina for the period of 2013-2017 was adopted in 2013 in order to achieve the set gender equality goals. The Plan relies on the Gender Action Plan for BiH 2006-2011, the State and Entity development strategies, the EU Strategy for equality of men and women and other relevant Council of Ministers, EU and UN strategic documents. This document covers all areas of private and public life, but it also defines priority and the transversal areas and measures intended for strengthening the system, mechanisms and instruments for achieving gender equality, and for strengthening cooperation and partnership. Obligations of institutional mechanisms for gender equality and responsibilities of ministries and institutions in each of the priority areas are clearly defined. The Gender Action Plan addresses the key issues faced by women and men in BiH and it presents a great example of a public policy document which the state can use to advance gender equality in the society.

Due to a delay in naming of the members to the Executive Board of GAP BIH, which has only been established in 2015, there were no Operative Plans for the implementation of the Gender Action Plan in the period 2013-2015, which would have specified the measures for improving the position of women and gender equality. During this period the programs and measures from the GAP have been implemented through other public policies, plans and programs by the Agency and the Entity Gender Centers, in line with the agenda of the Council of Ministers and Entity Governments. The plans on state and entity levels have only been developed in the second half of 2015, for 2016.

Republika Srpska adopted its Annual Operative Plan first (in December 2015), while the Federal and State plans are expected at the beginning of 2016. It is impossible to plan specific measures and budgetary obligations, and therefore to work on improving women’s rights and gender equality without those plans. However, it is worthy of praise that all three institutional mechanisms have recognized the need to work on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans*) rights and that they have included measures adequately addressing the needs of this marginalized group in their Annual Operational Plans for 2016. The ARS BiH, GC FBiH and GC RS are following the established practice of institutional mechanisms for gender equality in the Member States of the EU and they are becoming the pioneers in the struggle for rights of sexual and gender minorities in BiH. Rights of Roma women, women in rural areas and women with disabilities have to be better addressed in institutional mechanisms’ future work.

In addition to the Gender Action Plan, the ARS BiH, GC FBiH and GC RS are also conducting other important public polices: Action Plan for the Implementation of the UN Resolution 1325 in BiH (2014-2017), Strategy for combating domestic violence (2013-2017) FBiH, Action Plan for Advancing the Position of Women in Rural Areas RS until 2015, Strategic Plan for the introduction of Gender Responsible Budgeting in the Budget of the Federation of BiH 2013-2015, Action Plan for Gender Equality in circumstances of natural disasters, and they are supporting the introduction of the gender dimension in the sector strategies. Republika Srpska will mainstream all of its gender equality activities through its Annual Operative Plan in line with GAP, while FBiH will still be producing multiple public policy documents.

It is disconcerting that the GC FBiH does not have the capacity to work with cantons on the development of the Annual Operative Plans, while the cantonal governments are not showing interest in working on this on their own. Due to this, the Gender Action Plan was not implemented on cantonal level at all in 2015, nor have the measures necessary for its implementation in 2016 been undertaken.

At local level (municipalities and cities) significant progress in terms of gender equality has not been achieved. Although a substantial number of municipalities and towns have Local Gender Action Plans (LGAP; between 2012-2015 47 plans were drafted and adopted in FBiH and 22 in Republika Srpska), the situation on the ground is the complete opposite.[ix] Research from 2015,[x] which covered more than 50% of Bosnian and Herzegovinian municipalities and towns shows that there are almost no municipalities/towns which understand their jurisdiction, and so they are not undertaking the measures necessary for advancing gender equality. There are no public debates, or ongoing research, local priorities are not being set, nor are gender equality and women’s specific needs being considered during the planning and implementation of programs and budgets.

Guidelines for Action

  •  The Gender Equality Law BiH needs to be harmonized with EU standards, either through Changes and Amendments to the Law, or by passing a new law;
  • Legal protections from discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual harassment need to be promoted more clearly and made more accessible;
  • All levels of government need to strengthen the existing institutional mechanisms for Gender Equality (ARS BiH, GC FBiH, GC RS), focusing on human capacities and financing of the programs of these mechanisms from State and Entity budgets;
  • Cantonal governments and municipal and town authorities need to establish and strengthen permanent institutional mechanisms for gender equality by naming coordinators or coordination boards for gender equality in the Executive;
  • Gender Centre of the Federation of BiH has to strengthen its capacities in order to be able to coordinate the Cantonal Gender Equality Mechanisms;
  • It is essential to strengthen, and by establishing a Council for the Civil Society, to formalize the cooperation between the civil society organizations and the institutional mechanisms for strengthening gender equality at entity and cantonal levels;
  • The State, Entities and Cantons need to start implementing the Gender Action Plan urgently. Annual Operative Plans need to be developed, adopted and implemented at the level of entities and cantons, with the budgetary allocation of funds;
  • Civil society organizations need to establish independent monitoring mechanisms which will follow and report on the implementation of the Gender Action Plan in order to pressure the governments into supporting the key provisions of this document;
  • Municipalities and towns need to develop and start implementing periodic Local Gender Action Plans and they need to report to the Entity Gender Centers and the Gender Equality Agency on their implementation Cooperation with local civil society organizations is key during the process of drafting and implementation;
  • The State, the Entities and cantons have to give support to the establishment and the financing of the Financial mechanism for the implementation of the Gender Action Plan for the period after 2015.

You can find the Orange Report 2016 – Annual Report on the State of Women’s Rights in BiH following this link.


[i] Find out more about the initiative “Građanke za ustavne reforme” at:

[ii] The only commentary on the Gender Equality Law is available at:

[iii] The amended version is available at:

[iv] Combating gender-based discrimination never really reached its full potential. Although gender-based discrimination is pervasive it is worrying that the Gender Equality Agency and the Gender Centers only investigated breaches of ZORS in 11 instances in the period 2011-2014. Therefore, this mechanism needs to be re-evaluated especially in the context of passing the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination on the basis of which the Institution of the Human Rights Ombudsman BiH has a special role in combating discrimination, including sex-based and gender-based discrimination.

[v] Good overview can be found in the Progress Report on the Beijing Declaration::

[vi] Annual Report on Discrimination, by the Institution of the Human Rights Ombudsman, is published in Spring each year.

[vii] Information given to the CEDAW Committee is available at:

[viii] From Dnevni Avaz:

[ix] Overview of several LGAPs:

[x] The Research is available at:

Ravnopravnost spolova u opštinama/općinama i gradovima u Bosni i Hercegovini