Women in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Women in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Girl of Sarajevo, cca. 1890 – 1900
Gender Inequality Index[1]
Value 0.201 (2013)
Rank 36th out of 152
Maternal mortality (per 100,000) 8 (2010)
Women in parliament 19.3% (2013)
Females over 25 with secondary education 44.8% (2012)
Women in labour force 42% (2014)[2]
Bosnian woman and girl, early 20th century

Women in Bosnia and Herzegovina are European women who live in and are from Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), women of Bosnia and Herzegovina have been affected by three types of transition after the Bosnian War (1992-1995), namely: the "transition from war to peace", economic transition, and political transition. [3]


Bosnia and Herzegovina declared sovereignty in 1991 and independence from the former SFR Yugoslavia in 1992.[4] The Bosnian War (1992-1995) was responsible for extreme acts of violence (ethnic cleansing in the Bosnian War) and an economic collapse. Today Bosnia and Herzegovina is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society - the population consists of: Bosniaks 48.4%, Serbs 32.7%, Croats 14.6%, and others 4.3%; while the religious makeup is: Muslim 40%, Orthodox 31%, Roman Catholic 15%, and other 14% (as of 2013).[5] Most of the population is rural: only 39.8% of total population is urban.[6] The literacy rate for age 15 and over is higher for males (99.5%) than females (97.5%) - 2015 est.[7]

Gender equality

Guided by the constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country's Gender Equality Law of 2003 was passed to promote and advance the equality between men and women. Laws related to elections, as well as other laws, were amended to be in line with the constitution. As a result, the law on election provides that "30% of all candidates must be women".[8]

Gender roles

Bosnia has a cultural and religious patriarchal tradition according to which women are expected to be submissive to men. Women are expected to perform most housework, including cooking, cleaning, and child rearing. The economic devastation of the civil war has had a very negative effect on women's participation in the economy; although women are better integrated in agriculture work than in other fields.[9]

In post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina, women are a driving force for change. After the war, the resulting effects included the lowering of their public and social standing; and some women opted to travel outside the country to search for jobs.[10] Women from rural areas are often more marginalised, because of lower level of education and their inclination to tradition, which dictates that they must be subservient to men.[10]

According to an Ottoman Muslim account of the Austro-Russian–Turkish War (1735–39) translated into English by C. Fraser, Bosnian Muslim women fought in battle since they "acquired the courage of heroes" against the Austrian Germans at the siege of Osterwitch-atyk (Östroviç-i âtık) fortress.[11][12] Bosnian Muslim women and men were among the casualties during the Battle of Osterwitchatyk.[13] Bosnian Muslim women fought in the defense of the fortress of Būzin (Büzin).[14] Women and men resisted the Austrians at the Chetin (Çetin) Fortress.[15] The women of the Bosnians were deemed to be militaristic according to non-Ottoman records of the war between the Ottomans and Austrians and they played a role in the Bosnian success in battle against the Austrian attackers. Yeni Pazar, Izvornik, Östroviç-i âtık, Çetin, Būzin, Gradişka, and Banaluka were struck by the Austrians.[16] A French account described the bravery in battle of Bosnian Muslim women who fought in the war.[17]

According to C. Fraser Polygamy, so peculiar to Mohammedan countries, does not prevail to any great extent in Bosnia, and both sexes enjoy the privilege of choosing their companions for life. An unmarried female appears in public without a veil, and respect is shown to the mother of a family. In all these respects they differ widely from the inhabitants of eastern countries[18][19] According to A. J. Schem Polygamy has never gained prevalence among the begs. The women go veiled in public, but enjoy at home a freedom and privilege greater than those of the Turkish women. The young women are allowed to receive attentions from the young men, and the young man who contemplates marriage is permitted to spend the evening with his betrothed, while she sits concealed from his view by a wall or shutter. It is related of the Bosnian women by a Turkish historian that when the first captives were taken to the Turkish court at Brussa, before the capture of Constantinople, they appeared to the chiefs like living genii from Paradise.[20] According to János Asbóth Meanwhile, from the gardens on the hillsides a monotonous singing, in sharp nasal and head notes, rings through the town. In spite of strict harems and veils, the girls know how to attract the atténtion of the youths. Those out for a walk never weary of lauding a beautiful voice in proportion to the penetrating shrillness of its tones. The enchanted youth follows the sounds, and creeps up to the garden fence, and thus do most of the Bosnian marriages begin. The lad may perhaps have known the songstress from childhood up, when she as yet wore no veil, but only a great cloth over her head. He may hap caught sight of a full-blown maiden during the last days before she took the veil. If it is the right young man, the coy doe allows herself, after a few such hedge visits, to be drawn into conversation ; after a week, perhaps she raises her veil. Should he be able once to grasp her hand through the fence or through a chink in the gate, it is a sign of agreement; and then, provided that the youth meet with the approval of the parents, nothing further stands in the way of their happiness. Besides, under the mother's watchful eye, matters can hardly go so far, if the parents do not approve of the young man. There are scamps who will thus play with several girls in succession ; but they soon become motorious, and the mothers warn their daughters against them.[21] After Bosnian Muslim men went MIA during wartime, in order to get a divorce, their wives became Hanbali or Shafi'i instead of Hanafi since Hanafis had to delay a very long time before divorce could be allowed from an MIA husband.[22]

