Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal. The penalties for rape range from one to 15 years’ imprisonment, but those laws were poorly enforced. Domestic violence is illegal but was a persistent and common problem. Cultural norms, including social stigmatization and victims’ concerns over possible shame to the family, discouraged women from reporting violence against them or filing criminal charges. Police and judicial officials were reluctant to prosecute spousal rape and domestic violence.
The government ran seven limited-capacity shelters, and one NGO operated a shelter for women at risk that could accommodate 30 women. A national NGO operated a hotline in both Macedonian and Albanian languages and ran two crisis centers to provide temporary shelter for victims of domestic violence. Local NGOs combating domestic violence relied largely on international donations.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and provides a sentencing guideline of three months to three years in prison for violations. Sexual harassment of women in the workplace was a problem, and victims generally did not bring cases forward due to fear of publicity and possible loss of employment (see section 7.d.).
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. Women from rural areas had limited access to family planning counseling and gynecological services, although both were available in predominantly urban areas. Romani women generally had the least access to family planning counseling and gynecological services, since many lacked the identity cards necessary to obtain government services, such as health care.
Discrimination: Women have the same legal status as men in family, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance law, and in the judicial system. Advocates reported that women who owned property and businesses were under-represented and noted some industry-specific gender discrimination. Romani and Albanian women did not have equal opportunities for employment and education due to traditional or religious restrictions on their education and role in society. In some Albanian and Romani communities, the practice of men directing the voting or voting on behalf of female family members disenfranchised women.
Birth Registration: The law determines citizenship primarily by the citizenship of the parents. It also allows orphans found in the country to acquire citizenship, unless authorities discover before they reach the age of 18 that their parents were foreigners. The government automatically registers the births of all children in hospitals and medical institutions, and the law requires that parents register the births of all children, including those born at home, at magistrate offices within 15 days of birth. Some Romani families delayed the registration of newborns, making it difficult for them to access educational, medical, and other benefits later in life because they lacked proper identity documents.
Child Abuse: Child abuse was a problem in some areas. Child welfare advocates asserted that children were reluctant to report abuse due to fear that authorities would place them in institutions. The government operated a hotline for domestic violence, including child abuse.
Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 18. A court may issue a marriage license to persons between the ages of 16 and 18 if it finds them mentally and physically fit for marriage. Early and forced marriage occurred occasionally in the Romani community and, to a much lesser extent, in some Albanian communities. It was difficult to estimate the number of early and forced marriages because they were rarely registered. Government plans for improving the social inclusion of the Romani population included measures to prevent underage marriage, including mandatory high school education, special social and community services, school counseling and outreach, and improved access to basic health services.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits all forms of commercial sexual exploitation of children. The penalty for the commercial sexual exploitation of children is 10 to 15 years in prison. The law prohibits child pornography and provides penalties of five to 15 years in prison for violations. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. Authorities considered child commercial sexual exploitation a problem, but did not know its extent. The country had an online registry, searchable by name and address, of convicted child traffickers and sex offenders that provided their photographs, conviction records, and residential addresses. Offenders could ask authorities to remove them from the register 10 years after they completed their sentence, provided they did not re-offend.
Displaced Children: According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, there were 96 displaced children of different ethnicities registered as of September. An October report from the Ombudsman’s Office estimated that 236 children lived without shelter. These children ranged from a few months in age to 18; while most lived in Skopje, there are many in the towns of Bitola, Kumanovo, Veles, Gostivar, and Kisela. With international support, the ministry operated five day-centers for street children. The government maintained a transit shelter for street children, but its small size limited its effectiveness in providing social services. According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, there were 78 street children in the country at the beginning of the year.
Government authorities and NGOs assisted 25 unaccompanied migrant children at the border as of July 31. No unaccompanied migrant minors were known to be in the country at year’s end.
Institutionalized Children: Advocates and the Ombudsman’s Office reported a lack of accountability for child neglect and abuse in orphanages, shelters, and detention centers. On June 1, the Ombudsman’s Office presented its report on the Tetovo Juvenile Penitentiary, describing inhumane living and sanitary conditions in the facility, disturbing treatment practices by the penitentiary wards, and a lack of medical care. According to the Ombudsman’s Office, physiological and sanitary needs were unmet; there was no permanent doctor on staff; and hepatitis was spread through sexual intercourse among the boys, some of whom had been victims of sex abuse.
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.
The Jewish community estimated that 200 to 250 Jews lived in the country. There were occasional anti-Semitic incidents on internet portals. On the internet portal “Dudinka,” controversial journalist Milenko Nedelkovski twice posted disparaging comments vilifying the Jewish community. He alleged that the Ashkenazi controlled much of the world and depicted them as “ideologues, financiers and organizers of the Holocaust,” and as “creators of the perception that the Jews were the biggest victims of the Nazis.”
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 law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, and the provision of other state services, but the government did not always enforce these provisions effectively. The law allows persons who have experienced discrimination to submit complaints to the Commission for Protection from Discrimination. The commission was located in an office inaccessible to persons with physical disabilities.
A separate law regulates a special government fund for stimulating employment of persons with disabilities. The Employment Agency manages the fund with oversight by the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy. The fund provided grants for office reconstruction or procurement of equipment for a work station in order to provide reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities. The law requires persons with physical or mental disabilities to obtain approval from a government medical commission in order to serve in supervisory positions in the private and public sectors.
