A regular meeting of the Local Anti-Trafficking Team of the City of Subotica held

Ilija Đukanović, Local Anti-Trafficking Team of the City of Subotica, and Jelena Hrnjak, NGO Atina 

A regular meeting of the Local Team for Prevention and Combating Human Trafficking of the City of Subotica was held on December 5, in the Red Cross premises in Subotica, the final one for 2023. This meeting was held in cooperation with NGO Atina, with a specific focus on the prevention of sexual exploitation and prostitution. The meeting was attended by 17 members of the Local Team in Subotica, including representatives of the City and Police Administration, Center for Social Work, General Hospital, Health Center, Red Cross, Local Youth Office, and the National Employment Service.

Team members exchanged current information from their competencies on the results achieved in 2023 and on detected cases of human trafficking and preventive activities that the Local Team carried out during the year. They also discussed the issues and challenges that local institutions face, not only in the area of processing this criminal offense but also in providing long-term support and protection to human trafficking victims. Specific steps were proposed to overcome these challenges in the future, which would be based on improving cooperation between individual actors and on more efficient mutual information exchange to resolve urgent situations.

Members of the Local Anti-Trafficking Team of the City of Subotica

Milan Aleksić from NGO Atina presented the latest analysis on the prevention of sexual exploitation and prostitution, as well as on the general framework for understanding this phenomenon, existing forms of regulating prostitution in different European countries, and how it is regulated in Serbia. Data from practice related to the actions of the police and courts in the last few years were also shared with the attendees, which clearly shows that the application of current legislation in Serbia still affects women disproportionately more. Namely, the number of misdemeanor charges filed and verdicts passed against women is far greater than against men. In 2019-2022, as much as 68% of misdemeanor charges were filed against women and only 32% against men. On the other hand, when it comes to verdicts, in the period 2019-2020, 83% of all verdicts passed for this misdemeanor were related to engaging in prostitution (and in 89% of the cases, these were women), and only 16% for buying sex (all were men). Furthermore, in this context, Aleksić also mentioned the international obligations of the Republic of Serbia arising from the United Nations CEDAW Committee's Report for this area, which was sent to Serbia in 2019 and 2021. These obligations are based on the need to protect and decriminalize women in prostitution and to provide them with adequate, alternative economic programs if they want to exit prostitution. At the end, he also mentioned the initiative to amend the Law on Public Order and Peace in the part related to prostitution, submitted by Atina and the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality.
This presentation was followed by a short discussion with the attendees, during which some other issues of importance for this topic were clarified. The meeting ended with everyone’s agreement to continue cooperation and to present this topic to other interested actors at the local and national levels in the future.