Report on the National Campaign against Violence against Women in Albania
The population of Albania is young, with an average age of 31.7 and balanced gender ratio, with women constituting 51 % of the population.
Tackling gender-based violence, especially its more common form in Albania - domestic violence - has been a top priority for the government in the last couple of years. Recently there has been a rise in domestic violence in Albania, which mainly takes place against women and girls but also against children and the elderly.
According to the National Strategy for Gender Equality and Domestic Violence, about one third of Albanian women and girls have experienced some sort of domestic violence. It takes many forms: emotional, which is more prevalent in urban areas; physical, which is more prevalent in rural areas; but also sexual, which is less reported. The most affected age-groups are 18-23 and 37-45, while the most affected population groups include women and girls with disabilities, Roma women and girls, and rural women and girls.
The Government of Albania is engaged in an inclusive campaign against domestic violence, in line with the Council of Europe Campaign, taking specific policy and legislative measures to protect and support victims of violence and raise community awareness on domestic violence issues. The campaign has also received support from the Albanian Parliament and the civil society with which the Government of Albania established very close cooperation.
1. Policy and Legislative Measures
The Constitution of the Republic of Albania sanctions the protection of human rights and freedoms and the prohibition of discrimination. In addition, it provides for special protection of the family, the youth and the children, pregnant women and young mothers.
The following pieces of Albanian legislation contain provisions that prevent violence against women, protect victims and heavily punish those that commit violence:
a) Law No 9062 of 8.5.2003 “Family Code”
Article 62 of the Family Code on “Sanctions against Violence” provides that the spouse who is subjected to violence can request the court to order the immediate restrictive measure of banning the abusive spouse from their joint residence.
b) Law No 9669 of 18.12.2006 “On Measures against Domestic Violence” was adopted by the Albanian Parliament, on the basis of a citizen bill supported by over twenty thousand electors, and it came into force on 01.06.2007.
Thus, for the first time, Albania has a specific law in on preventing and reducing domestic violence and protecting victims of domestic violence. The law covers all family relationships when it comes to protection. It stipulates that civil courts can order protective measures for victims, through a quick procedure, called “protection orders”.
Pursuant to this domestic violence law two types of protection orders may be issued:
- The protection order (Articles 10-17) is a court order, specifying a series of protective measures for the victim(s) of domestic violence.
- The emergency protection order (Article 18-20) is a temporary court order that is valid until the issuance of the normal protection order. It can be issued within 48 hours, when the abuser poses direct and immediate threat to the safety, health or well-being of the victim or other family members.
Upon issuance by the court, both types of orders are immediately effective and are valid regardless of notification to the abuser.
Measures that can be taken under a protection order include (Article 10):
§ The person committing violence is ordered to refrain from committing any further acts of violence or threatening to do so against the victim or other victim’s family members;
§ The person committing the violence is banned by the residence for the period specified in the order, with the condition that he/she can access the residence only by further authorisation issued by the court;
§ Victims and minors may be placed to temporary shelters;
§ The person committing violence is restrained or forbidden from meeting the victim’s children;
§ Parental rights of the abuser are temporarily removed and children are placed under temporary custody of the victim parent;
§ The person committing violence is ordered to make periodical payments to cohabitants that, as a result of one of the measures, are stripped of their living means;
§ The victim of domestic violence may be placed to a rehabilitation program;
§ The person committing violence is ordered to participate in rehabilitation programs, etc.
District courts are the competent courts for issuing protection orders. The Law also specifies the subjects that can file a claim for requesting a protection order.
The main responsible enforcement authority for this Law is the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, with the following tasks:
- develop and implement national strategies and programs in the area of domestic violence, victim protection and care;
- fund and co-fund projects that have the goal to protect and consolidate the institution of family and provide care for victims of domestic violence;
- give support for the establishment of auxiliary structures and the overall necessary infrastructure that serves to meet all the needs of victims of domestic violence, including financial assistance, healthcare and social services, in accordance with the legislation in force;
- organize training sessions on domestic violence with local social service staff, police structures and NGOs that have received a license to provide social services;
- keep statistical data on domestic violence;
- support and supervise the establishment of rehabilitation centers for victims of domestic violence;
- support and supervise the establishment of rehabilitation centers for persons committing domestic violence;
- grant licenses to various NGOs that will provide social services for victims of domestic violence and persons committing domestic violence.
The Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Interior and local government are other responsible line authorities.
c) The Albanian Criminal Code does not have any specific provisions on domestic violence, but it addresses domestic violence through other general criminal offences such as beating, wounding, etc. More specifically, they are covered by the Criminal Code sections on criminal offences against the freedom of the individual, criminal offences against human freedom and dignity, criminal offences against children, marriage and family, sexual offences, etc. The Criminal Code also provides for aggravating circumstances when victims are of a minor age, or pregnant, and it also provides for the consequences of the criminal offence.
d) Important international instruments, which are ratified by Albania, include the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and its Protocol, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, etc. They provide individuals (and family members) with adequate protection against violence.
e) The National Strategy on Gender Equality and Against Domestic Violence
The Government of Albania adopted the National Strategy on Gender Equality and Against Domestic Violence (2007-2010) on 19.12.2007. The Strategy demonstrates the political will of the Government, and it is harmonized with civil society initiatives.
One of the strategic priorities is to raise awareness on domestic violence, legal and administrative protection, and support individuals affected by domestic violence and individuals committing domestic violence. The Strategy envisages a clear action plan, specifying the institutions responsible for its implementation.
2. Support for, and Protection of, Victims
a) The Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities is the main government authority that is responsible for addressing domestic violence. It has coordination, support and supervision roles.
A section addressing domestic violence, which will coordinate and monitor the implementation of law No 9669, has been established under the Department of Equal Opportunity Policies at MoLSAEO.
b) The Ministry of Interior
One of the central government structures that are closely related to efforts addressing domestic violence is the Section for the Protection of Minors and Fight against Domestic Violence under the Police General Directorate at the Ministry of Interior.
There are 12 regional offices (sections) for the protection of minors and fight against domestic violence at Regional Police Departments.
In order to provide victims of domestic violence with support and protection, the responsible authorities have adopted several regulations that ensure fast legal defense and psychological assistance for those victims.
c) The Ministry of Health
The Ministry of Health has developed and adopted several regulations on the identification of cases of domestic violence and the provision of healthcare assistance to its victims, including mental health care. The intention is to include psychologists in primary healthcare services, with the aim at giving free psychological assistance to victims of domestic violence, regardless their age, gender, race or ethnicity.
d) Local Government
The Law requires local governments to establish social service structures for addressing domestic violence, provide regional round-the-clock hot lines, establish social rehabilitation centers for victims of domestic violence and individuals committing domestic violence, and coordinate work with existing centers, giving priority to those centers that are specialized in this area.
Council of Ministers Decision, No. 589 of 28.3.2003 “On the Establishment and Operation of the Reception Center for Victims of Trafficking” provides for the sheltering of victims of trafficking. More often than not, such victims are also subjected to violence by their traffickers, who, in quite a few cases, have also been their spouses or intimate partners.
Only a few days ago, the Minister of Labor, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Mr. Koço Barka, confirmed that a government-run Shelter for Abused Women will be established in 2008, in the framework of the cooperation between the Ministry and One UN Albania Program, coupled with a strong referral systems. Similar systems of referral will be established in the counties of Korça, Kukës and Durrës.
There are a few specialized NGOs in Albania that provide services, including safe refuge to victims of violence. Such services come in the form of psychological and social support on the phone, in person or in groups, legal assistance and representation of women in court and administrative procedures, and temporary sheltering of female victims of extreme violence.
3. Statistical Data
There are no complete statistics on domestic violence at national level.
Collecting official statistics on domestic violence is a challenge, as the phenomenon takes place “behind closed doors”. The only sources of information, for most of the cases, are the victims, who, obviously, are not free from community and authorities bias and prejudice.
The Ministry of Interior, however, collects statistics on reported cases, as does the Ministry of Justice on cases that end up in courts. Based on such data, cases of domestic violence increased from 208 in 2006 to 274 in 2007. They were related to such offences as murder, threat, murder attempt, wounding, beating, leading a person to commit suicide, sexual contacts, abortion, forcing a person to cohabitate, burglary, crime against assets, exploitation of prostitution, etc. 2008 statistical data on domestic violence will contain more specific information, given that regional police departments will start using tables and reporting standard forms with more detailed data.
Following the cases that received legal assistance from specialized NGOs, after the Law on Domestic Violence became effective, 25 requests for immediate protection orders were filed with Tirana District Court only, of which 8 have already been approved.
A national survey on domestic violence is being prepared by INSTAT (national Institute of Statistics), with support from UNDP and UNICEF. The survey, whose results are expected to be launched by May 2008, will constitute the first national database containing quantitative data on the prevalence of domestic violence in the country
Since October 2006 the Government of Albania has carried out an awareness-raising campaign across the Albanian society, addressing domestic violence.
