26 November 2021
The President of Kosovo, Vjosa Osmani – Sadriu, the Head of the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, the Deputy Minister of Justice, Nita Shala, the Director of the Forum for Leadership and Diplomacy, Njomza Emini, the Director of Kosovar Gender Studies Center, Luljeta Demolli, and Senior Legal Adviser of CLARD Anton Nrecaj came together to discuss the connection between property rights and domestic violence during an event organized by EULEX and the Forum for Leadership and Diplomacy in Pristina today.
The participants agreed that the lack of access to property rights, as well as economic rights in general, is promoting a culture of vulnerability, where many women may feel they have no other alternative than to stay in abusive and violent relationships.
"Discussing property rights in the context of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence conveys a clear message that economic empowerment and gender equality are basic preconditions for creating a society where girls and women also feel safe, but also empowered. Such discussions serve our common final goal,” the President of Kosovo said. “These discussions further strengthen our efforts to combat violence against girls and women while making it clear once and for all that it can no longer be tolerated for the right to inheritance and property rights to be victims of gender discrimination. And that the issue of inheritance is not just an isolated issue, but property is really an instrument of economic empowerment and stability above all,” the President of Kosovo said.
The Head of EULEX said that limited economic rights for women is a fertile breeding ground for domestic violence and added: “Breaking away from a violent relationship can be hard enough if you have no property, no alternative place to seek shelter and protection. If you have no income of your own, you may even decide to tolerate the intolerable and stay in the abusive relationship. Shelters and other temporary homes for victims of domestic violence offer temporary protection and support. They are welcome and necessary. But shelters are not a permanent solution.”
Wigemark added that victims of domestic violence need longer term public support to break away from the vicious circle of being economically and financially dependent on their abusers. “To be concrete, municipalities here in Pristina and elsewhere in Kosovo should make provisions for subsidized public housing for victims of domestic violence, who lack their own property. Here is a task for the recently elected Mayors, the vast majority of them being men,” Wigemark said.
Kosovo’s Deputy Minister of Justice, Nita Shala, said: “Recognizing the necessity to guarantee the right to property for women and girls, understanding its value of also addressing domestic violence, we have addressed this issue while drafting the national strategy and action plan for protection from domestic violence and violence against women. The strategy identified specific activities aim at economic empowerment.”
During the event, the awareness raising campaign “Don’t remain a victim of domestic violence because you have nowhere to go. Claim your right to property!” was also launched. The campaign, which is supported by EULEX, the EU Office in Kosovo, the Ministry of Justice and the Forum for Leadership and Diplomacy, aims at empowering victims of domestic violence to claim their right to property so that they grow financially independent. Such independence will help them walk away from abusive relationships.
According to the Kosovo Constitution and relevant legislation, all citizens enjoy equal property rights. However, data shows that only 17% of women in Kosovo own property, while 7% of women inherit property. In addition, many Kosovo women every year forego their right to inherit property and the ----already existing inequality in ownership of property is thus exacerbated.
Honorable President Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu, Deputy Minister of Justice, Nita Shala, Director for the Forum for Leadership and Diplomacy, Njomza Emini, Senior Legal Adviser of CLARD, Anton Nrecaj, Director of Kosovar Gender Studies Center, Luljeta Demolli. A special welcome also to a number of women and girls representing the different communities in Kosovo’s rich mosaic of peoples. We have with us today not only women and girls from the Kosovo Albanian majority but also women and girls from the Serbian, Ashkali, Roma, Egyptian and Turkish communities. Women’s rights are universal and do not recognize ethnicity. All citizens of Kosovo must be treated equally, regardless of their ethnicity. Finally, let me welcome all of you who are connected remotely to this event.
The EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo is committed to gender equality and the fight against gender-based violence has remained a priority throughout EULEX’s different mandates. Many activities and campaigns against domestic violence and violence against women are organized by the Mission, not only on the occasion of the annual “16 Days of Activism to Fight Violence against Women”, but throughout the entire year.
EULEX is also monitoring how court cases dealing with domestic violence are handled by the Kosovo judiciary. And we would like to provide you with a more in depth analysis of such cases in the coming months. We have furthermore used our forensic experts to encourage victims of sexual violence to preserve evidence of the criminal acts they have been subjected to. And we are proud of the “Speak up on time campaign” implemented jointly with the Kosovo Institute for Forensic Medicine.
As you know, the campaign we are launching today is focusing on the lack of equal access to property rights for women here in Kosovo. But let’s remind ourselves how this is – to varying degrees – a universal phenomenon. Women have limited access to property rights worldwide – not just in Kosovo.
