Human Rights Watch has estimated that up to 20,000 people were raped during the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo.
Sexual violence committed in war constitutes a war crime, a crime against humanity and a basic act of genocide, according to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1820 on Sexual Violence against Civilians in Conflict.
Bosnia has recognized survivors of sexual violence as official “victims” of war, which has facilitated their receipt of benefits and recovery. However, survivors of sexual violence crimes in Kosovo have yet to receive sufficient attention. The issue of sexual violence has not
been considered in negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia. Serbian officials have never apologized for these crimes. Nor have there been any convictions or reparations. Further, society often has isolated and failed to support women who suffered such violence. Many women have tried to continue their lives without psychological treatment. Evidence collected by women’s organizations suggests that this has contributed to trauma, phobia, inhibited sexual desire and eating disorders, as well as untreated physical injuries.
Women who suffered sexual violence seek to be included among the categories of persons affected by war. This would offer recognition, an end to stigmatization and the return of dignity. Since sexual violence was used as a weapon of war, women should be treated as all victims of war.
On 8 Mar. 2012, KWN organized a protest with the slogan: “Forget flowers: We want justice for women raped during the war,” whereby KWN sought legal protection for women who suffered sexual violence in Kosovo.
Following more than a year of intensive advocacy work that brought together women in civil society and women in politics, on 14 Mar. 2013, the Assembly of the Republic of Kosova passed the first reading of the Draft Law on Amending the Law no. 04/L-054 for the status and rights of the martyrs, invalids, veterans, members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, people raped during the war, civilian victims of the war and their families. This historic action offered a glimpse of hope to women who suffered sexual violence.
However, the first reading passed by only a narrow margin (three votes). Some parliamentarians claimed that insufficient financial resources exist to support it. KWN finds such arguments unfounded. Bosnia’s experience suggests that very few women apply for financial benefits. Further state expenditures in other areas (e.g., roads) are less important, KWN would argue.
KWN has written several letters, together with sother civil society groups, urging parliamentarians to pass this important amendment, returning dignity to women who have suffered enough.