Violence Against Women in Albania
Albania
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Population of women: 1,605,900/3,169,100
Life expectancy of women (at birth): 80
School life expectancy for women: 11
Women's adult literacy: 99%
Unemployment of women: 28.4%
Women engaged in economic activity: 49%

Source: UN Statistics Division, Social Indicators, updated June 2011

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
last updated January 2009
 
Gender Equality
 
Albania's new Constitution, which came into effect in 1998, guarantees equality before the law in Article 18, which states that "all are equal before the law" as well as "No one may be unjustly discriminated against for reasons such as gender, race, religion, ethnicity, language, political, religious or philosophical beliefs, economic condition, education, social status, or ancestry." However, political turbulence and a transition to a market economy have created unstable conditions in Albania in recent years. Although Albanian women have some rights before the law, these rights are not always enforced. The Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities was made responsible for promoting gender equality via amendments to the Gender Equality Act of 2004. After his visit to Albania in 2007, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights reported that the Ministry could have a “real and concrete impact” if it was properly empowered and funded. The Commissioner noted that women are underrepresented in Parliament and other areas of political or public decision-making. He also noted that “direct and indirect discrimination against women remains a consistent problem” because of the society’s silence and acceptance. While Albania had acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and had adopted national strategies or plans of action against gender-based violence and for gender equality, the Commissioner said that all three programs could be more comprehensively implemented.  There is a draft law On An Equal Gender Society (MS Word, 7 pages) that would make great strides in addressing these issues, but as of late 2008 it was still under consideration.
 
Domestic Violence
 
Domestic violence is a serious problem in Albania.  The transition to a free market has left women in a particularly vulnerable position, as they have become increasingly economically dependent on men due to a lack of jobs and social support. In its Albania 2008 Progress Report, the Commission of the European Communities said that domestic violence was “significant and increasing” due to lack of enforcement. The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights reported that domestic violence was under-reported, -investigated, -prosecuted and -sentenced. Part of the problem seems to be that the victims themselves do not see domestic violence as a crime, and even if they do, they fear reporting incidents will bring shame onto their families. The Albanian government itself noted these problems, and so developed a National Strategy on Gender Equality and Domestic Violence for 2007-2010.
 
The Law on Measures Against Violence in Family Relations (entered into force 1 June 2007) was designed to prevent and reduce domestic violence, and to guarantee victims’ protection. Several Albanian women’s non-governmental organizations had presented the draft law to Parliament in 2006 through a citizens’ petition of over 20,000 signatures. The law defined domestic violence as “any act of violence … committed between persons who are or used to be in a family relation,” violence being “any act or omission of one person against another, resulting in violation of the physical, moral, psychological, sexual, social and economic integrity.”
 
The law also organized the government into a coordinated network against domestic violence by identifying five “responsible authorities” (the lead authority is the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities). It empowered the judiciary by identifying more than ten protection measures which courts could include in protection orders. Additionally, it provides for expedited victim assistance through an emergency protection order, which a court must decide on within 48 hours of the petition’s filing. Recently, the Ministry of Labor reorganized to integrate a new domestic violence unit. With UN help, the unit reinforced the capacity of social workers, health workers, the police, and local authorities to tackle domestic violence. But prevention is still a problem, because failure to fully implement the law has led to low enforcement.
 
Domestic violence can be prosecuted under the general crime of assault in the Criminal Code. Serious intentional injury is punishable under Article 88 by three to ten years of imprisonment. Non-serious intentional injury is punishable under Article 89 by a fine or up to two years of imprisonment. Under Article 90, other intentional harm is punishable by a fine or up to six months of imprisonment. Interruption of pregnancy without the woman’s consent is punishable by a fine or up to five years in prison under Article 93.  Under Article 284 of the Criminal Procedure Code, crimes of non-serious intentional injury, including rape and sexual harassment, can be prosecuted only when the victim files a complaint. The Counseling Center for Women and Girls is a resource for victims of domestic or other kinds of violence.  The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) created a handbook (must be a registered OSCE user; follow links to document in English or Albanian) with Frequently Asked Questions for Albanian women who are victims of domestic violence.
 
