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Agnes Scott College

Publication Date

Spring 2007

Program Name

The Balkans: Gender, Transformation, and Civil Society


Croatia is a country in transition. After decades of officially minimizing differences between itself and the rest of the former Yugoslavia, Croatia is now fiercely fighting to establish its own unique identity. As part of that battle, Croats have embraced their folk traditions, and they have brought the Catholic Church back into prominence. Approximately 85% of Croatians are Roman Catholic, and the Croatian government and the Catholic Church have very strong ties (Drakulic 1993: 125). As is the case in many transitional countries, the embracing of folk culture and its norms, coupled with the resurgence of the Catholic Church has brought about a period of intense repatriarchalization. With it has come an intense pressure for women to conform to traditional gender roles. For example, many experts believe that “the content of the educational system is gender biased, reinforces traditional views of family and sexuality” (ASTRA Network 23: 2006).

One main arena of repatriarchalization has come been that of reproductive rights. Croatia’s reproductive policies are pronatalist, due in large part to the upsurge in ethnic nationalist in the region that started during the Balkans war. Pronatalism, with its deeply nationalistic roots, has profoundly shaped ethnicity and gender relations in Croatia. In an effort to consolidate their numerical superiority within their “home territory,” as well as to compensate for high wartime death rates and overall low birthrates, most former Yugoslavian countries embraced policies that increased birthrates. The Catholic Church’s strong presence in Croatia also promotes pronatalism. This has led to a series restrictions on contraceptives and abortions, along with systematically under-educating young Croats about contraceptives and STDs.

Reproductive freedom is central to gender equality and a high standard of living. Women who cannot control when they reproduce are unable to make meaningful long term plans. Understanding how women feel about and actually use the current reproductive health system is crucial to being able to provide better services and create better policy in the region. This research addresses questions regarding Croatian women’s attitudes towards and experiences with contraceptives and the reproductive health system. It seeks to determine how the government’s church led pronatalist policies impact Croatian women’s conscious control of their reproductive lives, given that “reproductive rights imply informed choice on family planning, birth and birth spacing” (Lancker 2007: 1). This topic involves women’s agency in choosing how to regulate their reproductive lives, and their actual experiences making those choices within the current system.

For the purpose of this research, conscious control over reproductive choices is defined as having enough information to make intelligent choices, having the social backing to make those choices and having the resources readily available to support those choices (potentially changing from sexual encounter to sexual encounter) to have or to not have children over the course of fertility. The primary data will be gained through interviews, and secondary data will be heavily referenced.


Gender and Sexuality | Inequality and Stratification


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