A family of a 15-year-old girl is displaced from Kosovo in 1999 and after staying in private accommodation in difficult conditions, they were transferred to a collective center for the accommodation of refugees and internally displaced people in a small and extremely poor municipality in the south of Serbia. After eight years in the collective center, the family got a flat in social housing in a protected environment, which finally provided the adequate living conditions for the family.
The family consists of a single mother and two daughters. The older daughter, who is now 19, informally married at the age of 15 and got two children. She left her partner last year and is now living with her mother and her younger child, while the older one stayed with the father.
The girl in question informally married a young adult at the age of 13. Although she allegedly eloped, the mother did not report the case to either the police or the Centre for Social Work. She spent two months in informal marriage, during which she suffered violence and restriction of movement. When we found out about the case, we reported it to the Centre for Social Work. The social worker visited the mother, but did not enter the flat and was satisfied with the mother's statement that the girl was at home, sleeping.
The girl managed to escape and return home. However, the man started threatening the family. We advised and took the mother and daughter to the police and the Centre for Social Work to report both the case of violence and the case of threats. The police acted in accordance with the protocol on the protection of children from violence and then handed the case to the public prosecutor. We assisted the family to get the lawyer. The young man was convicted. The Centre for Social Work did not provide any support to the family either during or after the case.
In March 2015, after a short stay in the collective center with an acquaintance, who had two male visitors, the girl left the place of residence (most probably with the visitors). The mother did not report the case to the police.
After a short period, when we found out about the case and reported it to the police and the Centre for Social Work, the girl called her mother, told her she was (informally) married and pregnant, and did not want to return home. As the mother knew the case had been reported to the police, she advised the daughter to report to local police. She allegedly did it and gave a statement. Then, she was advised by the police to report to the Centre for Social Work in the same place. The case was closed after this.
- The case raised dilemmas how to help the girl when her rights are violated and there is no collaboration between the family and institutions
- Mother with the children is registered in the records of the Centre for Social Work (CSW); the family is placed in social housing. After the CSW gave support to the family in terms of solving the housing issue CSW ceased to provide other support. The question was whether they should have done follow-up with the mother regarding her parental rights, if not, why not?
- Why did the mother not report the case when the girl married the first time at the age of 13? Why did she not report the second case to the police and to the CSW?
- The girl is now 15 years old, under the law of the Republic of Serbia, she cannot get married so her ‘marriage’ is subject to the Criminal law of Republic of Serbia.
- The mother did have weak parenting skills she did not respond adequately to protect the child. What are the next steps of the CSW? If they did not take the next steps, why not?
- It would be good to ask for advice and professional assistance of the Ombudsman
- It would be good to directly contact the prosecutor’s office from the city of origin of the girl.