As readers may know, I’ve been very impressed by Barack Obama (despite also being repelled by some of the coverage Clinton has received). Among many necessary conditions for my being impressed by him is the fact that he has good positions on reproductive rights. Imagine my surprise, then, at being completely unable to find any mention of abortion or reproductive rights whatsoever in the issues section of his website. If this is right, it’s deeply strange, and surely counter-productive, especially since we’re still at the primary stage rather than the mandatory general election shift-to center. I very much hope someone will tell me I’m wrong about this!
Women in newly independent Kosovo face serious problems, despite having some excellent laws apparently on the books.
A United Nations study in 2000 estimated that one-fourth of the female population of Kosovo suffered physical or psychological abuse; Kosovo police last year recorded 1,077 cases of domestic violence…Like much of the surrounding, rugged Balkans, Kosovo has long served as a notorious transit point for the international trafficking of women, mostly from Eastern Europe, who are forced into prostitution or slavery.
After a brutal crackdown by Slobodan Milosevic in 1999, Kosovo came under the stewardship of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the United Nations. During the years since, Kosovo evolved from a transit point into both a source of and destination for trafficked women. Often, Kosovo officials and former guerrilla commanders were complicit in the lucrative trade — and the resident international community, including peacekeepers and civilian consultants, its market.
Problems have been exacerbated by the violence and dislocations of war:
Roughly half of Kosovo’s generally young population is out of work; the World Bank and other experts believe it could take a decade to dramatically reduce unemployment. Poverty strains Kosovo’s families, which tend to be large. Add to that the dislocations of war: Thousands of people were killed and entire villages razed, their residents forced to move to urban areas. There, many live in cramped conditions, disoriented, unsettled in an unfamiliar environment.
The article draws attention to an interesting contrast between pre-war and post-war conditions for women:
Women used to be relegated to restrictive lives at home, guarded behind the high-walled compounds that traditionally housed extended ethnic Albanian families, or clans. It wasn’t freedom, but it was out of the reach of outside exploitation. Traffickers brought women from elsewhere, such as Moldova and Romania, initially to be shuttled to Italy or other parts of Europe and, after the war, to remain in Kosovo to “service” a growing international population.
Eventually, more and more Kosovo women, ripped from their traditional home life, also fell prey to traffickers and found themselves lured by promises of work, marriage or their own cellphone, only to end up in seedy bars, strip joints and brothels.
This, taken on its own, may seem like the article is minimising the problems faced by women within their own households. But it isn’t– significant attention is devoted to domestic violence (rather than “outside exploitation”), and one victim in particularly is profiled with depressing vividness.
Still, at least some advocates are hopeful of change:
Igballe Rogova, head of the Kosova Women’s Network, an umbrella coalition of about 40 groups, said she was hopeful the government, with the independence issue more or less settled, could put into practice laws that exist on paper.
“Today we have really incredibly good mechanisms on gender equality,” she told a European Parliament committee on women’s issues in Brussels late last month. “We have a law on gender equality, we have an office on gender equality at the prime minister level and, in every ministry, gender equality officers. We are not happy with the implementation of these mechanisms, but we are very optimistic.”
Sherifa said laws grant women the rights to own and inherit property on the same terms as men. But it often does not happen that way.