Since 2018, Albanian law has changed in ways that are finally giving women and girls more protection against violence. To respond to the current COVID-19 pandemic, various NGOs and the Albanian government have adapted once again to help survivors and victims. Here is how new policies in Albania are protecting women and girls.
5 Legislation Changes to Protect Women and Girls in Albania
- Law on Measures Against Violence in Family Relations: In 2018, important changes were made to the Law on Measures against Violence in Family Relations in Albania’s legal code. The most important changes involve how local law enforcement and courts should respond to reports of domestic violence. Police officers now must perform risk assessments after identification of the victim, report the domestic violence cases and issue preliminary protective orders. These preliminary protective orders allow the police to remove the perpetrator of violence from the residence before the court has issued an actual protection order. These new police obligations offer survivors more immediate help, instead of having to wait for the courts to react. Another important change in this law is the prohibition of the reconciliation procedure in court. This policy helps protect women and girls in Albania.
- Women’s Shelters During the Pandemic: On April 10, 2020, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection created a protocol that ensured women’s shelters in Albania would function undisrupted among the COVID-19 pandemic. This protocol designated the shelters for domestic violence protection as essential services, which means they must remain open and welcome any new survivors that come in. This is extremely important as the outbreak of the virus has increased the number of reports of domestic violence and violence against women in Albania. Shelters did not remain open and were not accepting women in need of help before the new protocol.
- NGO Services in Albania: One NGO in Albania, the Woman Forum Elbasan (WFE), is working extremely hard to adapt to the needs of women during the pandemic. WFE provides free services to survivors of violence, including social, psychological and legal help. WFE also works with police and health professionals in several municipalities of the Elbasan area of Albania to improve the help given to women by local institutions. A grant from the U.N. Trust Fund to End Violence against Women funds WFE. During the pandemic, WFE performed almost 300 virtual counseling sessions to survivors in just March and April. Virtual counseling and hotlines are one way that WFE adapted to COVID-19 restrictions, they also use social media to raise awareness about safety measures and protective equipment needed. WFE also operates emergency shelters for victims of violence that is kept clean and disinfected for anyone needing their services.
- Institutional Monitoring: Since 2018, the Monitoring Network Against Gender-Based Violence is lobbying, advocating and monitoring the legal and policy framework on ending violence against women in Albania. Established by UN Women, this network is now made up of 48 different organizations. Since being established, they have given numerous recommendations for changes to the Law on Social Housing, Law on Free Legal Aid and the Law on Measures against Violence in Family Relations. These institutions play a crucial role in acting as a voice for Albanian women to the government, police and court systems. The Monitoring Network works to protect and help the situation of women, which is not often on the forefront of the political or social agenda.
- Improved Data on Violence against Women: Albania’s latest survey on violence against women and girls, taken in 2018, engaged with service-providers, local governments and civil society organizations to create the most accurate dataset possible. This was the first time widespread consultations on the survey took place. To share the results of the survey, government ministries, municipalities, police forces and other organizations attended workshops on how to understand and use the new information. These workshops helped raise awareness of this significant issue. This new survey is especially important because most police and government surveys about violence against women produced a much lower amount of instances. The survey has also been used as evidence to promote new policies and laws on protecting women in Albania.
Although women and girls in Albania are still experiencing and at risk of facing domestic violence, these recent changes have given more resources to survivors and victims. The Albanian legal code and policies have also shifted to protect more women and girls in Albania, from written laws to the new socio-economic environment forced by COVID-19.
– Claire Brady