Violence Against Women in Kosovo
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Population of women: (estimated) 998,000/2,000,000
Life expectancy of women (at birth): approx. 75 years
School life expectancy for women: n/a
Net Attendance Rate for women ages 10-14:  96.5% and ages 15-19: 54%
Adult illiteracy for women: 9.1%
Unemployment of women (percentage of total unemployment): 56%
Adult economic activity rate: n/a

SourceProfile: KosovoUnited Nations Population Fund, March 2005. See also Women and Men 2010. (Some statistics provided may be from previous years and other sources as cited in Profile: Kosovo.)

Last Updated April 2010


Kosovo is a parliamentary democracy, and has been so since February 17, 2008 when it declared its independence.  Previously, Kosovo was an international protectorate administered by the United Nations that was technically a part of Serbia and Montenegro, but where the legal authority of the region was the UN Interim Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which was passed in 1999, granted UNMIK considerable autonomy in Kosovo, and the rule of law in Kosovo was set forth in regulations promulgated by UNMIK.  Today, internationally-sponsored mechanisms have assisted in implementing the rule of law.   

Kosovo has been recognized by many European, American, African and Asian states, but has not been recognized by Serbia.  As of January 2010, 64 countries had recognized its independence.  Despite any disagreement on its recognition, the Kosovo Government continues to develop and stabilize.  The Kosovo Assembly, which has been active since 2002, approved Kosovo’s Constitution on April 9, 2008, and it entered into force on June 15, 2008. In November 2009, Kosovo held its first round of elections since independence which were generally deemed free and fair by international observers. The judicial system has been active, taking on a new charter in June of 2008.  

Historically, the unrest in the country detracted from the government's ability to protect the human rights of the citizens of Kosovo. Women, in particular, were impacted by the conflict, and violence against women was a widespread and serious problem.  In 2003, UNIFEM reported the following in regard to women's situation in Kosovo:

"Kosovar women experienced the 1999 conflict in a multitude of ways. While in a few cases they took up arms, the majority of them lived through the crisis as civilians. Thousands of Kosovar women fell victim to "ethnic cleansing", thousands were killed, three-hundred villages were destroyed and more than 200,000 refugees fled the country. Between May and September 1999, 860,000 people were displaced. Although ethnically Albanian women were targeted in greater number, ethnically Serbian, Roma, Egyptian and Ashkaelia women also experienced forced displacement, violence and insecurity."

The report also claimed that women from ethnic minorities continued to be targeted post-conflict. In fact, women from all statuses and ethnic origins continued to feel the repercussions of the violence that occurred in Kosovo long after the immediate violence ended. To that end, the interim mission (UNMIK) took steps to improve the status of women and stop violence. For example, in October 1999, an Office of Gender Affairs was established within the framework of UNMIK, according to UNIFEM. More recent steps have built upon that foundation, and have sought to develop new structures that conform to international standards on the protection and promotion of human rights and the rights of women. 

International treaties, resolutions, conventions and principles are taken into account in numerous forms.  The Constitution stipulates that international human rights standards are applicable in Kosovo.  More specifically, CEDAW is enshrined in Article 22 of Kosovo’s Constitution. The Millennium Declaration has been endorsed as of October 2008.  UNMIK Regulation 2001/4 prohibits trafficking in persons and criminalizes it. UNMIK Regulation 2003/1 extends the crime of rape to cases of martial rape. 

The law prohibits any discrimination on the basis of race, gender, ethnic origin, disability, or language.  In August 2004 the so-called Anti-Discrimination Law was promulgated under UNMIK Regulation 2004/32 and the law seeks to combat discrimination and promote equality.  The Law on Gender Equality entered into force in July of 2004.  That law was based largely on UNMIK Regulation 2001/9 on a Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government in Kosovo. Its stated purpose is to “preserve, treat and establish gender equality as a fundamental value for the democratic development of the Kosovo society, providing equal opportunities for both female and male participation in the political, economical, social cultural and other fields of social life.” 

