Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women considers report of the Czech Republic

Committee on Elimination of Discrimination
against Women 14 October 2010

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has considered the combined fourth and fifth periodic reports of the Czech Republic on how that country implements the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Introducing the report, Czeslaw Walek, Director of the Human Rights Office at the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, outlined recent developments in the arena of gender equality in the Czech Republic. In 2001, the Government established the Governmental Council for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, a consultative body consisting of State officials and independent experts on issues of gender equality. Currently the Council had four committees focusing on the following topics: reconciliation of work and private life; the institutional mechanism for equality of women and men; prevention of domestic violence; and equal representation of women and men in politics. The involvement of civil society experts was crucial for the work of the committees and the Council in general.

Mr. Walek went on to say that another important component of the institutional framework was the Gender Equality Unit within the Human Rights Office. The unit was established in 1998 within the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the primary task of the unit was to act as a national coordinator of gender equality. In connection with this, the unit coordinated so-called “gender focal points”, the contact persons at ministries who were fully devoted to the gender equality agenda. In the last year, the structure was completed by the establishment of working groups for gender equality in all ministries. Groups were composed of the most relevant officials and provided support to the gender focal points.

Questions and issues raised by Experts during the discussion included how coordination of the various bodies responsible for women’s rights was carried out, their resources and funding, how their staff members were hired or appointed and their independence. Several Committee members asked about the status of Roma women and children and what was being done to combat their economic, educational, social, cultural and political exclusion. Human trafficking was also raised as an issue, with Committee Experts asking what was being done to combat this scourge, whether the Czech Republic worked on the international level to combat this crime and what strategies were in place to raise awareness among the population, but also to raise awareness among those who may be most vulnerable to targeting. An Expert pointed out that the periodic report contained very little information on women with disabilities, older women, minority women, refugee women and migrant women. It was also noted that more detailed statistical data on discrimination cases brought to court and the Roma community would better help the Committee determine the situation on the ground.

In concluding remarks, Mr. Walek thanked the Committee members and hoped the delegation provided satisfactory answers to their questions.

Also in concluding observations, Silvia Pimentel, Acting Committee Chairperson, commended the delegation on the various measures the Czech Republic had taken to ensure gender equality. However, pressing concerns included levels of women in the workplace, politics and the Government, discrimination against vulnerable groups of women, and violence against women, including sexual abuse, trafficking and domestic violence.

The delegation of the Czech Republic included representatives from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, the Government Council for Human Rights, the Gender Equality Unit, the Human Rights Office, the Human Rights and Gender Equality Department and the Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The next public meeting of the Committee will be on Friday, 15 October at 10 a.m., when the Committee will consider an exceptional report from India on the Gujarat incident of 2002 (CEDAW/C/IND/SP.1).

Report of the Czech Republic

The combined fourth and fifth periodic reports of the Czech Republic (CEDAW/C/CZE/5) state that the State party has taken numerous measures to combat domestic violence. For example, as of 2007, 12,000 police officers were trained in the exercise of rights in the field of domestic violence. At the same time, significant attention to issues of domestic violence and stalking is paid in individual subjects taught by the Police Academy of the Czech Republic; a total of fifteen intervention centers operate in the Czech Republic, and they are obliged to provide assistance to all persons threatened by domestic violence, i.e. not only to persons of whom the Police of the Czech Republic is notified but also to persons who turn to the intervention centre “directly from the street”; and a total of 862 decisions of the Police of the Czech Republic concerning the expulsion or restriction of entry of a violent person into common residence were recorded through intervention centers in the Czech Republic in 2007.

