Women in the rule of law

“Violence remains violence and it should not be tolerated. Report it!“ – Meet Sergeant Xhemile Behluli

10 December 2020

Inspired by her father Sejdi Behluli, a former police officer, Sergeant Xhemile Behluli’s career path was crystal clear at a very young age.  She belongs to the third generation of the Kosovo Police graduates and has joined the force in February of 2000. Sergeant Behluli recalls her early days as a police officer, patrolling the streets as a young woman in uniform. She emotionally recalls how people used to shower her and her colleagues with respect as they represented authority and security, treating them as life saviors. “I remember that people used to stop me on the street and ask me for a hug, or to even give them a ticket so they could be in contact with someone from the Kosovo Police, as the new security authority who is on their side after so many difficult years,” Xhemile recalls.   

Sergeant Xhemile Behluli is now a supervisor in the sector of domestic violence within the Kosovo Police Directorate of Community Policing and Prevention. She has been in this sector since for nine years now: “I joined this particular sector because I wanted to give my contribution to and help out victims of domestic violence. It is a very sensitive sector where the victims are usually highly traumatized and very sensitive, therefore, we immediately take the necessary steps to accommodate and help them,” she explains.

The moment a domestic violence victim contacts the Kosovo Police, Sergeant Behluli and her colleagues at this dedicated sector first make sure that the victim is in safe hands under their supervision. Then, they take the necessary steps, including by contacting the Center for Social Services and providing shelter for the victims.

“For us in the Kosovo Police, the number one priority is the safety of the victims. Until we make sure that the victim is safe, we do not leave their side,” explains Sergeant Behluli. To gain expertise in the sensitive field of domestic violence, Sergeant Behluli has undergone extensive and tailored training. In fact, the members of Kosovo Police’s domestic violence sector attend regularly training courses which are offered by many international organizations that operate in Kosovo, such as EULEX, UN Women, UNDP and the OSCE, as well as by many NGOs working in the field of domestic violence. 

“We are continuously working to raise awareness among the population of the importance to report cases of domestic violence. Every year we are witnessing an increase in numbers of domestic violence cases, which are reported to the police. This is a result of the increased awareness of people and victims in this regard – that domestic violence needs to be reported. Violence remains violence and it should not be tolerated,”says firmly Behluli, adding that the main goal of the Kosovo Police is for the victims to report cases of domestic violence. 

Over the years, the Kosovo Police has carried out many activities to raise awareness of domestic violence, including lectures in schools where school children get to know more about what domestic violence is. “Many times children are victims of domestic violence, but they are not aware of it. Through our lectures, we explained to them what constitutes violence and when and where they should report it,” says Sergeant Behluli. 

As part of this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign, the Kosovo Police is planning to disseminate informative flyers on domestic violence throughout Kosovo, where all key information on domestic violence will be available, including the telephone numbers where victims can call and report domestic violence cases. 

When it comes to the number of reported cases of domestic violence, Sergeant Behluli explains how this number increases every year. For instance, in 2019 there were 1915 reported cases of domestic violence, while this year, 1713 cases of domestic violence have been reported so far.

However, Sergeant Behluli is optimistic that with the younger generations’ more advanced, pragmatic and gender-equality driven mindset, the cases of domestic violence will decrease. “I teach my son and my daughter that they both have to work hard in the same way to achieve their goals, and that they are equals. I try to instill a mindset where neither one of them is privileged based on their gender,” says Sergeant Behluli. 

To prevent and raise awareness on domestic violence, good coordination of all involved partners and stakeholders is of crucial importance.  “The inclusion of the Istanbul Convention in the Constitution of Kosovo has pushed things forward when it comes to raising awareness of domestic violence. Now, I see many more organizations joining the 16 Days of Activism by lighting their buildings in orange for instance. You can also come across lessons on what is domestic violence in school textbooks. It can be said that we are on the right path of awareness raising, that is why the number of cases that are reported is also rising – victims are coming forward,” says Sergeant Behluli. 

Commenting on the implementation of the Law on domestic violence, Sergeant Behluli notes: “I believe that with the enforcement of the law on domestic violence and with the inclusion of the Istanbul Convention, victims of domestic violence will feel safer and will get the help they need and deserve. I believe that as the time passes, the victims will be more aware of the need to report the violence and the perpetrators will be more aware that their actions will have consequences.” 

As for everyone, 2020 has been quite a different year for Sergeant Behluli’s sector as well. The COVID 19 pandemic has put the Kosovo Police officers in a vulnerable position due to the fact that every time they had to be in the field Xhemile and her team were exposed to the possibility of getting infected. “It has been a difficult period and it has also served us as an example of how difficult, stressful and traumatizing it is for the victims in these times. This situation created due to the pandemic has taught us even more how to think like the victims, how to be in their shoes and how to understand them even better,” explains Sergeant Behluli. 

She concludes her thoughts by expressing her wish for people not to use violence bur rather practice patience, compassion and communicate with their loved ones respectfully because violence can never be the answer!