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Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women considers the report of Albania

Committee on the Elimination
of Discrimination against Women

8 July 2016

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today considered the fourth periodic report of Albania on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Merita Xhafaj, General Director, Department of Social Policies, Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth, introducing the report of Albania, said that the Convention and the Istanbul Convention constituted the main roadmap for harmonizing national legislation and adopting policies and programmes on gender equality, and against gender-based violence and domestic violence.  Albania had implemented a number of legal initiatives which criminalized domestic violence and marital rape, made legal aid more accessible to women victims of violence and vulnerable women, introduced the right to economic aid for women victims of violence under a protection order, and had reversed the burden of proof for sexual harassment cases.  A New Gender Equality Strategy 2016-2020 was being drafted and would continue to build on the achievements in gender mainstreaming and elimination of discrimination against women.  Albania had also adopted strategies and action plans to support integration of and address exclusion, violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex women, women with disabilities, as well as Roma and Egyptian women and girls.

In the ensuing dialogue, Committee Experts commended Albania for the advances in the legal framework and the progress in the area of gender equality, which was also a result of Albania starting the process of accession to the European Union.  Experts commended Albania for the efforts in addressing violence against women and the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, but noted with concern that gender-based violence still remained an important issue in the country: it was under-reported, mechanisms of redress were not well known, and there was a fear of bringing shame to the family and fear of reprisal by perpetrators. The delegation was asked about harmonization of domestic legislation on discrimination with the international standards, particularly in relation to multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, and the measures to enhance their implementation at the local levels including through allocation of resources, measures to ensure access to justice for women, and human and material resources provided to the two independent human rights institutions to ensure their efficient functioning.  Experts were concerned about harmful traditional practices such as early and forced marriages and honour crimes and honour killings, and the practice of sex-selective abortions. 

In concluding remarks, Ms. Xhafaj said that Albania had prepared for the dialogue for a long time to be able to provide the Committee with detailed and precise answers.   

The delegation of Albania included representatives of the Ministry of Social Welfare, and Youth, Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Urban Development, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education and Sports, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Consumer Protection, the Ministry of Economic Development, Tourism, Trade and Entrepreneurship, the General Department of State Police, the Institute of Statistics, the Albanian Parliament and the Permanent Mission of Albania to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

Live webcast of country reviews is available at http://www.treatybodywebcast.org.

The next public meeting of the Committee will be on Wednesday, 13 July, at 10 a.m, when it will consider the seventh periodic report of Turkey (CEDAW/C/TUR/7).


The fourth periodic report of Albania can be read here: CEDAW/C/ALB/4.

Presentation of the Report

MERITA XHAFAJ, General Director, Department of Social Policies, Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth, said that the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Istanbul Convention, ratified in 2012, constituted the main roadmap for harmonizing national legislation and adopting policies and programmes on gender equality, and against gender-based and domestic violence.  Albania had taken a series of measures to improve its legal framework, and had amended its Criminal Code in 2012 and 2013 to criminalize domestic violence and marital rape, which showed that the Albanian society changed its perception of those crimes, which until few years earlier had been considered a taboo.  Albania had also amended its law on legal aid which made it more accessible to women victims of violence and vulnerable women. 

The amendment to the Electoral Code in 2013 on parliamentary elections required that at least 30 per cent of the candidates on the multi-name lists be women, while the 2015 amendments to the Labour Code had introduced an improved definition of sexual harassment in the workplace, the reversal of the burden of proof for sexual harassment, additional guarantees for return of women to work after maternity leave.  Amendments to the Law on Social Insurance 2014 recognized  the right to paternity leave.  The implementation of the 2011-2015 Strategy for Gender Equality, the Reduction of Gender-Based Violence and Domestic Violence showed that, despite the improvements in the legal framework, capacity building of professionals and empowerment of gender equality structures, and increased public awareness, more work was needed to ensure gender mainstreaming and to eliminate discrimination against women.  The Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth was leading the process of drafting of new the Gender Equality Strategy 2016-2020.

The National Plan for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Persons 2016-2020 had been approved with the aim to address key issues affecting this community, notably exclusion and discrimination.  The Action Plan for the Integration of Roma and Egyptians, adopted in December 2015, and the National Plan for Persons with Disabilities, approved in June this year, had introduced special measures for women belonging to those categories with a view of integrating them into the society and ensuring their full access to all services.  Albania had strengthened the role of the National Gender Equality Council,  while the network of gender employees in ministries and municipalities, and local coordinators against violence were a part of the national gender equality machinery.  Independent institutions, such as the Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination and the People’s Advocate, monitored the implementation of human rights and made recommendations, while gender budgeting had started in 2010. 

