Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape and the rape of a person, regardless of gender, is a crime; the law also includes provisions on sexual assault. Penalties for rape and sexual assault depend on the age of the survivor. For rape of an adult, the penalty is three to 10 years in prison. The government did not enforce the law effectively. Authorities did not disaggregate data on prosecutions for spousal rape. The concept of spousal rape was not well understood, and authorities often did not consider it a crime.
Domestic or intimate partner violence is a crime, with penalties up to three years’ imprisonment. The law on domestic violence extends protection to survivors and provides for issuance of a protective order that automatically covers children as well. The government enforced the law effectively. The Ministry of Health and Social Protection conducted several trainings on domestic violence with police officers, prosecutors, judges, and social services to enhance the human capacity of the 50 local referral mechanisms for domestic violence. Police operated an automated application issuance process within the police case management system that allowed for rapid issuance of protective orders and produced a record of orders issued.
As of September, police reported 4,136 cases of alleged gender-based violence, including other domestic crimes. In 2,402 cases the police requested protection orders to assist survivors. NGOs reported high levels of gender-based violence, including domestic violence. As of September, seven women had been killed by their partners or family members.
The Ministry of Health and Social Protection reported as of October, there was a total of 87 cases of domestic violence receiving services at the National Reception Center for Domestic Violence. The Ministry of Health and Social Protection reported that starting in January survivors of domestic violence who had protection orders received increased economic assistance from the government. Families with three or more children received double economic aid compared with the previous year.
Nisma ARSIS reported an increase in the number of mother and child survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse from the previous year. Nisma ARSIS assisted 117 cases of children and women survivors of domestic violence in 2021-2022. Nisma ARSIS also reported assisting 63 children who fled to police stations after experiencing or witnessing physical violence at home.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, but officials rarely enforced it. The commissioner for protection from discrimination generally handled cases of sexual harassment and could impose fines. Police reported 33 cases of sexual harassment as of September.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
While there are no legal barriers to access to contraceptives, which were provided free of charge to insured women, women and girls often did not access services for a variety of reasons, including fear of stigma from health-care service providers and members of their community. Some women and girls, particularly those living in remote areas, faced significant challenges in accessing essential sexual and reproductive health services. Women from historically marginalized communities, including women with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons, Roma, and Balkan-Egyptian women, were often unaware of their entitlement to reproductive health services.
The Ministry of Health and Social Protection operated the Lilium Center in Tirana with the support of the UN Development Program to provide integrated services to survivors of sexual violence. The center was in a hospital setting and provided health-care services including emergency contraception, social services, and forensic examinations at a single location by professionals trained in cases of sexual violence. Survivors in remote areas of the country did not have many options for assistance and support in their areas. Unless they were identified by authorities and transported to Tirana, they were typically referred to shelters for survivors of trafficking. The government established two other centers during the year, specialized in sexual violence and severe forms of violence against children, in Fier and Shkoder.
Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women as for men including under family, religious, personal status, and nationality laws as well as laws related to labor, property, inheritance, employment, access to credit, and owning or managing businesses or property. Women were underrepresented in many fields 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 subordinating women to men.
Gender-biased Sex Selection: According to official figures, in 2021 the ratio of boys to girls at birth was 108 to 100.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
There were allegations of discrimination targeting members of the Romani and Balkan-Egyptian communities, including in housing, employment, health care, and education. As of August, the commissioner for protection from discrimination received 17 complaints of discrimination on grounds of race and ethnicity, ruling in favor of the complainant in five cases.
The law provides official minority status for nine national minorities without distinguishing between national and ethnolinguistic groups. The government defined Greeks, Macedonians, Aromanians (Vlachs), Roma, Balkan-Egyptians, Montenegrins, Bosnians, Serbs, and Bulgarians as national minorities. The law provides for minority-language education and dual official-language use for the local administrative units in which minorities traditionally reside or in which a minority group comprised at least 20 percent of the total population. The government generally enforced these provisions effectively.
Birth Registration: An individual acquires citizenship by birth in the country, from a citizen parent, by origin or naturalization. There were no reports of denial of or 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.
Nisma ARSIS and Terre des Hommes reported difficulties in the registration process for children who were entitled to citizenship but born outside of the country. Digitalization of services using the e-Albania platform was an obstacle for families lacking access to technology or the necessary skills to utilize the portal for administrative procedures.
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. Parents were often required to purchase supplies, notebooks, uniforms, and space heaters for some classrooms; these were prohibitively expensive for many families, particularly Roma and members of other minorities.
