Law to Stamp Out Domestic Violence Affords Protection for Victims, Children, Strengthens Albania’s Arsenal, Women’s Anti-Discrimination Committee Told

26 July 2010
WOM/1816

Law to Stamp Out Domestic Violence Affords Protection for Victims, Children, Strengthens Albania’s Arsenal, Women’s Anti-Discrimination Committee Told

26 July 2010
General Assembly
WOM/1816
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Committee on Elimination of

 Discrimination against Women

942nd & 943rd Meetings* (AM & PM)

Law to Stamp Out Domestic Violence Affords Protection for Victims, Children,

Strengthens Albania’s Arsenal, Women’s Anti-Discrimination Committee Told

 

Albania’s Economic, Social Development ‘May Not Make Sense’ Unless Paired

With Concrete Achievements Towards Women’s Equality, Empowerment, Says Delegation

With the inception of a new law and the country’s first shelter to assist victims, Albania was strengthening its arsenal to stamp out domestic violence, the South-Eastern European country’s delegation told the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today.

Presenting Albania’s third periodic report, Filloreta Kodra, Deputy Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, said the 2009 law aimed, for the first time in Albania, to prevent and reduce all forms of domestic violence and provide special protections for victims and their families, with a particular focus on children, the elderly and persons with disabilities.

It gave civil courts the authority to rule on protective measures, such as protection warrants for victims, through a quick, affordable procedure, and it set in motion the adoption of standard police procedures, as well as improved medical and psychological treatment for victims in public health institutions, she said. 

Her Ministry, with financial support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), had just created a national shelter for up to 100 victims — the first ever State initiative to provide free counselling, social and rehabilitation services, medical and legal services, as well as serve as a specialized training centre for personnel in that field.  Other measures included improved data collection to better understand the extent of the scourge, a referral system to report domestic violence cases and efforts backed by the Prime Minister to criminalize it.

Such steps were part of Albania’s push towards gender equality and women’s empowerment, which, the delegate suggested, were necessary for growth and its entry into the European Union.  “Economic and social development of the country may not make sense unless there is concrete treatment and unless there are concrete achievements in this important direction,” she said.  But despite such good intentions, she acknowledged that many good laws had been poorly implemented, and that the country overall lacked statistical data on gender issues.

When asked by experts about illegal trafficking in women and girls, the delegation said funding to fight trafficking had increased exponentially in the past year.  They pointed to plethora of measures — among them, a comprehensive Government strategy and public awareness campaigns, particularly for vulnerable groups, such as Roma and gypsy women; the formation of a national centre for trafficked persons and of child protection units; and a law guaranteeing financial support for the victims.

Experts commended Albania for its 2010 anti-discrimination law and the temporary special measures in the 2008 gender equality law, but were quick to question whywomen held just 16.4 per cent of parliamentary seats, when the 2008 law set a 30 per cent quota for their representation.  Ms. Kodra said gender stereotypes posed challenges.  Women were often put at the bottom of a political party’s electoral list, or in the weakest positions, and greater efforts were needed so that legislators could improve women’s chances for nomination and election.

Experts also expressed worries overthe low use of contraceptives and family planning services, poor health-care access in rural and Roma communities, notably in obstetrics and reproductive health care services, and the fact that the percentage of HIV-positive women in the country had more than doubled since 2002.  Antiretroviral drugs, experts stressed, must be available to them, particularly to sex workers and drug users.  But the delegation asserted that based on a recent study, 69 per cent of Albanian women used contraception, and a Government strategy on reproductive health was now being implemented. 

The Committee will meet again at 4 p.m. on Friday, 30 July, to conclude its forty-seventh session and adopt its report.

Background

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met today to consider the third periodic report of Albania (document CEDAW/C/ALB/3).

The delegation, led by Filloreta Kodra, Deputy Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, included Brunilda Peci Minarolli, Desk Officer, United Nations Reporting Section, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Brunilda Dervishaj, Expert on Issues of Equality and Gender Identity, Department of Equal Opportunities, Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities; and Pranvera Kamani, Chief, Basic Education Sector, Curriculum and Monitoring Department, Ministry of Education and Science. 

