Prevalence of domestic abuse of women; degree of reporting; societal attitudes; whether legislation against domestic abuse exists, and if so, the degree of enforcement and societal awareness of this law; responsiveness of police, physicians, judiciary, government, non-governmental organizations and society to complaints of domestic abuse lodged by women; organizations that provide assistance to victims of domestic abuse; availability and accessibility of these organizations (2005 - 2006) [ALB101495.E]

Prevalence of domestic abuse

Human rights organizations reported that statistics on domestic violence in Albania are limited (AI 19 Apr. 2006, Sec. 2; HRDC 26 June 2006; GADC 13 June 2006). Governmental authorities, the police, the courts and physicians are not obliged by law to document the incidence of domestic violence (ibid.). However, according to two Tirana-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working on women's issues, the Ministry of Public Order recorded approximately 100 cases of violence against women in 2005, including verbal abuse, sexual violence, deprivation of freedom, forced interruption of pregnancy, harassment leading to suicide, life threatening injury and murder (ibid.; HRDC 26 June 2006).

In its 2006 study on domestic violence in Albania, Amnesty International (AI) estimated that at least one-third of Albanian women had experienced physical violence in their families (AI Apr. 2006). The number may be higher in northern areas (ibid.; UK 12 Jan. 2006, para. 3.10.13). The prevalence of intimate partner abuse has increased since 2001 and affects women of all ages and social groups (AI 30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 2).

In April 2006, the Tirana-based Gender Alliance for Development Center (GADC), in conjunction with the Hungarian Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, published a report entitled Domestic Violence: A Presentation of the Existing Situation in Albania. According to the report, the most common form of domestic abuse reported in Albania is psychological violence, followed by physical violence in rural areas and economic violence in urban areas (GADC/Albania Apr. 2006, 21). The joint report also indicates that sexual domestic violence is less frequently reported, although the authors stressed that this was not necessarily an indication its actual prevalence (GADC/Albania Apr. 2006, 21).

The joint report also provides a detailed account of the activities of various NGOs that assist victims of domestic violence as well as statistics provided by these organizations (GADC/Albania Apr. 2006). An overview of the statistics released by these NGOs is included at the end of this Response under the heading "NGO statistics."

Degree of reporting

Albanian women tend not to report incidents of domestic abuse to the authorities (OMCT Apr. 2005, 69; GADC 13 June 2006; AI 30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 2), or even to their closest family members (ibid.). There are several explanations for this: women may be unaware of their legal rights (ibid.; HRDC 26 June 2006), police officers often disregard women's complaints (AI 30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 4; US 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 4), social norms dictate that women should submit to men (Professor of History 14 June 2006; AI Apr. 2006), women fear that their complaint would dishonour their family (ibid. 30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 2), and women's religious beliefs and/or economic dependence on their spouses prevent them from doing so (OMCT Apr. 2005, 69). AI noted that many women who did report incidents of domestic abuse eventually withdrew their complaints for fear of their spouse's reaction (1 Dec. 2005). Reports of specific incidents of domestic violence could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within time constraints.

Instead of lodging criminal complaints, women reportedly escape situations of domestic abuse through divorce or with assistance from NGOs and shelters (AI Apr. 2006). However, according to AI, women do not raise domestic violence issues even during divorce proceedings because they fear that such disclosure would shame their family. In addition, many women have difficulty proving that the domestic violence actually occurred (ibid. 30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 6).

Legislation

The Albanian Criminal Code does not separately define or criminalize domestic violence, nor are there any distinctions between violent crimes committed by family members and those committed by strangers (AI 30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 4; OMCT Apr. 2005, 70; GADC 13 June 2006). In its December 2005 report on Albania's compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) indicated that "Albanian legislation lacks appropriate protection mechanisms and procedures for domestic violence cases" (US Dec. 2005, 7).

AI explained that cases of domestic violence may be prosecuted under the following provisions of the Albanian Criminal Code (30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 4):

murder, punishable by up to 20 years' imprisonment (Albania 27 Jan. 1995, Art. 76);
threat to cause death or grave personal harm, punishable by up to one year of imprisonment (ibid., Art. 84);
manslaughter, punishable by up to five years' imprisonment (ibid., Art. 85);
serious intentional injury, punishable by up to 15 years' imprisonment (ibid., Art. 88);
non-serious intentional injury, punishable by up to two years imprisonment (ibid., Art. 89);
other intentional harm, punishable by up to six months' imprisonment (ibid., Art. 90);
interruption of pregnancy without a woman's consent, punishable by up to five years' imprisonment (ibid., Art. 93);
harassment leading to suicide, punishable by five years' imprisonment (ibid., Art. 99);
and coercion to divorce or coercion to cohabitate, punishable by up to three months' imprisonment (ibid., Art. 130).