Ms. Xhafaj informed that the Strategy against Trafficking in Persons and its Action Plan 2014-2017 had been drafted in full compliance with Article 6 of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and included legislative measures, effective prevention, intensification of the fight against internal trafficking, social and health support, rehabilitation and integration and improvement of the monitoring system.  Additionally, Albania had also put in place measures to provide social support to the victims of trafficking, ensure effective prevention and raise public awareness.  The Government was strongly focused on employment and development of skills, and its National Strategy for Employment and Skills 2014-2020 was in line with the European Union Employment Strategy 2020, and aimed to increase access for women and girls to employment in men-dominated domains.   

Questions from Experts

Committee Experts commended Albania for the advances in the legal framework and the progress made in the area of gender equality, especially the ratification of the Istanbul Convention and the signing of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Which legal measures had been taken to harmonize domestic legislation with international standards, particularly on women suffering multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination?  What was the legal order of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and which law – the Convention or domestic – had priority in case of conflict? 

Experts asked about resources allocated for the implementation of the laws, whether recently enacted laws contained provisions on monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, about measures in place to ensure access to justice for women, particularly by removing obstacles to accessing legal aid, and the efforts to ensure the two independent human rights institutions had sufficient human and material resources to operate.  What was the status of the draft law on the third age?

Replies by the Delegation

Responding to those questions, a delegate explained that an action plan had been adopted to address discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex women, which had been based on the recommendations contained in the report of the People’s Advocate.  In terms of the Convention’s legal order in Albania, it was explained that the Convention had been ratified by the Parliament and had the precedence over the domestic legislation, and more power than any other piece of national law.  The implementation of international instruments was the competence of the Constitutional Court, but also any judge could interpret the implementation of the Convention’s provisions. 

Following the reform of the law on legal aid in 2014, the State Committee on Legal Aid had been established to assess eligibility criteria; financial resources remained limited to ensure access to legal aid for all those who were in need.  In 2015, legal aid had been provided to applicants in 143 civil,  59 criminal and 11 administrative cases.  Albania was looking into the provision of legal aid within the context of the ongoing judicial sector reform.  Currently, gender equality machinery existed at all levels, and there was also a new structure, the Integrated Policy Management Group (IPMG), which monitored the implementation of integrated policies, strategic documents, and national action plan in several areas, such as Roma women, social protection, education, and others.  The Government provided 60 per cent of the budget for the implementation of policies, while various donors covered the remaining 40 per cent.

The Institute of Statistics ensured the availability of gender disaggregated data.  It was currently preparing its five-year strategy and was contemplating introducing the module on the collection of data on third-age population, which would include all indicators to enable the Government to calculate gender equality index for that population group.  The Institute would also conduct a study on third-age population, as well as a study on young women.  The Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth was leading the drafting of the new Gender Equality Strategy 2016-2020, which would include specific budgets to enable the activities of the two independent human rights institutions.

In follow-up questions, Committee Experts asked about impact of corruption on access to justice for women victims of violence and discrimination, about the concrete efforts to harmonize the laws with international standards, and the specific measures to enhance the implementation of laws on local levels, to ensure that the Convention was invoked more often.

Responding, the delegation explained that the harmonization of the legal framework had been done to ensure, as much as possible, access of women to justice.  Decentralization and the implementation of the territorial and administrative reform had started immediately after the last elections, and had included the creation of gender equality structures which dealt with all women, and in particular with those coming from vulnerable groups.  Those local structures were in constant cooperation with the central structures and civil society, which was a partner in many focused activities such as legal aid or complaints made by women and girls.  Shelters and provisions of support to victims of violence were the focus of the work of the Government in the implementation of the recommendation by the Committee; it was important to say that those activities were funded by the central Government, which provided funds to local administrative structures.

Provisions of international human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the recommendations by the Committee, were all part of the judicial training.   The School of Public Administration had adopted a particular curriculum on human rights which would be used to train civil servants in Albania, including on the Convention.  The fight against corruption was one of the key priorities in Albania.  There was an online system to enable filing of complaints by members of the public; such reports of cases of corruption triggered investigations into conduct by civil servants.  There were no corruption-related cases in the court at the moment.

