Women's situation

Kosovo is a conflict-torn country with different ethnic groups that largely live in separate areas, thus being prone to ethnic tension. Occasional clashes are also taking place, especially in the northern part of Kosovo, mostly between Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Albanians.

The issue of Kosovo’s political status has created something of a political standstill in the country. In this unstable situation, poverty, gender equality and women’s rights have not been prioritised by the politicians for many years. The instability has also contributed to increased polarisation between different ethnic groups. The risk of being subjected to violence limits people’s freedom of movement – especially that of Kosovo Serbs – and impedes access to information, education, health care and job opportunities.

During the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo, thousands of women were subjected to violence, sexual violence and/or were killed. Even more were forced to flee from their homes. The majority of the refugees were Kosovo Albanians, but other minorities – such as the Roma – were also displaced.

Kosovo women did not participate in the Rambouillet negotiations held in Paris in 1999, and the negotiations resulted in a proposal for a peace agreement that included no mention of women or gender. The proposal was never adopted. In 2005, under the mediation of Finland’s former president Martti Ahtisaari, Kosovo Albanians and Serbs once again negotiated Kosovo’s future political status. And once again, despite demands made by the women’s movement, there were no women present.

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia on 17 February 2008. Starting in 2011, EU has facilitated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia aiming at normalizing relations between the two countries. In 2013 there was a breakthrough in negotiations, which paves the way for both countries EU-aspirations. Women’s organisations, however, are critical of the fact that civil society has not been consulted in the ongoing negotiations. In 2015, a stabilization association agreement (SAA) was signed between the European Union and Kosovo, which paves the way to Kosovo’s integration into EU. Women’s organisations are involved in engendering the reform process, foreseen by the SAA.

Today, Kosovo as a young country still faces many challenges, not least corruption, unemployment and political instability.

Electoral quotas for women

Although Kosovo elected its first female president in 2011, men still occupy most of the high level decision-making positions in the country. According to Kosovo’s electoral law, at least 30 percent of the political parties’ candidates must be women. In the 2014 parliamentary elections, 32.5 percent of the seats went to women. Out of 20 ministers in the current Kosovo government, only 2 are women.

On the other hand, the last local elections in 2013 resulted in an increased number of women in decision making positions at municipal level from 30 to approximately 34 percent. Furthermore, one woman was for the first time elected Mayor (in the city of Gjakova).

Women are underrepresented in the labour market. In 2008, 39 percent of the men and 55 percent of the women were unemployed – with even higher unemployment rates for rural women and women from minority groups. In general, women also have lower incomes, and they own less land and property than men. Poverty and unemployment are two major threats to women’s security, since they make it more difficult for them to leave violent relationships.

RAE women (Roma, Ashkali, Egyptians) are one of the most marginalised groups in the country. In comparison to other groups, they have the shortest life expectancy and the lowest levels of education and income.

Violence against women widespread

In 2004, Kosovo adopted laws on gender equality and anti-discrimination, as well as action plans for gender equality and UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and against human trafficking. In 2014, a law regarding war invalids and veterans was amended, now also including women survivors of sexual violence during the war as entitled to compensation. However, none of these laws or action plans have yet been fully implemented and many Kosovar women lack knowledge about their rights.

Violence against women is widespread. Although the issue is increasingly being discussed and legislation has been improved, for most women it is still impossible to leave violent relationships, get access to shelters or win cases of domestic violence in court. Moreover, in cases of rape and other acts of sexual violence committed during the war, most perpetrators have not been punished.

Senast uppdaterad: 2016-07-04