Prevention of sexual exploitation in Serbia

On Friday, September 30, 2023, political scientist Milan Aleksić and clinical psychologist Dragana Ćuk Milankov from NGO Atina spoke at a panel dedicated to “Prevention of sexual exploitation and prostitution in Serbia,“ organized within the Days of the Forum of Judges of Serbia. This event took place from 28 to 30 September in Sombor and represents the third expert-judicial consultation intended for judges and other professionals from the judiciary. The European Union and the Council of Europe supported the event through a joint project, “Support for the Implementation of Judicial Reform in Serbia.” Atina’s participation at this event represents a continuation of the organization’s cooperation with the Forum of Judges of Serbia.

Milan Aleksić spoke about prostitution, shortcomings of the current legislative framework related to this issue, and the police and judicial practice that is discriminatory to women, as they are punished three times more often than men for the misdemeanor act of prostitution in Serbia. He also spoke about different models of the regulation of prostitution, which was welcomed with particular interest. In addition, Aleksić mentioned the obligations Serbia is facing, arising from the latest report of the United Nations CEDAW Committee, which, among others, requested the decriminalization of women in prostitution and changes to Article 16 of the Law on Public Order and Peace, which regulates it. In this regard, Aleksić presented the proposal for amendments to this article, which were jointly prepared and sent to the competent authorities by NGO Atina and the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality at the end of 2022.

After that, Dragana Ćuk Milankov spoke about the communication with victims of human trafficking and presented the changes in the victim's behavior due to their exposure to long-term trauma. In this regard, she emphasized that the recovery of victims is a long-term process and that, bearing in mind their trauma, it cannot be expected that the victims will immediately be ready to share everything different institutions require of them. Ćuk Milankov also explained in detail what anatomical and biochemical changes occur in a victim caused by trauma, which affects their psychological status, and why it is essential to plan and provide psychological support carefully. Speaking of this, Ćuk Milankov shared guidance on conducting a conversation with victims and creating an appropriate and safe environment where such a conversation should occur.

After the presentations, a discussion with the judges and other professionals from the judiciary was vibrant, during which Atina’s representatives answered questions and showcased additional aspects of the organization's work and the topics they spoke about. The participants have shown high interest in these topics and the need to have an expert discussion on the issues to regulate them in the future better.