Faced with aggressive attacks on women’s reproductive rights, various feminist activists, initiatives and organisations from cities across Croatia joined forces to organize a protest initiated by the Women’s Network of Croatia, “In defence of freedom of choice”. The protest was held on 21 May in the centre of Zagreb, gathering around 500 protesters, in response to the so-called first national March for Life, with about 7,000 participants, whose main aim is the criminalisation of abortion and serious restrictions on fundamental women’s rights. The anti-abortion march is part of the global movement of radical Catholic conservatives and fundamentalists, which drew 80,000 participants in Slovakia and 30,000 participants in Italy last year. It was supported financially by the City of Zagreb and mobilised by the Catholic Church. The spouse of the new Croatian Prime Minister, Sanja Orešković, was near the front of the march.
The most dramatic event was a moment when the marchers were passing the counter-protest and two women’s rights protesters stood in front of the march and were attacked physically by members of the march and arrested by the police. This led to 30 women’s rights protesters going to stand in front of the police station for two hours, until artist Dunja Janković and musician Dunja Ercegović (Lovely Quinces) were released without charge. Dunja Ercegović stated that she had reacted instinctively because she couldn’t just stand there and whistle to protest against pro-fascist tendencies in the society. Dunja Ercegović said that she came to the counter-protest to defend her right to decide about her own body.
Neither the police nor the attackers from march were even asked for their names or questioned, illustrative of current anti-democratic tendencies in Croatia. Media reported the incident as being against a peaceful walk for life, and the march organizers put out a press release saying the two women were evidently distraught, and possible drunk, which was absolutely not the case.
Speakers at the counter-protest included Bojana Genov from the Women’s Network Croatia, Nataša Vajagić from the Centre for Citizen Initiatives, Sanja Juras from lesbian group Kontra, Sara Kekuš from the Initiative Refugees Welcome, Martina Horvat from Platform 112, Alan Sorić from the Centre for Civil Courage and Protagora, Mia Gonan from Zagreb Pride, trade union activist Jagoda Milidrag Šmid and actress-activist Urša Raukar. A letter of support from the initiative Doctors against Conscience Objection in Medicine was read out. Music was performed by Drum ‘n’ bijes, Zdenka Kovačiček, Denis Katanec, U pol’ 9 kod Sabe and Lovely Quinces. The counter-protest was a continuation of many feminist actions against attempts to take away the right to abortion in Croatia since 1991. The most recent action of the Women’s Network of Croatia was entitled: “We do not want to go back to illegal abortion!”, 29 December 2015, shortly after the new right-wing coalition government was formed.
Source: Obrani PRAVO NA IZBOR , Counter-protest photos