Introduction of Report

Introducing the third periodic report, Ms. KODRA said Albania had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1993 and its Optional Protocol in 2002.  The 2009-2013 Government Programme was committed to promoting gender equality principles and strengthening legislative and institutional instruments to ensure gender-friendly policies throughout Government. 

Gender equality was high on the Albanian Government’s agenda, she said, stressing that “economic and social development of the country may not make sense unless there is concrete treatment and unless there are concrete achievements in this important direction.”

The 2007-2010 National Strategy on Gender Equality and Domestic Violence drew on the Beijing Platform for Action and included concrete measures to implement the 2003 recommendations of the Women’s Anti-Discrimination Committee to, among other things, raise public awareness about the Women’s Convention, she said.  The Government was now reviewing the strategy’s successes, failures and challenges in order to set priorities for the next four years.

Albania’s 2008 law on gender equality, which was in accordance with the Women’s Convention and the Council of Europe’s recommendations, established definitions of gender equality, direct and indirect gender discrimination, gender mainstreaming, and prevention of gender discrimination and harassment, she said.  It mandated that 30 per cent of candidates for legislative posts as well as for executive and judiciary decision-making positions be filled by women and defined and introduced special temporary measures in education and employment.  Thanks to those measures, women had won 16.4 per cent of seats in Parliament in the June 2009 elections, more than double than in the previous election. 

She said that the 2009 law on domestic violence met all standards set forth in the Women’s Convention, European Union directives and other United Nations recommendations on gender equality.  For the first time, such a law aimed to prevent and reduce all forms of domestic violence and provide special protections for victims and their families, with a particular focus on children, the elderly and persons with disabilities.

Under the law, civil courts could rule on protective measures for victims through a quick, affordable procedure, and issue protection warrants for them, she said.  In 2008, sub-legal acts had been adopted on standard procedures and the terms of care used by state police to prevent and reduce violence, as well on medical and psychological treatment for victims in public health institutions. 

The Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities had proposed amending that law to create a national structure for protecting domestic violence victims, and it was developing a national domestic violence referral system, she said.  The Ministry, with financial support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), had just created a national shelter for victims — the first State initiative to provide counselling, social and rehabilitation services, and medical and legal services.  It would also serve as a specialized training centre for personnel in that field.

Furthermore, Albania’s Prime Minister was supporting amendments to the criminal law to criminalize domestic violence, she said.  The Government had improved data collection on domestic violence in order to better tackle the problem and inform Albania’s women’s rights and gender equality policies.  Ending violence against and exploitation of women, particularly for prostitution, would remain a priority. 

The law on protection against discrimination, adopted in February, strengthened Albania’s legal framework for human rights protection and brought the country closer to fulfilling it goal of European Union membership, she said.  It established an independent Commissioner to ensure protection against discrimination and sanction violations.  It also ensured protection against discrimination due to sexual orientation and gender identity — which were still taboo in Albanian society.  In that regard, the Albanian Government was cooperating with the Alliance for the Protection of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals and other non-governmental organizations. 

To fight organized crime and illegal trafficking, the criminal law had been amended several times since 2001 to align it with the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime, she said.  A 2008 amendment provided for sanctions against child labour and child pornography, while a law on economic aid and social services guaranteed financial support for trafficking victims.

On labour, she said the Government had formed job training programmes for unemployed women, particularly Roma women, and women who were trafficked, disabled or had social problems.  But implementation of the labour rights aspects of the gender equality law, notably prevention of discrimination and sexual harassment, was a challenge due to Albania’s high unemployment rate and gender stereotypes that reinforced the image of women as housewives.

On health care, she said there was equal access to services in rural and urban areas.  The Government had developed national gender analysis and information systems on reproductive health, and the Ministry of Health, with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), had trained 1,800 health-care staff to treat and prevent domestic violence.  