Sexual Assault
 
Section VI, entitled “Sexual Crimes” of the Criminal Code addresses rape. Article 102 establishes a punishment of three to ten years for non-consensual intercourse with adult women.  If serious consequences affecting the health of the victim occur, the punishment increases from five to fifteen years of imprisonment. If the offense leads to the victim's death or suicide, the sentence increases from ten to twenty years of imprisonment.  Article 284 establishes that the party injured under the first paragraph of Article 102 must file a complaint to begin the prosecution.
 
Articles 100 and 101 pertain to intercourse with minors. Under Article 100, intercourse with minor children, who have not reached the age of 14, or with a minor girl who has not reached sexual maturity, is punishable by seven to fifteen years of imprisonment.   If the sexual intercourse is committed in collusion with others, or repeatedly, or by force, or if serious consequences to health have been caused to the injured child, it is punishable by fifteen to twenty-five years of imprisonment. If the offense caused the death or suicide of the minor child, it is punishable by at least twenty years of imprisonment.  Under Article 101, non-consensual sexual intercourse with a minor between the ages of 14-18 is punishable by five to ten years of imprisonment.  If the sexual intercourse is committed by force with the collusion of others, or repeatedly, or if serious consequences to health have been caused to the injured child, it is punishable by ten to twenty years of imprisonment. If the offense caused the death or suicide of the minor child, it is punishable by not less than twenty years of imprisonment. Article 105 punishes sexual intercourse through the abuse of authority or a subordinate relationship up to three years' imprisonment.  Again, Article 284 of the Criminal Procedure Code establishes that the party injured under Article 105 must file a complaint to begin the prosecution. 
 
The law on rape does not exclude spousal rape, but in its Operational Guidance Note: Albania for 2008, the United Kingdom Home Office’s Border & Immigration Agency reported that spousal rape incidents were not reported or prosecuted, as many citizens and government authorities do not consider it a crime.
 
Trafficking
 
In January 2001, the Criminal Code was amended by Law No. 8733 to explicitly penalize trafficking in persons. Article 110a "Trafficking of Human Beings" penalizes trafficking with a prison sentence of five to fifteen years. If the offense is committed with an accomplice(s), has been committed before by the perpetrator, or causes serious health impairment, the minimum sentence is fifteen years. If the trafficking results in the victim's death, the punishment increases to life imprisonment. Article 114b, "Trafficking of women for prostitution" imposes a punishment of seven to fifteen years for trafficking women for material profit or other gain through prostitution. When aggravating factors are present, such as complicity, maltreatment, threats, or harm to health, the sentence increases to a period of fifteen years to life imprisonment.  If the crime results in death, the perpetrator is may be punished with life in prison.  Section IX of the Criminal Code, addresses “Criminal Acts against Children, Marriage and Family.”   Article 128b entitled "Trafficking of children" establishes a prison sentence of ten to twenty years for offenders. The sentencing is increased to fifteen years when aggravating factors are present or life imprisonment if the victim dies.  Under Article 113 of the Criminal Code prostitution is punishable by a fine or up to three years' imprisonment.  A report by the Council of Europe observed that Albanian law is unclear whether the prostitute and/or the client are punishable under the law.  Under Article 114, brothel keeping is punishable by a fine or up to ten years' imprisonment.
 
Also in 2001, an  International Anti-Trafficking Center was opened in October to monitor trafficking and aid police in investigating trafficking in the region. According to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Anti-Trafficking Office and Rule of Law and the Human Rights Department recently drafted a Memorandum of Understanding between OSCE, the International Organization for Migration, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Albanian government bodies and other missions to create a framework on witness protection measures.
 