Sexual violence during the Bosnian War

Women suffered mass sexual violence and sexual servitude during the Bosnian War, and the Bosnian genocide, when violence assumed a gender-targeted form through the use of rape.[23][24][25] Estimates of the total number of women raped during the war range from 12,000 to 50,000.[26][27]

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) declared that "systematic rape", and "sexual enslavement" in time of war was a crime against humanity, second only to the war crime of genocide.[28][29][30][31]

Reproductive rights

Bosnian dancing girl,1869

The maternal mortality rate is 11 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.).[32] The total fertility rate is 1.27 children born/woman (2015 est.), which is below the replacement rate.[33] The contraceptive prevalence rate is 45.8% (2011/12).[34]

Violence against women

In recent years, Bosnia and Herzegovina has taken steps to address the issue of violence against women. This included enacting The Law on Protection from Domestic Violence in 2005,[35] and ratifying the Istanbul Convention.[36]

See also


  1. "Table 4: Gender Inequality Index". United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  2. http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.TLF.ACTI.FE.ZS/countries
  3. In post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina, women are a driving force for change, IFAD
  4. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bk.html
  5. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bk.html
  6. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bk.html
  7. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bk.html
  8. Howard, Emma. The Women of Bosnia & Herzegovina, the guardian, guardian.co.uk, 30 May 2012.
  9. http://www.everyculture.com/Bo-Co/Bosnia-and-Herzegovina.html
  10. 1 2 Bosnia and Herzegovina gender profile, IFAD, 5 March 2007.
  11. 'Umar (Būsnavī) (1830). History of the War in Bosnia During the Years 1737 - 1739. Oriental Translation-Fund. pp. 17–.
  12. Oriental Translation Fund (1830). Publications. pp. 17–.
  13. 'Umar (Būsnavī) (1830). History of the War in Bosnia During the Years 1737 - 1739. Oriental Translation-Fund. pp. 19–.
  14. 'Umar (Būsnavī) (1830). History of the War in Bosnia During the Years 1737 - 1739. Oriental Translation-Fund. pp. 45–.
  15. 'Umar (Būsnavī) (1830). History of the War in Bosnia During the Years 1737 - 1739. Oriental Translation-Fund. pp. 48–.
  16. Michael Robert Hickok (1997). Ottoman Military Administration in Eighteenth-Century Bosnia. BRILL. pp. 15–. ISBN 90-04-10689-8.
  17. Michael Robert Hickok (1995). Looking for the Doctor's Son: Ottoman Administration of 18th Century Bosnia. University of Michigan. p. 34.
  18. 'Umar (Būsnavī) (1830). History of the War in Bosnia During the Years 1737 - 1739. Oriental Translation-Fund. pp. 19–.
  19. Oriental Translation Fund (1830). Publications. pp. 19–.
  20. The War in the East: An Illustrated History of the Conflict Between Russia and Turkey with a Review of the Eastern Question. O., H. S. Goodspeed & Company. 1878. pp. 138–.
  21. János Asbóth (1890). An Official Tour Through Bosnia and Herzegovina: With an Account of the History, Antiquities, Agrarian Conditions, Religion, Ethnology, Folk Lore, and Social Life of the People. S. Sonnenschein. pp. 195–.
  22. Amila Buturovic; Irvin Cemil Schick (15 October 2007). Women in the Ottoman Balkans: Gender, Culture and History. I.B.Tauris. pp. 346–. ISBN 978-1-84511-505-0.
  23. Totten & Bartrop 2007, pp. 356-57.
  24. Henry 2010, p. 65.
  25. Hyndman 2009, p. 204.
  26. Wood 2013, p. 140.
  27. Crowe 2013, p. 343.
  28. Becirevic 2014, p. 117.
  29. Cohen 1996, p. 47.
  30. Boose 2002, p. 73.
  31. Johan Vetlesen 2005, p. 197.
  32. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bk.html
  33. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bk.html
  34. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bk.html
  35. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/population/domesticviolence/bosnia.domesticviol.05.pdf
  36. http://www.coe.int/ro/web/conventions/full-list/-/conventions/treaty/210/signatures
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