In terms of combating gender stereotypes, the report states that in cooperation with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Government Commissioner for Human Rights organized in 2006 a public information campaign “Stop to Stereotypes”. The objective of this campaign was to address the public, to promote open discussion and to declare very clearly the need to overcome gender stereotypes. The campaign was focused specifically on employment, family and administration of public affairs. As regards employment, the campaign was focused on hitherto non-traditional occupations of men and women and on the access of women to managerial posts. As regards the family, the campaign was oriented on the balancing of roles of women and men. As regards the administration of public affairs, the campaign was focused on the participation of women in decision-making and management. At the same time, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs presented in the monitored period a project “Promotion of access of women and men to employment in occupations considered non-traditional for them”. This survey identified attitudes of women and men towards mechanisms influencing selection of and preparation for occupation. It assessed the level of satisfaction with the choice of occupation both of women in typically female occupations and of men in typical male occupations, and also opinions of women working in typically male and men working in typically female occupations. The survey has indicated that the public takes note much more frequently of the penetration of women into traditionally male employments (30 per cent), than of the penetration of men into traditionally female professions (12 per cent).

Presentation of Report

CZESLAW WALEK, Director of the Human Rights Office at the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, in presenting the combined fourth and fifth periodic report of the Czech Republic, began by saying that new developments in the area of equality of women and men after the 1989 “Velvet Revolution” were linked directly to the World Conference in Beijing in 1995. Subsequently, in 1998 the first strategy concerning equality of women and men was discussed by the Czech Government and since then it had developed a substantial institutional mechanism with specific procedures through which they strove to achieve gender equality, not only de jure, but de facto.

Mr. Walek then went on to outline recent developments in the country in the arena of gender equality. In May 2010, the elections of the lower Chamber of the Parliament took place in the Czech Republic and a new Government had been formed by three “central right” coalition parties. While there were no women in the cabinet, there were three women out of four members in the chairmanship of the lower chamber of the Parliament, including the Chairperson, Miroslava Nemcova. The number of female members of parliament elected was the highest in history; there were now 44 women in the Chamber of Deputies out of 200 members. Further, Mr. Walek said he wanted to mention that in the Parliament as a whole, seven women currently chaired Parliamentary Committees.

In 2001 the Government established the Governmental Council for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, a consultative body consisting of State officials and independent experts on issues of gender equality. Currently the Council had four committees focusing on the following topics: reconciliation of work and private life; the institutional mechanism for equality of women and men; prevention of domestic violence; and equal representation of women and men in politics. The involvement of civil society experts was crucial for the work of the committees and the Council in general.

Mr. Walek said another important component of the institutional framework was the Gender Equality Unit within the Human Rights Office located at the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic under the Prime Minister. The unit was established in 1998 within the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and since 2008 it had been an integral part of the Human Rights Office. The primary task of the unit was to act as a national coordinator of gender equality. In connection with this, the unit coordinated so-called “gender focal points”, the contact persons at ministries who were fully devoted to the gender equality agenda. In the last year, the structure was completed by the establishment of working groups for gender equality in all ministries. Groups were composed of the most relevant officials and provided support to the gender focal points.

One of the main tasks of the Gender Equality Unit was the preparation of an annual National Action Plan to achieve gender equality in the Czech Republic. The National Action Plan represented a conceptual basis for government policies related to the status of women in society. The CEDAW Convention and the Beijing Platform for Action were the main sources of inspiration for the action plan. The plan was called “Priorities and Policies of the Government in Promoting Equality of Women and Men” and contained measures to be implemented by particular government ministries and other state authorities. The first National Action Plan was adopted in 1998 and had been updated annually since then.

Mr. Walek went on to say that in the last five years, two significant developments had further enhanced this institutional structure. A mechanism to deal with domestic violence had been established under the supervision of the Ministry of the Interior, the aim of which was to put into practice and coordinate effectively new measures to combat violence against women such as the expulsion order and precaution measures. Secondly, in 2009 a new independent equality body had been put into place by extending the mandate of the Czech Ombudsman, formerly known as the Public Defender of Rights.

