Rape and Domestic Violence: In most cases the penalty for rape, including spousal rape, is one to 10 years in prison. When the victim is younger than 14, suffers serious bodily injury, or is the victim of several perpetrators, punishment may be more severe. Sentences were generally lenient, the average being two years and eight months. There were no governmental institutions to assist victims of sexual violence, although some NGOs provided assistance. There was only one rape reported in the first 11 months of the year.
Deeply ingrained societal attitudes hampered the prosecution of rape cases. Victims were reluctant to report crimes due to the cultural stigma that would attach to themselves and their families. Judges frequently allowed the accused or others to cast aspersions on a victim’s character during court proceedings. In 2011 authorities received three cases of rape and four cases of attempted rape. 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 common. Victims were mainly women and children. Domestic violence is punishable by fine or imprisonment, depending on the gravity of the offense. Penalties range from a fine to a one-year prison sentence. In cases of serious bodily injury or violence against children, punishment ranges from one to five years in prison. If the violence results in death, punishment can be up to 12 years in prison. During the first 10 months of the year, police reported that 157 persons, 94 percent of them men, faced domestic violence charges in 156 separate cases.
NGOs that worked with abused women credibly reported that a significant number of incidents were unreported due to fear of reprisals by attackers, lack of measures to prevent reoccurrence, or social stigma. In some cases victims declined to press charges, and in others perpetrators pressured persons who reported domestic violence to withdraw charges or recant previous testimony. NGOs, with international support, played a major role in addressing and responding to violence against women. NGOs considered the responsiveness of official agencies to be inadequate, but some, including the judiciary and police, appeared more responsive to complaints about domestic violence than in past years. There were no reports that police were reluctant to act in such cases or discouraged women from filing complaints.
A July 2012 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 their partners, 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 or the legal procedures available to deal with it.
According to social centers, nearly three-quarters of female victims of violence were between the ages of 18 and 25.
Lengthy trials, economic dependency, and a 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. 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. NGOs asserted that other reasons women rarely reported domestic violence stemmed from the patriarchal and traditional nature of the society and, in some cases, because of previous unsuccessful attempts to receive protection and justice. Such attempts failed often due to the negative attitudes of police, prosecutors, judges, and social workers. Domestic violence convictions were rare, and the penalties were insufficient to serve as an effective deterrent.
Progress in protecting women and children against domestic violence was slow. NGOs expressed concern that authorities were insufficiently proactive in combating indifferent attitudes towards domestic violence among prosecutors and social workers.
The law provides victims the right to obtain restraining orders against abusers. When abuser and victim live together, authorities may remove the abuser from the property, regardless of ownership rights. Authorities were aware of the problem of domestic violence but did not allocate adequate resources for the accommodation and care of victims, removal of violent persons from families, or other efforts necessary to combat it effectively. NGOs operated three shelters for victims of domestic violence, two in the central part of the country and one in the north. Women’s advocacy groups worked to fight domestic violence through awareness-raising 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 due to fear of reprisal. The NGO Center for Women’s Rights stated that sexual harassment of women occurred often, but few women reported it.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the basic right of couples and individuals to decide freely the number 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.
On May 28, parliament adopted a law on social and child protection that limited social allowances and payments to women during maternity leave, which can last up to 12 months. Several human rights and family-focused NGOs criticized this measure.
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. Women often did not have equal economic or social status with men and often occupied more menial or low-paying jobs. In inheritance law all property acquired during marriage is joint property, and women have the same legal status as men. There were instances of women ceding their property and inheritance rights to men, but this practice continued to decline. 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 giving property titles to family members other than their wives or to friends.
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, while the national literacy rate was more than 98 percent, 84 percent of illiterate persons were women. Women in rural areas encountered attitudes and stereotypes that perpetuated the subordinate position of women in the family and society.
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. Employers at times violated women’s legal entitlement to a 40-hour workweek, overtime, paid leave, and maternity leave. Societal 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. Implementation of the law prohibiting harassment at work was poor. During the first nine months of the year, authorities received only three cases of workplace harassment.
While the law provides for maternity leave, there were reports that private companies did not always meet their legal obligations. NGOs reported that women of childbearing age regularly experienced hiring discrimination because employers feared they would take maternity leave in the future.
Although the law incorporates the principle of nondiscrimination against women, it does not explicitly address the principle of equal pay for equal work. According to a November survey conducted by the International Labor Organization and the Association of Employers, women received an average of 14 percent less than men for the same job. The government’s Department for Gender Equality worked to inform women of their rights. A distinction between “male” and “female” professions is, however, entrenched.
Some job announcements openly specified discriminatory employment criteria for women, such as age and physical appearance. During the year women accounted for 19 percent of the police force and 33 percent of the personnel at the Ministry of Defense and the ANB. An increasing number of women served as judges, and there were many women in such professional fields as law, science, and medicine.
Traditional values, societal prejudice, and a tendency to leave school prematurely limited educational opportunities for women from the Romani, Ashkali, and Egyptian communities. Due to poor education and harsh living conditions, Romani women seldom visited gynecologists or obstetricians, with negative consequences for their health and for infant mortality rates. According to Romani NGOs, one-half of Romani women between the ages of 15 and 24 were illiterate. Romani women often noted that they faced double discrimination based on their gender and ethnicity.
The government took some steps to encourage female entrepreneurship, empower women from rural areas, train judges and prosecutors on gender equality, and strengthen participation of women in politics as a part of a campaign to prevent discrimination against women.