Questions from Experts

With regards to the national gender equality machinery, an Expert took note of the recent institutional changes and restructuring in Albania, whereby the authority responsible for gender equality and combatting gender-based violence and domestic violence was the Ministry for Social Welfare and Youth.  The budget for such activities was rather small and not yet systematically supported by States, but came mainly from donors.  The local authorities were in the process of establishing gender equality personnel; such positions had been confirmed in 36 municipalities and 61 were pending.  However, that measure had not proven very successful in ensuring gender equality in practice, particularly given the lack of comprehensive strategy and lack of resources.  What plans were in place to strengthen the accountability of the Government for the implementation of gender equality plans and policies, and had gender equality officers been appointed as full-time employees fully dedicated to gender equality?

Replies by the Delegation

Following the 2013 election, a decision had been made to have in place a small but efficient administration, thus the public administration had been reduced by 30 per cent.  Employees dealing with gender issues were not full-time gender equality officers, but gender equality tasks were part of their regular job descriptions and their performance was reviewed on gender equality criteria twice a year.  So far, 49 officers at the local level had been appointed and received necessary training.  Although the number of persons in public administration had been reduced, the people who had more than 20 years of experience still worked in gender equality in the Ministry, thus providing continuity and ensuring that the capacity for gender equality remained.  Members of local and municipal authorities and councils were being trained in gender equality, including gender budgeting, as they would be the ones making financing decisions in their municipalities.

Ministry for Social Welfare and Youth was indeed the lead agency in the national gender equality machinery, but gender and youth issues were crosscutting issues which were mainstreamed in all Ministries.  The Ministry also led the work of the National Gender Equality Council.  The participation of women in political life had grown in recent years, as evidenced by the increasing number of women in the leading positions in the Government, which also had a great impact on the work on gender equality and the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations. 

Progress in gender equality had also been made in the Albanian State Police, and as a result of temporary state measures taken in 2011, the number of women in the police now stood at 14 per cent of the force.  Other measures were being taken to ensure recruitment and retention of female police officers, such as introducing measures to combat sexual harassment in the work place, or promoting women on lead operational posts.  An example of temporary special measures on gender quotas was the latest amendment to the Electoral Code which required that half of the candidates for municipality councils were women.  Another example was the new special temporary measure which authorised women to collect economic aid for the family and so contributed to the improvement of economic situation of women in the family.

Albania had made progress in the implementation of quota for the participation of women in economy and the Government, but more needed to be done to ensure the full representation of women.  The new draft Law on Social Services which was waiting for an adoption would accurately address services offered to women victims of violence, including counselling and hotlines, as per requirements of the Istanbul Convention.  The Government was committed to keeping the focus on gender equality, including by implementing recommendations of the Committee within the set timelines and with dedicated budgets. 

Questions from Experts

A Committee Expert asked the delegation about specific measures to implement campaigns and legal measures to deal with harmful traditional practices, and the role of civil society organizations and the media in the implementation of the national strategy to address gender stereotypes.  The Committee was concerned about the practice of early and arranged marriages, the settling of honour crimes and dealing with honour issues, in particular honour killing, as well as the practice of sex-selective abortions and the preference for boys. 

Another Expert commended Albania for the efforts in addressing violence against women and the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, but noted that gender-based violence still remained under-reported, mechanisms of redress were not known, there was a fear of bringing shame to the family and a fear of reprisal by perpetrators, as well as a lack of confidence in the system due to lengthy court procedures and timid police reactions.  How were those obstacles addressed?  What priority was being accorded to undertaking a comprehensive study into violence against women and the effectiveness of the measures taken so far? 

What system was in place to ensure that all municipalities, urban and rural, had fully developed and functioning referral mechanisms for domestic violence, and what were the plans and timelines for the setting up of more shelters for victims of domestic violence?  How many legal aid claims in relation to domestic violence had been filed, and how many women had received it.  Would Albania consider establishing a specialized domestic violence court, an Expert wanted to know.

The number of legislative and operational measures undertaken by Albania was commendable, said another Expert, but the concern remained about trafficking of women and girls, including for purposes of sexual exploitation, particularly in summer months.  In 2015, there had been 109 victims of human trafficking, of whom 87 had been women and girls.  The delegation was asked about the results of the mid-term monitoring of the national strategy against trafficking in persons, and the reasons for the increase in trafficking during summer, and the intention to improve the Anti-Trafficking Law.  The Ministry of Justice had accepted the recommendation by the People’s Advocate concerning legal assistance to victims of human trafficking, but had not yet implemented it; the proposal urged the amendment of the Code of Criminal Procedure to protect the rights of victims during criminal proceedings and during trials.