In all activities on gender equality and domestic violence, the Albanian Government had the support of international partners, such as the One UN Programme, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Austrian Government’s project on enhancing women’s role in governance.  That had fostered progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Experts’ Comments and Questions

CORNELIS FLINTERMAN, expert from the Netherlands, asked who decided whether a provision was directly applicable — the Government, the legislature, or the judiciary.  Did Albania believe that the Women’s Convention was not self-executing and required transformation into domestic law?  Was it State policy to urge the judiciary to view the Women’s Convention as self-executing?

VICTORIA POPESCU, expert from Romania, asked what steps were being taken to ensure the implementation of the country’s 2008 gender parity law.  Could the delegation elaborate on the monitoring mechanism in place for that particular law?  Did the 2010 comprehensive anti-discrimination law overlap with the gender parity law in any way?  Was there a budget in place for the two laws?  Did the required burden of proof in domestic violence cases create additional obstacles for victims seeking justice?

DUBRAVKA ŠIMONOVIĆ, expert from Croatia, asked if Albania had cooperated with non-governmental organizations in preparing its periodic report.  Furthermore, had the country cooperated with Parliament?  She also asked for information regarding court cases in which the Women’s Convention was referred to or invoked during litigation. 

NICOLE AMELINE, expert from France, asked if honour crimes were still a prevalent cultural heritage in the North of the country, and if more legal efforts were needed in that regard.  Were there any specific measures taken to publicize information on the Women’s Convention to minorities?  Could the delegate provide more details regarding a national order to expel a violent spouse from the home in cases of domestic violence?

She also asked what actions local municipalities took relating to gender, as Albania was considered a decentralized country.  How did the country involve rural areas?  What national structure for coordination was in place to help victims of violence?  “A law is no good until it’s actually being applied,” she stressed.  Was there a network of services for victims?  How far had legislative measures been applied in that regard?

VIOLETA NEUBAUER, expert from Slovenia, feared that the human and financial resources at the disposal of the directorate on gender issues were not commensurate with its wide-ranging mandate.  She asked the delegates to provide concrete information to that end, particularly with regard to actions against domestic violence and actions towards gender equality.  Why had the Committee on Health, Labour, and Social Affairs not yet established a subcommittee to address specific gender goals?

Country Response

Ms. KODRA said international law had priority in terms of implementation in her country, with the Ministry of Justice undertaking the assessment.

Another delegate, elaborating on that point, pointed out that “directly applicable” meant international agreements became a direct part of the country’s legislation after they had been ratified by Parliament.  Certain provisions of the Women’s Convention, however, were not directly applicable, but Albania was committed to providing for specific laws, including on gender parity. 

Responding to the question on the monitoring mechanism for gender issues, Ms. KODRA said the National Council on Gender Issues served that purpose.  The National Council decided whether or not all of the articles within the Women’s Convention were applicable to Albania.  It also decided if additional laws or by-laws were needed to fully implement the Women’s Convention.

However, she noted that there were general problems with the implementation of national legislation.  While there were many good laws in place, some had been poorly implemented.  Moreover, she pointed to a lack of statistical data on gender issues, noting that the Ministry of Labour had issued an order identifying specific indicators to be collected and analyzed.  The order had been in place since May or June, and she hoped the first set of data would be available soon.

With regard to the 2008 gender parity law and the 2010 anti-discrimination law, she said that there was no overlapping between the two.  Albania’s Ombudsman only wielded advisory power, and thus, Parliament had decided to create a commissioner position with the power to sanction.  The commissioner was tasked to examine complaints, perform investigations, impose administrative sanctions, encourage the principles of equality and non-discrimination, offer information about law on anti-discrimination in Albanian language, and make recommendations to competent authorities, among other responsibilities. 

As Albania was a “country in transition”, it did not have experience with budgeting specific issues into the State budget.  Her country, amid a national budget reform, was working to provide each ministry with its own budget to address all issues, including gender.  Reform was not easy, she said, but the Government was trying step-by-step to organize gender activities, for which it had received much support from donor organizations.

