16 Days in Serbia Campaign 2010

16 days of activism against violence against women

Performance My body my territory

Socially engaged performance about sexual abuse of women – Travelling Feminist Caravan

Celebration of the international campaign 16 days of activism against violence against women was between 25th of November and 10th of December 2010.

Campaign’s theme was Militarism and violence against women and it was organized in over 60 cities, smaller places, in Roma settlements allover Serbia.

Reconstruction Women’s Fund in cooperation with Women against Violence Network, Autonomous Women’s Centre and Traveling Feminist Caravan carried out this campaign’s theme Militarism and violence against women, stressing the sexual violence.

Militarism is just like the patriarchy, a system based on domination, abuse of power and control, the imposition of values ​​such as obedience, blind execution of orders, a “uniformed opinion”, the hierarchy, machismo, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia.   That’s the way you look at the world around : your family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, the whole society.

It is important to understand that militarism does not begin or end with war and armed conflict and that its autocratic heritage permeates every sphere of our societies. Accept militarism means to assume that each of us has our own enemies and that violence is the only effective way of solving problems.Militarism as an ideology and cultural patterns that perpetuate violence has a particular impact on the lives and safety of women.

Our homes are often “battlefields”, and our bodies “new weapons” and “new targets”.

One of the most common forms of gender-based violence is rapewhich women are exposed to before, during and after the war and /or conflict.

Sexual violence includes any physical, visual, verbal or sexual act that, at the time when it happened or later, a woman or girl experienced as a threat or attack, and that she was injured or degraded, and / or in which she was taken away control in intimate contact – Liz Kelly

In Serbia, according to the Incest Trauma Center every 3rd girl survived some form of sexual violence.

According to data from the Autonomous Women’s Center:

 80% of perpetrators of sexual violence are persons known by victim 
 over 70% of cases occurs in a familiar area
 In 87% of rape cases involved a threat to a woman’s life, and in 50% of cases there is a threat of use of  weapon.

Despite these statistics, women who suffer sexual violence continue to face the condemnation of the environment and inadequate protection of the state.

Street Performance MY BODY MY TERRITORY is dedicated to women survivors of sexual abuse. It talks about complicated process through which women with an experience of sexual violence had to go through. Performance follows this process, from the moment of violence by the time the woman reports the rape to the police and takes courage to say: a woman is never guilty for being raped, shame is on the violator.

Traveling performance visited the following cities: Belgrade, Novi Pazar, Velika Plana, Krusevac, Leskovac, Nis, Loznica.

Traveling performance through art seeks to articulate the issues that we are vitally concerned of, making our art of living, activist art that deals with reality and most directly addresses the widest possible audience. The short and compelling theatrical forms are used, that attracts and holds attention and appeal not only to reason but also the emotional and physical level, seeking to cause a wide range of reactions.

Wishes to reach out  directly to the widest audience that institutionalized art facilities and activist actions often fail to reach, results in the choice of space for carrying out the performance – and these are public spaces, especially streets. The idea is to act directly, personally and publicly.

This year, the reason to go to cities in Serbia such as Novi PazarVelika Plana, Krusevac, Leskovac, Nis, Loznica, and perform on the main squaresand streets, is that in these cities is recorded high rate of trafficking of women and children, sexual abuse and violence.

On 25th of November, the International Day against Violence against Women, a performance was held at the central Republic Square in Belgrade. 

Performance MY BODY MY TERRITORY opens a tango – “a sad thought that is danced” – in the audio interpretation of the band Gotan Project, to which rhythm performers danced and body movements evoked distressing experience of suffering, terror and horror of sexual abuse. 

In the first part of the performance they reflected the victim, who does not have a choice, no chance to defend herself, the victim is shocked, paralyzed by fear and despair while suffering violence. 

The second part is an audio recording of authentic example of a police investigation, which shows how the investigation contributes to an even greater humiliation and degradation of women, lots of questions like:”What were you wearing?”, “Were you defending yourself?” and the statement: “There will be  your word against his.” 

The third part of the performance reflects the intimate, internal struggles of women, deep scars on her soul, and the decision not to keep quiet about it, but to fight against the perpetrators and gather the courage to confront him and bring him to the justice to get a deserved punishment.

MY BODY MY TERRITORY is performed by:

  • Director: Dijana Milosevic
  • Actresses: Vesna Bujošević, Zorica Nikolic, Ana Imširović-Djordjevic,Sladjana Rackov
  • Text: Jelena Andjelovski
  • Set design: Marija Vidic
  • Technics: Nikola Cakić
  • Photo: Biljana Rakocevic
  • Video: Aleksandra Nestorov
  • Organization and production: Zoe Gudović

After the performance in Belgrade, where between 200-300 people had a chance to see it, the reactions were unexpected. People all these years approach and comment our work as or to condemn. This year, the horror, fear, disgust and nausea started empathy and encouraged people to ask themselves about responsibility for responding or not responding. The issue of “private acts” was heard and seen in public spaces-streets. Rape is a topic that this year left nobody indifferent.