AI also noted that Article 62 of the Albanian Family Code, which entered into force on 21 December 2003, states that a spouse who is subject to violence may request a court order to remove the perpetrator of violence from their common home (30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 6). In the opinion of AI, the laws of Albania do not adequately protect victims of domestic violence in 2005 (AI 1 Dec. 2005).

On 23 January 2006, several Albanian NGOs submitted a draft law on the prevention of family violence to the Albanian parliament (AI Apr. 2006). However, as of June 2006, parliament had yet to discuss the law (GADC 13 June 2006; HRDC 26 June 2006).

Societal attitudes

Human Rights NGOs have noted that Albanian society is generally patriarchal and follows customary traditions (ibid.; OMCT Apr. 2005, 68). Society generally accepts family violence, viewing it as a private matter (ibid.; AI 30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 4; GADC 13 June 2006). In the April 2006 joint report, GADC and the Albanian Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities state that despite important efforts to raise public awareness of domestic violence since the mid-1990s, these attitudes have changed little over time (Apr. 2006, 5). According to a Professor of History who has written several books on Albania and travels to Albania regularly, Albanian society does not view domestic abuse as an issue of concern (Professor of History 14 June 2006).

The World Organisation Against Torture (Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture, OMCT) states in its April 2005 report on Albania that women are discriminated against by their family and by society (68-70). According to the OMCT,

[v]iolent sexual relations are still considered "shameful" for a woman and in some cases (in rural areas in particular) they lead to forced marriage with the perpetrator in order to "achieve redemption." Although the situation has changed in urban areas, women in most rural and sub-urban areas are subjected to a patriarchal mentality (ibid., 68).

Response of physicians

In correspondence sent to the Research Directorate, the Director of the Tirana-based Human Rights in Democracy Center (HRDC) and the Project Coordinator of the GADC stated that physicians are not required to report cases of domestic violence to the authorities (HRDC 26 June 2006; GADC 13 June 2006). According to AI, physicians did not always assist women who complained of domestic abuse (AI 30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 3) and were generally untrained on how to identify and respond to cases of domestic violence (ibid., Sec. 7). On the other hand, the President of Useful to Albanian Women (UAW), a Tirana-based NGO, stated that doctors are obliged to report cases of domestic abuse by law; however, he did not specify which law was applicable (UAW 21 June 2006).

Response of the authorities

The United Kingdom Home Office concluded that the Albanian authorities are generally able and willing to provide protection to victims of domestic violence (UK 12 Jan. 2006, para. 3.10.13); however, in correspondence with the Research Directorate, HRDC wrote that the Albanian government does not have special policies and programs for the treatment and protection of victims of violence (26 June 2006). AI reported that senior officials within the government, police and judiciary tend to excuse domestic violence against women as tradition or as a certain "mentality" (30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 1) and that in practice, the police and prosecutors do not protect women from family violence (AI Apr. 2006). In a December 2005 report on Albania, USAID wrote that the Albanian government "has taken few meaningful steps to address discrimination and other obstacles that women encounter" (US Dec. 2005, Introduction).

Response of police

Women can file a complaint of domestic abuse at their local police department, which then decides whether to pursue the case (HRDC 26 June 2006; GADC 13 June 2006). The procedure to lodge a complaint is the same in every district and the complainant usually receives a copy of the complaint (ibid.; HRDC 26 June 2006). When the police decide to lay charges, they begin penal proceedings in co-operation with the prosecutor's office, but when the case is not deemed criminal, they advise the woman to obtain a forensic report and bring the case to court (ibid.). In cases of sexual violence, the burden of proof lies with the woman to show that the abuse occurred (OMCT Apr. 2005, 75).

Police recruits and senior police officers have reportedly been trained on how to respond to complaints of domestic violence (AI 30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 4; COE n.d.). However, the Albanian police force does not maintain records of complaints or cases of domestic violence (HRDC 26 June 2006; AI 30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 4) and, according to AI, has not allocated sufficient units or staff to respond to such calls (ibid.).

Several sources stated that police officers do not recognize domestic violence as a criminal offence (AI Apr. 2006), but rather, as a private matter (ibid. 30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 4; Professor of History 14 June 2006). AI reported that police rarely responded to calls from women complaining of domestic violence and when police took action, they tried to detain the perpetrator or mediate the dispute (AI 30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 4). This information was corroborated by the GADC in correspondence with the Research Directorate (13 June 2006). GADC stated that although police have been trained on domestic violence issues, they were generally slow to respond to complaints of domestic violence since the issue was not viewed as a priority (13 June 2006). According to the HRDC, which monitored six Tirana police stations, police officers were "non-professional" in their dealings with alleged victims of domestic violence (26 June 2006). For instance, they reportedly lacked training on domestic violence, did not take reports of domestic violence seriously and intervened on behalf of the accused to try to force parties to reach a settlement without having registered the original complaint (HRDC 26 June 2006).