In 2004 the Government of Kosovo established the Office for Gender Equality within Office of the Prime Minister and each ministry appointed a Gender Equality Officer. Local government bodies by the Law on Gender Equality (2004) are to establish an Office of Gender Affairs and shall appoint a Gender Affairs Officer in each municipality.


With the decision of Kosovo Government No. 03/2006 dated 12.07.06, the Gender Equality Office/ the Prime Minister’s Office since 1 September 2006 has been transformed into the Gender Equality Agency, within the Prime Minister’s Office. The Agency for  Gender Equality (AGE) , in accordance with its mandate implements and monitors the implementation of the Law on Gender Equality 2004(approved by the Assembly of Kosovo), by promoting values and equal opportunity regardless of gender. In addition, in accordance with the above law, the AGE works closely with public institutions, EU and international government, and as well nongovernmental organizations which are active in the field of gender equality and ensures partial financing for their projects or activities.


In April of 2004 the Provisional Criminal Code entered into force. The Provisional Criminal Code punishes the violation of equal status of individuals (Article 158). Article 158(1) punishes anyone who "unlawfully denies or limits the freedoms or rights of a resident of Kosovo" based on protected grounds, including sex, by imprisonment of six months to five years. If a public official commits the offense through his or her official capacity, the prison sentence ranges from six months to seven years, depending on the type of violation. An Ombudsperson has been created as an independent institution with jurisdiction to hear complaints of human rights violations from individuals or entities in Kosovo. In 2004, along with the Law on Gender Equality, the Ombudsperson established a specialized unit on gender equality. 

Domestic violence, while probhibited by law, remains one of the most prevalent forms of violence against women in Kosovo.  One 2008 study found that 43% of Kosovars (women and men) had suffered domestic violence at some point in their lives.  According to UNIFEM, between 2002 and 2007, 7660 reports of domestic violence were received. Between January and November 2009, as indicated in the the U.S. 2009 Human Rights Report, 856 cases of domestic violence were reported to police, with 80% of those victims being women. Civil law includes penalties that can include prison terms of six months to five years for cases of domestic violence. It is important to note, however, that domestic violence is heavily underreported, and where reported, convictions are rare. 

A new Law on Protection against Domestic Violence was decreed by the then President of Kosovo in 2010. There are numerous problems in adjudicating domestic violence cases, including significant instances of delays.  

Article 153 of the Provisional Criminal Code, which entered into force on 6 April 2004, also punishes light bodily harm by a fine or a maximum prison sentence of one year. Article 153(4) states that when the offense is committed against a "person with whom the perpetrator has a domestic relationship," the perpetrator may be punished by imprisonment of three months to three years. Article 154, which criminalizes "grievous bodily harm," punishes the offense by six months to ten years, depending on the degree of physical injury. When a domestic relationship exists between the perpetrator and the victim, the minimum sentence increases to one year or two years, depending on the degree of physical injury.

There are also institutional mechanisms in place to help enforce women’s rights in the context of domestic violence.  The Office for Gender Affairs was created to advise on policy decisions and other decisions with respect to women’s rights. The Kosovo Police has a special Domestic Violence Unit, and each region has a corresponding unit. The Police also established a General Advisory Board in 2004 that included a Domestic Violence Unit. Similarly, the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare has developed special sections dedicated to dealing with family violence, and sometimes supports shelters for domestic violence victims. 

