Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape but does not specifically address spousal rape. By law rape is punishable by two to 15 years in prison and statutory rape (sexual intercourse with a child younger than 16) by five to 20 years. Rape involving homicide is punishable by imprisonment from 10 years to life.
EULEX noted that courts often applied penalties more lenient than the legal minimum in rape cases, particularly in cases involving minors. EULEX found that courts rarely took steps to protect victims and witnesses and did not close hearings to the public as the law requires.
Domestic violence was the most prevalent form of gender-based violence. Advocates maintained that it was underreported for reasons that included the social stigma against reporting such occurrences outside the family, a lack of trust in judicial institutions, traditional social attitudes in the male-dominated society, and a lack of viable options for victims.
Convictions for domestic violence carry prison terms of six months to five years. The law treats domestic violence as a civil matter unless the victim suffers bodily harm. Failure to comply with a civil court’s judgment relating to a domestic violence case is a criminal and prosecutable offense, although prosecutions for this offense were rare. Police reportedly responded appropriately to rape and domestic abuse allegations.
When victims pressed charges, police domestic violence units conducted investigations and transferred cases to prosecutors. The rate of prosecution was low, due to societal factors as well as a backlog of cases in both civil and criminal courts. Advocates and court observers argued that prosecutors and judges favored family unification over victim protection, with protective orders sometimes allowing the perpetrator to remain in the family home while the case is pending. Sentences ranged from judicial reprimands to imprisonment.
The law permits individuals who feel threatened to petition for restraining orders, but violation of restraining orders seldom led to criminal charges. Courts rarely gave recidivists enhanced sentences as required by law.
On October 23, Zejnepe Bytyqi Berisha from Suhareka/Suva Reka was allegedly murdered by her husband, Nebi Berisha. Police confirmed her husband was convicted in 2002 for domestic violence and given a six-month suspended sentence, and in 2008 was found guilty and fined 300 Euros ($330) for illegal possession of weapons. According to the Kosovo Women’s Network (KWN), Zejnepe Berisha had reported her husband for domestic violence eight times.
On the basis of long-term policies to combat domestic violence, new regulations were put in place to require drug and alcohol-addiction treatment for perpetrators. Implementation remained limited, however, at both the central and local levels. During the year the Ministry of Justice began drafting a new strategy to combat domestic violence, based on recommendations by outside experts, which called for legal reform to criminalize abuse and to place the focus on protecting victims.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare included a unit dedicated to family violence. The Kosovo Academy for Public Safety incorporated courses on human rights and work with victims of domestic violence, rape, and human trafficking into all of its basic training curricula for police cadets.
The government and international donors provided support to seven NGOs to assist children and female victims of domestic violence. There were 10 shelters in Kosovo for victims of domestic violence.
Numerous officials participated in events dedicated to raising awareness and providing support for individuals who suffered sexual assault related to the conflict in the late 1990s, including through the President’s National Council on Survivors of Sexual Violence.
Sexual Harassment: No specific law addressed sexual harassment. According to women’s rights organizations, sexual harassment on the job was common, and victims did not report it due to fear of physical retaliation or dismissal. Public awareness of sexual harassment remained low.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, manage their reproductive health, and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. The government generally respected reproductive rights, but poor, marginalized, and illiterate communities often had limited access to information, and public health facilities provided limited treatment for sexually transmitted infections.
Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including under family, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. The law requires equal pay for equivalent work. The traditionally lower status of women within the family affected their treatment within the legal system.
The law stipulates that the partners in marriage and civil unions have equal rights to own and inherit property, but men commonly inherited family property and only 8 percent of women owned land. According to law regulating inheritance and family matters, upon death the assets of the deceased are equally shared among the spouse and children, with second degree relatives only inheriting if all first degree relatives are deceased. In the event of a will, gender cannot be used as a condition to limit inheritance. In rare cases Kosovo-Albanian widows, particularly in rural areas, risked losing custody of their children due to a custom requiring children and property to pass to the deceased father’s family while the widow returned to her birth family.
Relatively few women occupied upper-level management positions in business, police, or government. Women constituted 48 percent of the public-sector workforce in 2014. According to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, women owned some 15-17 percent of all registered businesses (see section 7.d).
Gender-biased Sex Selection: According to the Kosovo Agency for Statistics, in 2012, the date of the last census, the male to female gender ratio at birth was 110.7 to 100. According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the government did not take steps to address this imbalance, such as regulating private clinics, or helping to increase women’s social status.