The United Kingdom Home Office found that the degree of protection offered to victims of domestic violence depends on the attitude of individual police officers (UK 12 Jan. 2006, para. 3.10.13).

Response of the courts

In order for a prosecutor to investigate a complaint of domestic abuse, forensic pathologists must confirm the injuries of the victim of domestic abuse (AI 30 Apr. 2006, Sec. 4). According to HRDC, prosecutors usually initiate a domestic violence case only when it involves murder, serious injury or threatening a person's life with the use of a weapon (HRDC 26 June 2006).

Several sources stated that successful prosecutions of cases of domestic violence were rare (AI 23 May 2006) and that the courts gave lenient decisions, such as ordering the perpetrator to pay a fine (ibid. 30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5; GADC 13 June 2006; OMCT Apr. 2005, 70, 75). For those cases that went to court, women often refused to testify due to poor treatment by authorities (HRDC 26 June 2006) and because of the belief that justice would not be served in their favour (AI 30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 6).

Civil society organizations have trained judges in Albania to deal with domestic violence issues (GADC 13 June 2006). However, according to an interview with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), AI wrote that decisions of criminal cases in Albania, including domestic violence cases, were generally based on low standards of jurisprudence, insufficient information, improper evaluation of evidence and a lack of understanding of domestic violence (AI 30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5).

Protection and assistance available to victims of domestic abuse

Victims of domestic abuse may appeal to NGOs that focus on the protection and promotion of women's rights that are located in Tirana, Elbasan, Shkoder, Lezha, Vlora, Durres (AI 30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 7; GADC 13 June 2006), Korce, Pogradec (UAW 21 June 2006) and Berat (HRDC 26 June 2006). In June 2005, the OSCE reported that it was opening a centre that would offer immediate assistance to victims of domestic violence in the town of Kukes (OSCE 20 June 2005). More recent information on the centre could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Combined, these NGOs offer a range of services to victims of domestic abuse, including psychological support, legal services, referral to alternate housing and access to professional development and employment opportunities (UAW 21 June 2006; HRDC 26 June 2006; GADC 13 June 2006). These organizations also work to establish telephone help lines, counselling centres and shelters for victims of domestic abuse (AI 30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 7; OSCE n.d.).

In one month, one of the counselling centres in the central city of Elbasan received calls from approximately 50 women and conducted approximately 30 individual counselling sessions (AI 30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 7). This centre also broadcast advertisements on television, aiming to sensitize the population to domestic violence issues, and conducted work on women's health in rural areas where television reception and telephone connections were not reliable (ibid.).

In 15 June 2005 correspondence sent to the Research Directorate, a National Civil Society and Gender Officer of the OSCE Presence in Albania indicated that there was one national government-run woman's shelter five to seven kilometres outside Tirana, and three non-governmental shelters: VATRA Center in Vlora (described as "the most consolidated and efficient one") and one in each of Gjirokastra and Elbasan. However, according to other sources, there are two shelters accessible to victims of domestic abuse in Albania: one in Tirana and one in Elbasan (AI 30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 7; Professor of History 14 June 2006; GADC 13 June 2006). The location of these shelters is secret (HRDC 26 June 2006), although AI documented the case of one woman who was sent to a shelter in Tirana, where her husband eventually found her as a result of her communication with other family members (AI 30 Mar. 2006, Sec. 3).

Women's shelters in Albania house between 90 and 100 women each year, free of charge and for up to six months (ibid., Sec. 7). The government does not fund these shelters (ibid., Sec. 1; HRDC 26 June 2006) and the demand generally exceeds the capacity (ibid.; HRDC 26 June 2006).

NGO statistics

As of January 2006, the Counseling Center for Women and Girls in Durres had offered counselling to 1,787 clients since it began operations in 2001 (GADC Apr. 2006, 13). In 2005, the Center received 550 cases, of which 298 were related to domestic violence, a slight decrease from the roughly 350 domestic violence cases the Center dealt with in 2004 (ibid.).

The Counseling Center "Me - The Woman" in Pogradec, which has been operating since 2004, offered counselling to over 400 victims of domestic violence in 2005, an increase over the 350 clients it served in 2004 (ibid., 14).

The Counseling Center in Elbasan, in operation since 2000, received calls and held face to face counselling sessions from 533 clients in 2004 and 726 in 2005 (ibid., 16). Of these, the number of calls related to domestic violence in each of 2004 and 2005 were 516 and 712 respectively (ibid.).

