Annual Review 2011
In May, the European Commission wrote to the Czech authorities condemning phallometric testing which it said was used as part of the asylum procedures and which the Commission considered to amount to “[...] degrading treatment [which] is humiliating, and creates feelings of fear, anguish and inferiority.” EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström criticised the practice as unacceptable, calling it a “strong interference with the person’s private life and human dignity.” In an opinion piece in European Voice (European-level newspaper), Milena Vicenová, representative of the Czech Republic to the EU rejected the Commissioner’s statement and the contents of the letter saying that the practices had only been used in 2008 and 2009, that the test was administered to fewer than ten asylum seekers, and only after they provided written consent. She claimed that the test was off ered as a last resort where other elements of the file suggested that there was no valid claim on the grounds of sexual orientation and that where the test had confirmed the asylum seeker’s sexual orientation asylum had been granted.
NGOs in Prague hosted two Minority Schools, one for Czech youth and one for youth from around the region. The participants discussed issues such as sexuality, disability, belonging to different religions, and ethnic diversity. In the regional event the school ran for eight days, one of which focused on LGBT issues, providing participants with the opportunity to meet members of the LGBT community and raise questions. This was the first time such an opportunity had been afforded to many of the participants.
- In June, a Czech man in a registered partnership was approved as a foster parent, the fi rst time an openly gay applicant had been approved. According to Czech law, registered partners cannot have joint foster care but one partner may participate in the upbringing of the other’s child. In this case only one person in the couple was given foster parent status, but the couple will be looking after the child who is to be placed with them together.
- 2011 marked the 5th anniversary of the entry into force of the law on registered partnerships. 1181 same-sex couples have entered into a registered partnership over the past five years.
- In November, the Lower House of Parliament passed a new Civil Code aiming to codify private law into a single piece of legislation. LGBT human rights defenders opposed the bill because registered partnership (despite being a private-law institution) was not incorporated into that part of the Code governing family law but was instead left as a separate law. The bill thus (i) excluded same-sex partners from joint property regulations; (ii) provides no reference to the entitlement for joint adoption; and (iii) continued to require compulsory divorce and sterilisation for legal gender recognition of trans people. The bill has already been approved by the Parliament and signed by the President. It will come into effect in 2014.
Freedom of assembly
The first Pride event in Prague was held in August. Around 80 events such as concerts, films, seminars, workshops, exhibitions and parties were held in 30 locations. There were many opportunities for discussion of the social and legal issues faced by the LGBT community, including seminars on recruitment discrimination and hate crimes; events were attended by representatives from a variety of organisations including the US Embassy, the Council of Europe’s Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, the Ministry of Justice and the Stockholm Police Department’s Hate Crimes Unit. The festival ended in a Pride Parade attended by thousands of participants and onlookers. Organisers welcomed the amount of support received from the local authorities as well as the police presence which ensured the participants’ safety and limited the number of opponents who protested against the festival and Parade. The event received the patronage of both Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda and Mayor of Prague 1 Oldřich Lomecký. In the run up to the festival the Czech President Václav Klaus refused to distance himself from criticisms by his aide of the support for Pride from the Mayor. The President said that he objected to “homosexualism,” though not “homosexuality” and that he considered Prague Pride to be “homosexualism.” This prompted a joint statement from the Ambassadors of 13 countries supporting the festival.
Human rights defenders
Following the disbandment of the previous national LGBT umbrella organisation some 5 years ago, the Platform for Equality, Recognition and Diversity (PROUD) was established in 2011. The aims of PROUD include the portrayal and representation of LGBT people in the media, marriage equality, equal adoption entitlements, safe workplaces and schools, and support for LGBT senior citizens.
- In May, a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Research Centre of the Institute of Sociology of the Academy of Sciences (CVVM Institute) showed that 72% of Czechs believe that same-sex couples should have access to registered partnerships, and nearly half of Czechs supported marriage equality for same-sex couples. Whilst around 33% supported equal adoption entitlements for same-sex couples, about 60% opposed the introduction of legislation that would make such adoptions legal. The younger, higher educated and more affl uent sections of society correlated with higher levels of support for rights of lesbians and gays, while affi liation with the Roman Catholic Church, the Communist Party and the Christian Democrat Party correlated with lower levels of support. The CVVM Institute reported that the poll did not show any large change in public opinion towards LGB people, but that there were small shifts in support for diff erent issues.
- A study by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago reported that the Czechs’ acceptance of homosexuality, specifi cally of sexual conduct between two people of the same-sex, had declined since 1994 when a fi rst study was undertaken and 2008 when the third one took place.