Women in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Girl of Sarajevo, cca. 1890 – 1900
General Statistics
Maternal mortality (per 100,000)11 (2015)
Women in parliament19.3% (2017)
Women over 25 with secondary education44.8% (2012)
Women in labour force42% (2014)[1]
Gender Inequality Index[2]
Value0.136 (2021)
Rank38th out of 191
Global Gender Gap Index[3]
Value0.710 (2022)
Rank73rd out of 146
Bosnian woman and girl, early 20th century

Women in Bosnia and Herzegovina are European women who live in and are from Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), women of Bosnia and Herzegovina have been affected by three types of transition after the Bosnian War (1992-1995): the "transition from war to peace", economic transition, and political transition.[4] After the Second World War the fast economic growth and industrialization alleviated poverty and accelerated the introduction of Bosnian women into the workforce in a variety of professions, including a strong representation of women in STEM that remains true in the present day.


Bosnia and Herzegovina declared sovereignty in 1991 and independence from the former SFR Yugoslavia in 1992.[5] The Bosnian War (1992-1995) was responsible for extreme acts of violence (ethnic cleansing in the Bosnian War) and an economic collapse. Today Bosnia and Herzegovina is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society - the population consists of: Bosniaks 48.4%, Serbs 32.7%, Croats 14.6%, and others 4.3%; while the religious makeup is: Muslim 40%, Orthodox 31%, Roman Catholic 15%, and other 14% (as of 2013).[5] Most of the population is rural: only 39.8% of total population is urban.[5] The literacy rate for age 15 and over is higher for males (99.5%) than females (97.5%) - 2015 est.[5]

Gender equality

Guided by the constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country's Gender Equality Law of 2003 was passed to promote and advance the equality between men and women. Laws related to elections, as well as other laws, were amended to be in line with the constitution. As a result, the law on election provides that "30% of all candidates must be women".[6]

Before a new Criminal Code came into force in 2003,[7] the law on rape in Bosnia and Herzegovina contained a statutory exemption for marriage, and read: "Whoever coerces a female not his wife into sexual intercourse by force or threat of imminent attack upon her life or body or the life or body of a person close to her, shall be sentenced to a prison term of one to ten years".

Gender roles

Bosnia has a cultural and religious patriarchal tradition according to which women are expected to be submissive to men. Women are expected to perform most housework, including cooking, cleaning, and child rearing. The economic devastation of the civil war has had a negative effect on women's participation in the economy, although women are better integrated in agriculture work than in other fields.[8]

In post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina, women are a driving force for change. After the war, the resulting effects included the lowering of their public and social standing, and some women opted to travel outside the country to search for jobs.[9] Women from rural areas are often more marginalised, because of their lower level of education and inclination to tradition, which dictates that they must be subservient to men.[9]

According to an Ottoman Muslim account of the Austro-Russian–Turkish War (1735–39) translated into English by C. Fraser, Bosnian Muslim women fought in battle since they "acquired the courage of heroes" against the Austrian Germans at the siege of the Osterwitch-atyk (Östroviç-i âtık) fortress.[10][11] Bosnian Muslim women and men were among the casualties during the Battle of Osterwitchatyk.[12] Bosnian Muslim women fought in the defense of the fortress of Būzin (Büzin).[13] Women and men resisted the Austrians at the Chetin (Çetin) Fortress.[14] The women of the Bosnians were deemed to be militaristic according to non-Ottoman records of the war between the Ottomans and Austrians and they played a role in the Bosnian success in battle against the Austrian attackers. Yeni Pazar, Izvornik, Östroviç-i âtık, Çetin, Būzin, Gradişka, and Banaluka were struck by the Austrians.[15] A French account described the bravery in battle of Bosnian Muslim women who fought in the war.[16]

According to C. Fraser: "Polygamy, so peculiar to Mohammedan countries, does not prevail to any great extent in Bosnia, and both sexes enjoy the privilege of choosing their companions for life. An unmarried female appears in public without a veil, and respect is shown to the mother of a family. In all these respects they differ widely from the inhabitants of eastern countries."[17][18]

According to A. J. Schem: "Polygamy has never gained prevalence among the begs. The women go veiled in public, but enjoy at home a freedom and privilege greater than those of the Turkish women. The young women are allowed to receive attentions from the young men, and the young man who contemplates marriage is permitted to spend the evening with his betrothed, while she sits concealed from his view by a wall or shutter. It is related of the Bosnian women by a Turkish historian that when the first captives were taken to the Turkish court at Brussa, before the capture of Constantinople, they appeared to the chiefs like living genii from Paradise."[19]

According to János Asbóth: "Meanwhile, from the gardens on the hillsides a monotonous singing, in sharp nasal and head notes, rings through the town. In spite of strict harems and veils, the girls know how to attract the attention of the youths. Those out for a walk never weary of lauding a beautiful voice in proportion to the penetrating shrillness of its tones. The enchanted youth follows the sounds, and creeps up to the garden fence, and thus do most of the Bosnian marriages begin. The lad may perhaps have known the songstress from childhood up, when she as yet wore no veil, but only a great cloth over her head. He mayhap caught sight of a full-blown maiden during the last days before she took the veil. If it is the right young man, the coy doe allows herself, after a few such hedge visits, to be drawn into conversation ; after a week, perhaps she raises her veil. Should he be able once to grasp her hand through the fence or through a chink in the gate, it is a sign of agreement; and then, provided that the youth meet with the approval of the parents, nothing further stands in the way of their happiness. Besides, under the mother's watchful eye, matters can hardly go so far, if the parents do not approve of the young man. There are scamps who will thus play with several girls in succession ; but they soon become notorious, and the mothers warn their daughters against them."[20]

