Kosovo's assembly has voted to remedy the plight of about 20,000 victims raped during the 1998-99 Kosovo war by amending a law on the status of civilian victims and veterans to include those subjected to sexual assault.

The vote on Thursday is the first tangible attempt to deal with the issue of Serb forces engaged in the systematic rape of ethnic Albanian women, an aspect often silenced for fear of stigmatising the victims.

Victims will be entitled to health, housing and employment benefits.

Assembly members voted 69-9 in favour of the amendment, with one legislator abstaining.

The vote was welcomed by the Kosovan president, Atifete Jahjaga, and comes after months of debate that included pressure from human rights watchdogs, such as Amnesty International.

Serbia rejects Kosovo's 2008 secession.

Source: AP