The Women's Legal Group is a coalition of advocates representing 12 women's organizations in the Republic of Albania. The Women's Legal Group was formed in the fall of 1994 as an advocacy group to analyze proposed and existing legislation and make recommendations for change to the Albanian Parliament.
The goal of the Women's Legal Group is to advocate the inclusion of the rights and protections for women and girls in the Albanian law. Since very few Albanian women are in the higher positions of government, there is a great need for women to provide important input into the law - making process through non-governmental advocacy groups.
Although the WLG has to operate in exceedingly difficult circumstances, it has already achieved some notable successes. In early 1995, the group analyzed the draft labor law then being reviewed by Parliament, formulated recommendations with supporting legal arguments and citation to Albanian Law, and presented these recommendations to Parliament. Three parliamentary commissions and two government ministries adopted a majority of the group's recommendations. It is the first Albanian non-governmental group to gain the focused attention and cooperation from the Parliament and the ministries to date, and it is the only one of its kind to advocate women's legal rights.
The objectives of the work of the Women's Legal Group are the following:
- To present a comprehensive voice from Albanian women's organizations for women's legal rights in Albania.
- To advocate the inclusion of women's rights and protections in Albanian legislation.
The WLG also seeks to bring the Albanian legal system in line with international standards concerning women's rights issues.
The Women's Legal Group has worked hard to influence the parliamentary legislative drafting process by pressuring the Albanian parliament and government ministries to modify or block draft laws that contravene the guarantees of women's rights embodied in the country's constitution. The WLG has achieved favorable recognition and the careful consideration from the Women's Parliamentarian Group, the Parliamentarian commissions on Industry, on Education, Social Affairs and Public Services, and on Laws, the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Health, as well as media. The WLG has taken a grant from the National Endowment for Democracy, and Ms. Lisa Davis, an experienced lawyer and a specialist in international and comparative law, serves as volunteer foreign legal advisor for the WLG.
The WLG, with the help of National Endowment for Democracy's grant, has set up an office in Tirana and has a staff person who is responsible for maintaining contacts with government ministries and parliamentary commissions and providing general administrative support.
In the framework of WLG's goals, each member of the Women's Law Group has the duty to:
Once a draft or enacted law has been chosen as the focus of WLG:
- Identify new legislation being prepared by the government ministries, Parliamentarians, political parties or interest groups;
- Attend on a regular basis the meetings of the Women's Legal Group;
- Discuss which laws, draft or enacted, the Women's Legal Group will review and develop a schedule for review.
Organize and Participate in the following:
- Identify and review all existing legislation, including international agreements undertaken by Albania, which is related to or will be affected by the Focus Law;
- Review the Focus Law and identify rights and protections that are missing from the Focus Law;
- Compare the Focus Law to the Standards of International law and foreign law;
- Discuss recommendations for the change to the Focus Law;
- Prioritize the recommendations for the change to the Focus Law;
- Draft recommendations for change, including suggested language, that should be adopted by the government or Parliament;
- Research factual and legal support for recommendations, including, where appropriate, reference to Albanian law, international law, and foreign law models;
- Draft a supporting legal memorandum, including factual and legal arguments with citations supporting the specific recommendations;
- Review and discuss the recommendations and supporting legal memorandum and agree by consensus to its contents and language;
- Elect two representatives to serve as spokespersons for the Women's Legal Group in relation to the Focus Law.
- (When the Focus Law is a draft law not yet referred to Parliament) meetings to present recommendations to the law drafting commission or appropriate ministry personnel who are responsible for the draft law.
- (When the Focus Law is being reviewed by Parliament) meetings with the Parliamentarian commissions to present the recommendations.
- (For every type of Focus Law) meetings with the Women's Parliamentarian Group to present recommendations.
- (For every type of Focus Law) press conference to announce the recommendations.
- General receptions and conferences hosted by the Women's Legal Group or those organized by the Women's Legal Group.
- Penal Code
- review its adequacy in treatment of crimes against women: kidnapping women and children, trafficking of women, prostitution, domestic abuse, rape, assault.
- Penal Procedure Code
- review its adequacy in the treatment of female victims of crime.
- Abortion Law
- also reviewing family planning law, existing social security laws, health laws, and constitutional laws.
- Social Insurance Law
- formulate a recommendation about increasing the necessary work ages to be entitled to the pension.
- Family Code
- Civil Procedure Code
Some Information About Women's Legal Group
The WLG is developing an ever-stronger foothold in the promotion of democracy building with a gender perspective in Albania. It is strengthening its linkages with civil society structures (NGOs, government, parliament) and is concretely building a reputation as a serious and progressive legal rights advocacy group for women.
The WLG has reviewed the Abortion Law and identified rights and protections that are absent, discussed and approved recommendations for changes to the law, including suggested language. For the abortion law, 2 members of the group (Vjollca Mecaj and Donika Deti) are working together.
The WLG (Vjollca Mecaj) has reviewed the Penal Code about pregnancy and abortion issues and has prepared recommendations for articles 93, 94 and 17.
The WLG (Mr. Gramoz Xhangolli, Rozeta Dedja) has reviewed the Labor Code and has prepared the recommendations and added some sanctions about sexual harassment that are approved by the Ministry of Labor, which has passed the law to the Parliament and the Parliament has approved the sanctions.
Another law that WLG has focused its attention on is "the social insurance" law. In relation to the "years of work" required to receive pension, the duration has increased from 20 to 35 years. The considerable increase in the "years of work" affects pension calculation, which also affects a great number of women who because of transition are unemployed and have no possibility to find any job in the near future.
Zamira Caka and Liljana Mero are preparing the recommendation for parliament with regard to this law. The WLG has sent letters to, and are holding meetings with other NGOs to ascertain their opinion and to secure their support for this issue. Letters have also been sent to the political parties that will participate in the electoral campaign to encourage them to incorporate the pension and "years of work" issue into their electoral program, which may then become a governmental action point in the near future.
WLG members have participated in different seminars, activities and roundtables, in which they have exchanged experience with other women NGOs and governmental institutions:
Some of these activities include:
- Three weeks training, organized by ILO (International Labor Organization) and held in Tirana from 15 September to 13 October 1995, with the theme: Promotion of women's worker rights and equality in employment.
- Ethics and medical laws organized by Legal Center of Soros Foundation and ARCH (12 December 1995)
- A comparative study of the Albanian legislation and that of the developed countries on the issue of violence against women organized by women's association "Refleksione" (January 1996)
- The seminar organized by the Ministry of Labor and Emigration, with three-partite representation, about the existing conventions that protect the rights of women and the situation of their ratification in Albania (18 February 1996)
- Young Women and Democracy Regional Meeting for Balkan Region, Tirana (February 1996)
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