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Kosovo Failing to Protect Domestic Violence Victims, Amnesty Warns

Despite widespread protests and demands for Kosovo authorities to take action against domestic violence, Amnesty International concluded in a new report on Wednesday that authorities continue to fail to protect domestic violence victims.

Lauren Aarons, Amnesty International’s Deputy Program Director and Head of Gender, said: “Survivors of domestic violence in Kosovo face obstacles in every direction as they try to leave abusive situations. The authorities’ response is too narrowly focused on criminal prosecutions.”

In a press release by Amnesty International, Aarons said: “Almost all survivors are required to report violence to the police in order to access shelters. At the same time, not enough is being done to support survivors to live independent lives away from abuse. Survivors from marginalised groups are also being forgotten.”

Amnesty’s report, “From paper to practice: Kosovo must keep its commitments to domestic violence survivors”, said most victims are women and girls, struggling “to obtain protection and accessing justice and support”.

Some obstacles they face include “legal entitlements, such as alimony, and inadequate support services for survivors leaving shelters. Survivors also described harmful prejudice from police officers, overworked social workers, unhelpful or absent victim advocates and a lack of information about their rights or available remedies and assistance”.

“Survivors from ethnic minority communities such as Serb, Roma, Ashkali and Kosovo-Egyptian communities, and LGBTI survivors face additional barriers due to intersecting forms of discrimination that they face.”

Amnesty noted that women in Kosovo often are not able to leave abusive households due to lack of employment opportunities and/or lack of property rights. According to the report only 17 per cent of Kosovo women were formally employed in 2017, compared to 50 per cent of men, and in the same year, women owned only 18 per cent of property compared to 79 per cent owned by men.

Property rights of Kosovo women are often violated by them being excluded from family inheritance and/or often being disadvantaged during property division in divorce proceedings. and the property division between spouses in divorce proceedings also tends to disadvantage women.

Even when Kosovo women leave abusive households, they only receive short-term support with no assistance in gaining financial independence and professional qualifications for employment.

“The Kosovo authorities have committed to putting survivors at the centre of their response to domestic violence. Now they need to turn this commitment into action. This means providing sufficient resources, but also listening to survivors and working with them to develop more comprehensive and rights-respecting responses,” Aarons said.

The report acknowledges that Kosovo has taken steps to strengthen legislation and improve policies in support of domestic violence survivors, but says more needs to be done to protect their rights, by involving survivors in decision-making.

Iin March 2023, the Kosovo parliament approved a new draft law, harmonized with the so-called Istanbul Convention and other human rights conventions, on prevention and protection from domestic violence, violence against women and gender-based violence.

But the report explains that several gaps remain in terms of state support, along with a lack of will to draw on the experiences and expertise of survivors in policy-making.

The report concluded that survivors often face disrespectful treatment when reporting cases to the police, often even being guilt-tripped, while courts never order perpetrators to pay compensation.

Source : BalkanInsight