Rape and Domestic Violence: The usual penalty for rape, including spousal rape, is one to 10 years in prison; however, where the victim is younger than 14, suffered serious bodily injury, or was the victim of several perpetrators, punishment could be more severe. In practice sentences were generally much more lenient, the average being two years and eight months. NGOs provided assistance to victims of sexual violence due to a lack of government support institutions.
Deeply ingrained societal attitudes hampered the prosecution of rape cases. Victims were reluctant to report crimes due to the cultural stigma that attaches to victims and their families. Judges frequently allowed participants in court proceedings to cast aspersions upon a victim’s character. In 2011 three cases of rape and four cases of attempted rape were reported. Spousal rape is also punishable through a civil action, but this was infrequent, since it required the victim to initiate the lawsuit and appear in court.
Violence against women, including domestic violence, was a persistent and common problem. Domestic violence is punishable by fine or imprisonment, depending on the gravity of the offense. While domestic violence was widely acknowledged, no reliable statistics existed on the extent of the problem.
NGOs that worked with abused women plausibly claimed that a significant number of incidents were unreported due to fear of reprisals by attackers or lack of measures to prevent reoccurrence. NGOs played the major role in addressing and responding to violence against women. Observers considered the responsiveness of official agencies to be inadequate, but some of them, including the judiciary and police, appeared to be more responsive to complaints about domestic violence than in past years.
A July survey conducted by the NGOs CEED Consulting, and SOS Hotline Niksic, found that women tolerated violence because they feared rejection by their families or the broader community, were economically dependent on men, had low levels of self-confidence, or lacked trust in public institutions. Violence against women mostly occurred in marriage. The survey indicated that government institutions responsible for combating domestic violence failed to respond adequately to these problems, in part because personnel lacked adequate training about the nature of domestic violence and the legal procedures available for dealing with it.
In the first 10 months of the year, police received accusations of family violence in 139 cases and in the same period filed criminal charges against 145 individuals.
During the first six months of the year, the NGO SOS Hotline for Women and Children Victims of Family Violence received 479 telephone calls. Psychological violence was reported in all of these calls, physical violence in 80.5 percent, and economic abuse and dependency in 60.5 percent. Most women who asked for assistance possessed at least a high school diploma and were between the ages of 35 and 55. Male victims were generally elderly and were abused by their children.
Lengthy trials, economic dependency, and lack of alternative places to live often obliged victims and perpetrators to continue to live together, resulting at times in additional assaults and greater hesitation of victims to report them. Government efforts to protect victims of domestic violence were inadequate. Local NGOs working to combat domestic violence relied to a large extent on international donor assistance. According to NGOs and the ombudsman, female victims of domestic violence often complained that government-run social welfare centers did not respond adequately to their appeals for help. Juvenile victims of domestic violence were sometimes accommodated in the children’s correctional facility in Ljubovic or the orphanage in Bijela.
Authorities were aware of the problem of domestic violence but did not allocate adequate resources for accommodation and care of victims of family violence, removal of violent persons from families, or other efforts necessary to combat it effectively. NGOs operated two shelters for victims of domestic violence in the central part of the country but did not address the needs of victims in the north and other rural areas. Women’s advocacy groups worked to combat domestic violence through awareness campaigns and sought to improve women’s access to legal services and workshops.
Sexual harassment: Sexual harassment is illegal but remained a problem, and society generally tolerated it. Public awareness remained low. Victims, both women and men, were hesitant to report harassment for fear of reprisal. The NGO Montenegrin Women’s Lobby stated that 27 women ages 19 to 47 asked for their assistance because of sexual harassment during the year.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the basic right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Health clinics and local health NGOs operated freely in disseminating information on family planning under the guidance of the Ministry of Health. There was free access to contraceptives and to skilled attendance during childbirth, including essential obstetric and postpartum care. The government provided free childbirth services.
Discrimination: The constitution provides for gender equality. Women have the same legal status and rights as men under family law, labor law, property law, and access to the judicial system. In practice women often did not have equal legal, economic, or social status with men. In inheritance law, where women have the same legal status as men, there remained instances of women ceding their property and inheritance rights to men, but this practice continued to decline significantly. Women were hesitant to report discrimination. In 2011 the ombudsman received 131 discrimination complaints. The NGO SOS noted that it was difficult for women to defend their property rights in divorce proceedings. According to a survey conducted by the NGO, 58 percent of divorced women initiated proceedings for the division of marital property, but only 3 percent of them were successful, and proceedings lasted six years on average. One emerging trend involved husbands in divorce proceedings titling their property in the name of other family members or friends rather than their wives. Traditional patriarchal ideas of gender, according to which women should be subservient to male members of their families, resulted in continued discrimination against women in the home. For example, 84 percent of illiterate persons were women. In rural areas women could not always exercise their right to control property, and husbands occasionally directed their wives’ voting.
Widespread, albeit mostly tacit, discriminatory cultural norms prevented women from equal participation in all areas of social development and generally discouraged them from seeking work outside the home. When they did so, they faced discriminatory treatment in the labor market, particularly in the trade and tourism sectors. Employers frequently violated women’s legal entitlement to a 40-hour workweek, overtime, paid leave, and maternity leave. Expectations regarding women’s obligations toward the family adversely affected their opportunities for advancement. Harassment at work was often unreported due to the victim’s fear of being fired and a lack of information on legal remedies.
According to the national statistical office (MONSTAT), one of every 134 women held a management position in government or commerce, compared to one of every 18 men. Men far outnumbered women in senior positions (70 percent versus 30 percent), even though more women had college degrees. According to an October MONSTAT survey, men owned 87 percent of all agriculture farms, while women were responsible for field work 66 percent of the time. The survey showed that men owned 90 percent of all businesses. Some job announcements openly specified discriminatory employment criteria for women, such as age and physical appearance. In 2011 women accounted for only 13.4 percent of the police force and 8.6 percent of army personnel. Nevertheless, an increasing number of women served as judges, and there were many women in such professional fields as law, science, and medicine.
Educational opportunities for women from the Romani, Ashkali, and Egyptian communities were limited due to traditional values and societal prejudice. Due to poor education and harsh living conditions, Romani women seldom visited gynecologists or obstetricians, with negative consequences for their health and infant mortality rates. According to Romani NGOs, Romani women were mostly economically dependent (71 percent), while half of them between the ages of 15 and 24 were illiterate.
Although the law incorporates the principle of nondiscrimination against women, it does not explicitly address the principle of equal pay for equal work. Women’s wages were lower than those of men for comparable work. The government’s Department for Gender Equality worked to inform women of their rights. A distinction between “male” and “female” professions was entrenched. From 2008 to 2011, according to research completed by the NGO Foundation for Development of Economic Science, women earned an average of 16 percent less than men.
The government took steps to improve employment of women from rural areas, training judges and prosecutors on gender equality, completing the campaign on the Convention of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and including fathers in the national gender equality campaign.
An 11-member standing committee of the Assembly devoted to gender equality held five meetings during the first nine months of the year and proposed various measures for advancing policies and strategies aimed at enhancing gender equality.