Replies by the Delegation

In the framework of the global United Nations campaign of activism against violence against women, Albania had been organizing an annual 16 days awareness raising campaigns against violence against women and gender-based violence,  which included all state institutions and civil society.  For the previous three years, the campaigns aimed to raise the awareness of men and boys on their involvement and support for the cause.  Another important campaign had been undertaken in the framework of the United Nations’ HeForShe initiative, which involved celebrities, while the campaign Colour the World Orange took place once a year in order to raise awareness about violence against women.  The role of civil society organizations was crucial and indispensable in campaigns and awareness-raising activities, in providing support to victims of violence, as well as running shelters for domestic violence victims.

The school curricula had been reviewed to remove gender stereotypes, while civil society organizations worked with communities to support the fight against early marriages, particularly through educational activities in Roma communities.  Data on court decisions on victims of domestic violence would be provided in writing, said the delegation. One of the most effective measures to prevent forced abortion was family planning, which the Government was considering a priority.  Early and forced marriages were usually imposed on Roma girls, and were being addressed by education and economic empowerment of women, including the creation of social enterprises under the Law on Craftsmanship, which targeted mainly women.

The Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth, in cooperation with the United Nations agencies, had conducted roundtables with all government units to train them in order to make the referral mechanism for domestic violence more efficient.  The mechanism in some municipalities was not functional, but the structure and the people were there and the Government would continue to address that challenge.  There was an online database of cases of domestic violence with data entered directly by municipal authorities, and it was accessible by the gender equality officers working at the central level.  It was true that there were some rural and remote areas where the provision of services for women needed to be improved, but efforts were ongoing in cooperation with non-governmental organizations in that regard. 

One of the causes of domestic violence and gender-based violence was the poor economic situation of women, and Albania was taking a series of measures to improve economic empowerment of women through various initiatives such as microfinancing and loans.  There were plans for the setting up of new shelters in municipalities, and municipal authorities were working diligently to set up daily shelters for women victims of violence and for other vulnerable groups.

A legal clinic had been opened at the Ministry of Justice to increase access to justice by providing free of charge information and advice, and also in relation to corruption, particularly to people who could not afford legal services.  Albania was at the very important point as it was currently undergoing justice reform, which would include the adoption of the law on judges.  The Parliament would deal with the justice reform bill soon.  The reform would see the improvement of the legal framework also one the basis of recommendations made by the People’s Advocate.

For the first time, Albania had independently evaluated its anti-trafficking strategy this year, on the basis of which it was reviewing the strategy and action plan, which would include concrete actions and deadlines for each institution involved in the implementation of the plan.  Within that context, a number of proposals for legal reforms had been made, in particular in relation to the exploitation of children, and trafficking in children, including internal trafficking in children, and a proposal to treat trafficking in organs as a separate crime of trafficking.  Shelters for victims of trafficking offered comprehensive services to all victims, children and adults alike; shelters were often run by non-governmental organizations and their running costs were being covered by the government, including through the agency in charge for confiscation of assets under the Albania Anti-mafia Law.

Committee Experts, in follow-up questions, asked the delegation to comment on sex-selective abortions of female foetuses, and on the impact of laws on sexual harassment which in fact had led to decrease of number of such cases considered by courts.

Responding, a delegate explained that sex-selective abortions were deeply rooted in the culture, usually practiced in rural and remote areas, and that was not because of the lack of legal or institutional framework.  Introduction of family planning had seen a significant reduction in the number of abortions, although the higher number of boys being born every year might indicate that sex-selective abortions were still taking place.  The practice had always existed in the country, even during the communism when it had been technically impossible to detect the sex of the foetus.  Two studies had been conducted to explain the gender ration at birth, with 111 boys being born for every 100 girls, but the studies had been inconclusive and could not unambiguously point at the root cause of  that disparity.

Questions from Experts

A Committee Expert took a positive note of the improvements in gender equality which was also due to the embarking of the country on the process of accession to the European Union.  Albania had to address gender stereotypes and also ensure greater participation of women in political and public life, particularly because 30 per cent representation in the Parliament was an achievable target.  Legislative reforms did not suffice, and Albania should adopt an inclusive approach and raise awareness among political parties and the whole political class of the importance of participation of women.

