March Against Sexual Violence Also Exposes the Media and Politics

Today, a group of people marched in silence in Tirana against authorities’ and society’s lenience towards violence against women and lack of punishment for perpetrators. The protesters marched from the Ministry of Education to the State Police Directorate.

Last week, the media reported on a rape case in Kavaja, where an underage girl was allegedly raped by a group of schoolmates for several months in a row. When informed on the situation, her teachers and family allegedly failed to immediately report the rape to the police. The police was also accused of not reacting swiftly by questioning and/or arresting the suspects.

A recent study by the Albanian Women Empowerment Network (AWEN) found out that one in four teenage girls, and one in five teenage boys, have experienced violence in their intimate relationships. The trauma of the sexual and psychological abuse in girls was estimated to be thrice higher than in boys.

The mainstream media coverage of the alleged rape case in Kavaja showed once again the low standards of journalism in the country. The media failed to raise the bar and discuss on reasons and ways to reduce the potential for sexual crimes to happen, as well as how to overcome the feeling of shame many Albanians have when it comes to reporting sexual violence. Instead, discussions on TV repeatedly returned to the atrocity, outrage, details of the case, teachers’ and family’s lack of immediate reporting to police, as well as authorities’ slow, incompetent and abusive actions thereafter.

Moreover, politicians didn’t waste the chance to attempt to extort political gains from the pain of the family and wider community. ERTV, Prime Minister Edi Rama’s personal online TV service, broadcasted an interview with the victim’s family conducted by Elisa Spiropali, Member of Parliament and Minister of State for Relations with the Parliament.

The interview and other similar public reactions by members of the ruling majority came in response to opposition’s accuses that authorities had failed to protect the victim and to hold the perpetrators accountable.

In today’s silent marching people held messages reading “You don’t play “rape””, “Boys are not just boys; they are accountable for their actions just like girls are”, “Is this how we will become “men”, by murdering, violating and raping? Where is the love?”, “Silence is killing us”, “No means No!”, “Don’t tell me how to dress, tell them not to rape”.

Other messages also showed the frustration with the media and politicians: “We want to feel secure”, “Sexual violence in not a spectacle”, “Enough making news out of us”, “Why did no one say “sorry”?”.

The organizers of today’s march said they would protest again on March 8th, the International Women’s Day.