Amnesty International is urging the Albanian authorities to take further measures to protect women from domestic violence by fully implementing a 2007 law.
The global human rights group's report, 'Ending domestic violence in Albania: The next steps', published on 25 march 2010, welcomes the progress that has been made since the introduction of the law but also calls for full criminalisation of the offence to ensure it is treated in the same way as other violent assaults.
”Far more women now have the confidence to report domestic violence to the authorities, and hundreds of women have applied for protection orders, introduced under the new law,” explained Sian Jones, Amnesty International’s expert on Albania.
“However, the authorities need to take further concrete measures to ensure the effective implementation of the law,” she added.
Around one in three Albanian women are victims of domestic violence, however, many incidents remain unreported because of fear and prejudice. Discussion of the issue remains taboo, especially in rural areas.
In August 2009 Luli sought police protection after her husband threw her and their baby out of their home in the town of Durres. When drunk, her husband often beat her during their three-year marriage. Her mother refused to take her home and Luli spent three days in a hospital before she was found shelter in another town.
“Women should denounce violence. They should not live with it for so long; they should not let anyone devalue them,” 26-year-old Luli told Amnesty International.
Since the introduction of the Domestic Violence Law on 1 June 2007 there has been a significant increase in reported incidents of domestic violence. In 2007, the Albanian police reportedly received 274 reports of domestic violence. Between January and September 2009, some 993 such cases were reported.
More than a thousand women across Albania have applied to the courts for protection orders against violent partners.
Many women, though, have subsequently withdrawn their petitions following pressure from the perpetrator or the family because of their economic dependence on the perpetrator, or their lack of trust in the ability of police to offer adequate protection.
Amnesty is calling on the authorities to improve procedures and increase resources to ensure that police, prosecutors and the judiciary ensure the effective enforcement of protection orders.
The police are insufficiently resourced and not always trained to enforce protection orders. Judges are often reluctant to order the eviction of an abusive partner from the family home. The scarcity of housing, employment and low incomes mean that whoever leaves the house will often find themselves homeless.
“Victims of domestic violence are let down by the authorities. Because of lack of coordinated action by the authorities, very often they cannot find refuge in shelters or get appropriate medical treatment, social welfare services and adequate housing,” Sian Jones commented.
“Furthermore, the authorities must address the discrimination girls and women face in education and employment which deprives them of economic independence,” she said.
The AI report,'Ending domestic violence in Albania: The next steps', is available here: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR11/001/2010/en