Turning to the issue of the burden of proof, she said it was indeed true that anyone who took an issue to court was required to provide evidence.  Proof of violence was needed to establish penalties for the accused.  The Government was undertaking efforts to change some things in that regard, but proof would remain a requirement for now.  Violators could be removed from the home until the family situation was normalized.  In such cases, a court order was created through the referral system.  Cases were referred by the health institutions, which reported to the court and the police.  In extreme cases, the police could request a court order.

She said that non-governmental organizations in Albania had much experience, especially in women’s issues.  There, cooperation with the Government was excellent.  Non-governmental organizations had prepared the laws on domestic violence and discrimination, which had been passed by the Government.  Furthermore, non-governmental organizations were the first to implement a referral system on reporting domestic violence cases.  In turn, the Ministry of Labour was working to prepare a decree to make the referral system obligatory country-wide. 

With regard to Albania’s decentralization process, she noted that more powers had been given to municipalities, and they had the right to administer their territories as they saw fit.  They were obligated, however, to implement governmental policies, including the law on gender equality.

Experts’ Comments and Questions

Mr. FLINTERMAN, expert from the Netherlands, commended Albania for the temporary special measures provided for in its 2008 gender parity law.  However, recalling the challenges the country had in implementing its 2004 law, he asked what guarantees were in place to ensure that the same challenges would not occur with the latest law?  Could the delegate provide some examples of temporary special measures in place?

VIOLET TSISIGA AWORI, expert from Kenya, asked if marital rape had been criminalized.  With regard to honour killings, could she give more information on a specific case in 2003 wherein a father who had murdered his daughter was only sentenced to two years because he was a first offender, the family breadwinner, and had been “extremely provoked”?  What concrete steps were being taken to protect women and end impunity for offenders?

Ms. POPESCU, expert from Romania, asked if honour killings were still occurring in the north.  She also asked what active measures were being taken to prevent and discourage such traditional practices, including early marriages and the bride prize.  What steps were being taken in education to ensure the mainstreaming of gender equality as well as adequate training for teaching staff?  In addition, what steps were being taken towards a balanced representation of women in the media?

Ms. ŠIMONOVIĆ, expert from Croatia, asked what measures were being taken to prevent the suicides of women who were victims of domestic violence.  Albania had recently opened its first national shelter.  How many additional shelters were planned to open in the near future?  How much space would they have, and would they be free of charge?

SAISUREE CHUTIKUL, expert from Thailand, asked how many victims had benefited from the 2004 witness protection law.  What types of protective measures did the law provide for, and were there sufficient resources to provide those measures?  Certain groups of children were particularly vulnerable to trafficking and exploitative child prostitution, owing to a lack of access to education and shelter.  Had Albania ratified the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour?  If so, what was the status on its implementation for those groups of vulnerable children?  What kind of obstacles did the country face in implementing that convention? 

Country Response

A delegate said Albania had made real progress in education and had instituted universal primary education.  In 1999, the Government reformed the education system, with a specific emphasis on gender equality and human rights, and it had revised the textbooks accordingly.  At the university level, special courses focused on gender equality.  Policies aimed to ensure that Roma and gypsy children attended school.

Ms. KODRA said the existing law on gender equality had established mechanisms to supervise and monitor its implementation.  It also had established a 30 per cent quota for women in the decision-making process.  As a result, women’s representation in Parliament had more than doubled.  Albania’s Government was highly committed to temporary special measures.  Women comprised 80 per cent of participants in job training programmes for unemployed people. 

Regarding steps to end early marriage for girls, she said early marriage was not an endemic problem.  On average, women married at age 23.  But the Government was trying to improve the socio-economic lot of girls and women to prevent child marriages. 

Domestic violence against women was a criminal offence, she said.  The Government, with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) support, had created the first public shelter in Albania for female victims of violence.  It had capacity to house 100 people and its services were free.  The Government had passed a law to financially support non-governmental organizations to assist victims.