What measures would be taken to ensure that women had an equal opportunity to be elected in the next elections, and to ensure transparent and fair human resource management procedures which would facilitate the appointment of women to all levels of civil service?  There were some people in Albania who could not vote, either because of the lack of identification documents, or because they lived in rural areas.  What was being done to make sure that could exercise their right to vote?

Replies by the Delegation

Responding to questions related to specific measures to ensure equal representation of women in public and political life, a delegate said that the representation of women in the Parliament stood at 22 per cent, the level of representation in the local councils had grown to 36 per cent, 14 per cent of the mayors were women, and numerous Embassies were headed by women.  There were more women than men with a doctoral degree in Albania, and women represented 31 per cent of university professors and 62 per cent of university lecturers.  In the civil service, women were more numerous even though the admission criteria were equal for women and men. 

Albania would need to review its Electoral Law before the next parliamentary elections, which were one year away, and take another look at the gender quota for candidates.  Many capable young women, often coming from civil society organizations, had been appointed to important positions in the Government over the previous years, and many were also Members of Parliament.  There were still impediments to the inclusion of women from marginalized groups in public life, which was also due to a very limited number of women who ran for posts.  Persons with disabilities held some positions in the government and in the Parliament, but there was still more room for improvement in their political participation.

Questions from Experts

With regards to education, an Expert remarked that Albania was demographically the youngest country in Europe and recognized the declaration of the Government that its youth was a most valuable resource, and the Government’s commitment to fighting illiteracy, exclusion and poverty.  Albania had made a considerable progress in fighting illiteracy, although there were still considerable issues to resolve in education, particularly when it came to the education of Roma children in the higher school grades. 

Poverty was a very serious concern, and there were still children who were placed in institutions because of poverty, and those children had a difficult access to education.  Albania was undergoing an economic transition and new doors were opening in employment, for example in tourism, so what was being done to capitalize on that opportunity and to ensure that children, particularly girls, had access to training in such professions?  What measures were in place to protect children from violence?

Another Expert commended Albania on its many achievements, particularly in introducing new legislation and noted gaps in the statistics on employment.  The delegation was asked if women in the informal sector enjoyed any rights such as maternity benefits, about plans to transform informal sector into formal, and a possibility of increasing the minimum wage, which was still below family poverty line and which affected mainly women. 

Albania had made progress in reducing the gender pay gap, from 18 per cent in 2011 to 6.9 per cent in 2015.  How had such an impressive feat been achieved, and what was being done to address persistent gender pay gaps in certain sectors?

The Expert also asked about the situation of women in the shoe and clothing industry, and about gender dimensions related to the significant number of Albanian citizens who worked abroad and contributed to the economy by sending remittances to their families.

In terms of health, Albania had achieved commendable progress, but inequalities in access to health between rural and urban areas continued to exist, particularly vis-à-vis  sexual and reproductive health services.  The delegation was asked about measures to eliminate obstacles to equal access to health throughout the country, resources allocated for the implementation of HIV/AIDS prevention strategies, and the system of monitoring of health situation of women victims of violence or trafficking who suffered from mental health problems.

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation said that Albania had adopted a strategy and action plan for youth, which contained concrete activities and indicators on economic empowerment of youth, particularly those coming from vulnerable backgrounds, such as Roma girls.  Following the recent regional initiatives signed by six Prime Ministers from the region, an office had been created in Tirana to empower young people and ensure their contribution to the stability in the region.  Young girls were being included in volunteering activities, which had been legalized with the adoption of the recent Law on Volunteerism.

In order to reduce school dropout rates, particularly for Roma boys and girls, the Government had reduced school fees and, through the Second Chance Programme, offered an opportunity to complete mandatory education through complementary classes.  Albania had participated in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests in 2015 and was awaiting the results, which would be used for the necessary educational reforms and improvements in school programmes.  In order to promote enrolment of Roma and Egyptian children in primary schools, summer camps were being organized in cooperation with the United Nations agencies, while a  regional education directorate had been organizing counselling sessions with the parents. 

Albania had introduced integrated education for children with disabilities in 2013, and in 2014 a total of 3,200 children with disabilities had been enrolled in public school, 33 per cent more than the previous year, while 3,500 children with disabilities were attending public school in 2015/2016 school year.

