By Arlinda Baftii and Marigona Brahimi

In Kosovo and former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, a woman with no job or without higher education is 20 times more likely to remain in a dangerous domestic situation.

Most survivors and victims of domestic violence are women, and most offenders are men. In a group of 25 offenders, 21 are men; whereas out of every 25 survivors and victims, 17 in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and 20 in Kosovo* are women.

More people report domestic violence every year, which could be a marker of success in that more people are seeking help. But for every case of sexual violence in fYR of Macedonia, two women think it is the wife’s duty to have sex with partner even against her will.

These are just some of the examples from The  National Survey of domestic violence. Men stabbing their wives to death, girls forced to marriage, brides sold to the highest bidder in the mountains, though extreme examples, are not unheard of in fYR of Macedonia.  

Though data paints a disturbing picture of domestic violence in the fYR of Macedonia, understanding what makes women likely to be targeted can help inform programs to help them.

Here is what we have learned:

  • Lack of education and economic dependence make women particularly vulnerable.

The more educated and active in the workforce the woman, the less likely she is to experience domestic violence, data shows.  

Of every 10 employed women, only two said they experienced violence during their lifetime, compared to three survivors in 10 women who do not work but are looking for job, and five in 10 unemployed women who suffered from violence in their home.  

Education levels play a similar role. While five out of every 20 women who went to university said they were survivors of domestic violence, nine out of 20 women with lower levels of education did.

  • Women make up more than half of inactive population (in the labour market)

Data tells us that in every 10 women in fYR of Macedonia, seven are simply not looking for work. Similarly in Kosovo, eight in 10 women are not economically independent. But what keeps women out of the job market?

With high rates of unemployment, it’s no wonder women have little incentive to compete in a market with so few jobs. 

Another reason is that women are expected to choose family over a career. Data from Statistical Agency of Kosovo shows that 40 percent of women in Kosovo who are not seeking a job make this choice due to personal or family responsibilities.  

That means huge segments of youth are shut out of a chance to become professionals. In Macedonia, 8 out of 25 women aged 25-49 stay at home. In Kosovo, 23 out of 25 women in their late 20s are inactive in the labour market.

  • Attitudes towards violence need to change

More than half of the respondents in a survey of ”Kosova Women’s Network” in Kosovo think that sometimes violence is justified if a husband is unemployed. Equal ratios of women and men agree. To the question “Is it okay for a husband to hit his wife?” one in five people have responded with yes. This widespread acceptance of violence within the family might help to explain why less than 1 percent of people in the six main cities of Kosovo have reported domestic violence at all.

Why does attitude matter? Simply put, unemployed women are not only more likely to experience domestic violence, they usually don’t even regard themselves as survivors, which further propels the cycle of violence.

Indeed, data shows us that the more educated a woman, the less tolerant of domestic violence she is. According to a Macedonian survey which covered 4,000 households, for every high-educated women that justifies violence, there are four with secondary education and 20 with primary or lower education who find domestic violence justified.

  • Women’s income and geographical location impact attitudes

One in 100 rich Macedonian women believes that a man has a right to hit her. For every rich woman who thinks so, there are 21 poor women who agree.

In the abovementioned survey, women were asked if they justify violence of any of the following reasons: for going out without telling a partner, for arguing with him, for refusing to have sex, for neglecting the children, for burning the food. Although on average fewer than one in 10 women would consent for all the reasons, there are big geographical differences in attitudes. One trend is that women’s tolerance to the phenomenon of domestic violence is four times higher in rural areas compared to urban areas. Another geographical difference is that for every woman from eastern part of the country who justifies being a victim of her husband, there are four in Polog, the northwest.

  • Both education and assistance programmes need more funding

Government services for awareness campaigns and direct services to survivors and victims of violence are stretched.

The budget of the Macedonian Ministry of Labor and Social Policy in the area of domestic violence for 2016 was around 2.7 million denars (around US$50,000.) But civic groups that provide assistance to survivors of domestic violence need three times the amount to meet the needs of survivors, show the calculations of National Network Against Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence.

To educate the public about women’s rights is crucial to any domestic violence program. To change the mind of every man and woman who think it is ok to beat woman in Kosovo around 600,000 people in Kosovo and at least 200,000 women in fYR Macedonia would need to be reached (no data is available about men’s attitudes towards domestic violence in Macedonia.) This would require a massive public awareness challenge.

The more visible the problem becomes, the more expensive as well: the more women come forward to report domestic violence, the more assistance is required to support them. If all the women in Kosovo and fYR Macedonia who said they had experienced domestic violence in their lifetime reported just one case to the police once over the course of their lives (assuming a 60-year lifespan), there would be around 7,000 women coming forward in Kosovo and 7,000 in fYR Macedonia each year. That would mean the authorities would have to serve over five times as many women as they do now in fYR Macedonia and 18 times more in Kosovo.