On the issue of Roma women, Mr. Walek said that the current Government considered Roma integration as one of its main priorities in the area of human rights protection and education and employment were two areas on which they would focus in the next couple of years. The Czech Republic was currently chairing the Decade of Roma inclusion, an international initiative of twelve European countries. The main goal of the Decade was to eradicate poverty, social exclusion and discrimination against the Roma. The status of Roma woman was a priority and involved two aspects: a focus on the active role of Roma women in the integration process and a focus on the individual emancipation of Roma women through education, training, and participation in the labour market. The Czech Republic also intended to prepare a manual regarding the participation of Roma women in the integration process and the State would hold an international conference focusing on the situation of Roma women.

Mr. Walek said that human trafficking was a very important issue and he provided some updates for the Committee. The Ministry of the Interior prepared an annual National Strategy to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings. The Interdepartmental Coordinating Commission had already published its annual Report on Trafficking in Human Beings in 2009 and among proposed measures for 2010 were recommendations to strengthen the information exchange by bodies participating in the criminal proceedings or improvement of data collection. The Government was aware of the seriousness of trafficking in human beings and had declared its commitment to combat it in its Policy Statement.

On the issue of education, Mr. Walek said that the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports continued to fulfil its annual plan of activities including strengthening equal opportunities of women and men, comprising gender equality dimensions in curricula, textbooks and methodology materials for all grades in school. The Ministry also intended to work towards the reduction of gender segregation in the educational system, the reduction of stereotyped choices in occupations, and balancing the rate of women earning science degrees. The Council for Equal Opportunities of Women and Men had recently discussed the low representation of women in the sciences, especially in leading positions, and the Government wanted to address this matter in forthcoming months.

Turning to employment and labour issues, Mr. Walek said that one of the most important preconditions for the full emancipation of women was economic independence. At present, the level of employment of women between 20 and 64 was 61.4 per cent. Recently, within the framework of European Union policies, the Czech Republic had set a target to increase the participation of women in the labour market and to achieve a 65 per cent employment rate of women within ten years. A potential solution to increasing the employment rate of women was to encourage women to return to work after maternity leave and older women.

Mr. Walek also wanted to address the issue of involuntary and uninformed sterilization of women, since the Committee had raised numerous questions on the matter. The Czech Government had already expressed its regret for individual errors of sterilization of women and it had taken a series of systemic steps to prevent the occurrence of involuntary sterilization in the future. The Ministry of Health had also checked that healthcare providers comply with the rules regarding informed consent. The Ministry of Health had also made an ethics course obligatory for all medical, dentistry and pharmacy students, had undertaken measures to promote better communication between doctors and patients with an emphasis on the rights of the patient, and had prepared a “Patient Guide” throughout the country to inform clients and potential patients, among which Roma women were the main target group, on their rights and options in the area of health.

Mr. Walek concluded by saying that the successful enforcement of gender equality was a barometer of a general level of development in a particular society. In the last five years, the Czech Republic had moved forward in promoting the principle of gender equality and significant improvements had been achieved in two areas: in the anti-discrimination legislation and its enforcement and in combating domestic violence. In both areas, new structures had been created which could effectively provide assistance to women in need. Mr. Walek underscored that this progress could not have been achieved without the initiative and involvement of civil society, especially women’s non-governmental organizations. Their role in promoting the emancipation of women was indispensible and the State would continue to work on introducing new ways of more effective cooperation between the governmental and non-governmental sectors in the future.

Questions by Experts

Among questions and issues raised by Committee Experts, the delegation was asked whether the Convention was invoked in legal proceedings or whether it was superseded by domestic laws. How did the State ensure that people were aware of the broader protection of laws provided for under the Convention? Not many cases on gender discrimination had been filed in the courts, according to the periodic report, with financial costs posing a barrier to access to justice. Could the delegation please provide information on what legal aid was available to women?

Regarding the Roma community, an Expert said the social integration of these communities was truly a European concern. As such, what political will was there for the Government to recognize these ethnic minorities? It was also noted that there was not enough statistical data available on the Roma community. What was the process of registration and why were so few Roma registered?

