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.
Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship from their parents and, under some circumstances, by birth in the country, through naturalization, or as otherwise specified by international treaties governing the acquisition of citizenship. Registration of birth, a responsibility of the parents, is required for a child to have the necessary documents to establish his or her citizenship. Births of all children in hospitals and medical institutions were registered automatically. Romani, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptian children sometimes were not born in hospitals, and their parents registered their births at much lower rates than other groups, mostly due to their lack of awareness of the importance of registration and the parents’ own lack of identification documents. It was difficult for the unregistered children of Romani and Balkan Egyptian parents to access such government services as health care, social allowances, and education. Of the Romani and Balkan Egyptian children in primary school, 10 percent were not registered.
UNHCR continued to work with authorities to address low rates of birth registration among Kosovo IDPs, but progress was slow. Of 28 unregistered children of Romani and Balkan Egyptian parents whom UNHCR presented to authorities in 2015, authorities registered six.
Education: The law provides for free elementary education for all children. Secondary education is free but not compulsory. According to the 2011 census, 95 percent of school-age children attended school.
In the Romani, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptian communities, traditional values, societal prejudice, and a tendency to leave school prematurely limited educational opportunities for girls. The percentage of children attending school was much lower for Romani children (51 percent) and Balkan Egyptian children (54 percent). Although the situation improved as more Romani children enrolled in school, the majority did not finish secondary school, and few enrolled in university programs. During the year 1,438 Romani and Balkan Egyptian students attended primary school, but only 99 students from these communities attended secondary school, and 20 attended university. During the 2014-15 academic year, the primary school dropout rate for students belonging to the Romani, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptian minorities was approximately 40 percent. Obstacles to education included poverty, lack of fluency in the Montenegrin language, lack of identity documents, and community pressure to contribute to family income from a young age. Girls were more likely than boys to leave primary school. NGOs reported that many parents did not want their children, particularly girls, to go to school, preferring that they stay at home and marry at an early age.
A government commission responsible for monitoring school dropouts achieved no substantial results. To assist the education process, authorities hired 21 aides to provide 21 Romani children with more individualized attention in secondary schools. To encourage attendance, the government also provided free schoolbooks to Romani children in the first three grades of primary school and gave monthly stipends to Romani secondary school and university students of 60 and 150 euros ($66 and $165), respectively. There were no textbooks in the Romani language, but the government financed a Romani dictionary.
Roma and Balkan Egyptians often lived far from schools. A large majority of families from these communities could not afford to pay for safe transport to and from school; according to parents, free transport was often not available.
Child Abuse: The Ministry of Health reported that every third child was subject to emotional abuse, while every fourth child was a victim of physical abuse. Many children, particularly high school students, were exposed to alcohol, drugs, and violence. According to the Center for Children Rights and media reports, peer violence among children was on the rise. In 2015 the country’s social centers registered 12 cases of sexual abuse of children, 89 cases of physical abuse of children, and 169 cases of emotional abuse. The ombudsman noted that child sexual abuse victims were usually girls between the ages of 14 and 16. The abusers were mostly close relatives of the children, and abuse usually occurred at home.
Authorities prosecuted child abuse, but facilities and psychotherapy assistance for children who suffered from family violence were inadequate, and there were no marital or family counseling centers. At times authorities placed juvenile victims of domestic violence in the children’s correctional facility in Ljubovic or the orphanage in Bijela.
Observers noted the continuing absence of a registry of child sex offenders. Authorities did not prosecute or fine offending media outlets for violation of the prohibition against publishing the names of children who were victims of abuse.
The UN Children’s Fund published a study showing that 55 percent of the country’s citizens did not believe that there was child abuse in the country. The study also reported that 37 percent of children also experienced some sort of harassment online.
Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 18 in most cases, but persons as young as 16 may marry with the consent of a court if it finds them mentally and physically fit for marriage. Child marriage was a serious problem, particularly in the Romani and Balkan Egyptian communities. According to a survey by the NGO Center for Roma Initiatives, 70 percent of the Romani population between the ages of 12 and 18 entered into arranged marriages.
