Friday the 8th of March is otherwise known as International Women’s day- a global celebration of womanhood, the women’s rights movement, and in some cases, a day of protest against oppression and inequality.
This year, a protest has been organised in Tirana as a demonstration against the wall of silence that those demanding better rights for women, come up against in Albania. 2018 saw unprecedented levels of violence and femicide in the country with over 4000 court orders filed against intimate partners. Since 2010, over 100 women and girls have been murdered due to domestic violence with 73 of them being killed by their husbands.
In 2019, so far there has been a woman killed on average every seven days– a total of 9 women in all. Whilst an epidemic of this kind should have alerted authorities to the fact that something needs to be done, it seems that it has actually had an opposite effect. The media has normalised the crimes through poor and unethical reporting, in some cases blaming the women or providing ‘justification’ for the crimes. Others refer to such murders as “crimes of passion” and there are numerous instances where the police have failed to act to reports of violence that have lead to murders. In addition to this, police, judges, and government officials have been accused of covering up instances of sexual abuse and rape as well as failing to adequately punish those that are found guilty.
Victims of abuse are regularly named by the media, violating their right to privacy as well as journalistic ethics and the law. This leads to widespread harassment of those who have been violated, as well as them often receiving or being the targets of online abuse from trolls.
Organisers of the upcoming protest wrote on Facebook that “nobody sees, articulates, or proposes solutions to the problem” and that the state shows little interest in mobilising against such crimes.
Protestors are set to call on the country’s institutions to start a proper dialogue on women’s rights, labour rights, and equal opportunities whilst holding boys and men accountable for their actions. They are calling for better education for boys and girls to fight against sexual harassment and abuse, as well as the need for social and institutional initiatives to fight the epidemic of gender based violence.
Issues such as forced and arranged marriages of young girls are also on the agenda.
Those in attendance are asked to wear black both in mourning of the eight women and girls who have lost their lives this year, but also to represent the institutional and societal silence on this situation.
“We refuse to be the next victims, we do not belong to anyone except ourselves, we seek justice for the victims, and we seek a fair system that protects every woman and girl in Albania.”
The protest will take place on March 8th at 11am outside the Police Directorate on Rruga Sami Frasheri. Men, women, children and members of the expat community are all invited and welcome equally. The protest will be a peaceful one and protestors are advised that there is no threat to their safety for taking part and that attending protests is the right of every citizen as a part of a free and democratic society.
This article was first published on The Balkanista.