Remarks by UN Resident Coordinator at the Opening of the First Sexual Assault Center in the Kumanovo Hospital

Jul 14, 2018

Dear Mayor of Kumanovo Maksim Dimitrievski

Minister of Health Venko Filipce

Ministry of Labor and Social Policy Mila Carovska

Minister of Internal Affairs Oliver Spasovski

Director of the Kumanovo General Hospital Suzana Zaharieva


Dear members of the media

  • It’s a pleasure and an honor to represent the United Nations family here today at Kumanovo Hospital to mark the official opening of the country’s first sexual assault center.
  • This center here in Kumanovo, and two others that we are opening now in Tetovo and Skopje, have been established jointly by UNDP and UNFPA as part of a USD 400,000 initiative.
  • At the outset let me thank the Ministries of Labor, Health and Internal Affairs, and the HERA civil society organization for the close partnership that made this possible.
  • Eliminating violence against women is a top priority for the UN, as part of our broader commitment to gender equality.
  • The UN family in the country for many years supported the ratification of the “Istanbul Convention” as the best legal framework for fighting violence against women in all its forms, including both domestic violence and rape and other forms of sexual assault.
  • We were delighted that the new Government embraced this issue as a priority upon its formation and managed to ratify the Convention already in December 2017.
  • But ratification was the easy part. Implementation of the terms of the Convention will require concerted work and dedicated funding by a wide range of actors from all sectors.
  • The UN agencies are committed to supporting this effort.
  • When looking at the gaps between the requirements of the Convention and Macedonian reality, what struck us as the most glaring shortcoming was the lack of even a single center where victims of rape and other sexual assault could receive appropriate healthcare treatment and police support.
  • Instead, those reporting sexual assault are typically made to travel to a multitude of different offices where they are forced to tell their stories over and over again.
  • Victims often feel humiliated, disbelieved and revictimized by this experience, as if they and not the perpetrators are the ones at fault.
  • Little wonder, then, that so few women choose to report sexual assault.
  • National statistics on rape are almost surreally low (in 2016, police statistics show only three rapes were reported in Kumanovo, a city of more than 100,000 people). But in the current context, this is no reassurance. The low numbers mean women are not reporting rape, not that it is not happening.
  • Our aim in seeking to establish these first sexual assault centers was to provide, in one place, the full range of services that victims need, and to ensure that these services were tailored not to the convenience of the institutions but to the rights and human dignity of the person.
  • What is crucial here is not so much the space itself – as important as it might be – but rather the commitment of all the different personnel involved – healthcare workers, police, prosecutors and social workers – to work together to ensure that the victim’s interests always come first.
  • We see this as a small but important step forward in complying with the Istanbul Convention, and we look forward to working together with Government and civil society to close the remaining gaps.
  • Thank you.

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