The gender pay gap had been reduced from 35 per cent in 2005 to 6.9 per cent in 2014.  The 2014 figure had been based on the gross pay registered in the tax office.  The progress was due to dramatic changes in typically female sectors of health and education, where salaries had increased by 400 per cent, compared to other sectors where the increase represented about 75 per cent.  It had to be said that the increase of political representation of women had also had a positive impact in that regard.

Health policies had improved the quality of life of women and girls, both through the reform of the health sector and the adoption of gender-oriented health policies, which saw improvement in gender-sensitive health services.  As a result, the health sector was no longer seen as the most corrupt system, which had been the case two years earlier.  The Government was committed to introducing universal health coverage by 2016 and was now offering free-of-charge primary health care services and mobile mammography exams in all areas.  Unequal access to health services in rural areas was a consequence of under-development and prejudice, and those had to be addressed by the introduction of universal health coverage. 

Abortion could only take place in public hospitals, while licences were no longer granted to private clinics.  There was no direct data about sex-selective abortions, but the gender ratio at birth, and more boys being born every year, was used as a proxy indicator to understand the extent of the practice.  It was important to say that in that regard, significant progress had been made since 1981 when many more girls had been “missing” because of sex-selective abortions.

Questions by Experts

With regards to the economic empowerment of women, Committee Experts noted that there were legal provisions which had a negative impact on property rights of women and effectively excluded them from owning marital property and many forms of economic independence.  What could the Committee do to support the Government of Albania in improving that situation?

Despite various initiatives undertaken to address gender disparities and promote gender equality, the situation of women in rural and remote areas remained a challenge, especially the situation of ethnic minority women.  What was being done to ensure gender mainstreaming in all agriculture strategies and policies to enable women to act as visible stakeholders, decision-makers and beneficiaries, and what was the impact on the situation of women of the national agricultural strategy?

Replies by the Delegation

There were three major reforms to ensure economic empowerment of women, including the introduction of economic aid and improvements in the social protection of the poor.  The digitalized economic aid scheme was being piloted in three areas of the country with more than 40 per cent of the population.  The aid was now collected by the women of the household as it was believed that they would manage it better.  The beneficiaries were families in economic difficulties, children of families in need and orphans in obligatory education, victims of violence and victims of trafficking in persons.  At the moment, the beneficiaries included 9,253 women heads of households, 86 victims of violence and eight victims of trafficking in persons.

The National Strategy on Social Housing 2016-2025 was in place and the new law on social housing was currently being drafted.  Women would be priority beneficiaries of social housing, both through the provision of housing and grants.

A delegate explained that some provisions of the Labour Code contributed to improving gender equality, such as the reversal of burden of proof in sexual harassment cases, prohibition of converting annual leave in pay, the right to paternity leave, and others.  One of the indicators of economic empowerment of women was a five-fold increase of number of female entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector, while the Ministry of Agriculture was working on putting in place new subsidy scheme for women in agriculture, which should start in 2017.  A national action plan was in place to support women entrepreneurs, reducing employment and supporting business environment. 

Albania had introduced in the Criminal Code, and the Code of Criminal Procedures a provision which considered crimes on the basis of discrimination on any ground an aggravating circumstance, while the definition of discrimination in the Criminal Code was now aligned with the Constitution, and any dissemination of homophobic materials was criminalized.  A new Code of Administrative Procedures had been introduced which avoided any discrimination on the basis of gender, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, political affiliations and other grounds.

Questions from Experts

An Expert took a positive note of the intention to address the discriminatory law on the registration of marital property, and urged Albania to continue with those steps and improve the situation and rights of women in that aspect, and also to pay attention to violation of women’s hereditary rights that continued today.  Early and forced marriage was still being practiced by Roma and within communities in rural and remote areas.  What was being done to set the minimum legal age of marriage in the law and to address the phenomenon of bride kidnapping?

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation recognized the issues that the Committee Experts raised in relation to the Family Code and the difficulties in ensuring women’s rights to property.  All those issues were presented in a very transparent manner in Albania’s periodic report.

Concluding Remarks

MERITA XHAFAJ, General Director, Department of Social Policies, Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth, thanked the Committee Experts, and said that Albania had prepared for the dialogue for a long time in order to be able to provide the Committee with detailed and precise answers.   

YOKO HAYASHI, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue and encouraged Albania to take all necessary measures to address the various recommendations made by the Committee.
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