If you have seen an episode or two of the popular Netflix series “The Maid” you will soon recognize how access to property rights and domestic violence are intrinsically linked and how this so-called “nexus” is a global curse also in countries far more affluent than Kosovo. Yet, despite the popularity of this drama series, have we really reflected enough on how limited economic rights for many women is a fertile breeding ground for domestic violence and is discriminatory by its very nature?
Have we really thought enough about how a lack of access to property rights, as well as equal economic rights in general, is promoting a culture of vulnerability, where many women feel they have no other alternative than to stay in abusive and violent relationships?
I dare say the answer is “No”. And we as men need to consider the consequences of this not just for the other half of the population, but for the health and future of our societies.
Keeping half of the population away from owning property is not just preventing the empowerment of women and inhibiting economic growth by shutting out thousands of potential female actors from the economy. It is also part of cultural and social malaise costing untold misery.
The fact that a majority of women in Kosovo do not exercise their basic human right to ownership of property is clearly one of the root causes of domestic violence. Although Kosovo women have the legal right to own property, patriarchal traditions and anachronistic social norms deprive them from exercising these fundamental rights. The facts and statistics speak for themselves: Only 17% of women in Kosovo own property, while a little as 7% of women in Kosovo inherit property.
Making matters worse, many Kosovo women every year forego their right to inherit property and the already existing inequality in ownership of property is thus exacerbated.
An estimated 19% of women in Kosovo have renounced their property or inheritance rights, while approximately 38% of men and 33% of women do not think women should be able to inherit property from their birth families.
Moreover, women who lack property often lack an independent source of income outside their homes. Only about 14% of women in Kosovo are officially employed and have their own source of income. While many women are working full time as home makers, their significant economic and social contribution to society is not monetized. In short, their work is not recognized financially, they receive no salary and usually have to rely on their male partner’s source of income.
I am not a Marxist, but Karl Marx was right in observing over a century and half ago that without equal property rights for all, women as well as men will be confined to an inferior role in society. Regardless of their gender or ethnicity, citizens without access to property rights can more easily be exploited, not just in economic terms but also in terms of exercising their fundamental legal rights.
Breaking away from a violent relationship can be hard enough if you have no property, no alternative place to seek shelter and protection. If you have no income of your own, you may even decide to tolerate the intolerable and stay in the abusive relationship.
Shelters and other temporary homes for victims of domestic violence offer temporary protection and support. They are welcome and necessary. But shelters are not a permanent solution. In fact, many such temporary solutions are only available for six months. Victims of domestic violence need longer term public support to break away from the vicious circle of being economically and financially dependent on their abusers.
To be concrete, municipalities here in Pristina and elsewhere in Kosovo should make provisions for subsidized public housing for victims of domestic violence, who lack their own property. Here is a task for the recently elected Mayors, the vast majority of them being men.
Kosovo has developed a modern legal framework in respect to the equal enjoyment of property rights. The Law on Gender Equality, the Law on Inheritance, and the Law on Family, are all part of a legislative framework aimed at securing women’s equal rights to property.
Moreover, the Constitution of Kosovo guarantees women equal property rights, promulgating gender equality as an essential and legal value for the development and progress of society. The Constitution recognizes the direct applicability of fundamental international human rights conventions, like the Convention against Discrimination of Women, as essential for women to achieve economic independence. And, most importantly, since September 2020 the Istanbul Convention is part of Kosovo’s constitutional framework.
Article 18 of the Istanbul Convention requires protection for all victims of domestic violence. The same article also makes it mandatory for any signatory of the Convention to support measures for the empowerment and economic independence of women who are victims of violence. The realization of full access to property rights need to be part of such support measures by all countries who have signed up to the Istanbul Convention, including Kosovo.
As the European Union’s rule of law mission in Kosovo, EULEX has every reason to engage in monitoring, mentoring and advising Kosovo authorities how to reduce domestic violence and promote women’s right to own property and decide over their own lives. This is an essential part of the Mission’s mandate agreed between Kosovo and the European Union. It is also part of the EU’s acquis and implementing the Istanbul Convention will bring Kosovo closer to the standards of the European Union.
As Head of the EU Rule of Law Mission, I very much welcome how you, President Osmani, in your letter to the EU High Representative and Vice President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell Fontelles, in June this year highlighted the need for EULEX to work together with Kosovo authorities on the implementation of the Istanbul convention. Few tasks could be more meaningful. And you can rest assured that our Mission will spare no effort in following up on your request.
Let us work together to overcome the injustice of unequal property rights. Let us work together to overcome the roots of domestic violence!
Thank you for your attention.Watch the discussion (floor languages).