May 7, 2013

Condemnation of the discriminatory statement of Bishop Petar

The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia and the Coalition “Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities” strongly condemn the statement of Diocesan Bishop of the Macedonian Orthodox Diocese of Australia and New Zealand, Petar, who once again, within a short period of time the equality of women and the right to choose to be a mother and a wife has been violated.

For a longer period women in Macedonia have been presented solely in the role of mothers and wives, which represents a violation to the equality and direct discrimination against women based on gender and sex. We want to emphasize that these calls to return women to the traditionally established system of values and their social exclusion are nothing but degradation of the value of women and underestimation of their contribution to social progress.·

Namely Bishop Petar blamed women for the increased number of divorces in 2012 and said that they would not accept that the head of the house is the man and that the woman should be subordinate to the man. He stated that women will either save or destroy the Macedonian nation and church because what is conceived in the wombs of mothers should be born if we want to survive as a nation, people, state and church.

This statement represents a direct violation to Article 9 of the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia which stipulates that the citizens of the Republic of Macedonia are equal in freedoms and rights regardless of gender, Article 25 which guarantees the respect and protection of the privacy of personal and family life of every citizen, their dignity and reputation, Article 41 which stipulates that it is the right of every person to freely decide on procreation of children,  furthermore the provisions of the Law on Prevention and Protection from Discrimination, the provisions of the Law on Equal Opportunities for Men and Women.

Part of the statement, through which women are presented as the only savior of the nation, people, state and church, violates the secularity of the state from the church, i.e. it violates amendment VII of Article 19 of the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, which stipulates that the churches, religious communities and other religious groups  are separated from the state. We are witnesses to an active populist policy and campaign, conducted by the state, which gets open support even from highest representatives of the Macedonian Orthodox Church which violates the principle of separation of church from state and state policies and leads to imposition of a connection between tradition, family and God. Women are constantly presented as an object through which the Government measures for increasing the birth rate will be realized, without any respect towards equality in society and the right to freely decide about procreation of children.

These misogynistic statements are contrary to all of the international mechanisms through which the equality of women is guaranteed, their right to choose and reproductive rights, especially the provisions of the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination against Women, whose signatory is the Republic of Macedonia. Namely, in Article 5 of the Convention it is established that the states shall take all necessary measures to alter the social and cultural customs in respect to the conduct of men and women, to overcome prejudices as well as the regular and every other practice, based on the understanding about the inferiority or superiority of one or the other gender or the traditional role of men or women.

Due to violation of the basic principle of equality of women, the right to choose and free family planning, we call upon the Commission for Protection against Discrimination and the legal representative for unequal treatment of women and men, as part of the Ministry for Labor and Social Policy, to initiate proceedings for establishing discrimination based on gender and sex, done by the Bishop Petar.