On September 22, the government closed the Mehmet Akif Ersoy girls’ high school run by the Gulistan Foundation, allegedly because the Ministry of Education had not approved its location. The minister of education denied credible allegations of selective application of the law under pressure from the government of Turkiye because of the Gulistan Foundation’s alleged ties to the so-called Gulen (or Hizmet) movement. The Ministry of Education closed on similar grounds the Zubeyde Hanim kindergarten owned by the Turgut Ozal Education Company, also allegedly affiliated with the Gulen movement. Both the foundation and the company challenged the decision, but an appeals court upheld the closures. Parents of the children attending the kindergarten filed a separate lawsuit against the government’s decision, which again upheld the government’s closure. The Albanian Helsinki Committee condemned the closures, stating that “they did not meet the standards of due process, resulting in the issuing of a harsh, hasty, disproportionate, and harmful decision.”
On August 31, the European Court of Human Rights found the government guilty of segregating Roma and Egyptian children at the Naim Frashëri school in Korça and required payment of EUR 4,500 ($4,206) to the five families who filed the lawsuit in 2017. The court said that authorities failed to take steps to avoid the concentration of Roma and Egyptian children in the school, despite a binding 2015 decision of the commissioner for protection from discrimination finding that the school’s Roma and Egyptian students were experiencing indirect discrimination due to their overrepresentation in the school.
Child Abuse: The law criminalizes any form of abuse or neglect against children. The penalties include up to life imprisonment in cases of child rape and trafficking of children.
Nisma ARSIS alleged that police sometimes reacted late or not at all when a protection order was violated, especially in cases involving Romani or Balkan Egyptian families. Child survivors of domestic violence in Nisma ARSIS’s emergency center reported psychological violence, parental neglect, and economic exploitation as the most common forms of child abuse. Terre des Hommes reported Roma children were commonly sent by their parents to beg in the street. Many dropped out of school and did not receive public support services. Terre des Hommes also asserted most municipalities did not offer child-friendly options for children in need of alternative care. Care programs were designed to serve orphaned children rather than survivors of abuse or neglect.
World Vision Albania (WVA) reported domestic violence and violence against children continued to be major problems in the country. An August 2021 WVA report estimated 58 percent of surveyed children were exposed to violence and abuse, especially from other family members and friends, with boys more likely to be physically abused.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18, however the law does allow for individuals under 18 years old to marry if they have parental consent. Authorities did not always enforce the law. Nisma ARSIS and Terre des Hommes noted that underage marriages often occurred with Romani and Balkan-Egyptian children who fled home. During the year Nisma ARSIS reported 24 cases of early marriages of children in the Romani and Balkan-Egyptian communities, many of whom were identified at the police station in the interviewing process. Terre des Hommes identified 21 minors in the towns of Levan and Driza and offered assistance and services. Two other cases were reported in Kukes girls, age 16, married to adults. The State Agency for the Protection of Children and the state police did not maintain statistics on cases of early marriage.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation, sale, grooming, or using children for commercial exploitation, including child sex trafficking. Penalties for the commercial sexual exploitation of a child range from eight to 15 years’ imprisonment. The country has a statutory rape law; 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, which is punishable by imprisonment for three to 10 years. Possession of child pornography is illegal.
Authorities generally enforced laws against rape and sexual exploitation of minors effectively, but NGOs reported that they rarely enforced laws prohibiting child pornography and the online sexual exploitation of children.
The Ministry of Interior reported that, as of July, 40 of the 60 identified victims or potential victims of trafficking were minors. During the year Nisma ARSIS identified 30 child survivors of sexual abuse. The NGO reported some child victims were sexually harassed on social media. Girls ranging from ages 14 to 16 were routinely tricked by abusers into running away from home for days. Terre des Hommes reported similar patterns of abuse, noting recruiters from Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Italy lured girls through social media for future victimization.
Displaced Children: At year’s end an Amber Alert system, pending since a 2020 international workshop organized by Child Right Center Albania and the Global Center for Missing and Exploited Children, had not been implemented. There was a large population of unaccompanied, displaced children who were homeless, particularly in the Romani community. Some children begged, and some became trafficking victims. Since the law prohibits the prosecution of children younger than 14 for burglary, criminal gangs at times used displaced children to burglarize homes. There was no specialized police unit for missing persons. Nisma ARSIS reported the number of children on the streets had increased from the previous year, mostly in the capital.
Institutionalized Children: The National Therapeutic and Rehabilitation Center for Children reopened on April 13 after being damaged by the November 2019 earthquake, and provided diagnostic services, treatment, education, and assistance with the development and rehabilitation of children up to age six. In addition, the government maintained a dedicated department of Child and Teenage Psychiatry Service at the Mother Tereza public hospital in Tirana that offered residential psychiatric health care services for children and teenagers.
During the year Nisma, ARSIS, and UNICEF completed an assessment of children resident in public residential institutions from 2021-2022. The assessment of 68 children in four public institutions found that more than two-thirds of institutionalized children had living biological families and parents and the reasons for separation from their families were often related to abuse, mistreatment, exploitation, abandonment, or economic hardship. In addition, 70 percent of children assessed were identified with untreated trauma and showed developmental delays. Following the assessment, the National Plan of De-institutionalization was integrated in the 2021-2023 Social Fund Program, committing the government to establish and financially support alternative childcare services in the Vlora and Korça municipalities. Those services had yet to be established.
