A total of 245 cases of domestic violence were reported in Albania during March 2020. 89 were criminally prosecuted and 141 court protection orders were issued.
In February there were 321 cases reported meaning that the number appears to decrease in the first month of lockdown. UNDP Albania noted that this was likely due to women being forced to remain in isolation with perpetrators of violence due to social, cultural, economic and psychological factors. Also, as Exit previously noted, the government’s threat to arrest and imprison those who break curfew has likely scared women into not leaving the house when they are abused.
Marsella Allmuca, women’s rights activist said:
“The DV that women and girls experience during emergencies can result in profound physical and psycho-social harm. The GBV trends previously identified in the country indicate that during the COVID-19 outbreak, incidents of DV — although not reported — are silently on the rise, given the fact that movement restrictions are put in place. At the same time, however, when many girls and women need specialized support services more than ever before, practice shows that services provided by Coordinated Referral Mechanisms (CRMs) at the municipal level are likely to decrease, due to resources being diverted to dealing with the health crisis in hand.”
One survivor of domestic violence who contacted UNDP Albania said that lockdown made her feel isolated and she was sleeping in a shop because she couldn’t return home to her violent partner.
“I feel very isolated, especially during this new situation. I don’t have a shelter. My children and I are sleeping in the shop where I work as a dressmaker. The shop has closed due to the virus. At least I am happy the owners have allowed me to sleep here. I cannot go back to my house as my husband has become more violent than usual. Not even a day has passed by without him beating me and the kids. So, I left.”
Others reported they were forced to stay in abusive situations due to lack of work, money, safety, security, and no freedom to go out.
Another survivor told the UNDP Albania:
“I am the only one working now because I have a job at a supermarket and the bar where my husband worked is closed for who knows how long. I come home and find him frustrated, shouting, sometimes he gets violent. I’m not as worried for myself as I am for leaving my children alone with him all day now that they don’t go to school, but what other choice do I have?”
UNDP Albania said that these are the stories from women in Tirana and that in more remote and rural areas, the situation is worse.
The Agency provided a number of recommendations to the Ministry of Health, Ministry of the Interior, and General Directorate of the State Police on a number of issues related to domestic and sexual violence. The Police then issued a special instruction on how to give adequate attention to domestic violence cases in their communities.
The problem remains that if women are unable to access social media, a mobile, or leave the house due to the current situation or controlling behaviour from their partner, no amount of initiatives will save them.
Director of a women’s shelter in Tirana told Exit that calls for help during the last six weeks had increased by between 30-40%.
Albania has a significant problem with domestic violence. Over 50% of Albanian women will face domestic violence at least once in their lives. 1/3 will experience it within a 12 month period. Sadly, half of women also believe that it is a private matter that should stay between husband and wife, therefore the real numbers could be higher.