Kosovo’s New Law on Gender Equality: The Good, The Bad, The Questionable

By Donjeta Morina and Nicole Farnsworth, Kosovo Women’s Network
Almost everyone seems to have an opinion about gender equality. For some, it is a “none issue”: men and women are ostensibly equal. For others, men and women can never be equal because we are fundamentally, biologically different. Still oth




Juvenile crime suspects



Property owners



Persons repatriated (2010)



Presidents (ever)



Prime Ministers (ever)



National Assembly Members



Chairs of Assembly Committees






Municipal Directors of Directorates



Municipal Assembly Members



Civil Service



Gross Upper Secondary Enrolment



Upper Secondary School Drop out



Labour Force Participation Rate 2012



Labour Force Participation Rate 2009






Youth Unemployment



Youth not in employment, education or training (NEET) 15-24 years



Business owners



Net income from Self Business



Accounts at formal financial institutions



% of women and men suffering domestic violence in their lifetimes (2008)



Nr. and % of domestic violence victims (reported to police, 2013)





Source:  Country Gender Profile, 2014

 ers believe that gender equality is important for the wellbeing of women and men, and that it has yet to be achievedAmid this debate, ample evidence exists that men, women, girls, and boys in Kosovo (and the world more broadly) are unequal (see table). Women are much less likely than men to own property or businesses, to be employed, to have bank accounts, to hold decision-making positions in government, or to live a life without violence. Men are more likely to drop out of secondary school early and to perpetrate violence. Indeed, gender equality is not only about women. It affects everyone.
Even so, in Kosovo women tend to be marginalized and discriminated against socially, culturally, economically and politically in many more ways than men. Given the inequalities that exist among women and men, Kosovo arguably needs affirmative measures towards creating a more equal society. This is what the new Law on Gender Equality seeks to accomplish: to “guarantee, protect and promote equality between genders as a basic value of democratic development of society” (Art. 1.1). It sets forth “general and specific measures to ensure and protect the equal rights of men and women, and defines the Institutions responsible and their competencies” (Art 1.2).
The new Law differs from the prior Law on Gender Equality Law (2004) in several important ways, summarized here.
What’s Good? (In KWN’s Opinion)
  • True equality: Equal representation is no longer defined as at least 40% of either gender, but rather as 50%. This includes at all levels of decision-making “in political and public life” (Art. 3.1.15 and 6.8)
  • Stronger requirements for gender mainstreaming in government policies: The new Law explicitly defines and requires (Art. 5.1.3.) gender responsive budgeting and gender mainstreaming in all institutional policies (for bodies “at all levels of legislative, executive, judicial and other public institutions). This means including a gender perspective “into every stage of the process, planning, approval, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of legislation, policies or programs and budgets, in all political, economic and social areas”
  • Clearer responsibilities: No longer condemned to photocopying alone (as many officers once were), the new law outlines very specific duties and responsibilities for Gender Equality Officers, who should be appointed in every Ministry and Municipality in Kosovo (Art. 12).
  • Improved definition of sexual harassment (Art. 3.1.12) and forbidding the victimization of persons who report it (Art. 4.6, 17.1.14).
  • Stronger fines for (some) violations of the law, including for the private sector.
  • Gender Identity: the new Law now extends to persons who identify with different gender identities or sexes, beyond the previously simple categories of “women” and “men”, guaranteeing equal opportunities and treatment in all areas of public and private life. The Law protects persons of different “gender-related identity, appearance or other gender-related characteristics of a person (whether by way of medical intervention or not), with or without regard to the person’s designated sex at birth” (Art. 3.1.9).
  • Power to mainstream gender: The Agency for Gender Equality remains in the Office of the Prime Minister, at a high level from which it can encourage, further, and monitor the implementation of the Law.
  • Gender disaggregated data collected, recorded, and submitted to the Agency of Statistics by all institutions.
  • Improved description of what constitutes gender discrimination in employment (Art. 15).
All in all, the new law is very important and, if properly implemented, will advance gender equality in Kosovo. While we are generally pleased with the new Law, we do take issue with a few aspects of it.
What’s Bad?
  • Misunderstands the concept of affirmative action. While the Law importantly foresees special measures (Art. 6), such as “preferential treatment, recruitment, hiring and promotion”, these are almost entirely undermined and become convoluted and confusing in the paragraphs that follow. Affirmative actions are important for furthering gender equality based on the assumption that 1) equality is important in itself; and 2) if one gender is under-represented in decision-making, then public policies and programs may not meet the needs of all people, even involving indirect discrimination.
  • Some funky definitions and terms: Some last minute changes to the Law revised significantly the definitions that had been written by gender experts. Sex (male and female) refers to biological traits. Gender refers to women and men and the social roles ascribed to them by the society in which they live. However, the new law often uses women/female and men/male interchangeably and inaccurately. It is unfortunate that a Law focusing on gender equality inaccurately defines these key terms and often confuses basic concepts relating to gender equality.
  • Declarative articles: While fines exist for some articles and others may be addressed through the procedures foreseen in the Anti-Discrimination Law or Criminal Code, several articles are merely declarative without any clear means of enforcement.
What’s Questionable?
  • Strong enough teeth? While the law foresees fines for some violations, ranging from €300 to €900, these fines may be insufficient for preventing individuals or companies from engaging in gender-based discrimination.
  • Mechanisms for implementation? A key issue with the previous Law on Gender Equality was that the mechanisms for reporting violations of the Law were unclear. While fines exist for violations of some articles, it remains questionable what the recourse will be for violations of other articles.
    Adopted on 28 May, the new Law on Gender Equality (No. 05/L -020) was published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Kosovo on 26 June 2015 and has already entered into force. The Law is available online at: https://gzk.rks-gov.net/ActDetail.aspx?ActID=10923. Want to continue the debate? Leave a comment about this article on our Facebook page: Kosova Women’s Network.