On 12 March 2018, at Hotel Sirius in Prishtina, the Kosovo Women’s Network (KWN) published a new report: From Words to Action? Monitoring the Institutional Response to Gender-based Violence in Kosovo.
“It was 2004 when we first protested publicly for protection from domestic violence; at that time, violence was a taboo and private topic,” said Igballe Rogova, KWN Executive Director during her opening remarks. “Since then, we have seen institutional progress, from the Law on Protection against Domestic Violence to strategies and action plans against domestic violence. However, the legal framework still is not sufficiently applied. As the title of our new report says, we don’t want any more words. We want action!”
During the publication launching, KWN discussed the recommendations with key institutions responsible for implementing the legal framework. The co-author, Adelina Berisha presented the key findings and recommendations, some of which included:
- The National Coordinator for Domestic Violence is a political position, namely that of the Deputy Minister of Justice; therefore, without a functioning government, Kosovo has lacked this key coordinating body for more than a year. Perhaps due in part to this, only an estimated 19% of the second National Strategy for protection from domestic violence and action plan for 2016-2020 has been implemented.
- Inter-institutional cooperation remains weak, including a lack of comprehensive data and case management systems.
- Shelters struggle to stay open and to provide consistent, quality services.
- Rehabilitation and reintegration programs remain nearly non-existent for both perpetrators and victims.
- Several institutions continue to blame victims for the violence perpetrated against them, which contributes also to light sentencing or to no penalties whatsoever. This can lead to recidivism.
“The main challenge is the mentality,” said Sevdije Morina, Deputy State Prosecutor. Violence is not a private issue, she said. “It should be treated as violation of law regardless of the victim’s declaration. We have worked to tell prosecutors that they must build a case regardless of the victim’s statements, as victims may change their statements.”
“While the persons holding the position of National Coordinator have changed, the challenges have remained,” observed Naim Qelaj, the Deputy Minister of Justice and recently appointed National Coordinator on Domestic Violence from the Ministry of Justice. “I learned a lot from this report, and I believe that all of the recommendations are in line with the National Strategy. I promise that I will address all recommendations.” He said that he would soon call an inter-ministerial meeting to ensure that all institutions also will be aware of the recommendations and that they will work to implement them.
“Everything that the Kosovo Women’s Network initiates is positive,” said Biljana Rexhiq, a judge representing the Kosovo Judicial Council. “I also highly value the research journalists from BIRN. I was also monitored by them. The findings and recommendations by BIRN and KWN are thoroughly analysed and we should use them as a guide for preventing violence against women, particularly domestic violence.” Moreover, she stated that the Head of the Kosovo Judicial Council, “agrees with all of this … and he will take all measures by law to address gender-based violence.”
“The research is making us talk and improve ourselves,” agreed Adile Shaqiri, Senior Officer for Protection of Victims of Trafficking, Sexual Crimes and Domestic Violence from the Department of Social and Family Policy in the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare.
In December 2016, Kosovo adopted its second National Strategy on Protection from Domestic Violence and Action Plan 2016 – 2020 (NSPDV). Since then, several initiatives have sought to build the capacity of public institutions to implement this and other legal responsibilities pertaining to domestic violence. While sexual harassment has been discussed more in public fora in recent years, other forms of gender-based violence, particularly sexual violence, remain largely invisible and under-researched.
Between August and November 2017, KWN and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) monitored the extent to which institutions that have a legal responsibility to protect persons who have suffered gender-based violence are implementing the relevant legal framework. Monitoring also aimed to examine any changes since KWN’s 2015 research on attitudes, awareness and performance of institutions working with cases of gender-based violence; and to assess implementation of the NSPDV to date. The final report draws from findings from case monitoring, interviews with 84 representatives of relevant institutions and a review of quantitative data.
In addition to the aforementioned panellists, representatives from several institutions, media outlets, international organizations, UN agencies, and civil society also participated in the launching event.
This research was made possible with support from the Austrian Development Agency. As Arsim Aziri, Head of Administration, Advisor Private Sector from the Austrian Development Agency stated during the presentation, Austrian Development Cooperation seeks to include women’s empowerment in all of their work. He announced that they look forward to continuing their long-term cooperation and support to KWN, considering that the “results are there”.