“Language can be unlearned, just as it can be learned” (dr. Sandra Zlotrg)
Gender-sensitive language is a gender-sensitive policy which contributes to reducing discrimination in language and equal visibility of sexes. Jasmina ?auĹˇevi? and Sandra Zlotrg, authors of Ways for overcoming linguistic discrimination in language and education, the media and legal documents, speak of the way political power is reflected in language, and state that rejecting the generic use of masculine generics in spoken in written language, whereby women are neither seen nor heard but merely implied, is the first step towards an equal division of power. Language is, among other things, a paradigm of ideological, social, economic, legal and political relationships in a society.
It is widely accepted that language cannot be considered an isolated phenomenon, but must be observed in social context. The need for strengthening gender equality through the use of gender-sensitive language in political and parliamentary work was recognised by the project Strengthening governing institutions and processes in BiH (SGIP) and the International Republican Institute (IRI). In cooperation with professors of Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian, and with the support of the Committee on Gender Equality of the House of Representatives of the BiH Parliament, recommendations and proposals were made to strengthen equality in language use in parliaments.
The House of Representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly adopted the initiative to introduce gender-sensitive language in BiH Parliamentary Assembly’s communication in 2012, when the working group for the initiative was formed. The working group defined the legal framework of the documents, provided instructions for using gender-sensitive language in creating legislature adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH and the Secretariat of the Assembly, provided general instructions for use in documents detailing individual rights, and provided proposals for amendments and supplements to existing documents such as rules of procedure, employees’ job descriptions (respecting their wishes with regards to their titles), etc. The adoption of the working group’s materials, brought to life gender-sensitive language in communication of the BiH Parliament.
Recognising and fighting discriminatory practices in language is an ongoing process which requires continual work, on an individual and social level. Gender-sensitive and politically correct speech has to be present in literature, the media, legal documents, and in public discourse in general.
Professions and titles are a political issue, because as long as there are categories such as housemaid, housekeeper, stewardess (which no one considers ludicrous of ungainly), there should also be chairwomen, policewomen, spokeswomen, poetesses. Otherwise, we clearly show which place Â«heÂ» and Â«sheÂ» are allowed to occupy in society. (Manual Ways for overcoming linguistic discrimination in language and education, the media and legal documents, Jasmina ?auĹˇevi? and Sandra Zlotrg).
“By appearing in spaces in which they were heretofore not present, women gained the opportunity to be addressed in the female gender, in accordance with the nature of a given language. The richness of our language enables precisely that â€“ ensuring fairness on a gender basis through language, which also brings forth precision ultimately resulting in improved communication.” (Biljana Babi?, PhD)
“The habit of subsuming women under masculine generics is a bad one. It was acquired though centuries of male visibility and female invisibility. Its alibi was the public space where men spoke, acted and made decisions. It seems justified today as well, but its advocates have no argument to support it save inertia.” (Nenad Veli?kovi?, PhD)
Only if we raise consciousness on this issue can legal mechanisms such as the Law on Gender Equality in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination can bring to life the idea of linguistic equality.