According to an Amnesty International Report, the Albanian police reported that trafficking of women and children decreased sharply in 2007, with thirteen reported cases in which the victims were women and seven cases involving children.  However, NGOs suspect that there are many more cases that go unreported.  Eight men were convicted of trafficking women and two other men were convicted of trafficking children. Witness protection is still problematic so many victims fear reporting crimes.  A 2004 Human Rights Watch Report  observed that the Albanian government still has many obstacles to implementing its anti-trafficking strategy. They say in particular that prosecution “is the weakest link in the system,” noting that very few suspected traffickers were convicted.
 
Albania signed and ratified the Council of Europe’s Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings in 2005 and 2007, respectively; it entered into force there on 1 February 2008.  The Convention is truly comprehensive, covering prevention, prosecution and victim protection (children, women and men), as well as multiple trafficking markets (sex industry, forced labor, etc.).  The U.S. Department of State's 2008 Country Report on Human Rights Practices notes that Albania is still a source country for trafficking in persons, but is no longer considered a major transit country. Although Albania has made significant progress in past years, shown by its jump from its previous Tier 3 ranking in 2000 to a Tier 2 ranking from 2001 to 2007, in 2008 it dropped to a Tier 2 Watch List ranking.  The Department of State says this is because the Albanian government failed to make increased efforts toward protecting victims, or at least failed to provide evidence of such efforts.  Of the 49 suspected traffickers who were prosecuted, seven were convicted, with sentences ranging from five to 16 years. 
 
Sexual Harassment
 
There is very little information available on the prevalence of sexual harassment toward women in Albania. The Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, responsible for promoting gender equality, also noted this absence in its National Strategy on Gender Equality and Domestic Violence for 2007-2010. At present, there is a draft law entitled On An Equal Gender Society (MS Word, 7 pages) that would broadly define sexual harassment as “an offensive behavior of sexual nature that includes words or actions against a person at work, business or other dependence relations,” but as of late 2008 it was still under consideration. If passed, this law would impose new duties on employers (among others), including the duties to take measures against, and to protect employees from, sexual harassment (Articles 4, 6).  The scope of the law is limited to public life; religious and private are expressly excluded from the law (Article 1).
 
Compiled from:
 
Albania: Violence Against Women in the Family: "It's Not Her Shame," Amnesty International, 30 March 2006 (index no. EUR 11/002/2006) (in HTML or PDF, and in English or Albanian).
Albania 2008 Progress Report, Commission of the European Communities to the European Parliament and the Council (COM(2008)674), 5 November 2008 (PDF, 55 pages).
Albanian Constitution, approved by the Albanian Parliament on 21 October 1998 (PDF, 41 pages).
Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, Council of Europe (CETS No. 197) (entered into force 1 February 2008).
Criminal Code of the Republic of Albania, adopted by People’s Assembly of the Government of the Republic of Albania, 27 January 1995 (No. 7895), most recently amended 24 January 2001 (No. 9733).
Criminal Procedure Code of the Republic of Albania, translated by American Bar Association Europe and Eurasia Program (CEELI) (as of 29 January 1999).
Law On An Equal Gender Society, draft law before the Assembly of the Republic of Albania (No. 9198), unofficial translation provided by OSCE Presence in Albania (26 February 2004) (MS Word, 7 pages).
National Strategy on Gender Equality and Domestic Violence 2007-2010, Government of Albania Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, translated into English by OSCE, 2007 (PDF, 149 pages).
Operational Guidance Note: Albania, United Kingdom Home Office’s Border & Immigration Agency, December 2008 (PDF, 22 pages).
Report by the Commissioner for Human Rights Mr. Thomas Hammarberg on His Visit to Albania, Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, 18 June 2008 (PDF, 25 pages).
Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 – Albania, United States Department of State, 4 June 2008. Posted online at UNHCR Refworld.
World Report 2003: Albania, Human Rights Watch.