On the International Human Rights Day (December 10, 2020), organized by the Director of the Institute for Human Rights and professor at the Faculty of Law, Prof. Dr. Ali Musliu, in cooperation with the Alumni Association of RNM and USA (MAAA), under the leadership of the Head of the Project Management Office, also an assistant at the Faculty of Law, Mr. Sc. Gjeraqina Leka, was held an academic debate “Violence against women in North Macedonia during the Covid-19 pandemic”. As the host of this event, the debate was opened by the Dean of the Faculty of Law, Prof. Dr. Qebir Avziu, who greeted the participants, especially the panel members, Ass. Prof. Arta Bilalli-Zendeli, Member of the Assembly of the RNM and lecturer at UT, Ass. Prof. Fatmire Isaki, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, also a lecturer at UT, Mrs. Simona Atanasova, public health expert and member of the MAAA.

He emphasized the importance of discussing violence against women that, unlike other crimes, has increased during the Covid-19 pandemic. After him, participants were addressed by the organizer of this event, Prof. Dr. Ali Musliu, who stressed the importance of adopting a law on gender-based violence. He called on public office holders to work towards the adoption of this law as soon as possible. He expressed with hope that such a debate would “raise the awareness of violence against women and girls during the Covid-19 pandemic and that the conclusions that will emerge from this panel will emphasize the importance of actions in defense of these vulnerable categories of our society”.

The President of MAAA, Mrs. Verica Jordanova welcomed the initiative, by hoping that the debate will raise the awareness and find mechanisms to prevent this phenomenon. During the discussion, the panelist, Ass. Prof. Arta Bilali-Zendeli, provided an overview of the existing national legislation, which provides actions and mechanisms to prevent or combat violence against women and to protect victims of this violence. However, she emphasized that this issue should not be based only on those mechanisms provided by law, but also on the system itself and the way in which the mechanisms provided by law are implemented. According to her, “every part of the system is important, starting from the witnesses of the event, experts, police officers, public prosecutors, judges… to prevent or fight this negative phenomenon”. She concluded her discussion by emphasizing that “combating this phenomenon requires joint action involving both women and men” and that both genders must understand that women’s rights are human rights and that the protection of human rights cannot preclude the protection of women’s rights.

Ass. Prof. Fatmire Isaki also addressed to the audience on this issue, by pointing out the legal steps that the Republic of North Macedonia has taken against this form of violence. She highlighted the inter-institutional cooperation, both between the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and UNDP, which, through the launch of telephone applications such as ‘Be safe’ and other services, which aim to facilitate the denunciation of gender-based violence.

Mrs. Isaki closed her speech by saying that “women are the architects of the future, so let us give them the right chance and help”. Mrs. Simona Atanasova stated that “isolation during a pandemic can cause a higher risk of physical, mental, and emotional harm.”The home is not a safe place for people living at risk of violence.” She emphasized that since there is no single solution to this issue, is needed a holistic approach by governing institutions, which will provide essential services to victims of violence. In this context, Mrs. Atanasova said that “Violence is not a private issue” so the role of the community is extremely important in supporting victims of the violence. The third part of the debate enabled the audience to ask questions and comment on the issues raised during the discussion. The debate was closed with the main issues elaborated during the discussion and with the hope that such events will help raise the public awareness of the need for proper treatment of such phenomena, with such serious consequences for our societies.