On trafficking, she said a moratorium had been established to prohibit the opening of certain stores that were used as fronts for the trafficking trade.  Since 2005, the Government had prepared a comprehensive strategy to fight trafficking.  A national centre for trafficked persons had been set up, and funding to fight trafficking had increased exponentially in the past year.  Child protection units had been built in 12 municipalities. 

Another delegate noted positive developments to prevent trafficking through public awareness programmes, particularly for vulnerable groups such as Roma and gypsy women.  Albania had signed bilateral agreements with the Governments of neighbouring Balkan States and with Italy and Greece to end trafficking, and it had established liaison officers for that purpose with the United Kingdom, Italy, Greece, Kosovo, Turkey, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Ms. KODRA said the Government was working with the International Labour Organization to end the worst forms of child labour.  Child labour prevention programmes had been set up in five major municipalities.

Experts’ Comments and Questions

FERDOUS ARA BEGUM, expert from Bangladesh, noting that migration was great in Albania, particularly among young girls, asked if there was a policy to promote the safe migration for female workers to prevent them from being trafficked.  How many female migrants worked abroad, and did policies exist to guide their remittances?   

Ms. CHUTIKUL, expert from Thailand, asked about civil procedures to compensate female victims of trafficking. 

Ms. NEUBAUER, expert from Slovenia, asked if the new national shelter accommodated both victims of domestic violence and trafficking.  She asked the delegation to elaborate on punishment of prostitutes and programmes for them to leave that line of work.  She lamented that Albanian law criminalized prostitution services, but not the clients that used them.   

Acting Committee Chairperson, XIAOQIAO ZOU, expert from China, lamented that less than 5 per cent of Albanians were aware of the Women’s Convention.  Were there measures, including training courses, to raise its visibility? 

Country Response

Ms. KODRA said there were training courses and training manuals for State employees.  There were four training sessions this year for prosecutors and judges.

Remittances comprised 22 per cent of Albania’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2002, she said.  But that percentage had significantly decreased due to the economic crisis. 

The new national shelter housed and treated victims of violence.  Another shelter attended to trafficked women.  The State budget allocated funds to financially support trafficked women until they found employment. 

Experts’ Comments and Questions

MERIEM BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, asked if there were policies to encourage political parties to achieve a minimum of 30 per cent representation in Parliament of either sex.  Were public subsides revoked for public parties that failed to achieve the 30 per cent quota?  What was the percentage of women serving in the courts and had it changed recently? 

Acting Committee Chairperson Ms. XIAOQIAO, expert from China, lauded Albania for the law on gender equality and the election code to increase the number of women in Parliament.  But she expressed confusion over why women comprised just 16.4 per cent of all parliamentarians, when the quota for their representation was 30 per cent.  Why did women comprise only 1.5 per cent of all mayors?  Were there training and capacity-building programmes for women?

Country Response

Ms. KODRA stressed that women’s participation in decision-making processes had been a priority for the Government.  The law on gender equality had helped to increase women’s participation in the Parliament, as it called for 30 per cent of participants in the electoral lists to be women.  That requirement had been fulfilled in the last general election in 2009. 

She said that political parties were also obligated to fulfil the quota set by the law.  However, women were often placed at the bottom of a political party’s electoral list, or in the weakest positions.  During a recent conference on challenges related to gender stereotypes, it was noted that more work was needed to bolster legislators’ capacity to ensure that more women were nominated as candidates and elected to Parliament.

Another delegate provided the Committee with statistics on women’s representation in Albania’s Foreign Service.  Of the 188 people working within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 89 were women, and more than 22 of those women held leading positions.  Recently, four women had been proposed for important positions, including the position of ambassador.  Such nominations, she said, were a sign that Albania was committed to representing women in leading positions.  Women were also participating in all levels of the judiciary, making up 42 per cent of all members of the high court and 32 per cent of the total number of judges.

