Expert’s take: Civil society has the potential to play a major role in ending violence against women

Date: Friday, September 29, 2017

About the author

Agustela Nini-Pavli. Photo courtesy of Agustela Nini-Pavli.
Agustela Nini-Pavli. Photo courtesy of Agustela Nini-Pavli.

Agustela Nini-Pavli is a Project Analyst at the UN Women office in Albania, focusing on efforts to end violence against women and girls as part of the regional ‘Implementing Norms, Changing Minds’ programme. She is a human rights lawyer with extensive experience in the integration of human rights, including women’s rights, in development programming. Prior to joining UN Women, Agustela worked as a consultant with various UN agencies and other development organizations.

On the morning of August 19, the first piece of news that grabbed my attention was that of a 53-year-old woman killed by her husband in the village of Fier, Albania. She was working their land when her husband hit her with the tool she was using. The next day, there was another case of domestic violence in Elbasan: the perpetrator happened to be a former Member of the Albanian Parliament, who threatened to kill his ex-partner. The following day, in the suburbs of Tirana, a man killed his wife before committing suicide. The lack of public reaction to this wave of violence against women was almost as disheartening as the violence itself. The regularity of the media coverage turned these events into a mundane fact of life, like the unrelenting heat of August.

But there was no end to the heartbreaking succession of news. Only a few days later, a 39-year-old judge was shot dead by her ex-husband in Tirana. This time, however, there was an immediate outcry in the mainstream and social media. There were strong statements from high-level politicians, public figures, civil society representatives and international organizations, condemning the violence against women in Albania. The case became prominent because it shed light on the problems in the Albanian justice system. The ex-husband had physically abused and threatened the judge on a previous occasion, and served time for domestic violence and the unlawful possession of weapons. He was, however, given a light sentence and was released early thanks to a general amnesty.

Normally, few cases of violence against women receive this kind of attention. Almost three out of five Albanian women aged 15 to 49 have experienced domestic violence: 58 per cent of women reported experiencing psychological violence at some point in their marriage and/or intimate relationship and 23.7 per cent reported being victims of physical violence [1]. In 2016, close to a quarter of people murdered in Albania were victims of domestic violence [2]. However, the number of cases reported to law enforcement agencies remains low. From January to June 2017, 2,035 cases of domestic violence were reported to the Albanian state police [3]. However, as a result of awareness-raising activities, the number of reported cases has increased over the years [4].

While the Government has made efforts to address the problem, violence against women remains prevalent in Albania. Further legal changes are needed, as well as significant investment in human and financial resources in the justice, police, health and social services sectors. Women under protection orders need to feel safe and effectively protected. The impunity of perpetrators should end and violation of protection orders should not be tolerated. Government officials also need to understand that gender-based violence in Albania will not decrease without a strong civil society and should use the opportunity to benefit from both the technical support and oversight that civil society organizations can provide.

Read the full story on UN Women's website for Eruope and Central Asia

Notes

[1] Domestic Violence in Albania National population-based Survey, 2013. 

[2] Women and men in Albania, 2016, INSTAT, 2017

[3] Administrative data from the Albanian State Police