After Bosnian Muslim men went MIA during wartime, in order to get divorces, their wives became Hanbali or Shafi'i instead of Hanafi, since Hanafis had to delay a very long time before divorce could be allowed from an MIA husband.[21]

Sexual violence during the Bosnian War

Main article: Rape during the Bosnian War

Women suffered mass sexual violence and sexual servitude during the Bosnian War, and the Bosnian genocide, when violence assumed a gender-targeted form through the use of rape.[22][23][24] Estimates of the total number of women raped during the war range from 12,000 to 50,000.[25][26]

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) declared that "systematic rape", and "sexual enslavement" in time of war was a crime against humanity, second only to the war crime of genocide.[27][28][29][30]

Reproductive rights

Bosnian dancing girl, 1869

The maternal mortality rate is 11 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.).[5] The total fertility rate is 1.27 children born/woman (2015 est.), which is below the replacement rate.[5] The contraceptive prevalence rate is 45.8% (2011/12).[5]

Violence against women

In recent years, Bosnia and Herzegovina has taken steps to address the issue of violence against women. This included enacting The Law on Protection from Domestic Violence in 2005,[31] and ratifying the Istanbul Convention.[32]

See also


  1. ^ "Labor force participation rate, female (% of female population ages 15-64) (Modeled ILO estimate) | Data | Table". Archived from the original on 2016-05-05. Retrieved 2016-01-29.
  2. ^ "Human Development Report 2021/2022" (PDF). HUMAN DEVELOPMENT REPORTS. Retrieved 28 November 2022.
  3. ^ "Global Gender Gap Report 2022" (PDF). World Economic Forum. Retrieved 22 February 2023.
  4. ^ "In post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina, women are a driving force for change". IFAD.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "The World Factbook". Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  6. ^ Howard, Emma (30 May 2012). "The Women of Bosnia & Herzegovina". The Guardian.
  7. ^ "Criminal Code of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina 2003" (PDF). UNODC. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  8. ^ "Culture of Bosnia and Herzegovina - history, people, clothing, traditions, women, beliefs, food, customs, family". Everyculture.com. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  9. ^ a b "Bosnia and Herzegovina gender profile". IFAD. 5 March 2007. Archived from the original on 2013-06-05.
  10. ^ 'Umar (Būsnavī) (1830). History of the War in Bosnia During the Years 1737 - 1739. Oriental Translation-Fund. pp. 17–.
  11. ^ Oriental Translation Fund (1830). Publications. Royal Asiatic Society. pp. 17–.
  12. ^ 'Umar (Būsnavī) (1830). History of the War in Bosnia During the Years 1737 - 1739. Oriental Translation-Fund. pp. 19–.
  13. ^ 'Umar (Būsnavī) (1830). History of the War in Bosnia During the Years 1737 - 1739. Oriental Translation-Fund. pp. 45–.
  14. ^ 'Umar (Būsnavī) (1830). History of the War in Bosnia During the Years 1737 - 1739. Oriental Translation-Fund. pp. 48–.
  15. ^ Hickok, Michael Robert (1997). Ottoman Military Administration in Eighteenth-Century Bosnia. BRILL. pp. 15–. ISBN 90-04-10689-8.
  16. ^ Hickok, Michael Robert (1995). Looking for the Doctor's Son: Ottoman Administration of 18th Century Bosnia. University of Michigan. p. 34.
  17. ^ 'Umar (Būsnavī) (1830). History of the War in Bosnia During the Years 1737 - 1739. Oriental Translation-Fund. pp. 19–.
  18. ^ Oriental Translation Fund (1830). Publications. Royal Asiatic Society. pp. 19–.
  19. ^ The War in the East: An Illustrated History of the Conflict Between Russia and Turkey with a Review of the Eastern Question. O., H. S. Goodspeed & Company. 1878. pp. 138–.
  20. ^ Asbóth, János (1890). An Official Tour Through Bosnia and Herzegovina: With an Account of the History, Antiquities, Agrarian Conditions, Religion, Ethnology, Folk Lore, and Social Life of the People. S. Sonnenschein. pp. 195–.
  21. ^ Buturovic, Amila; Schick, Irvin Cemil (15 October 2007). Women in the Ottoman Balkans: Gender, Culture and History. I.B. Tauris. pp. 346–. ISBN 978-1-84511-505-0.
  22. ^ Totten & Bartrop 2007, pp. 356–57.
  23. ^ Henry 2010, p. 65.
  24. ^ Hyndman 2009, p. 204.
  25. ^ Wood 2013, p. 140.
  26. ^ Crowe 2013, p. 343.
  27. ^ Becirevic 2014, p. 117.
  28. ^ Cohen 1996, p. 47.
  29. ^ Boose 2002, p. 73.
  30. ^ Johan Vetlesen 2005, p. 197.
  31. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-05-28. Retrieved 2016-01-30.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  32. ^ "Liste complète" [Complete List]. Bureau des Traités (in French). Retrieved 4 January 2018.