Authorities considered such common law marriages illegal. Punishment for arranging forced marriages ranges from six months to five years in prison. NGOs reported that the parents of some girls sold them into marriage, including to foreigners. The custom of buying or selling virgin brides continued in the Romani, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptian communities. The government implemented measures to prevent underage marriage, including enforcing mandatory school education and prosecuting persons who arranged early marriages. During the first seven months of the year, the government’s office against human trafficking identified four cases of early arranged marriages.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The age of sexual consent is 18. There is a statutory rape law. Sexual activity with a juvenile carries a prison sentence of up to three years. Paying a juvenile for sexual activity carries a prison term of three months to five years. Authorities may fine or imprison for one to 10 years any person found guilty of inducing a minor into prostitution. In 2015 one criminal case of brokering in prostitution involved three minors.
Child pornography is illegal, and sentences range from six months in prison for displaying child pornography to eight years for using a child in the production of pornography.
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 no reports of anti-Semitic acts against the country’s small Jewish community, which numbered approximately 500 individuals.
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 law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, health care, pensions, allowances, family care and support, building, information, air travel, and road and railway transportation. The government did not enforce these laws effectively.
Authorities generally enforced the requirement that new public buildings be accessible to persons with disabilities, but most public facilities, including buildings and public transportation, were older and lacked access. The government allocated funds for the construction of accessibility ramps in 13 key facilities across the country. In 2015 the government completed construction of ramps in five buildings, including the parliament building and the center for social welfare. Some NGOs stated the improvements still did not meet international accessibility standards. Although election laws specifically require accessible polling places, the majority of polling stations were not.
Although legal support for persons with disabilities improved and their visibility increased somewhat, they remained among the most vulnerable members of society. Despite legal protections, persons with disabilities often hesitated to institute legal proceedings against persons or institutions seen to be violating their rights. Observers ascribed this reluctance to lack of faith in the legal system based on the adverse outcomes of previous court cases or, according to the ombudsman, to insufficient public awareness of human rights and protection mechanisms relating to disabilities. In 2015 the ombudsman received six cases involving discrimination against persons with disabilities.
The Ministries of Health, Labor, and Social Welfare; Education and Sports; Finance; Justice; Human and Minority Rights; Sustainable Development, Traffic, and Tourism, as well as the Secretariat for Legislation, the State Employment Agency, and five NGOs provided assistance and protection in their respective spheres. Together, they constituted the Council for Care of Persons with Disabilities, which was chaired by the minister of labor and social welfare and had responsibility for policies protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.
According to NGOs, services at the local level to children with mental and physical disabilities remained inadequate. Associations of parents of children with disabilities were the primary providers of these services. The law permits parents or guardians of persons with disabilities to work half time, but employers did not respect this right. Following adoption of amendments to the Social and Child Protection Law, the government also increased financial assistance to unemployed parents of children with disabilities.
The government made efforts to enable children with disabilities to attend schools and universities, but education and facilities to accommodate them remained inadequate at all levels. There was a widespread public perception that children with disabilities were ill and should be institutionalized and separated from other children. During the year the government continued to assign assistants to schools to help children with disabilities. The government operated nine day-care centers for younger children with disabilities. Children with disabilities attended primary and, to a lesser degree, secondary schools in both regular schools and specialized schools for children with disabilities. There were three specialized schools, two in Podgorica and one in Kotor. Some state university campuses were partially accessible.
Medical care for persons with mental disabilities remained inadequate. Institutionalization perpetuated stigmatization. Persons with physical disabilities had difficulty obtaining through health and social insurance high-quality medical devices to facilitate their mobility as well as other orthopedic aids.
Roma, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptians remained the most vulnerable victims of discrimination, mainly due to prejudice and limited access to social services. Their lack of required documents often limited their access to services. The law relating to citizenship and its accompanying regulations makes obtaining citizenship difficult for persons without personal identity documents or those born outside of a hospital (see also section 2.d., Stateless Persons). For example, access to health-care services remained difficult for the members of these communities due to the lack of medical care cards.
