By Muhamet Brajshori
Aferdita K is a four-month resident of a Pristina shelter, having left her home after her husband physically abused her. “I have a son and a daughter and have seen them three times since September because my husband’s family is prohibiting me from doing so,” the 28-year-old told SETimes.
“The police help me meet the children, but I am not able to get them to be with me unless the court decides so, and it has not called me yet,” Aferdita said.
Family violence increased in Kosovo last year, and analysts say that unless the entire society addresses the problem, the trend will continue unabated.
Victims, mostly women, increasingly report they are abused by spouses and some, like Aferdita, are forced to leave their home, often unable to see their children.
Domestic violence is a global issue, but it has come under particular scrutiny by the European Commission (EC) and in some Southeast Europe nations. A September 2010 report commissioned for the EC concluded that domestic violence has become less of a taboo topic in the last decade, thanks to effective information campaigns. But the report also noted that domestic violence remains rife in European countries.
In addition, 60% of survey respondents said that the EU should get involved in combating domestic violence, according to the EC report.
In Kosovo, police reported 1,042 cases of family violence last year, a 10% increase over 2010. While over two-thirds of the cases were against women, violence against men is also on the rise.
Violence springs from human nature and also from the perception of family roles, according to Pristina University sociology professor Shemsi Krasniqi.
“It is not the material crisis in society and the family that causes violence but the way the crisis is interpreted … [and] the wrong ways of understanding gender roles,” Krasniqi told SETimes.
Extended families traditionally live in the same household and, in most cases, family violence is understood to mean a man abusing a woman. “But there is another form that is not addressed — women on women violence. It rarely is physically manifested, but often, almost daily, as a psychological and social pressure,” Krasniqi said.
Another reason for family violence in Kosovo — and the region — is war trauma, Centre of Rehabilitation of Mother and Child director Flora Brovina told SETimes.
“Women’s awareness of their rights and the opportunity to report it to relevant institutions show the increase [in violence]. The institutions need to respond to these reports,” she said.
“In urban areas, woman are more socially emancipated and do not always report it, while in rural areas there is a trend of not keeping it unknown,” Brovina explained.
During Milosevic’s rule, she said, women were engaged by opening and maintaining parallel schools and hospitals, and the majority of students were girls. “The Milosevic regime repressed women and society rose to protect them, [limiting] the number of family violence cases before the war,” she added.
Since independence, family violence is not a taboo anymore. “Kosovo police respond immediately to family violence, and strong mechanisms are being built to put victims in protected houses. However when it comes to the courts, it takes a long time for a case to be processed,” Brovina said.