So much has been said about it, so many small and international-scale conferences have been held in big salons, and so many informal talks in coffee bars...
There have been so many workshops, long reports written, and so much advocacy and human rights actions on the ground (while awaiting the government of Kosovo to take forward steps) that Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security eventually became just that: another UN resolution.
Now, 14 years after its publication in 2000 and following a long battle fought by civil society organizations, the approval of a National Action Plan (NAP) on January 29 has brought hope to all of the people involved in the difficult task of repairing the damage caused to women during the war of 1999 and involving women in postwar peace-building and peacekeeping activities. But what does it all mean? And why is the government's decision being greeted with such skepticism?
The approval of this (already-resolved) historical plan establishes an agenda of concrete actions that will be led and monitored by the Agency of Gender Equality (attached to the Prime Minister's office) between 2013 to 2015 in order to reach three goals: To increase the participation of women in decision-making, peacekeeping, and building processes; to integrate gender perspectives into security affairs and increase the participation of women in the security structures; and (most contentiously) to improve access to protection, justice, rehabilitation, and reintegration for survivors of sexual violence and torture associated with Kosovo's 1999 war.
Among the actions included in the NAP — that took a year to be drafted — are awareness campaigns among women in the security sector; support for women's organizations (such as trade unions) within the security structures; the establishment of career counseling offices (with special focus on women's career advancement in the security structures); the provision of graduate scholarships for women in the security structures based on transparent criteria; the creation and dissemination of research on the status and rights of survivors of war-related sexual violence; capacity-building among police investigators, prosecutors, and judges for the treatment of sexual violence cases related to the war; the provision of psychosocial, medical and legal (free) aid for survivors of war-related sexual violence; and supporting survivors of conflict/war-related sexual violence through business-initiation training. The national action plan, to which Kosovo 2.0 has had access, was officially presented on March 7.
Skepticism On The Plan's Implementation
“It is positive,” said Kosovo Women's Network executive director Igballe Rogova. Rogova was involved in the drafting of the plan within a group of 28 representatives drawn from civil society organizations and official institutions (Kosovo Police, Kosovo Security Forces and several ministries and representatives of the Supreme Court, among others).
But Rogova, known for her valuable work as a women's rights advocate in Kosovo, retains some pessimism about the implementation of the project. “I'm not completely pessimistic... they will do something. Because of the European Union and integration, my government has done things that they didn't feel like doing,” noted Rogova, adding that European Integration minister Vlora Citaku was also instrumental to the plan's creation.
“It was Citaku,” said Rogova, “who was pushing [from the government] the issue of justice for women who suffered sexual crimes, and while she is there it can work... but the future of the plan will depend very much on the people appointed after the next elections and their motivation.”
Kosovo's Government has assumed the responsibility to finance 51 percent (nearly 1.8 million euros) of the plan's budget, and this is something that Flora Macula — head of UN Women in Kosovo — considers, based on her experience with similiar initiatives across the Western Balkans, a great achievement. “Until now, not even five percent of any action plan was supported by a government” said Macula, adding that “if they implement 60 percent, it will be the biggest success in the world.”
Although she compliments the work that went into the current draft of the plan (it took over a year to realize, from April 2012 to May 2013), she admits that implementation may yet provide different issues: “We know in Kosovo that we have the best laws, but we have a gap on the implementation”.
Still Waiting For The Amendment On Rape Victims
It is the last goal — the one regarding victims of sexual crimes during the war — that has generated most attention and discussion, and its achievement will depend on the final review and approval of an amendment that seems to be taking centuries to be passed by the assembly. This amendment will include victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence as a recognized category within Kosovo's existing legislation on war veterans, invalids and civilian victims.
The committee for Health, Labor and Social Welfare (one of the parliamentary committees responsible for re-writing the amendment, a process that has taken nearly a year), has recently agreed that victims of rape during the war will be given a monthly economic compensation. According to a report published by Koha Ditore on February 12, however, this compensation will only be awarded after a “verification process”. It's still unclear what the benefits of this recognition will be and how the verification process will be performed, but the questions surrounding the need for medical verification — or “examination,” to use deputy Gezim Kelmendi's words — have already provoked significant protest (Kosovo 2.0 reported on this last March).
The chief of the Agency for Gender Equality, Edona Hajrullahu, said that there needs to be a verification process, and has responded to critics of this plan with vigor: “I'm convinced the media took different angles, and things were misinterpreted” said Hajrullahu to Kosovo 2.0. When asked if she believes that a stigmatized group such as rape victims would lie to receive compensation, Hajrullahu said that “Kosovo is a poor country — there are so many families on social assistance, and living on remittances from abroad... we have a high rate of unemployment… I'm not saying it will happen, but you have to bear in mind the risk. This happened with other categories, for example with veterans (as of January, the government has received 50,000 applications for KLA veteran status, even though estimates place the number closer to 20,000).”
Kosovo 2.0's reporting on the issue of rape victims suggests that social stigmatization will discourage rape victims from coming forward to claim governmental benefits. If and when the amendment passes in parliament, a governmental commission will be formed to verify applicants' claims.
The amendment is still expected to undergo further review and discussion in Kosovo's parliament. Although there is no official record, a World Health Organization report from 2000 (based on information provided by local NGOS) estimated that 20,000 women and girls suffered rape during the war in 1999.