MEN IN PUBLIC POLICIES AND STATISTICS

Serbia is at a kind of double beginning. On the one hand, different public policies are not properly gender-based (Antonijević, 2018), while on the other hand, men are insufficiently visible as gendered citizens, gendered individuals. Generally, there is neither sufficient knowledge nor well-developed awareness or decision-making culture that would take into account the effects of different public policies on different social segments, including different genders, that is, men and women. Thanks to the women’s movement and women’s studies, there is already an articulated level of knowledge about the female part of the population, which can be used in the government’s planning of development and included in certain strategies. On the other hand, the fact that men are gendered and that different public policies can also affect them differently than women remains on the margins. Gender approach, even gender mainstreaming, are understood mainly as something that, above all, allows women to be visible and empowered. But generally, Serbia is at the very beginning of perceiving gender as an important social category that largely shapes the lives of both women and men. “Gender blindness” produces the so-called universal citizen, who is primarily a man, but a man who is not a representative of his gender, but an abstract citizen. A man who is gendered, like a woman, remains beyond the reach of thus understood public policies. Only the awareness of men about being gendered can lead, in the next step, to a better understanding of the needs of men as equal, rather than superior, members of society.

 

As regards statistical indicators on gender inequalities, Gender Equality Index (GEI, 2016) is certainly the most important for Serbia. The Index applies equally to women and men because the inequalities measured by this Index arise from their different social positions. Therefore, this Index is not, in any aspect, relevant to women only, but also to men. In other words, it can be assumed that the Index measures the departure from what would be optimal, and it is the full equality of women and men, which would be a win-win for both groups.

 

The Index was developed by the European Institute for Gender Equality for EU member states (28) to support gender policies. The first results, in 2013, showed that the EU is only about half way to reaching equality. In Serbia, the Gender Equality Index was first published in 2016 (authored by Marija Babović).[1] The Index covers six domains: knowledge, work, money, health, time and power, and two sub-domains: violence and intersecting inequalities. The domains are divided into sub-domains:

  1. domain of knowledge (educational attainment, segregation, lifelong learning)
  2. domain of work (sub-domains: participation, segregation and quality of work)
  3. domain of work (sub-domains: financial resources, economic situation)
  4. domain of health (status, behaviour, access)
  5. domain of time (economic activities, household activities, social activities)
  6. domain of power (political power, social power, economic power)
  7. intersecting inequalities (age, citizenship, disability, ethnicity, marital status, religion, sexual orientation)
  8. violence (direct violence, indirect violence) (GEI, 2016:15)

 

The Gender Equality Index measures the gender gap in different domains. Therefore, a good result would be close to 100%, indicating that gender inequalities are completely eliminated. It is based on a simplified definition of gender equality: “equal share of assets, equal dignity and integrity between women and men”.

The Gender Equality Index for Serbia has been calculated for 2014. The score of the Gender Equality Index for Serbia is 40.6%, while for EU member states it equals 52.9%. The greatest success has been achieved in the domain of power, which is largely, but not solely, the effect of the introduction of gender quota.[2] The biggest lag is in the domain of work and money. The score of the Gender Equality Index for Serbia in the domain of work is 38.2, while for the EU it is 61.9. In the domain of money, the score for Serbia was 39.2, and for the EU 67.8. Significant inequality was recorded in the domain of income, where Serbia achieved only 26.6% out of the ideal 100% of equality, which means that less than one-third of the path towards equality has been passed. Serbia has the second lowest score compared to all EU member states. In the domain of knowledge, there are differences in the choice of educational profiles, with women still being overrepresented in the field of social sciences. The score is especially low in the field of lifelong learning, which is still very rare in Serbia both in theory and practice. As regards the domain of time, Serbia has a score of 31.2, while the EU has 37.6. The domain of power is the only domain where Serbia has better results than the EU, due to the economic power score. The overall score for Serbia is 43.0, and for the EU 39.7. The political power score for Serbia is 43.0, while for the EU it is 49.8; the economic power score for Serbia is 43.1 and for the EU 31.7 (GEI, 2016: 64). The good ranking of Serbia can be interpreted primarily by the favourable effects of introduced quota provisions regarding the representation of women in legislative bodies (Republic and Provincial Assemblies). However, on the other hand, in as many as 85% of cases, men are members of boards in the largest companies, and in 70% of cases they are the National Bank Board members. (Source: GEI, 2016:67). The domain of health has the highest score in both Serbia and the EU, which means that difference in the treatment of men and women is smallest in this field. The sub-domains of health are status (measured by self-perceived health, life expectancy and healthy life years) and access (measured by unmet medical needs and unmet dental needs). For Serbia, the overall score for health was 82.9 and for the EU – 90.0. As regards the scores for the sub-domains of health, status scored 81.1 for Serbia and 86.4 for the EU. Access to health care scored 84.9 for Serbia and 93.8 for the EU. (GEI, 2016:71). Men more often than women assess their health as good or very good (81.6% and 53.4% respectively, age 16 and above) (GEI, 2016: 73).