What resources existed specifically for women in the Governmental Council for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men? Were there any provisions to deal particularly with vulnerable women such as women from the Roma community?

What were the percentages of women in the armed forces in the Czech Republic? Why had temporary special measures not been adopted to increase the numbers of women in the field of electoral politics?

A Committee member said the State party report provided very little information on women with disabilities, refugee women, migrant women and older women. Could the delegation provide more information on these groups and whether any measures were in place to support them and what temporary special measures were envisaged to assist these groups?

Response by Delegation

Responding to questions, the delegation said, with regard to making the Convention more visible in society, the concluding observations of the Committee had been translated and placed on the Government web page.

The delegation said the Anti-Discrimination Act should be seen as a tool to help victims of discrimination, not purely in terms of legal help, but also because the Ombudsman can provide an analysis of the situation and propose first steps. In terms of legal aid, there was no requirement to be represented by a lawyer if they wanted to file a discrimination complaint. Legal aid could be provided by non-governmental organizations; it was not an ideal situation, but they did not live in an ideal world and the State had limited resources.

The delegation said it was important to note that the main points of the Convention were implemented through various pieces of domestic legislation, so much of the case law referred to these laws, but this did not mean that the Convention was not used by the courts. In fact, a November 2009 verdict from the High Court specifically referred to the Convention. In terms of discrimination cases that had been filed, the delegation said the Anti-Discrimination Act had been passed very recently so they did not have statistics available yet on the number of cases filed and the outcome of these cases.

As for statistics on ethnic minorities, it was illegal in the Czech Republic to collect data based on ethnicity so they had to rely on people self-identifying or social surveys. Despite this, the State had been able to collect important data on the number of Roma living in the country, where they lived and in what conditions. There was a law protecting national minorities, and Roma were included in this law. The Roma language was protected under European Union standards and the Czech Government had funding schemes to promote the Roma language. There was a governmental agency that worked with local partners on the integration of Roma in excluded communities, and it had proved to be an innovative and successful project. Next year the Government would also introduce a Strategy for Social Inclusion. The Czech Republic was also working at the international level to address issues of Roma inclusion and it believed on the European Union level there should be better coordination on the topic. Concerning involuntary sterilization, the delegation said at this moment they did not see the option of specific measures being adopted in this area.

The delegation said that in terms of human trafficking, provisions of the Palermo Convention on human trafficking were integrated into the new Czech criminal code, which was implemented in 2009 and included trafficking in women and children as well as organs. The Ministry of the Interior was responsible for this area and prepared a yearly strategy to combat trafficking as well as organized crime and the annual status report on trafficking in the Czech Republic.

In terms of women in the army, they made up between 10 and 15 per cent of the armed forces, but the number of women between 30 and 34 years of age in the military was rising. On the topic of electoral politics, the delegation said provisions in the constitution protect the free competition of political parties so it would be hard to pass a law instituting quotas for female candidates and there was not any consensus reached on whether to change the constitution to allow for this. The question was, if you did it for gender then you would have to do it for all groups.

Questions by Experts

In a second round of questions and comments, Experts asked whether any research had been done into domestic violence and its impact on the economy and society. Also, would research be carried out looking into the impact of the measures that had been put into place until this point? The Expert said that there were taboos surrounding sexual violence and women were reluctant to speak out and this resulted in sexual violence cases being underreported. Also, there seemed to be an issue with prosecuting these crimes; of the 500 to 600 rape cases reported each year, only 150 perpetrators were convicted and one third of sentences resulted in parole. The Expert found this appalling. What was being done to address the underreporting and the prosecution of sexual violence crimes? What kind of gender sensitization was provided to legal, law enforcement and medical personnel to help them deal with victims of domestic or sexual violence?

