Albania looks to address persisting violence against women

Violence against women has been an ugly feature in Albania for the past two decades.

Violence against women has been an ugly feature in Albania for the past two decades.

Civil society representatives in Albania have called on the government to do more to address violence against women, which has plagued the country since the fall of communism. 

The calls came as Albania marked the International Day Against Violence Toward Women earlier this month.

Domestic surveys show a troubling trend of violence against women.

“In Albania, 51 percent of the women surveyed admit they have suffered emotional abuse in their lives, 39 percent have suffered psychological abuse, 31 percent physical abuse and 13 percent have suffered sexual abuse,” according to a recent national sample survey on gender-based violence, implemented by local authorities with the support of the United Nations.

Albanian courts have a strong role to play, experts say. Previous history shows that violence against women is not sentenced harshly enough with men either getting light sentence or probation.

Albania’s Center for Legal Civic Initiative released a study last week on the Albanian courts’ actions on the matter, noting that there is an increase in women who report violence against them – up 55 percent in Tirana to 61 percent in Shkodra.

Many men who use violence against women benefit from silence on the subject and often force their female partners or family members to withdraw charges with the hope that they will return to normal family life, according to the survey

In addition to dealing with violence issues, Albania also has long way to go in terms of how the country treats women in general. Albania ranks very low globally in terms of gender equality, according to international studies. The World Economic Forum’s global gender gap index shows Albania ranks near the bottom, 108th out of 136 countries ranked globally, far below any of the neighbors, and dead last in Europe, with the exception of Turkey.

The treatment of women in Albania is “a badge of shame,” according to an editorial published this week in Tirana Times, the country’s English language weekly newspaper.

“Indifference, often associated with silence about the problem, cannot be allowed to go on. Something must be done – both by the society at large and state structures,” the newspaper writes. “Beyond societal reflection, the state structures need to immediately stop their lukewarm approach to domestic violence and increase penalties for crimes that either go unpunished or are given light punishments.”

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