On 6 January 2003, amendments to the Criminal Code of the Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo relating to rape entered into force. UNMIK Regulation No. 2003/1 punishes rape under Articles 74, 75 and 76. Article 74 imposes a prison sentence of one to ten years for forcing another to have sexual intercourse by force or threat of violence. If the offense results in serious physical harm or death of the victim, was committed in a particularly cruel, humiliating, or grave manner, or was committed by several individuals, the minimum prison sentence is three years. Article 75 imposes a prison sentence of six months to five years for forcing another to have sexual intercourse by threats to reputation or threats of serious cruelty to another person. Article 76 imposes a prison sentence of three months to five years for having sexual intercourse with a helpless person. The Provisional Criminal Code, not yet in force, punishes various sexual offenses. Article 193 defines rape as forcing another person to engage in a sexual act without consent, or by force, threat of harm, or exploiting a person's circumstances. "Sexual act" is defined as the "penetration of any part of the body of a person with a sexual organ, or the penetration of the anal or genital opening of a person with any object or any other part of the body" (Article 192(3)). Consent is defined as "the voluntary agreement of a person who has reached the age of sixteen years to engage in the sexual act in question" (Article 192(1)). Articles 192 (1) to (4) further states what is not considered consent, including: an expression of non-agreement through words or conduct; an agreement that is expressed by someone other than the victim; an agreement that is obtained through deception, fear or intimidation and where force, threat or exploitation has not been used; and, an inability to consent due to chemical impairment.  The Provisional Criminal Code also punishes forcing another to commit sexual acts through threats to honor or reputation (Article 194); sexual assault (Article 195); degradation of sexual integrity (Article 196); sexual abuse of someone with mental or emotional disorders (Article 197); sexual abuse of children under sixteen years of age (Article 198), and promotion of sexual acts or sexual touching of children under sixteen years of age (Article 199).

While there is no explicit prohibition of sexual harassment, Article 78(1) imposes imprisonment of three months to three years on any person who, by abusing his or her position, forces a subordinate or dependent person to engage in sexual intercourse. The Provisional Criminal Code punishes forcing another person to engage in a sexual act by abusing control over the victim's circumstances with six months to five years' imprisonment (Article 200(1)(1)).

The Family Law was promulgated in February of 2006, and regulates marriage relations and relationships with children. The law strongly emphasizes reconciliation and thus courts often do the same. In order to balance reconciliation interests with concerns for the safety of women, risk assessments are recommended according to the Law on Social Protection (Article 34). 

Trafficking continues to be a serious problem in Kosovo, which serves as a source, transit and destination point for victims of trafficking. Trafficking is prohibited under UNMIK Regulation No. 2001/4 "On the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons in Kosovo." Section 1 defines trafficking as "the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation." Section 2 prescribes the punishment for trafficking, which is a criminal offense, as two to twelve years' imprisonment (Section 2.1). The sentence increases to a maximum of fifteen years if the victim is a juvenile (Section 2.2) and to a maximum of twenty years if more than one victim is trafficked. Facilitating trafficking through negligence is also punishable by six months to five years' imprisonment (Section 2.4). The Regulation also criminalizes other aspects of trafficking, including withholding of identification papers (Section 3) and using or procuring the sexual services of a trafficked victim (Section 4). Chapter 3 addresses victim protection and assistance. Section 10 provides for victim assistance, including free interpretation, free legal aid, temporary residence, social welfare, and psychological and medical services. A Victim Assistance Coordinator is authorized to carry out the Regulation and aid victims of trafficking (Section 9). Since February of 2000, the International Organization for Migration has provided assistance to several trafficking victims in Kosovo and is one of the leading organizations that aids trafficking victims.  In May 2005, the “Kosova Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings (2005-2007)” was adopted.

Finally, the Kosovo Program for Gender Equality (2008-2013), a strategic program to institute gender equality in all policies and programs, was approved in 2008.

Complied from:

2009 Human Rights Report: Kosovo, Released by the U.S. Department of State, March 2010.

Background Note: Kosovo, Released by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, 2010. 

Country Profiles: Kosovo, Released by United Nations Development Fund for Women, Regional Programme for Central and East Asia, last updated January 2010. 

Gender-Based Violence in Kosovo, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) – Women, Peace and Security Initiative, 2005.  

Exploratory Research on The Extent of Gender-Based Violence in Kosova and Its Impact on Women’s Reproductive Health, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) – Kosova Women’s Network, 2008.


Kosovo Program for Gender Equality (2008-2013). (English version begins on page 93.)