The Week against Domestic Violence was organized from 25 November till 10 December 2007, with following specific activities:
Activities by the Albanian Parliament:
“Violence Kills Unless You Speak Up! – React by Saying No to Domestic Violence”.
· The campaign kicked off with a joint press conference (25 November 2007) of the Speaker of Parliament, Ms. Jozefina Topalli (Democratic Party) as well as the Chairwoman of the Parliament Socialist Group, Ms. Valentina Leskaj, and Ms. Lajla Përnaska, Deputy Chair of the Parliament Committee on Gender Issues and Children (Republican Party), where they addressed a strong appeal to Albanians, which was later sent to 250,000 people by e-mail (from 25 November till 30 November 2007).
· A television ad, featuring the Speaker of the Albanian Parliament, condemning domestic violence and denouncing the apathy against it, was broadcast by the Albanian Public Television Network for several months (from 1 November 2007 till 31 January 2008).
· On 30 November 2007 the Parliament of Albania organized the Parliament Day against Domestic Violence. The focus of the day was a reversed gender ratio in the Parliament (130 women vis-à-vis 10 men), under the leadership of the Prime Minister of Albania, Mr. Sali Berisha.
· During that special session, Prime Minister of Albania, Mr. Sali Berisha, stated the importance of the campaign as a significant political action against domestic violence, and declared 2008 as the anti-domestic violence year.
· The message “Violence Kills Unless You Speak Up! – React by Saying No to Domestic Violence” by the Speaker of the Albanian Parliament was propagated through the mobile telephony networks to all mobile subscribers in Albania. (25 – 30 November 2007)
· Speaker of the Parliament held awareness-raising meetings with young people at Korça University (southeast Albania) (18 December 2007) and with over 700 women and men in Vlora (south Albania, 4 March 2008).
· The Speaker of the Parliament initiated the establishment of a Parliamentarian Sub-Committee on Domestic Violence, with only male members. The subcommittee is intended to take initiatives for the education of youth on domestic violence in rural schools, where domestic violence is more problematic.
MoLSAEO activities, in cooperation with other players
· Council of Europe television ad on raising awareness of the prevention of domestic violence.
· National competition on the best essay on domestic violence.
· Launching of the Study on Domestic Violence, which presents the situation in Albania, prepared by NGOs in cooperation with the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities and with support from UNICEF-Albania.
· Preparation and distribution of a poster: Violence against Women Brings Destruction; Let Us Unite for a Family and Society Free of Violence!
· Awareness-raising campaign at local level with the 12 prefectures, with support from UNDP. These workshops were organized with mixed representatives of local authorities, health service, education department, police forces, NGOs etc. with a view to establish coordinated response systems on domestic violence
· Articles on the printed media, intended to raise public awareness of the measures needed to be taken to address domestic violence, including a newspaper supplement, distributed widely on issues of gender equality and domestic violence.
· Round tables with the responsible players for the implementation of the Law on Domestic Violence and the National Gender and Domestic Violence Strategy.
· Training of 584 employees from institutions that have the direct responsibility for the implementation of the Law on Domestic Violence and the National Gender and Domestic Violence Strategy, such as health workers and police, with support from UNDP.
In implementation of existing laws and especially the Strategy, the Ministry of Labour will continue its awareness raising and informative activities at the central and local level, with a view to combat gender stereotypes and discrimination as well as mobilize authorities reaction and eradicate domestic violence.
Traffiking on women and girls
Exploitation of prostitution may be punishable by up to fifteen years of imprisonment. Similarly, the Criminal Code criminalizes ownership of premises where prostitution is exercised and procuring clients for prostitutes.
Recent amendments to criminal laws brought Albanian legislation nearer to international standards. New provisions on trafficking, including the trafficking of women, adopt almost the same definition provided in the additional Trafficking Protocol to the U.N.
Convention on Transnational Organized Crime. These amendments, accompanied by other legislative changes with regard to witness and cooperative witness protection, new investigative techniques and the anti-mafia legal package, collectively seek to suppress all forms of trafficking of women.
Since early 2004 Albania has had a special jurisdiction court, the Serious Crimes Court. Procedural amendments later that year direct all trafficking in persons (TIP) cases to the Serious Crimes Court instead of general jurisdiction courts.
The specific articles of Criminal Code
Article 114/a of the Criminal Code
Articles 114 and 115
Article 113 of the Criminal Code provides: Exercise of prostitution is punishable by fine or imprisonment up to three years
Article 2 of law no. 9188, dated 12 February 2004 “On some additions and amendments to law no.