The law establishes accessibility standards for new buildings; existing public structures were to be made accessible for persons with disabilities by the end of 2015. NGOs reported that many public buildings did not comply with the law, as the government was still awaiting clarification from the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy of the requirement for a “fully accessible” environment. Many new buildings did not have accessible toilets. Although all buses purchased since 2013 by the government for Skopje were accessible to persons with physical disabilities, public transportation remains largely inaccessible in other regions. The Ministry of Transport and Communications continued a multi-year project to procure accessible train cars and make train stations in Skopje and 10 other cities accessible.
The Ministry of Education and Science made efforts to provide suitable support to enable children with disabilities to attend regular schools. It employed special educators, assigned either to individual selected schools or as “mobile” municipal special educators covering all schools in their municipality, to support teachers who had children with disabilities in their regular classes. School authorities also installed elevators in several primary schools and deployed technology to assist students with disabilities in using computers in selected primary and secondary schools. Despite these efforts, a large number of students with disabilities continued to attend special schools.
According to the country’s most recent census in 2002, the ethnic composition of the population was 64.2 percent Macedonian, 25.2 percent Albanian, 3.9 percent Turkish, 2.7 percent Romani, 1.8 percent Serbian, 0.8 percent Bosniak, and 0.5 percent Vlach.
According to the ombudsman’s annual report, ethnic minorities, with the exception of Serbs and Vlachs, were under-represented in the civil service and other state institutions, including the military, police, intelligence services, courts, national bank, customs service, and public enterprises.
The law provides for primary and secondary education in the Macedonian, Albanian, Romani, Turkish, and Serbian languages. The number of minority students who received secondary education in their native language continued to increase, especially after secondary education became mandatory in 2007, although the government was unable to provide full instruction in Romani due to a shortage of qualified teachers.
Relations between the ethnic Macedonian and ethnic Albanian communities were often strained. Several interethnic incidents triggered protests that added to tensions between the two largest communities. Ethnic Albanians continued to complain of unequal representation in government ministries and public enterprises. The country’s police academy continued to fall short of the number of minority trainees needed to comply with the constitution. Ethnic Albanians complained that the government designed the testing process in the academy unfairly to deny access to ethnic Albanians and other minority groups. In particular, ethnic Albanians complained of cultural biases in the tests. Ethnic Albanian representation within the civilian administration of the Ministry of Defense remained low at only 13.5 percent, whereas they represented 20 percent of the armed forces. Some elite units of the police and the military had almost no representation of ethnic minorities.
Roma reported widespread societal discrimination. NGOs and international experts reported that employers often denied Roma job opportunities, and some Roma complained of lack of access to public services and benefits. Romani children were overrepresented in segregated “special” schools for students with intellectual disabilities. Romani NGOs also reported that some private business owners occasionally denied Roma entrance to their establishments. Some Roma lacked identity cards, which were necessary to obtain government services such as education, welfare, and health care, although the EU, UNHCR, and several NGOs worked to provide identity documents to all Roma.
In 2014 the government drafted a new National Strategy for the Roma under its commitment to the Decade of Roma Inclusion initiative (now partially reconstituted as the Roma Integration 2020 initiative) that would assist Roma with education, housing, employment, and infrastructure development. With the exception of education, funds were not sufficient to produce significant results, especially in health care. The government continued to fund information centers that directed Roma to educational, health care, and social welfare resources. Increased NGO and government funding to eliminate barriers to education, including making conditional cash transfers to Romani students, resulted in steady school attendance rates, especially in secondary schools.
Ethnic Turks complained of discrimination. Their main concerns were slow progress in achieving equitable representation in government institutions and the inadequacy of Turkish-language education and media. Turkish is an official language in four rural municipalities.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The constitution and law do not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, nor does the antidiscrimination law list sexual orientation as a protected ground. The country decriminalized homosexuality in 1996 and sexual acts between members of the same sex are legal.
The LGBTI community in the country remained heavily marginalized. There was a climate of general hostility towards the LGBTI community in the mainstream press, political establishment, and society, and authorities failed to take measures to stop hate speech and hate crimes against LGBTI individuals. Activists supporting LGBTI rights reported multiple incidents of societal prejudice. Hate speech, physical assaults and other violence, failure of the police to arrest perpetrators of attacks, and a failure of the government to condemn or combat discrimination against the LGBTI community were the key issues identified by LGBTI-focused NGOs during the year. According to an April survey by the NGO Subversive Front, the level of discrimination experienced by young LGBTI individuals was nearly twice as high as discrimination experienced by non-LGBTI persons.
According to the LGBTI Support Center, 75 percent of the LGBTI community does not trust the police to protect their rights and over 90 percent claim that state institutions do not provide sufficient information that would help in the process of self-advocacy and seeking assistance for legal protection of their rights and physical security. The courts did not hold perpetrators of violence and hate speech accountable, prompting many victims to forego reporting attacks to law enforcement entities. According to the NGO Coalition for Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities, the Skopje Public Prosecution Office did not process over 90 percent of cases involving crimes targeting members of the LGBTI community.
According to NGOs, there was a lack of will among the political parties to address the problem of violence and discrimination against members of the LGBTI community. Government representatives were typically absent from public discussions on LGBTI issues.
There was some improvement during the year with respect to efforts by the LGBTI community to draw attention to LGBTI issues and celebrate diversity. Authorities permitted Pride Week events and other public rallies in support of LGBTI rights, and organizers reported better cooperation with local administrative and security authorities. In addition, on December 14, the LGBTI Support Center signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Ombudsman’s Office to share information and work together to protect the rights of LGBTI individuals.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
There were isolated reports of discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS in employment and access to health care.