Turning back to the elections, Ms. KODRA noted that “family voting” — in which people in villages voted in the interest of the village — was a major challenge.  Such a voting methodology eliminated the element of secrecy in voting, she stressed.  There were suggestions that the voting process should be closely monitored in order to avoid “family voting” and maintain secrecy.  The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) had helped her country to raise awareness on the issue and to monitor the process in past elections.  That information could be used to better organize the electoral campaign, she said.

A delegate speaking on education noted that while the majority of teachers were women, the education sector was still primarily managed by men.  In 2010, 35 per cent of the departmental management of education was in women’s hands, as compared to 8 per cent in 2005.  At the university level, 46 per cent of professors were women, 17 per cent of which were department heads. 

However, Ms. KODRA noted that many women did not believe that they could hold such positions.  That was an issue of confidence, and in that regard, more work needed to be done.

Experts’ Comments and Questions

Ms. NEUBAUER, expert from Slovenia, asked how many women were holding leadership positions at the university level.  Concerning the electoral code, what were the regulations and instructions to the central electoral commission with regard to the sanctions imposed when women did not comprise 30 per cent of the electoral lists?  What was the rationale behind having different provisions for the general and local elections?

Country Response

Ms. KODRA said she did not know of any case in which a political party only provided 20 per cent of women on its list.  As far as she knew, the general electoral commission gave certain parties permission to provide a full list later on.  No party presented less than 30 per cent of women on the list, but women were still at the bottom of the lists.  With regard to sanctions, an expert once said “you should teach women how to play football”, as women did not know how to lobby for themselves.  With that in mind, a quota was included in Albanian legislation. 

Experts’ Comments and Questions

SILVIA PIMENTEL, expert from Brazil, asked if the Government had a special strategy to keep girls from dropping out of primary and secondary schools, especially rural girls.  How did the country plan to integrate women into the highest levels of education?  What efforts had been taken regarding the enrolment of girls and women with disabilities at all levels of education?  Noting that some girls in remote areas did not attend school, she asked what additional measures would be taken to address that issue.  Furthermore, what measures were being taken to overcome differences in girls’ and boys’ educational choices at the tertiary level? 

BARBARA EVELYN BAILEY, expert from Jamaica, said that Albania had claimed in its periodic report that there was no longer discrimination in the education sector, but it was clear that more work needed to be done.  There seemed to be a “dramatic” increase in the number of girls dropping out of secondary education.  In most cases, those girls dropped out in order to help supplement the family income, and therefore, poverty was a strong predictor of dropout rates. 

She asked how the issues of transportation, the safety of girls against threats of sexual harassment, and costs of secondary education were being addressed, particularly with regard to rural girls.  The Ministry of Education had issued an instruction that, as of 2009-2010, schools should report at least twice a year on students that had dropped out of school.  Had that instruction been successful?  Was more precise data now available on dropout rates?

MAGALYS AROCHA DOMINGUEZ, expert from Cuba, commended Albania for the administrative steps it had taken to comply with the Women’s Convention.  There were some women with middle-level or higher education who, because of economic changes in the 1990s, had not been able to find formal employment or receive social security.  For more than 15 years, they had not contributed to society and had had an increasingly difficult time re-entering the labour market, given their old age.  Were there any special measures being envisioned for that group of women?  Would there be any measures to help women who were heads of households?

NIKLAS BRUUN, expert from Finland, applauded the country’s efforts in the area of employment.  How did it plan to move forward with implementing adopted legislation in that regard?  What mechanisms would ensure implementation? The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights had invited Albania to introduce a legal minimum wage, which would be applicable to all workers.  Had the country considered that for the public and private sector?  Could such a minimum wage help tackle the country’s wage gap?  What was the country doing to ensure that women could survive on their limited pensions? 

SOLEDAD MURILLO DE LA VEGA, expert from Spain, said it was important to ratify International Labour Organization Convention No. 118 on equal treatment and payment of social security benefits.  How many complaints had been made on the grounds of discrimination in the workplace to inspectors responsible for monitoring compliance with existing legislation?  Would the country offer re-training for women who would like to re-enter the labour market?  Was the country changing its labour code or imposing penalties to that end?  Labour inspectors had quite a lot of work to do in that respect, she stressed.