7895, dated 27 January 1995 The Criminal Code of the Republic of Albania,” provides the following definition for trafficking of women:
“The recruitment, transport, transfer, hiding or receipt of women through threat or use of force or other forms of compulsion, kidnapping, fraud, abuse of office or taking advantage of social, physical or psychological condition or the giving or receipt of payments or benefits, in order to receive the consent of the person who controls another person, with the purpose of exploitation of prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, work or compelled services, slavery or forms similar to slavery, putting to use or transplanting organs, as well as other forms of exploitation, are punished with imprisonment of from seven to fifteen years and with a fine of from three million to six million lek.
The organization, management and financing of the trafficking of woman is punished with imprisonment of from ten to fifteen years and with a fine of from five million to seven million lek.
When this offence is committed in collaboration or more than once, or is accompanied by mistreatment and making the victim commit various actions through the use of physical or psychological force, or brings serious consequences to health, it is punished with imprisonment of not less than fifteen years and with a fine of from six million to eight million lek.
When the offence has brought about the death of the victim as a consequence, it is punished with imprisonment of no less than twenty years or with life imprisonment, as well as with a fine of from seven million to ten million lek.
When the criminal offence is committed through the utilization of a state function or public service, the punishment by imprisonment and the fines are increased by one quarter of the punishment given.”
Assessment of the impact of the Council of Europe Campaign
The Task Force will partly base its assessment of the impact of the Council of Europe Campaign to combat Violence against Women, including Domestic Violence on the following indicators. Please respond by ticking on the boxes.
Albanian Criminal Code does not refer to domestic violence specifically. However, several sections of the Code do provide adequate protection for women, especially Crimes against Life section; Criminal Offences against Individual Liberty and Dignity; Criminal Offences against Children, Marriage and Family; Sexual Crimes section, etc.
In addition, Albanian Criminal Code considers the following as aggravating circumstances, which should be normally taken into account in determining individual punishment: when offences are committed against minors, against pregnant women, or against other individuals unable to defend themselves; when the offence is committed repeatedly; when the offence is committed by taking advantage of family or friendly relations between the victim and perpetrator, when the consequences of the offence are serious wounds or death, etc.
2. Is violence committed by a partner or former partner punished more severely than violence among strangers (eg. gender based violence as such or the abuse of power will be considered an aggravating circumstance)?
Theoretically, severity of punishment for crimes committed by taking advantage of family or friendly relations is higher, pursuant to the Criminal Code. In practice, however, this aggravating circumstance is rarely used. This is related to the level of scrutiny for quality of judicial decisions and the judiciary in general, low level of awareness among law-enforcement and law-application authorites regarding domestic violence, etc.
3. Are victims enabled to seek justice in a human manner (eg. specialised courts on domestic violence, specialised units within the police, the public prosecutor or the judiciary)?
Approval of the law no. 9669 of 18.12.2006 “On measures against violence in family relations” requires establishment of a coordinated and specialised network of authorities – such as social services, police, health system, local authorities etc. – to offer help and specific support to domestic violence victims.
Albanian State Police has recently established Child Protection and Domestic Violence Units at all regional police departments, whereas family sections of the court are authorised to hear anti-domestic violence protection orders cases.
According to the Action Plan against Domestic Violence (which is an integral part of the National Strategy on Gender Equality on Domestic Violence and Gender Equality 2007- 2010) Albanian authorities, in cooperation with international donors, such as UN agencies are training different professionals (judges, prosecutors, police, health workers, social workers, etc.) on the implementation of anti-DV legislation and in responding professionally to DV cases.
4. Does a national emergency 24/7 help-line exist free of charge for victims of domestic violence in your country?
Pursuant to law No. 9669 of. 18.12.2006 “On measures against violence in family relations” it is the local authorities that should establish non-stop hot lines for reporting domestic violence. Currently there are efforts by some local authorities to implement this legal requirement, but tere is still much to be done to comply fully.
5. Have safe shelters been set up for victims of domestic violence in an adequate ratio in your member state? 1
Two of these are run by NGOs and are intended for domestic violence victims whereas one is a government-run shelter on trafficking victims. However, the latter has been lately receiving domestic violence victims too.
6. Is administrative data being collected on victims of domestic violence?
According to the domestic violence law, mentioned above, The Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities is tasked with gathering and maintaining a national database on domestic violence. Information that will be entered on the national database will be received by Ministry of Interior (and the Albanian State Police), Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Health. Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Health have progressed in building and consolidating the collection of statistics regarding domestic violence, whereas Ministry of Justice has not yet started.
7. Is domestic violence considered as a human rights violation to be addressed in your legal system?