According to the Roma Education Fund, the poverty rate among the Roma, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptians was 36 percent compared with a rate of 11 percent for the general population. Many Roma, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptians lived illegally in squatter settlements that were often widely scattered and lacked services such as public utilities, medical care, and sewage disposal.
Romani, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptian children experienced discrimination in school (see section 6, Children).
Unlike other minorities, Roma, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptians lacked political representation in the national and local parliaments. The law providing for political representation of Roma in the national parliament was not properly implemented. The leaders of other ethnic minority communities continued to allege they were underrepresented in parliament, government administration, the judiciary, and government-owned economic enterprises.
Some Albanian groups claimed that authorities’ refusal to meet their request that the Tuzi area of the Podgorica municipality become a separate municipality constituted discrimination against them.
Albanians and Bosniaks in the northern and southern parts of the country frequently complained they were victims of central government discrimination and economic neglect. A few activists alleged this disparity was an intentional policy designed to compel them to leave the country in search of economic opportunity. Ethnic Serbian politicians claimed that the government discriminated against the Serbian national identity, language, and religion.
Government-supported national councils for Serbs, Bosniaks, Albanians, Muslims, Croats, and Roma represented the interests of those ethnic minorities. NGOs, legal observers, and the media continued to accuse the government of misappropriating money from a fund established to finance the national councils, particularly the Romani and Serbian national councils.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law forbids incitement to hatred based on sexual orientation as well as discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and applies to LGBTI individuals. Hate crimes based on sexual orientation are considered an aggravating circumstance.
NGOs reported the number of attacks against LGBTI persons rose during the year. LGBTI activists noted that members of the community did not report some violent attacks against them to police because the victims were afraid of further victimization generated by their complaints. In September there was a vicious physical attack on a minor for his perceived sexual orientation and public support of the LGBTI community. LGBTI representatives claimed that young persons perpetrated 80 percent of violent crimes against members of the LGBTI community. Hostile individuals used social media and LGBTI dating sites to attack and bully known and suspected LGBTI persons anonymously.
LGBTI persons and their supporters experienced continued societal discrimination, ostracism, public hostility, and violent abuse. Negative public perception of LGBTI persons led many to conceal their sexual orientation, although there was a trend toward greater visibility as LGBTI persons came out to their families and colleagues. In one case the executive director of a leading LGBTI rights NGO decided to remain anonymous due to violence. There were reports of intolerance by medical practitioners toward gay persons, and representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church often spoke publicly in a prejudicial manner against LGBTI persons. During 2015 prosecutors investigated 11 cases of alleged discrimination against LGBTI persons and brought charges in five.
LGBTI rights NGOs Forum Progress and Queer Montenegro protested the poor implementation of the government’s national LGBTI strategy.
The Administrative Court dismissed an appeal by the NGOs Forum Progress and Hiperion Niksic of three refusals by Niksic police to issue a permit to hold a gay pride parade in 2015. The NGOs alleged the police ban violated their constitutional freedom of assembly. Police cited security reasons for their refusals.
Approximately 200 persons, accompanied by a reduced police presence compared with earlier years, marched peacefully in the Fourth Podgorica Pride Parade on December 17. Minister of Human and Minority Rights Mehmet Zenka, Minister of Culture Janko Ljumovic, representatives of political parties, civil society activists, and members of diplomatic corps joined the organizers from LGBTI rights NGOs.
NGOs reported that police cooperation with the LGBTI community improved, but some prosecutors and judges demonstrated prejudice against LGBTI persons. Every police station had an officer whose duties included monitoring observance of the rights of LGBTI persons. During the year the police administration formed a “team of confidence” in cooperation with LGBTI NGOs to improve communication between police and the community.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Juventas and the Montenegrin HIV Foundation stated that persons with HIV/AIDS were stigmatized and experienced discrimination, although most discrimination was undocumented. Observers believed that fear of discrimination, societal taboos relating to sex, and the lack of privacy of medical records prevented many persons from seeking testing for HIV. NGOs reported that patients often faced discrimination by medical personnel and received inadequate treatment.