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Europe Friday, 30 March, 2001, 10:48 GMT 11:48 UK
Equality: Albania's blood feuds
Have we really achieved equality between the sexes?
As part of a series on human rights in Europe, the BBC's Edward Stourton travels to Albania to look at women's rights. He asks whether we have really achieved equality between the sexes in today's Europe.

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The revival of Albania's ancient customs adds yet another burden to women in a society where they already suffer discrimination. It offers a glimpse of the nightmare that can become a reality when a society operates by the wrong kind of code.

The Kunun is a canon of social customs drawn up by a fifteenth century chieftain from northern Albania, Lek Dukagjinit. It is enjoying a revival so many centuries after his death because of the vacuum left by the collapse of communism. The rule of law simply does not operate in many areas of the country, and people have turned to the old ways to regulate their lives.

Absolute male authority

The Kunun is not what you would call a forward-looking document. It lays out rigid demarcation lines between the sexes - male authority is almost absolute.

It also sanctions the ancient Albanian institution of the blood feud. If someone is killed, his relatives have not just the right but the duty to avenge his death by murdering a member of the killer's family.

So after a murder, all the male members of the killer's family lock themselves in their homes in fear of their own lives.


This began as a story about the right to equality - it became one about a conflict between to sets of rights; the rights of women, and those of minorities.

Edward Stourton
Murder is almost routine in parts of this anarchic country; Albania is awash with guns and alcohol, and one of the blood feuds we investigated began with a drunken squabble at a wedding.

There are now 10,000 men and boys imprisoned in their homes..

Women as breadwinners

It distorts every area of Albanian society - and it is in many ways the women who suffer worst.

With the men unable to go out, they must become the breadwinner - while at the same time performing their traditional roles running the home as wives and mothers.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights declares men and women equal - Albania is a long way from that ideal.

See also Edward Stourton's report on:

Family Affairs:
1920 GMT, Sunday 1st April on BBC 2.

Reporter: Edward Stourton
Producer: Adrian Pennink
Executive Producer: Farah Durrani
Series Producer: Kate Snell

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Edward Stourton:
"For six months, five men and three boys have been locked in this house."
Edward Stourton
"Albania seems to be slipping backwards into history."
Edward Stourton
"The women of the household inevitably pay a price"
Edward Stourton
"Albanians have turned to the ancient code because the authority of the state has collapsed."
See also:

02 Feb 01 | Europe
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