Another Expert wanted to know how the activities of all these gender equality bodies were coordinated and who took the lead in terms of policies and standards. What was being done to develop a systematic identification of victims of trafficking to develop concrete measures to help combat the crime and to coordinate responses to trafficking? This would also help to provide assistance and programmes to victims right away. Roma women and children, who were vulnerable to being trafficked for sexual and labour exploitation, were not mentioned as one of the target groups in the report at all. Could the delegation explain how it planned to include them in their work programme of prevention, protection and prosecution? In terms of migrant workers, what had been done to work with the countries of origin to address this issue? Were there any plans to develop a comprehensive immigration policy to address migrant flows?

Response by Delegation

Responding to the questions on domestic violence, the delegation said it was an offence in the criminal code as well as the police act and the domestic violence act. Prevention was based on three pillars: the police, who could expel the perpetrator from the house; the courts, whom the victim could file a case with; and prevention centres, special facilities that provided all types of services and care for victims. There were guidelines and methodologies that police and law enforcement workers were trained in, and awareness-raising campaigns were also carried out.

In terms of human trafficking, the delegation said there was no special campaign focusing on Roma, but rather awareness-raising focusing on all of society. They also focused on customers of prostitution to address the issue from the demand side. The State was also involved in international projects focusing on migrant workers and the phenomenon of forced labour, which was now included in the criminal code. The Czech Republic had seen an increase in migrants from Mongolia, Ukraine and Viet Nam.

The National Action Plan on the Prevention of Domestic Violence was complete and the delegation was just awaiting the Prime Minister to bring it up for discussion, so in a matter of weeks they expected it to be approved. In the coming years, the State wanted to focus on awareness-raising in society.

Questions by Experts

In follow-up questions, Experts asked how exactly the Romani language was protected by law and whether there was a plan to raise the visibility of the Convention in the Czech Republic.

A Committee Expert asked for further clarification on whether people could bring complaints of discrimination directly to the Constitutional Court.

Response by the Delegation

The delegation responded that it was correct that every citizen could claim a violation against human rights before the Constitutional Court because this right was enshrined in the Czech constitution, but people could also bring cases under any treaty to which the Czech Republic was a party, including the CEDAW Convention. People were more likely to cite the constitution or European Union treaties.

The delegation said that provisions of the Law on National Minorities provided that the Government give funding to programmes that promoted the Roma language for the purchase of books and other materials and the payment of teachers and other support for schools that teach the language.

Questions by Experts

In another round of questions and comments concerning women’s participation in public and political life, Experts commented that there was a low representation of women in parliament and in decision-making positions. More efforts needed to be made to increase the representation of women at the local, national and international levels. There also seemed to be work to be done in the judiciary as more female judges were needed as well.

Would the Roma be given Czech nationality so that they could participate in elections and be a full part of the economic, social, political and cultural fibre of the country? There were laws against statelessness and at this point the Roma were stateless because they had no nationality.

Another Expert said that the quota concept for political candidates and representatives was for minorities, but women were not a minority in the Czech Republic so they should be represented in the Government in proportion to their numbers in society. In a developed country such as this, it was difficult to understand why there was not a greater representation of women.

Response by the Delegation

The delegation said that the political representation of women was a priority for the previous administration, but unfortunately a draft law was prepared right before an election so a decision was made not to proceed further in trying to change electoral laws. In terms of upcoming local elections approximately 30 per cent of candidates were women. On the topic of women in foreign affairs, 36 per cent of the staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were women, 30 per cent of staffers abroad were women, and the newly recruited classes were often split evenly between men and women.

On the issue of Roma, according to surveys there were 11,800 people who declared themselves to be Roma and most of them living there were citizens of the Czech Republic so there was no problem of statelessness for the Roma.

Questions by Experts

In a series of questions concerning education, Committee members noted the progress the Czech Republic had made in ensuring educational equality between boys and girls, but Committee Experts did have continuing concerns about the situation of Roma girls and their access to education and rates of success. New data showed there were inequalities between Roma children and their peers, particularly in the area of absenteeism. Roma children were three times more likely than other children to miss school, and data showed this was due in large part to illness which then raised the question about their access to health care.

