Mirela Holy: Sexism is alive and well in Croatian politics

Mirela Holy: Sexism is alive and well in Croatian politics Izvor: N1

Former Minister for Environmental Protection and PR expert Mirela Holy was a guest on Friday’s N1 Studio Live programme, where she talked about gender inequality in Croatian politics and Thursday’s court ruling to ban the strike in the national flag carrier Croatia Airlines.

Bill on books for primary and secondary schools, proposed by Education Minister Blazenka Divjak, was recently shot down by Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuscevic of the ruling centre-right Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), because the proposal was written in feminine gender as opposed to the masculine.

Croatian language makes a distinction between three genders – masculine, feminine, and neuter, with the masculine commonly used as the default when gender is unknown.

In the explanation for the decision to turn down the proposal, the ministry said that all law proposals must use the usual legal terminology, in which masculine gender is the default, in order to be accepted.

The education system is one of the very few which employs more women than men in Croatia, minister Divjak had said, adding that, by writing the proposal in the feminine gender, she wanted to bring attention to that fact, as well as show that these precedents were possible and necessary.

Holy said that the same thing had happened to her while she was serving as Environment Minister in the centre-left government in 2011-2012, when the Minister for Public Administration was Arsen Bauk of the then-ruling Social Democratic Party (SDP).

The first draft of her proposal used both genders in the text, but was refused because it was considered clumsy, Holy said, adding that the revised draft had been written in the feminine gender, but was once again shot down.

“There is no gender equality in Croatia, that is clearly visible in our use of language,” Holy said.

She added his was not a topic that can only be brought up during slow summer months, and that there needed to be more talk about why many women refer to their titles and job descriptions in the “default” masculine gender.

“Sexism is not only at home in the HDZ, it is alive and well in the political sphere and society in general. My impression is that men are completely unaware of all the ways in which inequality is perpetuated in our society. When you try to offer them proof through cases such as this, they see it as something bizarre, funny, grotesque, and they make jokes about it. Minister Bauk ridiculed the problem,” Holy said.

She added that it is mandatory, under the Gender Equality Law, to use language that reflects gender equality in legal documents.

“I felt bad because I thought that we, as a progressive government, had to pay more attention to these things,” she said.

Holy also commented on the Zagreb County Court’s yesterday’s ruling that a strike in the state-owned Croatia Airlines was illegal.

“That is scandalous. Workers’ rights are fundamental. If you cannot come to an agreement with your employer, if the employer is refusing to negotiate, if there is no way to accomplish anything in that way, then a strike must be an option for workers, regardless of the fact that it would be inconvenient in the tourist season,” she said.

“We are always going on about the importance of tourism… it is not a problem for the government to give millions for military aircraft, but it somehow is a problem to find a solution for the problems of the national flag carrier,” she said.

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