Vocational training could, indeed, be a first step towards women owning their own businesses, she said, inquiring whether there were any policies to encourage employment so that such training could actually lead to income generation for women. 

Country Response

A delegate said that a Government programme, with support from non-governmental organizations, had been set up this year to combat the school dropout rate, particularly among Roma, gypsy and disabled children.  Fifty-six per cent of Roma children were now in school.  School attendance among girls in rural areas was still low, particularly in remote places where girls had to travel far to get to school.  The Ministry of Education had instituted programmes to transport such girls to and from centrally located schools, as well as scholarships for them.

Ms. KODRA said efforts had been made to register children in Roma communities, in order to make their school attendance mandatory.  None of the rectors of Albania’s 10 universities were women; however, 30 per cent of the vice rectors were women.  The Government was working to ensure that, in line with the gender equality law, women held 30 per cent of all management positions.

During the dictatorship era, Albanian women worked in all fields, but that trend had reversed under democratic rule, she said.  Today, women predominately worked in lower paying service-sector jobs.  Some incentives aimed to change that.  For example, women were exempted from fees for job training and special services sought to bring more Roma women into the labour market.  Albania’s social insurance system was being reformed.

Sanctions for sexual harassment existed under the labour code and gender equality law, but those seeking retribution first had to prove the existence of sexual harassment, she explained.  Labour contracts comprised special articles on sexual harassment.  Since 1992, a minimum wage existed.  The pay gap issue had yet to be addressed. 

She acknowledged that young girls were used for begging, but no data existed on that phenomenon.  Albania had ratified ILO Convention No. 118 on equal treatment and pay for social security benefits.

In September, the Government would organize a conference on women’s entrepreneurship and small business ownership, based on a Bosnia and Herzegovina model.  Efforts also aimed to help women own property and access low-interest credit.  There were no cooperatives in Albania, but the Ministry of Agriculture was hammering out policies to encourage people to work together. 

Experts’ Comments and Questions

Ms. PIMENTEL, expert from Brazil, noted that the use of modern contraceptive methods and family planning services remained low.  What efforts were under way to change that and improve access to and use of reproductive health services?  What was the Government doing to fight homophobia and violence against gays, lesbians and transsexuals? 

Ms. AROCHA DOMINGUEZ, expert from Cuba, asked about the mechanism to ensure compliance with the law concerning reproductive health, and programmes to prevent breast, cervical and uterine cancer.  What health services, particularly sex education and family planning, existed for Roma communities?  She asked for data on maternal and child mortality for Roma communities.

Ms. COKER-APPIAH, expert from Ghana, expressed concern over gaps in health-care access, notably in obstetrics care, in rural areas.  What plans existed to ensure that reproductive health services were available nationwide and were adequately funded?  Noting that the number of HIV-positive women had increased from 19 per cent in 2002 to 42 per cent in 2008, she asked if antiretroviral drugs were available to all people, including sex workers and drug users.  With HIV transmission high among returning migrant workers, she asked what steps were being taken to protect their wives.

YOKO HAYASHI, expert from Japan, asked if the Government had sex disaggregated data on social benefits and whether female heads of household were eligible for social benefits under the law on economic aid and social services.  Did the Government support such women’s entrance into the workforce?  Did women have access to bank loans?  What measures were taken to guide financial institutions to grant loans and credit to women?  What kind of discussion was held to change the age in which people were eligible for pensions, which was different for men and women?

Ms. BEGUM, expert from Bangladesh, asked about women’s rights to property and Government steps to expand those.  What Government measures existed to give rural women sanitation, housing, health care and education?  What was the timeframe for adoption of the law to encourage cooperative-type arrangements?   What kind of social services were available for elderly people or persons with disabilities?  Were day-care facilities available for the children of migrants working abroad?