In addition, there had been a decline in the number of girls pursing technical studies and thus there were fewer women working in technical and scientific fields after graduation. What measures could be put in place to address this decline and reverse the trends in post-school employment? There was also a dearth of women in academia, and the Expert wanted to know what could be done to increase the numbers of female professors at the university level?

On the question of employment, an Expert noted that the unemployment rates for women were climbing and it was possible the actual number was underreported. Lack of childcare facilities was also a barrier to women entering and remaining in the workforce. The Expert said there was good reason to consider temporary special measures in the employment sector in the Czech Republic.

Remaining on the issue of employment, an Expert asked whether the Government was working to eliminate occupational segregation and whether it was working with the private sector to do so. Was the Government conducting awareness-raising campaigns to inform people, especially employers, about new provisions in the 2006 labour code and did the Government have any plans to incentivize the hiring of women from vulnerable groups such as women with disabilities and older women?

Committee members then turned to a series of questions concerning health care. The delegation was congratulated on its low maternal mortality, but a Committee member said they were struck by information provided by non-governmental organizations that indicated that women were increasingly afraid of having their children in hospitals for various reasons, but namely because of informed consent reasons, lack of communication with the healthcare provider and the performance of unnecessary C-sections. Was there a Patient’s Bill of Rights? Did practicing doctors have to undergo ethics training? How many female doctors practiced in the health system? Did non-citizens living in the country have health insurance or access to healthcare at all?

A Committee Expert asked if it was true that women who were sterilized without their consent could not file claims after three years due to a statute of limitations, even if they did not realize until years later that they had been sterilized against their consent.

The delegation was asked what social security benefits existed for the elderly, persons with disabilities, and retired people as well as people living in poverty. Was this information available as disaggregated data? What opportunities did women have in accessing mortgages, bank loans, micro-credit projects and other financial credit? How did the Czech Republic ensure that women participated in sports and other cultural activities?

Response by the Delegation

Responding to these questions and issues, the delegation addressed the issue of education for Roma girls by saying that the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport was tasked with addressing social exclusion which could lead to poor outcomes in school and the Ministry had developed two programmes to support Roma children, including Roma girls. This included special teacher’s assistants to help in the classroom.

As for women in education, the delegation said that in 2008 57 per cent of women finished university education, but 50 per cent more men finished PhD programmes so the process to change this would be a long one.

The delegation said that access to health in socially excluded areas was guaranteed by several European Union and national laws. The State had a large network of health care facilities throughout the country and the delegation was not aware of any information that indicated that there were any problems with access to health care services. There were an adequate number of physicians and health care beds in the country and there was a special programme to help Roma women access health care services.

The delegation was fully aware of the gender pay gap and so wage discrimination was emphasized in the labour inspectorate’s tasks. The number of inspections had been increased to 200 in 2009, up from 100 in 2006. Childcare facilities were a great problem in the Czech Republic and the current Government listed this as a priority and there was a pro-family package of measures that had been drafted, but had not been approved before the election so it had to be redrafted and resubmitted. As a member of the European Union, the Czech Republic had access to the European social fund so it had access to monies to help address cross cutting issues like gender and employment.

The delegation said there was a new national action plan on people with disabilities and women made up 52 per cent of the 1 million people identified as having a disability.

Doctors had to continue to take ethics training, even after they finished their schooling. On the issue of women being afraid to deliver their children in hospitals, this was absolutely undercut by statistical data which showed that 99 per cent of births were in hospitals and only 1 per cent took place outside of hospitals. There were more than 1,000 female obstetricians/gynaecologists and that was almost on par with male obstetricians/gynaecologists. The delegation said that informed patient consent laws would undergo additional reforms to strengthen them even further.

