Rape and Domestic Violence: These acts are illegal. In most cases the penalty provided by law 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. Actual sentences were generally lenient, the average being three years.
In 2015 prosecutors received six police reports of rape and dismissed four of them. They indicted two persons. Local criminologists believed that, for every reported case of rape, there were at least five unreported cases. The NGO Center for Women’s Rights reported that abused women or victims of rape often did not report the crime due to a fear of reprisal, economic dependency on the perpetrator, lack of information, physical and social subjugation, lack of measures to prevent reoccurrence, or social stigma.
Domestic violence is generally punishable by a fine or 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.
According to NGO reports, courts often failed to prosecute domestic violence. When they did so, sentences were lenient. Victims and families commonly viewed civil proceedings as substitutes for prosecution. Termination of prosecution was frequent, particularly in cases of “reconciliation” among the parties or “withdrawal” of the victim’s accusation. Lengthy trials, economic dependency, and a lack of alternative places to live often forced victims and perpetrators to continue to live together.
Domestic violence was a persistent and common problem. In its National Strategy on Family Violence 2016-2020, the government identified three main problems: a large disparity between the number of reported cases at social centers and the number of prosecuted cases; a high number of repeat offenders; and victims’ economic dependence on their abusers.
The law permits victims 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. 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.
The government, in cooperation with an NGO, operated a free hotline for victims of family violence. NGOs continued to report that, despite progress, particularly in the law, some government agencies responded inadequately to prevent the violence and help survivors recover. More victims reported instances of family violence due to the hotline’s availability. In the first half of the year, the national hotline received 1,705 calls from 309 persons. The NGO that operated the hotline submitted 63 reports to police, who initiated misdemeanor proceedings in 25 cases and criminal proceedings in four. Police dismissed 34 reports. The performance of personnel responsible for assisting domestic violence or rape victims was mixed. Many lacked the requisite training to be able to assist victims effectively.
NGOs working to combat domestic violence had to rely largely on international donor assistance. Nongovernmental shelters provided victim protection but struggled to secure adequate funding for victim reintegration. 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 to improve women’s access to legal services and workshops.
Sexual Harassment: According to the Center for Women’s Rights, sexual harassment of women occurred often, but few women reported it. Public awareness of the problem remained low. Victims hesitated to report harassment due to fear of employer reprisals and a lack of information about legal remedies.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the right of couples and individuals to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Due to poor education and harsh living conditions, Romani women seldom visited gynecologists, obstetricians, or any other doctor and had the least access to family planning counseling and gynecological services with negative consequences for their health and for infant mortality rates.
Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. All property acquired during marriage is joint property. The NGO SOS noted that women often experienced difficulty in defending their property rights in divorce proceedings due to the widespread belief that property belongs to the man. Sometimes women ceded their inherited property and inheritance rights to male relatives, but this practice has continued to decline. A consequence of these factors was that men tended to be favored in the distribution of property ownership.
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. Less educated women or those living in rural areas often encountered attitudes and stereotypes that perpetuated their subordinate position in the family and society.
Widespread discriminatory cultural norms prevented women from participating equally in all areas of social development and generally discouraged them from seeking work outside the home. During the year the government amended the Law on Social and Child Care to introduce pension benefits for some mothers of three or more children. Some NGOs criticized the law as discriminating against men, and encouraging women to leave the workforce.
Women owned 9.6 percent of companies, although many more managed the day-to-day affairs of businesses. One major reason for the low level of female business ownership was that inheritance practices more often provided men with the necessary collateral. The Department for Gender Equality worked to inform women of their rights, and parliament has a committee on gender equality.
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.
During the year the government conducted a campaign to prevent discrimination against women and strengthen women’s political participation.
Gender-biased Sex Selection: Although it is illegal, medical professionals noted that gender-biased sex selection took place, resulting in a boy-to-girl ratio at birth of 108:100. The government did not actively address the problem.