May 24, 2024


In early March 2024, the MARShojmë S’Festojmë collective announced that it would hold a protest on March 8, International Women’s Day. The organizers of the march, which has been organized annually since 2016, decided that this year they would march for each other.

This year’s march took place amid successive threats to our well-being as women. A few days before, the deputies of the Kosovar Assembly infringed upon our bodily autonomy by opposing the Draft Law on Reproductive Health and Medically Assisted Conception (MAC), often known as in-vitro fertilization (IVF). They mainly opposed article 15 of the draft law, which recognizes single women over the age of 18 as having the right to MAC.

“We have seen such processes that have destroyed the family,” Vetëvendosje (VV) deputy Eman Rrahmani said in a TV debate. Media outlets could not wait to give him the space to sensationalize the issue further and increase public polarization.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Community of Kosovo shared photos from a meeting with the head of the Parliamentary Commission for Human Rights, Duda Balje. The press release after the meeting states that there was a discussion about the Grand Mufti Naim Tërnava’s concern about the draft law on MAC. According to him, the draft law “contributes directly to the destruction of the institution of the family.” Ironically, Balje thanked Tërnava for his commitment to “the well-being of all.”

Around the same time, the Court of Appeal decided to retry the case concerning the murder of 18-year-old Marigona Osmani by Dardan Krivaqa in 2021. This decision was grounded in the notion that, during the initial trial, there had been “an essential violation of the provisions of the criminal procedure.” This has become a common justification used by the courts when dealing with cases of femicide in Kosovo. It serves as an indication of a justice system that does not take the (in)security of women in Kosovo seriously and hinders their access to justice.

Amid this challenging context, several actions preceded the march. Activists, appalled by the objectification and control of women’s bodies by men, took to the streets, using their bodies as a form of protest against the violence and reproductive regulation imposed upon them.

Police officers instead of fences

Due to these discussions about women’s reproductive rights and the imposition of limitations on when and under what conditions they are allowed to reproduce, activists felt compelled to speak out against this rhetoric before March 8, 2024. They couldn’t wait to highlight the presence of women in a society that requires them to diminish themselves daily: in the workplace, at home and on the streets.

So, on February 28, 2024, the Collective for Feminist Action and Thought, together with a number of activists, protested against the Court of Appeal’s decision to retry the case concerning Marigona Osmani’s murder.

The next day, a protest was held at the Assembly of Kosovo, under the slogan: “Deputies do not have a mandate to violate our bodies.” Then on March 6, 2024, in order to condemn the sexual harassment that threatens women daily on the streets they wrote “the streets are ours,” at George Bush square in Prishtina.

In all of these actions, the activists demanded justice and safety for women and girls. This has become necessary because it has become clear to us, as women, that the state does not prioritize justice or ensure our safety. Although deeply compromised and threatened by the way public discussions about women’s bodies — alive and dead — were being shaped, all of the actions before March 8 were symbolic and peaceful.


Since institutions did not condemn the language used by the deputies and did not make any serious commitment to join us in our efforts for justice, it became clear to us: we only have each other.

On March 8, the protest was organized for each other. The activists notified the police about the march and its route one day prior. The final stop in the route was the government building, which was highlighted in red.

However, when the marchers arrived at the government building, they encountered a police cordon, which was then reinforced with members from the special unit of the Kosovo Police. The final speech of the march, which is usually read in the government building’s courtyard, was instead read outside the building.

The Kurti government, which four years ago removed the fences around some public institutions in the name of bringing citizens closer to the institutions, did not allow this year’s March 8 activists to approach the government building. Despite VV’s history as a movement largely shaped by protest and public action, it seems that after taking power, feminist protests have been disturbing to the government.

In these circumstances, police reducing access to public space can be read as an attempt to control criticism of the government. VV went from a political movement that saw the streets as a channel to articulate protest, to a government that wants to control protest by blocking access to the streets. What happened to the Kurti government’s approach and what does this approach mean for social activism?

“The streets are ours” 

The events leading up to the march did not indicate that the activists would use violence during the march. Additionally, the protest on March 8 is not a new event — it has been happening for almost 10 years. 