The GEI provides a general overview of gender inequalities at the national level, primarily based on gender-sensitive statistics. Although it points to the still dominantly privileged position of men in the society of Serbia, it does not allow a deeper understanding of the problems that men themselves face in their lives, in the position of gendered individuals (for example, the fact that men are also victims of violence by other men or that they are under social pressure to be “breadwinners” or to prove their “masculinity” through violence, unhealthy lifestyles or advocating extreme ideologies). However, even at the level of gender-sensitive statistics, it is not easy to eliminate two types of bias: on the one hand, an androcentric view of the world, and on the other hand, the “invisibility” of men. The essence of paradox lies in the fact that androcentric inertia can make men invisible. Avlijaš cites an example from the Labour Force Survey where the reason for inactivity was “military service”, but not “child care”. However, in the survey on the use of time (2010/2011) these deficiencies were eliminated (Avlijaš, 2009). Another example of androcentric inertia is identifying the operative concept of the “head of household” with the functional “superior”, thus strengthening gender stereotypes, when collecting data in the population census. This type of problem, or bias, is likely to be eliminated in due course. Another kind of bias is the interpretation of data, for example in the publication “Women and Men in Serbia” where gender perspective is most often reduced to female perspective, which reproduces the invisibility of men’s genderness. Gender-sensitive statistics on men should be developed in a way to allow its successful use in public policies.

Speaking about the concrete introduction of men in gender policies, there are several areas. The National Strategy for Gender Equality 2016-2020 and the accompanied Action Plan 2016-2018 explicitly include men in the goal of “equal participation of women and men in parenting and care economy”, where the indicators are: time spent on unpaid work, time spent on caring for children. This plan also envisages an increase in the use of paternal leave and the organisation of campaigns to promote paternity and the role of men in parenting. Men are explicitly involved in reproductive health, sexual education and responsible sexual behaviour. The emphasis is on raising awareness and informing girls and boys about sex education and preservation of reproductive health. The introduction of reproductive health and sex education content, including the issues of gender relations, gender roles and responsible sexual behaviour, is envisaged as mandatory in primary and secondary schools.

 

The existing Law on Gender Equality and the existing Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence do not explicitly mention men and women, but “persons” or “person”. As regards these laws in the public discourse, they are labelled as “anti-men” or “pro-women”, because they are related to the change of patriarchal patterns, and therefore affect women and men differently. The draft of the new Law on Gender Equality is currently in the phase of public debate. Although, again, the public opts mainly “for” or “against” further strengthening of gender equality, which gives the impression that it is polarised, the complex issues addressed in this debate and its political dimension are beyond the scope of this brief overview.

 

The general conclusion that arises is that the integration of the male perspective from the aspect of gender equality, rather than from the aspect of strengthening patriarchal values, is currently only in its infancy in Serbia. In order for this process to be successful in the future, it is necessary to accumulate knowledge through research and good gender-sensitive statistics.

[1]  For the most part, the score of this Index for Serbia is calculated based on the same type of data as used in EU countries, although the data collection and processing system should be further harmonised in the years to come.

[2]  The real decline in the power of different institutions and exclusively party-affiliated employment is certainly one of the valid explanations for an easier “entry” of women in the realm of politics. Being a woman may even be an advantage in terms of loyalty and unwillingness to rebel.