Women who were on site and approached had the opportunity to address the activists from mentioned Autonomous Women’s Center, to take the pamphlet and directly address their SOS and counseling services.

After Belgrade, performance continued a traveling tour. We were in Novi Pazar, where with the activists from Damad Cultural Center, on the pedestrian zone, started a performance and we began to deliver the leaflets for this year’s campaign. During the performance people gathered, attracted by the strong effect of scenery and great actresses. When the performance ended women came to us seeking information about the SOS phone line, and a few women approached the activists from Damad Cultural Center and asked for the option of joining the group. But one man approached who thanked us for publicly, loudly and clearly talk about rape. He shared with us his experience that his best friend raped his wife, but that was not followed by any punishment.

It was a great satisfaction to see young people who had gathered and watched the performance. Some of the reactions were expected, such as laughter, swears. Unexpected reactions were that some young men approached us after and thanked, because it is the first time that engaged performance happened in Novi Pazar, on the street. Raising awareness through artistic activist action motivated them to think that they can make some similar action. A group of young men who approached us condemned the violence, and shared with us that they have stomach pain, to have nausea, and can only imagine the pain that women have been through, if they have this feeling only by watching the performance.

In Velika Plana in great organization of Women in Action, performance was organized between main market and main street, with the highest frequency and where are good chances of gathering many people in such a small place. We chose Wednesday, the market day. During the performance, there was a variety of reactions. Of women who weep, the men who roughly took their wives and did not allow them to stay on the street and see and hear the story of women who were raped. After the performance, Women in Action coordinator Jovanka Brkic said that she even spotted a few abusers that were watching.

Women who have been or still are in the situations of violence, were quickly going away.

But after the performance, when the group already packed to go to the next city, women approached looking for leaflets, contacts and assistance. Of course, they stayed in safe hands of our friends from the group Women in Action.

Krusevac was our next town, the stage where we opened a story that affects all of your internal organs, and encourages you to think deeply about all the processes of violence, but also the process of response and responsibility.

During performance we saw plenty of people who watched, listened and after approached to tell us their stories. This year’s performance encouraged more men to come and tell us their views. It was all reduced to stereotypes that we are trying to fight against –  that women are guilty for provoking, their “provocative” clothes is the cause why men rape women, etc.

Certainly, our performance is played for women who now approach us, still in fear, and somewhere in shame because they are abused, and looking for help and contacts.

Leskovac is a city where traveling performance already has its audience. Unfortunately, this year we changed the location where used to be a great transience of people, in front of main Department Store, and this time we performed in front of the Cultural Centre. A change occurred due to technical requirements and electricity that we needed. People were invited to come and some had commented that they are happy when we perform, but that we always deal with difficult topics.

After the performance and interviews in front of the Cultural Centre, an unexpected situation occurred. One woman who watched the performance came directly to the local group Women for Peace, and asked for help. This is actually aim of the performance –  to encourage women to speak and connect with women’s groups in local communities, searching for help.

Niš is a city where a traveling performance loves to perform – large square, people who are curious what will happen, why we are in their city, and why we talk about rape and there are always some women who approach to us. This year it was interesting to see how young people react. Girls are laughing from the sidelines, as if it was part of the defense mechanism and reactions as it cannot happen to them, and some of the reactions were even that it was terrible that we say aloud the word rape.

Young men had a reaction from the insults and bad words, to the reaction of nausea and awareness that woman is not guilty.

In Loznica, our tour has ended. Everything was organized by “Svetionik” local women’s group. Reactions from the audience, mostly young people, were emotional and strong. The media interest was high.

The performance this year saw between 700-1000 people.Before the performance we had the opportunity to inform people about the campaign of Incest Trauma Center and we played the campaign song DO NOT CONTINUE THE SILENCE, performed by Aleksandra Kovač and Belgrade voice.

During eight years of work, Traveling Feminist Caravan has worked with many women’s organizations throughout Serbia. We were all strengthened by that and it gave us the opportunity to connect, spread feminist ideas, and to fight together against violence.

This year, great appreciation for the hard work and hospitality we owe to groups: DamaD Cultural Center, Zene u akciji, NGO Pescanik, Zene za mir, SOS telephone for Roma “Osvit”, NGO Svetionik.

This year, big thank you we are sending to partner groups: Dah Theatre, Cultural Center Rex, Theatre Bosko Buha, Stani Pani CollectiveAdria Media Serbia.Media that transferred information about the performance: B92Studio B, RTS, TV Avala, Beta, Blic, Danas, TV Kopernikus, Cosmopolitan, Story, local televisions in Loznica, Nis, Krusevac, Leksovac, Smederevo, Leskovac Radio Belgrade I and II

The material used for the report: 

  • Pamphlet for the 16 Days prepared by Mirjana Mirosavljevic
  • Campaign against Violence against Women, part of text by Biljana Kosmogina
  • photos by Biljana Rakocevic
  • personal impressions by Zoe Gudović.
  • Translated by Marija Radonjic, RWF’s volunteer

My Body My Territory – November 25, Republic Square Belgrade, 3 p.m

Happy New Year!