Country Response

Ms. KODRA said 69 per cent of women used contraception in Albania, based on a study that had been done in 2008 and 2009.  The Government had adopted the strategy on reproductive health, which was now being implemented.  Local governments were obliged to use the laws issued by the Albanian Parliament.  Under the guidance of the Speaker of the Parliament, there had been several awareness-raising campaigns about breast cancer testing.  The testing was offered free of charge in public institutions. 

She said her country was also in the process of ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the needs of women with disabilities would be addressed within that framework, once ratified.  Turning to social insurance benefits, she said that both men and women benefited.  The Ministry of Labour was looking to review the law on social assistance and was considering integrating women who were heads of households into the system.  The law on social insurance had been changed in 2000, and there was a campaign to increase public awareness about the burden of social insurance on the State budget.

The increase in the pension age for women was viewed as discrimination, she said.  During the conference on gender stereotypes, that issue had been raised, and the women who had participated were against the increase.  In that regard, the Government had undertaken a study, with the aim of increasing awareness within society.  With a view to gender parity, it would be good to have the same pension age for men and women, she noted.

Concerning property, she said there were no special provisions for women.  It was true that women did not own property in Albania.  However, the Government had begun to offer incentives for women to own property.  Owning property, for example, would enable a woman to receive a loan for a business.

Experts’ Comments and Questions

Ms. AWORI, expert from Kenya, said that while the legal minimum marriage age was 18, most women who entered into customary marriages did so under the age of 18.  What measures were being taken to try to achieve uniformity under the marriage law?  Why was there a special provision wherein someone could go to court to allow a girl to be married before she was 18?  What measures were envisaged to bring about de facto equality, both during the marriage and after?

Country Response

Ms. KODRA said that Roma minorities often did not respect the marriage law.  The only exception to that law was when a girl was pregnant.  The Government did not know exactly how large the Roma community was, and it could not completely prevent that community from skirting the marriage law.  A comprehensive set of measures had been taken to support the Roma community, with the provision of shelter, education, and health care, among other services.  Registration of the Roma community was an important first step.

She said that there were no differences in property rights between men and women in Albania, however, women often did not own property for a number of reasons.  If they were married, for instance, the property was likely in their husband’s name.  The Government was seeking to raise women’s awareness that property was needed to start their own businesses and strengthen their economic standing. 

Experts’ Comments and Questions

Ms. NEUBAUER, expert from Slovenia, recalled that the law on the electoral code mandated that a political party’s list comply with at least one out of two requirements.  Was it true that if parties ensured that at least one of the first three candidates on the list was a woman, they did not need to comply with the 30 per cent quota?  What was the Government doing with regard to women working in the informal labour market or at home?

Ms. DE LA VEGA, expert from Spain, asked if the country could include information in its next periodic report on its efforts to protect maternity leave.  What responsibilities did companies have to that end?

Ms. BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, asked if a woman could be “married off” without consent, once she was of age.  If a woman became a widow, could she inherit the husband’s goods and property?  Were inheritance rights the same for widows and widowers?  Did women have the same rights as men, once divorce was finalized?

Country Response

Ms. KODRA said it was indeed true that parties could either list a woman as one of the first three candidates on an electoral list, or ensure that women made up 30 per cent of the list.  By her understanding, all the political parties had complied with the latter. 

Turning to the protection of women in the informal market, she said the Government had taken measures to increase the formal economy in the country.  Albania was obliged to implement requests set forth in the relevant ILO convention on women who worked at home.

Concerning inheritance, all property was divided by law into two parts after the dissolution of a marriage.  Following a husband’s death, the property was divided among the wife and children.

Legislation on maternity leave enabled women to take one year of leave.   Women were obliged to take leave 35 days before giving birth and for 42 days after the birth.  They were not obligated to take the entire year, and could return to work when ready.  Maternity leave for men was also provided by law, she added. 

In closing remarks, Ms. KODRA thanked the Committee for its observations and comments, saying they would serve as a basis for analysis and reform of domestic law, policies and programmes, in accordance with the Women’s Convention.

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*     The 941st Meeting was closed.

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.