The delegation went on to describe the social safety net that was in place, which included a disability pension, a care allowance for people with disabilities (allowances would be reduced next year due to cuts in State budget expenditures), subsidies to households with children which were not based on gender but rather were a parental benefit based on how many people were in the household and other factors, assistance based on material needs to help with subsistence living, there was a pension scheme that was a pay-as-you-go system that depended on the length of employment and wage levels and both employers and employees paid into the system.

Regarding lines of credit available to women and recreational activities for women, the delegation was not aware of any problems in these areas. In general terms, most of the items covered would fall under the anti-discrimination act so if anyone felt they were discriminated against in banking or recreation they could file a complaint with the ombudsman, but these were cases based more on socio-economic status than gender.

In terms of housing for Roma women, the Agency for Social Inclusion, created in 2008, worked at the local level to address housing issues, among other things. The problem, according to the delegation was that housing was completely controlled by municipalities so the State had very little power to influence local decisions in this regard.

Questions by Experts

The Committee members then began a fourth round of questions, many of which focused on marriage, divorce and family law in the country. Had the State undertaken a comprehensive study of the impact of dissolution of marriage on women and its role in the feminization of poverty? What rights did women in de facto unions enjoy? The data showed that fewer people were getting married while the divorce rate was 50 per cent; what impact did this have on women? What was the status of female headed households and what did this mean in terms of income and childcare? There seemed to be a large population of widows aged 75 years or older; were there any particular programmes aimed at this group? What about Roma women and marriage and divorce; were they governed by the same laws as non-Roma women, what was the divorce rate among them, and were they allowed to marry using their own customs?

Response by the Delegation

On the question of divorce and division of property, the delegation said the courts took into account whether a spouse had caused the divorce or not and whether each partner was able to earn their own living or not after the divorce. In practice, the statistical data showed that in 2009 there were approximately 2,000 cases in which courts ruled on these issues and in the first six months of 2010 there were 1,000 of these cases.

Single parents were also considered a vulnerable group and they received benefits, which had been reduced due to abuse of the subsidies. A large portion of the social service budget was devoted to elderly people, but the State had limited resources and non-governmental organizations had been indispensible in helping to tackle issues surrounding the elderly. The State also promoted active aging and it strove to remove barriers to elderly people being active and vital, whether physical or other barriers.

Questions by Experts

In follow-up questions and comments, Experts noted that the issue was not whether women gave birth in hospitals or not, the majority of them had no choice, but rather the fact that many of them did not want to give birth in a hospital because they did not trust the medical system to take care of their needs and treat them with dignity.

Response by the Delegation

The delegation said there was a whole section on sterilization in the informed consent document, including the risks, complications and consequences. In terms of women delivering their children in the hospital, the delegation agreed that a woman could be scared to deliver in a hospital yet still go there to have her baby, but the maternal mortality rate in the Czech Republic was very low because so many women had their children in hospitals and above everything else they tried to guarantee maximum safety to the mother and the newborn.

De facto unions were not a legal term in the Czech Republic, but this did not mean they were not recognized, but they were recognized in a very limited way. There was a new law on same-sex couples under which they were protected by the law, so this could also have a bearing on de facto unions. In terms of discrimination against elderly people, the anti-discrimination act barred discrimination on all grounds, including age.

Regarding the statute of limitations on damages for sterilization without informed consent, the delegation said there had been no such case before Czech courts in which a woman realized more than three years after the fact that she had been sterilized.

Concluding Remarks

In concluding remarks, CZESLAW WALEK, Director of the Human Rights Office at the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, thanked the Committee members and hoped the delegation provided satisfactory answers to their questions.

Also in concluding observations, SILVIA PIMENTEL, Acting Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation from the Czech Republic for a fruitful and constructive dialogue and commended them on the various measures they had taken to ensure gender equality. However, pressing concerns included levels of women in the workplace, politics and the Government, discrimination against vulnerable groups of women, and violence against women, including sexual abuse, trafficking and domestic violence.

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