Albania's beaten women
Written by Brussels journalist David Ferguson
Friday, 22 July 2005

"Intimate partner physical violence is highly prevalent in transitional Albania," conclude researchers Genc Burazeri and Enver Roshi from Tirana University. "More than a third (37%) of women had experienced violence. Women were at higher risk if they were more educated than their husbands."

In 2003, researchers Genc Burazeri and Enver Roshi, together with an international team, surveyed 1039 married women aged 25-65 living in Tirana, the Albanian capital. "Spousal violence was measured by a question asking whether in the past year she had been 'hit, slapped, kicked, or physically hurt' by her husband. Those answering 'Yes' were asked how many times this had happened," explain the researchers.

"Albania has been described as a particularly patriarchal society. Intimate partner violence is integrally linked to ideas of male superiority over women," add the researchers in a study which appears in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal. "Violence is usually used to create and enforce gender hierarchy and punish transgressions; to resolve relationship conflict; and to seek resolution of crisis of masculinity by providing an (often transient) sense of powerfulness."

Burazeri and Roshi's study, financed by the Polish Institute of Health Education and Human Welfare, in Lublin, indicates that Albania's high rates of violence against women, by their male partners, may be only rivalled in Turkey. In 2002, the World Health Organization's 'World report on violence and health' noted that 58% of women in East and South-East Anatolia, Turkey, had experienced violence (during their lifetime) by their male partners. This could correspond to imputed similarly high rates of intimate partner violence in rural Albania.

Up until now, there has been little research as to the magnitude of intimate partner violence and the factors associated with it in post-communist countries. "Intimate partner violence is more common in patriarchal societies and settings where violence is commonly used in conflict or to gain ascendancy, so there has been particular concern about its prevalence in patriarchal transitional countries, where violence has become commonplace and social relations have been disrupted," noted the researchers.

The formerly isolated communist country of Albania has undergone major socio-economic disruption, political upheaval. Following the collapse of the communist regime in 1990 many people migrated from rural to urban areas with the population of Tirana increasing from 150 000 in 1991 to more than 500 000 a decade later.

"This has brought rapid changes to many Albanian families, and many women are more independent and have greater economic responsibility whereas men are less able to fulfil their culturally expected roles as (family) protectors and providers," explain the researchers.

"The tension this has created may have led to an increase in intimate partner violence, especially among the groups of women who have been in the forefront of these changes."

Genc Burazeri, Enver Roshi, Rachel Jewkes, Susanne Jordan, Vesna Bjegovic, Ulrich Laaser, "Factors associated with spousal physical violence in Albania: cross sectional study", British Medical Journal Volume 331, pp 197-201. 23 July 2005.