Kosovo to amend its Constitution to recognize the Istanbul Convention

Date: Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Roundtable on the role of the Istanbul Convention in the elimination of violence against women. Photo: UN Women Kosovo

The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, known as the Istanbul Convention, sets comprehensive standards to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence. It recognizes the obligation of the state to fully address gender-based violence in all its forms, and to take measures to prevent violence against women, protect its victims and prosecute the perpetrators.

Although unable to ratify the Istanbul Convention, Kosovo[1]; is aiming at amending its Constitution to recognize the Convention’s direct applicability. Encouraged by an initiative of the Caucus of Women Members of Parliament, the President of the Assembly of Kosovo, Mexhide Mjaku-Topalli, requested the Constitutional Court to review the amendment proposed by eighty deputies of the Assembly. The Court ruled positively on the matter and enabled the Assembly of Kosovo to vote on the adoption of the amendment in the near future. The Court found that the proposed amendment would strengthen the commitment of Kosovo towards the protection of human rights.

A roundtable organized in April addressed this process and the crucial role of the Istanbul Convention in the elimination of violence against women. Panelists were delighted by the historical significance of this moment. Hilmi Jashari, Ombudsperson, referred to the amendment as “one of the most positive initiatives for the advancement of human rights in Kosovo.”

Participants praised the comprehensive approach of the Convention, which addresses all forms of gender-based violence, including domestic violence. Ulrika Richardson, United Nations Development Coordinator, welcomed the decision of the Constitutional Court, stating that “if fully implemented, the Istanbul Convention will provide the conditions to make sure that Kosovo is free of violence against women.”

Moreover, panelists and members of the audience stressed the importance to fully implement the Convention. They highlighted the current lack of implementation of the legal framework and policies addressing gender equality and called for substantial future reporting on such implementation. The development of a committed legislative and policy environment on the elimination of violence against women in line with the Istanbul Convention is already progressing in Kosovo. UN Women, in close partnership with the Office of the National Coordinator for Domestic Violence, UNDP, OSCE and the US Embassy, supported the drafting process of the National Strategy against Domestic Violence (2016-2020), using the Convention as a guideline.

Since 2017, UN Women is also implementing the EU-funded programme “Implementing Norms, Changing Minds”, which supports governments and women’s organizations in their efforts to prevent and respond to violence against women and promote the implementation of the Istanbul Convention. The programme is working to raise women’s awareness regarding their rights and the services available to them, in addition to building the capacity of institutions and service providers so they are better equipped to manage cases of violence.

Recently, Kosovo has made progress on its legal framework addressing domestic violence. The criminal code has been revised, leading to the inclusion and definition of domestic violence as a separate criminal offense, accurately defining all acts of domestic violence, in alignment with the requirements of the Istanbul Convention. Furthermore, a national unified database was recently launched, enabling the monitoring and prosecution of domestic violence cases in Kosovo in order to ensure accountability by obliging relevant institutions to update the database with the necessary information from central and local levels.

Linda Sanaja, Technical Project Analyst at UN Women Kosovo, urged, “Having a unified database is a significant progress and crucial step towards the implementation of the standards set forth in the Istanbul Convention.”

The proposed amendment to the Constitution would provide an opportunity to build on these achievements and work towards the full implementation of the Convention. It would provide the basis to make sure that all stakeholders act and report on gender-based violence. According to Igballe Rugova, Executive Director of the Kosovo Women’s Network, “This amendment will bring welfare and peace for the citizens of Kosovo, because there cannot be peace with violence.”


[1] All references to Kosovo on this website shall be understood to be in full compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).