Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is a crime. Penalties for rape and assault depend on the age of the victim. For rape of an adult, the prison term is three to 10 years; for rape of an adolescent between the ages of 14 and 18, the sentence is five to 15 years; and for rape of a child under 14, seven to 15 years. The law includes provisions on sexual assault and sexual harassment and makes the criminalization of spousal rape explicit. The government did not enforce the law effectively. Victims rarely reported spousal abuse, and officials did not prosecute spousal rape. The concept of spousal rape was not well understood, and authorities and the public often did not consider it a crime.
Domestic violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a serious problem. Police often did not have the training or capacity to deal effectively with domestic violence cases.
Through August a government shelter for domestic violence survivors in Tirana assisted 24 women and 40 children, but it could not accept individuals without a court order. The government operated one shelter to protect survivors of domestic violence and NGOs operated four others. In addition, three NGO shelters provided protection and shelter to victims of trafficking as well as victims of abuse.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, although officials rarely enforced it. NGOs and the commissioner for protection against discrimination believed sexual harassment was seriously underreported. The commissioner for protection against discrimination generally handled cases of sexual harassment. The commissioner may impose fines of up to 80,000 leks ($640) against individuals or 600,000 leks ($4,800) against enterprises.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. The quality of and access to government-provided health care, including obstetric and postpartum care, was not satisfactory, especially in remote rural areas.
Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. Women were not excluded from any occupation in either law or practice, but in many fields, they were underrepresented at the highest levels. The law mandates equal pay for equal work, although many private employers did not fully implement this provision. In many communities, women experienced societal discrimination based on traditional social norms depicting women as subordinate to men. There were reports of discrimination in employment.
Gender-biased Sex Selection: According to the government’s statistical agency, the ratio of boys to girls at birth in 2014 was 109 to 100, which indicated that gender-biased sex selection was possibly occurring. The government did not take any steps to address the imbalance.
Birth Registration: An individual acquires citizenship by birth within the country’s territory or from a citizen parent. Parents were encouraged to register the birth of a child in a timely manner, and the law provides for a monetary reward for parents who register their children within 60 days of birth. Often, however, authorities did not disburse the reward. There were no reports of discrimination in birth registration, but onerous residency and documentation requirements for registration made it more difficult for the many Romani and Balkan-Egyptian parents who lacked legally documented places of residence to register their children or to access government services dependent on registration.
According to the domestic branch of the NGO Association for the Social Support of Youth (ARSIS), children born to internal migrants or those returning from abroad, especially from Greece, frequently had no birth certificates or other legal documents and consequently were unable to attend school or have access to services. This was particularly a problem for Romani families, in which couples often married young and failed to register the births of their children.
Education: School attendance is mandatory through the ninth grade or until the age of 16, whichever occurs first, but many children, particularly in rural areas, left school earlier to work with their families. Parents must purchase supplies, books, uniforms, and space heaters for some classrooms; these were prohibitively expensive for many families, particularly Roma and other minorities. Many families also cited these costs as a reason for not sending girls to school. Although the government had a program to reimburse low-income families for the cost of textbooks, many families and NGOs reported they were unable to receive reimbursement after purchasing the books. NGOs noted that occasionally teachers discriminated against Romani children because of their perceived poor hygiene.
Child Abuse: Observers believed that child abuse was widespread, although victims rarely reported it. In 2013 the Children’s Human Rights Center reported that 58 percent of children were victims of physical abuse, 11 percent were victims of sexual harassment, and almost 5 percent said they had been victims of sexual abuse. Almost 70 percent of children reported psychological abuse from family members, according to the center.
Early and Forced Marriage: Although the legal minimum age for marriage is 18, authorities did not enforce the law. Underage marriages occurred mostly in rural areas and within Romani communities. According to the 2015 Early Marriages in Albaniastudy of the Observatory of Children, approximately 3 percent of children between the ages of 15 and 18 were married. The study also noted that 9 percent of Romani children between the ages of 13 and 18 were married. ARSIS claimed that, in certain Romani communities, girls as young as seven and boys as young as nine were considered married. Some NGOs reported that early and forced marriages occurred in rural communities as part of human trafficking schemes, with parents consenting to their underage daughters marrying older foreign men, who subsequently moved them to other countries.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The penalties for the commercial sexual exploitation of a child range from eight to 15 years’ imprisonment. The country has a statutory rape law, and the minimum age for consensual sex is 14. The penalty for statutory rape is a prison term of five to 15 years. In aggravated circumstances, the penalty may increase to life imprisonment. The law prohibits making or distributing child pornography; penalties are a prison sentence of three to 10 years. Possession of child pornography is illegal. The law explicitly includes minors in provisions that cover sexual abuse, harassment, exploitation for prostitution, benefiting from services offered by trafficked persons, facilitating trafficking, and domestic violence.
Authorities generally enforced laws against the rape and sexual exploitation of minors effectively, but NGOs reported that laws prohibiting child pornography were rarely enforced. Some children under the age of 18 were exploited for prostitution.
Displaced Children: There continued to be numerous displaced and street children, particularly in the Romani community. Street children begged or did petty work; some migrated to neighboring countries, particularly during the summer. These children were at highest risk of trafficking, and some became trafficking victims. Since the law prohibits the prosecution of children under 14 for burglary, criminal gangs at times used displaced children to burglarize homes. There were few prosecutions of child trafficking cases.