Medica Tirana, which offers psycho-social support to women and girls in suburban Tirana has assisted 252 clients since it opened in 2003 (ibid., 18). The centre helped roughly 60 clients in 2003, 90 clients in 2004, and 100 clients in 2005 (ibid.).

The Center for the Citizen's Legal Initiative, formerly known as the Legal Center for Women, has assisted 1,332 clients since 2000 (ibid., 19). The Center fielded approximately 100 calls from victims of domestic violence in 2004 and about 130 calls the following year (ibid.). The location of the Center within Albania was unclear among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Between 2000 and 2005, the Counseling Center for Women and Girls in Tirana handled 9,834 cases, of which 9,405, or 95.6 percent, were related to domestic violence (ibid., 20).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


References


Albania. 27 January 1995 (Last amended 24 January 2001). Republic of Albania, People's Assembly. Criminal Code of the Republic of Albania, No. 7895. (Legislationline Web site) http://www.legislationline.org/upload/legislations/0f/55/d46a10bcf55b80aae189eb6840b4.htm [Accessed 18 Sept. 2006]

Amnesty International (AI). 23 May 2006. "Albania." Amnesty International Report 2006. (EUR 01/012/2005) http://web.amnesty.org/shop/index/ISBN_0-86210-395-9 [Accessed 7 June 2006]

_____. 30 March 2006. Albania: Violence Against Women in the Family: "It's not Her Shame." (EUR 11/005/2006) http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGEUR110052006?open&of=ENG-ALB [Accessed 5 June 2006]

_____. April 2006. "Albanian Police Official Admits 'Women Do Not Get Access to Justice'." http://web.amnesty.org/web/wire.nsf/print/April2006Albania [Accessed 5 June 2006]

_____. 1 December 2005. "Europe and Central Asia: Summary of Amnesty International's Concerns in the Region." (EUR 01/012/2005) http://web.amnesty.org/library/print/ENGEUR010122005 [Accessed 6 June 2006]

Council of Europe (COE). N.d. "Activity Details (ID# 7671)." http://dsp.coe.int/HR/awareness/CEAD/Countries.asp?ID=7617 [Accessed 6 July 2006]

Gender Alliance for Development Center (GADC). 13 June 2006. Correspondence from Project Coordinator.

_____/Albania, Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. April 2006. Domestic Violence: A Presentation of the Existing Situation in Albania. http://www.stopvaw.org/sites/3f6d15f4-c12d-4515-8544-26b7a3a5a41e/uploads/Versioni_Final_i_DV_ANGLISHT.pdf [Accessed 20 Sept. 2006]

Human Rights in Democracy Center (HRDC). 26 June 2006. Correspondence from the Director.

Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture (OMCT). April 2005. State Violence in Albania: An Alternative Report to the UN Committee Against Torture. http://www.omct.org/pdf/procedures/2005/s_violence_albania_5_2005_eng.pdf [Accessed 5 July 2006]

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). 15 June 2006. Correspondence from the National Civil Society and Gender Officer.

_____. 20 June 2005. "Head of OSCE Presence in Albania to Open Women's Counselling Centre in Kukes." http://www.osce.org/item/15237.html [Accessed 18 Sept. 2006]

_____. N.d. "OSCE Presence in Albania." http://www.osce.org/albania/13146.htm [Accessed 9 June 2006]

Professor of History, Indiana University. 14 June 2006. Telephone interview.

United Kingdom. 12 January 2006. Home Office, Immigration and Nationality Directorate. "Operational Guidance Note: Albania." http://www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/countryspecificpolicy/albania?view=Binary

United States (US). 8 March 2006. Department of State. "Albania." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2005. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2005/61633.htm [Accessed 6 June 2006]

_____. December 2005. US Agency for International Development (USAID). CEDAW Assessment Report: Albania. http://www.usaidalbania.org/(usl2ks2fxvjuyn4553o34g45)/proxy/Document.aspx?source=database&TableName=Documents&IdField=DocumentID&Id=92&ContentField=Document&ContentTypeField=ContentType&TitleField=FileName [Accessed 20 Sept. 2006]

Useful to Albanian Women (UAW). 21 June 2006. Correspondence from the President.

Additional Sources Consulted


Oral sources, including: Albanian Helsinki Committee; Albanian Human Rights Group; Association of Albanian Girls and Women; Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Toronto; Citizen's Advocacy Office, Albania; Gender Alliance for Development; International Organization for Migration, Albania; Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe; United Nations Development Fund for Women, Albania; United Nations Development Programme, Albania; Women Competence and Culture House, Albania.

Internet sources, including: British Broadcasting Corporation, European Country of Origin Information Network, Factiva, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Open Society Institute, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Southeast European Times, Stop Violence Against Women, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.