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“If you have ever felt violated!”

Violence against women and girls is a widespread global social and health issue that transcends borders and occurs in all cultures and societies worldwide, including our own country. This phenomenon manifests in various forms and negatively impacts the physical, psychological, economic, and social integrity of the affected target groups.

According to statistics from the 2018 National Population-Based Survey ‘On Violence against Women and Girls in Albania,’ published by INSTAT, it is shown that 1 in 3 women, or 36.6%, were experiencing ‘current’ violence.

Law No. 9669, dated 18.12.2006 “On Measures Against Domestic Violence,” underwent several amendments in 2018, which improved the definition of domestic violence and included enhanced protection for women and children in immediate risk situations through police orders for preliminary protective measures; better-defined responsibilities of state institutions with legal obligations towards vulnerable persons; improvement of judicial system procedures; establishment of crisis management centers within hospital emergency services for the treatment of cases of sexual violence; and provisions for protection of individuals involved in physical and/or emotional relationships with their abusers. However, despite the strengthening of the law and provisions in the Penal Code and Family Code, protection for these categories appears not to have been adequately ensured, prompting the legislature with the recent Law No. 125/2020 ‘On Some Additions and Changes to Law No. 9669, dated 18.12.2006, ‘On Measures Against Domestic Violence,’ as amended, to legitimize stricter penalties and implement additional guarantees.

Firstly, within the category of protected persons, besides children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities, particular attention is given to ensuring protection for girls and women.

Additionally, there is a change in the concept of the suspect or accused of committing domestic violence, where previously there was a distinction based on gender, whereas with recent changes, they are referred to simply as “The Violator”.

The competent authority for issuing protection orders has been and continues to be the Court; however, unlike before where the sanction was to prohibit the commission or threat of committing an act of violence against the victim or other family members, now additional assurance is provided for the injured party as the perpetrator must immediately vacate the residence for a specified period. This is seen as a more drastic measure taken in cases where no other measure ensures the victim’s protection from the perpetrator, though it is not always implemented because immediate eviction from the residence is impossible when the violator is a minor, elderly, or a person with disabilities.

The punishment of these cases has not always resulted in curbing this phenomenon in our society; therefore, an additional measure is the obligation of the perpetrator to participate in psychosocial programs and parental skills programs organized by private and public entities. If the perpetrator fails to participate in these rehabilitative programs, provisions of the Penal Code will be applied against them for actions contrary to the court’s protection order decision.

Considering the realities we are facing and the urgent nature of these issues, delegation is envisaged by the Court to the responsible officer of the State Police for issuing preliminary protection orders when extraordinary measures are implemented nationwide.

Protection orders are a temporary measure, and their issuance without accompanying further criminal proceedings has proven insufficient in safeguarding the victim’s integrity. The law provides that when a request for a protection order is presented to the court by the police or prosecutor’s office, even if the pressured or threatened victim wishes to withdraw the complaint or terminate the criminal proceedings, this should not result in the dismissal of the case. The reasons for victims withdrawing complaints or criminal processes are well known, thus public institutions must rigorously uphold the law.

The role of a sanction is to punish, deter, and prevent the phenomenon; however, these coercive measures do not achieve their full purpose unless supported by efforts to increase public awareness, bolster support for women and girls, initiate prosecution processes against abusers, or undertake activities to help women achieve social and economic independence.

Everyone has the right to live their life without feeling threatened or harmed for who they are.