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When Kosovo's President Atifete Jahjaga (furthest back in the middle) visited the women's rights organisation Medica Kosovo in 2011, one of the topics discussed was governmental support to survivors of sexual violence from the war. Now, this issue has received support from the 1325 National Action Plan. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Malin Palm.
When Kosovo's President Atifete Jahjaga (furthest back in the middle) visited the women's rights organisation Medica Kosovo in 2011, one of the topics discussed was governmental support to survivors of sexual violence from the war. Now, this issue has received support from the 1325 National Action Plan. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Malin Palm.

New hope for Kosovo's survivors of war rape

On January 29, Kosovo committed to concrete actions to make women part of decisions that concern peace and security and for survivors of sexual violence from the war to receive justice. This as the government adopted a National Action Plan (NAP) for UN Security Council Resolution 1325.

Kosovo NAP focus areas• Increased participation of women in decision-making and peacekeeping and building processes.

• Integrated gender perspective in security affairs and increased women’s participation in the security structures.

• Survivors of sexual violence, torture and other forms of violence associated with conflict/war have improved access to protection, access to justice, rehabilitation and re-integration.

The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation’s partner organisation Medica Kosovo was part of one of the working groups drafting the NAP. They work with support to survivors of rape from the war, a category of civilian victims that still, 15 years after the armed conflict ended, have not received any legal recognition in Kosovo.

For Medica Kosovo it’s a great success that the NAP addresses conflict-related sexual violence.

”The plan identifies this issue as one of three main focus areas, so it will be a key for recognition of the survivors,” says Veprore Shehu from Medica Kosovo.

Financial support to survivors

For several years, women’s organisations have advocated for getting survivors of sexual violence as one of the categories of civilian victims of the war that by law are entitled to financial support from the state. A draft amendment passed a first reading in the parliament about a year ago, but since then nothing has happened.

”Now, the government will have to adopt the amendment, because it’s one of the objectives in the National Action Plan. It’s a first step. Then we will continue to help the women through the procedures of claiming their rights to support,” says Veprore Shehu.

According to Lina Andéer, Field Representative for Kvinna till Kvinna in Kosovo, the amendment is politically sensitive, which is why it has met a lot of resistance.

Conflict present in northKosovo declared itself independent from Serbia in February 2008.

It has been recognised by the United States and major European Union countries, but Serbia, refuses to accept Kosovo as an independent state, as do most ethnic Serbs inside the country.

In the northern part of Kosovo, mainly inhabited by Serbs, the unresolved conflict is still very present. The ethnically divided town of Mitrovica remains the symbolic centre of the conflict, divided in a southern, mainly Albanian inhabited part and a northern, mainly Serbian inhabited part.

International peace-keeping forces KFOR and the EU rule of law mission EULEX are still present to prevent inter-ethnic violence.

”The topic of rape during the war has been taboo and is associated with shame. Many don’t want these surviving victims to receive support under the same law as wounded combatants and other ’war heroes’,” she explains.

Northern women excluded

Lina Andéer says that the adoption of the NAP is symbolically important, since women’s organisations has worked for over 10 years to get it into place. Still, she is very critical of the fact that no women from the Mitrovica region in northern Kosovo were invited to participate in its development.

”We raised this issue several times, both with national and international actors, but never got an answer. Resolution 1325 deals with conflict situations and this is the part of Kosovo where the security threats for women are the worst. Women’s organisations testify about high levels of violence against women and there are no shelters. With the unclear status of the north of Kosovo and lack of rule of law, these women are the most vulnerable, and we should make sure that their voices are heard,” says Lina Andéer.

Malin Ekerstedt

Updated in: 2014-02-11