Constitutional Court stops the use of gender-sensitive language

Just as the provisions of the law regulating gender-sensitive language came into force, the Constitutional Court decided to suspend the adoption of the relevant regulation until the procedure for assessing constitutionality is completed.

The Gender Equality Law was enacted in 2021 and entails equal rights, responsibilities, and opportunities for balanced participation and representation of women and men in many areas of social life. However, there has been ongoing debate about the potential for the law to mandate the use of terms that critics say “are not in the spirit of the Serbian language.”

The law came into force on June 1, which somewhat explains why the controversy has peaked now. Terms like “psychologist,” “pedagogue,” “philologist,” and “soldier” (in their feminine forms) are officially required to be respected, but several initiatives have been filed with the Constitutional Court to assess their constitutionality.

As explained by Tatjana Macura, government minister in charge of gender equality, preventing violence against women and the economic and political empowerment of women, the Constitutional Court responded to around eight initiatives and acted “preventively.”

“Until the procedure is completed, the court has issued this measure which actually protects against potential problems that certain future decisions of the Constitutional Court might cause. Given that the law includes some financial penalties, and from past experience, we know very well that when the Constitutional Court declares certain provisions unconstitutional, the government is then obliged to compensate those harmed by such proceedings. So I would say this was a preventive reaction by the Constitutional Court,” said Macura.

When asked what is contentious about the law, Macura said that, for her personally, the most contentious provisions are those related to punitive measures because, as she adds, this is not in the spirit of what this law should achieve, which is to create an atmosphere in society that guarantees equal opportunities for both men and women.

“And when we think about what causes the greatest resistance in society and what has sparked the biggest public debate, aside from gender-sensitive language, which is only a part of a few provisions of this law, I would say it is those punitive provisions. I hope that the Constitutional Court will consider possibly abolishing these punitive provisions, which actually create the most resistance. Regarding gender-sensitive language, it is often mistakenly called the law on gender-sensitive language. It is not a separate law, but merely a few provisions within the Gender Equality Law that impose obligations only on certain institutions, primarily in the media,” she said.

(Mondo, 05.07.2024)

This post is also available in: Italiano

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