The Balkan Troll of the Month is an individual, a group of individuals or a media outlet that spreads hate on the internet based on gender, ethnicity, religion, or other diversity categories. The Balkan Troll is selected based on hate speech incidents identified across the Western Balkans region.
Our November Troll of the Month is a member of the Parliament of Montenegro, Slaven Radunović, who spread misogyny and sexist narratives which further undermine cases of sexual harassment and rape towards women on the basis of false accusations and gender discrimination.
Recently, during a discussion regarding chemical castration at the Committee on Political System and Justice, a Member of the Parliament of Montenegro, Slaven Radunović, spread strong sexist and misogynistic comments regarding the issue. Radunović stated: “let’s say a spoiled daughter is jealous of her boyfriend, so she reports him for rape, so considering whose daughter she is, that young man ended up as a rapist, and he gets castrated as well”. He went on to further point out that “sometimes a very thin thread decides in the decision whether there was rape or not”.
Following Radunović’s scandalous statement, there was a sharp and prompt reaction from the public who condemned such an “insolent statement” by the deputies and called on institutions to react and respond to such statements. The Safe Women’s House condemned the speech of MP Radunović, further adding: “we condemn this kind of speech and we wonder how to expect changes in the consciousness of the citizens of Montenegro when we receive such misogynistic messages from public officials”, highlighting the level of misogyny and sexism promoted and spread by an individual of political importance with a platform and large audience.
Furthermore, a number of public reactions appeared online in response Radunović’s statement and comments. This includes the Women’s Rights Center who posted a public statement calling on:
“the Speaker of the Assembly, the Collegium of Speakers of the Assembly, presidents of parliamentary clubs and all deputies to report such statements to the Committee on Human Rights and Freedoms”.
Not only was the incident shared widely given the fact that it was broadcast on numerous TV stations, it was also shared on various info portals and social networks as well. It is even more worrying when we take into account that the Parliament of Montenegro is streamed and was later uploaded on YouTube resulting in over 800 views.
Slaven Radunović, a member of the elected government, holds both a moral and democratic responsibility to be accountable for his actions and words. By using Parliament as public platform to share discriminatory stands regarding cases of sexual harassment and rape, Radunović further spreads sexism in Montenegro, with no consequence for himself.
Furthermore, upholding and spreading such ideas only results in further shame and creates a mechanism of silencing those who are victims of sexual harassment and rape who may fear being called out or accused of ‘lying’ about their experience. Radunović’s statement further supports prejudice against victims of rape and sexual harassment while disregarding the fact that these crimes are already rarely reported due to the pre-existing social stigma, which comments such as Radunović’s only perpetuates and maintains.
According to an article appearing in Antena M, written in response to the recent scandal, it was revealed through research that out of “100 women and girls who experienced sexual violence, as many as 88 did not report the case to the competent institutions”. The reasons for this include public shame, stereotypes, fear of not being believed and condemnation.
When addressing extremely sensitive issues such as rape and sexual harassment, it is vital that public, media and officials understand their responsibility and role in the spreading of messages and narratives to the public surrounding such issues. RDN 2.0 monitoring has uncovered that the perception and representation of women in Montenegro is already quite problematic, and such comments and incidents only fuel further the situation at hand while promoting and upholding misogyny and gender discrimination within society.
The role of the media is not to transmit an individual’s statement, no matter what their position is, without a critical attitude or any form of follow-up statement. This is especially important in the case such as the spread of discrimination and hate speech. The media have an ethical responsibility when reporting on such sensitive topics as sexual harassment and rape, and should therefore actively aim to participate in creating a safe space to talk without prejudice, fear and condemnation. The international campaign, 16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, commencing on the 25 November calls for “the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls” and reminds us that 1 in 3 women across the globe face gender-based violence once in their lifetime. Individuals need to be held accountable and incidents such as this further highlight the need for exposure and punishment of such comments and ideas.