NGOs reported the child-protection system was generally functioning, although law enforcement entities lacked appropriate facilities and training for age-appropriate interrogation techniques of juveniles at police stations and prosecution offices. Children usually remained in institutions for long periods of time due to legal ambiguities and lengthy procedures regarding child custody. Institutions lacked specialized services, such as psychotherapists and speech therapists. There was a shortage of qualified psychologists, social workers, and supervision of care staff.
The Jewish population was estimated to be between 40 and 50 persons. There were no reports of antisemitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity or Expression, or Sex Characteristics
Criminalization: There are no laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relationships or sexual conduct, nor were there reports of disproportionate or arbitrary arrests on unjustified charges.
Violence against LGBTQI+ Persons: The shelter service NGO Streha reported LGBTQI+ individuals underreported targeted violence to the police or commissioner for protection from discrimination for fear of being outed, lack of trust in the institutions, and fear for their own safety. Streha reported local government officials – such as social workers, school psychologists, and domestic violence police officers – lacked knowledge and skills to properly serve the LGBTQI+ community, particularly in rural regions outside Tirana.
Reports indicated that LGBTQI+ persons continued seeking asylum in EU countries.
Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination by state and nonstate actors based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, including in employment. The law does not recognize same-sex civil unions or marriages, nor does the civil registry recognize same-sex parenting. Sexual orientation and gender identity are among the classes protected by the country’s hate crime law. Enforcement of the law was generally weak. The National Action Plan for LGBTQI+ for 2021-27 was adopted in November 2021. As of August, the commissioner for protection from discrimination had received three cases of hate speech against the LGBTQI+ community. In one case, the commissioner ruled against the perpetrator while the other cases were dismissed.
The shelter service NGO Streha said societal discrimination against the LGBTQI+ community was common. Incidents of discrimination, however, were underreported to the State Police or commissioner for protection from discrimination. As of November, Streha provided shelter to 65 LGBTQI+ young persons facing physical and psychological violence or family pressure. The Ministry of Health increased support to the shelter by funding the costs of shelter staff salaries. Donors covered other shelter costs, including food, medication, and shelter rent.
Availability of Legal Gender Recognition: The law does not foresee or regulate the consequences that may arise from legal gender recognition. Although the antidiscrimination law regulates nondiscrimination in relation to gender identity, sexual orientation, and sex characteristics, it does not guarantee the individual’s right to self-determination of gender.
Involuntary or Coercive Medical or Psychological Practices Specifically Targeting LGBTQI+ Individuals: On May 15, 2020, the Albanian Order of Psychologists issued a statement prohibiting licensed psychologists from carrying out so-called conversion therapy and noted that the practice infringed on the rights, freedoms, and integrity of every individual.
Restrictions of Freedom of Expression, Association, or Peaceful Assembly: There were no reported restrictions of freedom of expression, association, or peaceful assembly. During the year Streha held its sixth Annual Charity Gala fundraising event, which was attended for the first time by government officials including the Minister of Interior, Minister of State for Standards and Services, and mayor of Tirana. Several activities were organized during the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) with all LGBTQI+ organizations united in coordination for the first time in several years. The annual Pride march saw record participation, exceeding 200. The ombudsman and the commissioner for protection from discrimination participated, although no government officials did. All activities were peaceful.
Persons with Disabilities
The constitution and laws prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities. Nevertheless, employers, schools, health-care providers, and providers of other state services at times engaged in discrimination. The law mandates that public buildings, education, health services and transportation be accessible to persons with disabilities on an equal basis, but the government only sporadically enforced the statutes. The government began implementation of the National Action Plan on Disability 2021-2025, with accessibility as one of the main priorities.
As of August, the commissioner for protection from discrimination had received 44 complaints of alleged discrimination against individuals with disabilities and ruled in favor of the complainants in eight cases. On June 13 the commissioner ruled against the local post offices of Durres and Shijak for lacking accessibility. In another case, on May 26, the commissioner ruled against the Divjaka Regional Education Directorate for discriminating against a young disabled person and impeding his access to attend school. There were no known reports of violence, harassment, or physical abuse against those with disabilities during the year.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
The law prohibits discrimination against and stigmatization of individuals with HIV or AIDS. The Association of People Living with HIV or AIDS (APLHIV) reported that stigma and discrimination caused individuals to avoid getting tested for HIV, leading to delayed diagnosis and consequently delayed access to care and support. The APLHIV reported service delays and other problems after the Infectious Disease Clinic was converted into a COVID-response hospital. APLHIV reported that since 2021, HIV-appropriate tests were no longer freely available at public hospitals. Persons with HIV or AIDS faced employment discrimination and issues with professional reintegration, and children living with HIV faced discrimination in school.