A 2014 study by the UN Children’s Fund and Save the Children found that more than 2,500 children, nearly 75 percent of them from Romani or Balkan-Egyptian communities, begged or worked informally on the streets. Most children claimed earning money for their family was the principal reason for their begging or work, and nearly one-third of them said their parents forced them to work. According to the report, many of these children ran the risk of being trafficked.
The government subsequently implemented a pilot program in Tirana to remove children from the street and provide them with social care. Another pilot program provided financial incentives to parents to send their children to school and have them vaccinated. The State Agency for the Protection of Children’s Rights reported that authorities assisted 345 out of 808 identified street children between July 2015 and June 2016. ARSIS reported that children continued to work in cannabis plantations around the country.
Institutionalized Children: Media reported on cases of child abuse occurring in the orphanages of Shkoder, Durres, and Saranda. In April the ombudsman investigated the Shkoder orphanage and recommended criminal charges against several members of the staff for physical and psychological abuse as well as exploitation of child labor. The investigation continued at year’s end.
The migrant detention facility in Karrec was considered unsuitable for children, although a small number of migrant children resided there for periods lasting a few days to several weeks.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
There were reportedly only a few hundred Jews living in the country. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The constitution and laws prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, transportation, access to health care, the judicial system, and the provision of other state services. Nevertheless, employers, schools, health-care providers, and providers of other state services at times engaged in discrimination. The law mandates that new public buildings be accessible to persons with disabilities, but the government only sporadically enforced the law. According to the 2011 census, 24 percent of persons with disabilities had never attended school. Widespread poverty, unregulated working conditions, and poor medical care posed significant problems for many persons with disabilities.
In June the government approved the 2016-20 National Action Plan for Persons with Disabilities, supported by a state budget of 1.5 billion leks ($12 million). The government also funded the Albanian Disability Rights Foundation with five million leks ($40,000) for the production of wheelchairs. The government sponsored social services agencies to protect the rights of persons with disabilities, but these agencies traditionally lacked funding to implement their programs. Resource constraints and lack of infrastructure made it difficult for persons with disabilities to participate fully in civic affairs. Voting centers often were located in facilities lacking accommodations for such persons.
The ombudsman regularly inspected mental health institutions. Both the admission and release of patients at mental health institutions were problematic due to lack of sufficient financial resources to provide adequate psychiatric evaluations. There was societal discrimination and stigmatization of persons with mental and other forms of disability.
There were allegations of significant discrimination against members of the Romani and Balkan-Egyptian communities, including in housing, employment, health care, and education. Some schools resisted accepting Romani and Balkan-Egyptian students, particularly if they appeared to be poor. Many mixed schools that accepted Romani students marginalized them in the classroom, sometimes by physically setting them apart from other students.
Romani rights NGOs criticized the lack of legal safeguards against eviction and demolition of Romani camps included in the law on property legalization. Evictions and demolitions continued during the year and affected many Romani families. The government operated alternative housing programs for evicted families including Roma, but these programs were generally unsustainable without significant NGO and external donor support.
The law provides official minority status for both national and ethnolinguistic groups. The government defined Greeks, Macedonians, and Montenegrins as national groups; Greeks constituted the largest of these. The law defined Aromanians (Vlachs) and Roma as ethnolinguistic minority groups.
The ethnic Greek minority complained about the government’s unwillingness to recognize ethnic Greek towns outside communist-era “minority zones” or to use Greek in official documents and on public signs in ethnic Greek areas. Public education was not available in the Romani, Serbo-Croatian, or Vlach languages.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, including in employment. Through August the government’s commissioner for the protection against discrimination received five complaints from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals and organizations. Enforcement of the law was generally weak. In May the Council Of Ministers adopted the National Plan of Action for the LGBTI 2016-20, and in August an order of the prime minister established the National Group of Implementation and Coordination to implement the action plan. The action plan seeks to improve the legal and institutional framework for protecting LGBTI persons; eliminate all forms of discrimination; and improve access to employment, education, health, and housing services.
Sexual orientation and gender identity are among the classes protected by the country’s hate-crime law. Despite the law and the government’s formal support for LGBTI rights, homophobic attitudes persisted in private and public life. Public officials sometimes made homophobic statements. NGOs reported that families evicted LGBTI persons from their homes during the year. Through August the country’s first shelter for evicted LGBTI persons, opened in 2014, accommodated 12 individuals.
On May 14, activists participated in the fourth Tirana Gay (P)Ride against Homophobia, a short bicycle ride on Tirana’s main boulevard, and Albanians witnessed the first television spot on family equality rights. As part of a “diversity festival,” activists organized other activities, such as the public recognition of 30 persons who supported the LGBTI cause. Police ensured activists’ safety during the events. In May the job placement company Headhunters Albania released an LGBTI employment equality index rating the compliance of private companies with recruitment laws that protect sexual orientation. The index of 71 companies indicated that 62 percent had inclusive human resource policies but only 3 percent specifically addressed nondiscrimination of LGBTI job candidates.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. In the most recent demographic and health survey (2008-09), however, 71 percent of women and 69 percent of HIV-positive men reported discriminatory attitudes towards persons with HIV. Such persons experienced general social stigma, although there were no reports of violence against such individuals during the year.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Incidents of societal killings, including both “blood feud” and revenge killings, occurred during the year. Media portrayed some gang-related killings as blood feud killings, and criminals at times used the term to justify their crimes. There were no cases of minors or women falling victim to blood feud killings. The ombudsman reported that authorities’ efforts to protect families or prevent blood feud deaths were insufficient, although the government increased efforts to prosecute such crimes.