Gender rights researcher has legal success to protect women’s property rights

6 Mar 2019

Gender rights researcher has legal success to protect women’s property rights

5 March, 2019 – Women in Kosovo now have greater legal rights to property ownership, after research and an amendment proposal by a gender rights campaigner.

Luljeta Aliu, whose research was shared with media, politicians and civil society in Pristina on March 5, is behind a years-long campaign that was an integral part of a legal amendment recently passed by the Kosovo Assembly.

Aliu, a divorced survivor of domestic violence, said she set about changing Kosovo family law when she realized the uphill battle women in Kosovo faced to ensure their part in running the family household – and their subsequent rights to any property acquired during the relationship – was duly recognized in the event of divorce.

The amendment to the law, pushed for by Aliu and her NGO Initiative for Justice and Equality (INJECT), clarifies that the role of spouses – typically wives – in ‘contributing’ to the household has the same weight as the financial contribution made by the other spouse.

Aliu, who was featured in the UNMIK-produced documentary on domestic violence and property ownership customs Not Your Property, said during the presentation of her research that women faced “mistakes in interpretation” of the previous law. She said the judiciary frequently disregarded the non-financial contributions made to the family – usually contributions made by women, meaning women had a limited claim on any property acquired during the relationship.

“Joint assets should be considered equal. The law perceived it in that way but in practice the law was compromised because it was not interpreted in that way.”

High numbers of domestic violence

Aliu also spoke about the high numbers of domestic violence in Kosovo, citing research that showed 68 per cent of women had experienced some form of gender-based violence in their lives, and explained the cycle of violence that ended in physical violence usually stemmed from economic violence. She also touched on the low rates of property ownership by women, with the Statistical Agency of Kosovo indicating only 12 per cent of Kosovo women own property.

“If a person has economic advantage then they can violate [a spouse] in all kinds of ways.”

Aliu said it was for the benefit of men and women to have the female half of the population making an active contribution to society and the economy – one they were currently not able to do well because despite more women than men having a tertiary degree, only 12 per cent of women were employed.

“Women face some kind of imprisonment of potential, not only to the detriment of women…they lose creativity and the will to contribute to society.”

‘Together, we can make change’

Head of the Legislation Committee Albulena Haxhiu, who provided instrumental political support for the amendment proposed by Aliu, also spoke at the event and encouraged men and women to push for greater equality through all levels of society – to eliminate violence and work for a better Kosovo.

“Only through the contribution of all of us, men and women together, we can make change.”

UNMIK Gender Advisor Jo Anne Bishop, another panelist, said Aliu had inspired others by her courage, dedication and knowledge.

“The proposed amendment has the potential to serve as a game-changer for women and their children to escape potentially abusive situations so that they do not have to ensure and live with the consequences of violence.”

Aliu’s research was funded by UNMIK.