Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of men and women, 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.
The Ministry of Labor and Social policy had registered 620 victims of domestic violence in the period January-June, of which 12 were victims of sexual abuse.
The government ran seven limited-capacity shelters, and one NGO operated a shelter that could accommodate 30 at-risk women. A national NGO operated a hotline in both the Macedonian and the Albanian languages and ran two crisis centers to provide temporary shelter for victims of domestic violence.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace of both men and women and provides a sentencing guideline of three months to three years in prison for violations. The government effectively enforced the law. Women’s rights activists formed a new social movement with the hashtag #ISpeakUpNow (English translation) to show the normalization of sexual harassment in society. Sexual harassment of women in the workplace was a problem, but victims generally did not bring cases forward due to fear of publicity and possible loss of employment.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: Women have the same legal status as men under family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. The laws were effectively enforced. In some communities the practice of men directing the voting or voting on behalf of female family members disenfranchised women. As of September the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy had not received any complaints concerning unequal treatment of women in political life.
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 the orphan reaches the age of 18 that his or her 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 born in other places, 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 due to lack of proper identity documents.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Policy identified 204 children requiring additional personal registration because the parents did not have a valid identification document or because of disputed maternity due to the use of another person’s health benefits card.
Child Abuse: There are laws against child abuse, and penalties for conviction include fines, imprisonment, and closure of businesses. Child abuse was a problem in some areas. 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. There are no official statistics on minor mothers.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits all forms of commercial sexual exploitation of children, including the offer, sale, or procurement of children for prostitution. 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. Authorities enforced the law. 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 listed 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 commit a new offense.
Displaced Children: According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, there were 78 displaced children of different ethnicities registered as of June. A 2016 report from the ombudsman’s office estimated 236 children lived without shelter. With international support, the ministry operated two day centers for street children. The government also maintained a transit shelter for street children, but its small size limited its effectiveness in providing social services (see section 2.d.).
Institutionalized Children: Advocates and the ombudsman reported a lack of accountability for child neglect and abuse in orphanages, shelters, and detention centers.
In February the Center for Social Work-Skopje notified the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy of possible trafficking and sexual exploitation of a child in custody of the Public Institution for the Care of Children with Educational Social Problems and Disturbed Behavior. Authorities transferred the child to the Center for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, where she received assistance. The Ministry of Interior filed criminal charges against multiple individuals for child trafficking. The ombudsman’s office recorded two additional cases of abuse of institutionalized children, both of Romani origin.
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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.
According to the Jewish community, approximately 200 to 250 Jewish persons resided in the country. On March 7, police announced that they filed charges against a minor suspect for painting swastika graffiti on the memorial museum of the uprising against fascism as well as some other buildings in the city of Prilep.
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, including their access to education, employment, health services, information, communications, buildings, transportation, the judicial system, or other state services, but the government did not always enforce these provisions effectively. On October 30, the Basic Court in Gostivar ordered pretrial detention for three individuals accused of abuse of a 13 years old child who reportedly had an intellectual disability. As of December 4, the case was still in the indictment stage. 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 sometimes 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 workstations 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 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 many public buildings did not comply with the law. Although all buses purchased since 2013 by the government for Skopje were accessible to persons with physical disabilities, public transportation remained largely inaccessible in other regions.
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 separate 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 underrepresented 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.
On January 11, parliament adopted the Law on the Use of Languages, seen by many ethnic Albanians as resolving the last remaining issue from the Ohrid Framework Agreement. Passage of the law figured prominently in SDSM’s coalition negotiations with the leading ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic Union for Integration. Opposition VMRO-DPMNE members of parliament were absent from parliament during the vote and released a statement calling the law unconstitutional. President Ivanov refused to sign the law, maintaining it was unconstitutional and threatened the country’s sovereignty, unitary character, and territorial integrity. Though the law was adopted by a majority twice in parliament, without the president’s signature it remained unimplemented.
Ethnic Albanians continued to criticize unequal representation in government ministries and public enterprises, as well as inequitable budget allocations. The country’s police academy continued to fall short of the number of minority trainees needed to comply with the constitution, which stipulates that the administration reflect the ethnic composition of the state. Ethnic Albanians alleged the government designed the testing process in the academy unfairly to deny access to minority groups. In particular, ethnic Albanians complained of cultural biases in the tests. Ethnic Albanian and other minority representation within the civilian administration of the Ministry of Defense remained low. 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. The Ministry of Health and the NGO Hera, in partnership with UNICEF, sponsored the Roma Health Mediators Program to provide health, social, and early childhood development services in seven municipalities with high Romani populations.
Ethnic Turks complained of underrepresentation in state institutions.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, employment, nationality laws, access to government services such as health care, and the government enforced such laws. Sexual acts between members of the same sex are legal.
The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community remained marginalized, and activists supporting LGBTI rights reported incidents of societal prejudice, including hate speech. The Helsinki Human Rights Committee received no reports of physical assaults or other violence against members of the LGBTI community. According to the committee, the Skopje public prosecutor remained ineffective at processing pending cases involving hate speech targeting members of the LGBTI community. In addition the perpetrators of an attack on an LGBTI center in 2014 have not been apprehended.
As a result of 2017 complaints from LGBTI organizations and with support from the ombudsman, the Ministry of Education withdrew a number of textbooks found to be discriminatory on the basis of gender and family status. The state universities of Cyril and Methodius and Kliment Ohridski did not comply with the directive, and as of August discriminatory texts were still in use at these institutions.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
There were isolated reports of discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS in the health-care sector.