UN in Albania advocates for review of the Gender Equality Law
Interview with Michele Ribotta, Head of the UN Gender Group and UN Women Representative in Albania
International women day is a good opportunity to take stock of progress made to promote women empowerment. 2023 also marks fifteen years from the adoption of Albania’s first Law on Gender Equality. What is the importance of this law and why is it still relevant?
Over the years Albania’s progress on women’s empowerment has been significant on many fronts. Albanian women representation in politics is above EU average, and female cabinet members reached a record 70 percent. More women have entered the labour market, and female students outperform their male peers in secondary and higher education. Gender equality is applied to public budgeting processes, resulting in more resources for gender equality results (from 1 percent of total planned budget in 2015, to 7.2 percent in 2020).
The Gender Equality Law played an important role in these achievements: the Law introduced gender quotas to increase women's representation in elected positions and created mechanisms to supervise their implementation. It required that budgets and policies consider the needs and priorities of both women and men. The Law aimed to eliminate discrimination based on gender, providing adequate protection mechanisms. Thanks to its provisions, other key pieces of legislation were strengthened, on labour participation, property rights, representation, and other aspects of people’s lives.
However, its implementation in practice has been somewhat uneven. For example, women still struggle to achieve leadership positions in important areas of public administration, like the police and the army. Women from disadvantaged groups, such as Roma and Egyptian women or women with disabilities, remain largely unrepresented in public life. Moreover, limited investments in gender capacity and coordination among institutions resulted in weak mainstreaming of gender considerations across government action, both at central and local levels.
Another concern regards the effective enforcement of the Law’s anti-discriminatory provisions. For example, when women are paid less than their male counterparts for performing the same duty, they often not know how to seek remedies. Because administrative and judicial procedures to implement legal measures are still cumbersome, people who experience gender-based discrimination may not have a clear path to justice, thus preventing the full realization of gender equality objectives.
How is the Albanian legislation on gender equality compared to that of other countries, the EU legislation and international standards?
The Albanian Law, when adopted almost 15 years ago, was quite progressive and generally in line with international standards. But the gender equality agenda has evolved steadily in the last decade, including thanks to a strong feminist movement. The UN have reflected on these developments and are advocating for a review of the Law to bring it fully in line with current international standards, which is particularly important in the context of Albania’s accession to the EU. The EU law for example provides strict protection from gender-based discrimination in the workplace, and requires women representation in higher positions both in the public and private sectors.
In what way a revision of the Gender Equality Law would improve in general gender equality legislation and its alignment with EU legislation?
Following the adoption of the Gender Equality law in 2008, Albania passed several legal reforms to implement international human rights and gender equality standards. These include the Law on Protection from Discrimination, the Law against Domestic Violence, the Organic Budget Law, the Albanian Electoral Code, the Law on Local Self-Government Financing, Law on the Rights and Protection of the Child and the Law on legal Aid.
The revision of the Gender Equality Law and adoption of the pending secondary legislation would allow to further harmonize the national normative framework on women rights with the EU legislation and other international standards. For example, the current Gender Equality Law does not recognize domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence as “forms of discrimination”, thus requiring an assessment of full compatibility legislation against gender -based violence, starting with the Law on Measures against Violence in the Family Relationships. The same applies to other laws.
What do you think should be the next steps?
A solid and up to date legal framework is essential to support further advances on gender equality outcomes. The good news is that the Albanian Government has already inserted the revision of the Law in the National Gender Equality Strategy 2021-2030. We encourage the Government and the National Assembly to initiate this process soon, with contributions from human rights bodies, civil society and academia. As United Nations, we are ready to support any efforts aimed at promoting full equality and leave-no-one behind, which are foundational for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.