Attempts to control protests are also in danger of becoming commonplace. The police intervention targeting activists at the march was not only unjustified and unjustifiable, but also conveyed the message that feminist protest is not welcome.

There have been several instances where the police have fined or arrested feminist activists, primarily with the intention of publicly disciplining them and suppressing their inclination to protest.

But feminist activists are politically aware beings. They have learned to recognize the mechanisms and tools that the state uses against them. They have learned this because they face them every day and knowledge of these mechanisms has become a condition for survival. They know how to use these mechanisms to oppose efforts to reduce access to public spaces, which are often an extension of protest.

They know that gathering restrictions cannot happen at any time and cannot be allowed to happen at any time. The Law on Public Gatherings states that restrictions on gatherings must be legal, proportionate and necessary to ensure public order, public health, national security or the protection of the rights of others. The restrictions must also be timed and should be no later than 48 hours before the public gathering and not while the gathering is taking place.


Which of these is put at risk by reading a speech in front of a government building? Where is the explanation for the lack of proportionality in police control, which resulted in physical clashes between women attempting to exercise their right to protest and the police seeking to prevent it?

In the absence of an explanation from the authorities that limited the right to protest, this appears to be a warning measure about sanctions against criticism and opposing opinion, especially coming from women.

The government employed police control tactics to incite hatred and violence towards the feminist activists, They sought to portray these activists as hostile and violent, aiming to alienate them from the broader public. This alienation served as a means to legitimize the government’s ongoing attempts to discipline activists and to trivialize their causes.

The government is relying on its supporters to try to label feminist activists and protests as having specific agendas. This strategy aims to undermine the autonomy and collective solidarity of women’s organizations as a punishment for criticizing the government.

Activists cannot praise the government because they are busy doing the work that the government and institutions should be doing.

Feminist activists and women’s rights organizations are ensuring the survival of Kosovo’s women and girls. These activists and organizations are the first point of contact when women experience physical, sexual, psychological and economic violence. 

Every year, women outside the government who work in shelters providing social services face the risk of closure. This is because the government fails to establish a stable budget allocation for them. At the same time, the government is allocating an unprecedented budget for “national security” to the Ministry of Defense. This indicates that, according to the government, women’s safety is not a national emergency.

In these circumstances, feminist activists still take to the streets and demand justice.

This type of activism diverges from the dominant ideology within VV and there also does not align with the views of the Kurti government. The government’s use of police control seemed to imply to its voters, “look at these hysterical women, needlessly raging, disturbing our priorities and our national agenda.” As a result, these voters were encouraged to attack the activists, bombarding them with hate messages, both virtually and physically. Men, who congratulated and celebrated the Kurti government for the police presence on March 8, even suggested that the protesters “deserve worse.”


The government is fully aligned with the masses that want to keep women obedient and oppressed. They don’t like the resistance of women in the street because it disrupts their ability to confine them inside the walls of the house, subject to constant control.

On March 8, 2024, the government tacitly encouraged those who flood the comment sections of online news articles about violence against women with the most inhumane remarks directed against us. The government secured voters, who support violence against women, in both public and private spaces, vocally and without reservations.

Therefore, the government’s proclaimed commitment to gender equality has become meaningless.

The commitment will make sense when the police, who were committed to suppress our gathering, redirect that commitment to protecting women when their well-being is threatened in public spaces. These spaces have become hotspots for harrassers and sexual abuse targetting girls and women. The police, who pushed us should be listening to women who report violence, have protection orders and end up killed; women who are raped. Police should work to restore the trust of those who are left alone to face their abusers.

Women, not government buildings, need police protection.

Until the government and the police realize this, feminist activists will continue to be deeply concerned about the pervasive social acceptance of gender-based violence, which on March 8 the government also contributed to.

We have no other choice but to stand together to first cultivate the imagining of a new reality for women and girls, without violence and oppression, no matter how difficult this sounds with all the current daily news. But only through imagining such a reality, we can work further towards changing it. For each other.

Author: Valmira Rashiti

Feature Image: Aulonë Kadriu / K2.0

This article was originally produced for and published by Kosovo 2.0. It has been re-published here with permission.