Committee on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights
2 May 2012
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today concluded its consideration of the second periodic report of Slovakia on that country’s implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Introducing the report, Fedor Rosocha, Permanent Representative of Slovakia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said legislative, institutional and procedural mechanisms in the system of protecting economic, social and cultural rights now corresponded with the highest European standards. Legislative reforms had been put in place to protect the rights of minorities, enable Roma integration and eliminate discrimination due to age or disability, while in March 2011 a new permanent advisory body on human rights to the Government was formed. Gender equality had been substantially improved through gender mainstreaming, and work to amend the anti-discrimination act and develop the methodology of data collection was also in progress.
Committee Experts asked questions about Roma integration and segregation in schools, about the new law on linguistic rights, and awareness of the Covenant in Slovakia’s courts. Gender equality and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons were raised, as was the availability of contraception, sex education in schools, unemployment and inclusive education for children with disabilities. Experts also asked what was being done to prevent trafficking in persons and domestic violence.
In concluding remarks, Mr. Rosocha said he appreciated the experience of the Committee which played an irreplaceable role, and saw its comments and recommendations as significantly beneficial to Slovakia. The Slovak Republic would make a maximum effort to fulfil the Committee’s final recommendations, and thanked the Committee for its attention.
In concluding remarks, Ariranga Govindasamy Pillay, Committee Chairperson, said he was glad of Slovakia’s commitment to implement the Covenant, and hoped the delegation had found the interaction with the Committee useful. The Committee appreciated the delegation’s cooperation and sufficient information that would allow it to draft its concluding observations.
The Slovak delegation consisted of representatives from the Plenipotentiary of Slovakia for Roma Communities, the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and the Family, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Human Rights Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Office of the Government, the Ministry of Education and the Permanent Mission of Slovakia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations on the report of Slovakia will be released towards the end of the Committee’s session which concludes on 18 May.
The next public meeting of the Committee will be at 3 p.m. this afternoon when it will begin consideration of the combined second to fourth periodic reports of Peru (E/C.12/PER/2-4).
Report of Slovakia
The second periodic report of Slovakia can be read via the following link (E/C.12/SVK/2).
Presentation of the Report of Slovakia
FEDOR ROSOCHA, Permanent Representative of Slovakia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said since the report covered the period 2002 to 2008 he would deal mainly with the development of Slovak society since 2008. Slovakia had made significant progress since 2002 in protecting economic, social and cultural rights. Legislative, institutional and procedural mechanisms in the system of protecting those rights now corresponded with the highest European standards. In 2010 the powers of the Deputy Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic for Human Rights and National Minorities were significantly strengthened. Though no ministry was created for that area, the powers of the Deputy Prime Minister in enforcing human rights were embedded in law. Several important measures were taken to support the rights of national minorities, including legislative changes in their language rights through amendments to the Act on State Language in 2011 and a further 13 acts, with the aim of expanding the opportunity to use the languages of national minorities in public conduct and eliminate limitations to use of those languages. The amendments included sanctions for enforcement.
In March 2011 a new permanent advisory body to the Government was formed, the Governmental Council for Human Rights, National Minorities and Gender Equality, which enforced a cross-departmental approach in implementing human rights standards and protecting human rights, with special emphasis on the promotion of inclusion. The amendment of the Anti-Discrimination Act in 2008 introduced temporary equalising measures which focused on the elimination of forms of social and economic disadvantage due to age or disability. On 11 January 2012 the Government approved the Strategy for Roma Integration by 2020, which dealt with the challenges related to the social integration of Roma at the European Union level. The Government paid special attention to the status, integration and development of Roma communities in cross-departmental terms, and tried to deal with the social situation of the Roma while also attempting to strengthen the principle of the personal responsibility of the Roma themselves.
Progress in the area of supporting the culture of minorities included an increase in financial resources for the ‘Culture of National Minorities’ programme to €2.2 million, the opening of new national museums documenting the life and culture of national minorities and a subsidy programme to nurture the culture of vulnerable groups and provide minorities with access to cultural services. Women’s status had been substantially raised as a result of the promotion of set priority areas which focused on the fulfilment of gender equality through gender mainstreaming. Work on amending the anti-discrimination act and developing the methodology of data collection was also in progress. Slovakia was pleased to outline the progress it had achieved, and would try as much as possible to minimize in the future the negative aspects that unquestionably still existed.
Questions by Experts
AZZOUZ KERDOUN, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the Report of Slovakia, said the report contained some pertinent points and many open issues. Slovakia had made efforts to follow the Committee’s recommendations following presentation of its initial report, and had adopted several strategies between 2005 and 2008 in areas such as anti-discrimination and prevention of violence against women. New national actions were adopted on alcoholism, gender, culture, language and trafficking in women. Slovakia was to be congratulated. Other positive measures included the amendment of a number of laws and efforts made in development aid – Mr. Kerdoun congratulated Slovakia on becoming a donor country – as well as adopting new laws on the protection of children. As the second report was submitted in 2008, it did not cover the years 2009 to 2011, so the Committee had taken note of the oral description of measures taken since 2009 in the Head of Delegation’s presentation.
Turning to problematic areas, Mr. Kerdoun said one example was the many campaigns that had been launched to tackle alcoholism, but had not been followed through. The new law on linguistic rights had caused enormous problems, particularly with the Hungarian minority, which made up 10 per cent of the population. There were many other questions and areas that needed to be explored during the interactive dialogue.
To what extent were Government ministries conscious of the Covenant and did they view it as a guiding light when formulating policy? An Expert referred to the 2011 recommendations of the Human Rights Committee that the State party should take appropriate measures to raise awareness of the Covenant before judges and lawyers to ensure that the Covenant was taken into account in the courts. He asked how Slovakia viewed that recommendation by the sister Committee and what they had done about it.
Could the delegation provide more detail about the new Governmental Council for Human Rights, National Minorities and Gender Equality? An Expert requested detailed information on the structure of the Council and the representation of civil society in it, as well as on its executive powers; it seemed it could be a very powerful body. Could the delegation describe how it cooperated and collaborated with civil society, especially with human rights non-governmental organizations?
Regarding the Roma, a great deal had been done regarding legislation and the National Action Plan for Roma Integration was commendable, an Expert said. However, the Roma still faced problems, discrimination still existed, and children were segregated in school. Clearly efforts made were not enough. Could the delegation explain why progress was so slow?
As a European Union country Slovakia had committed to providing a certain level of development assistance, which should be 0.17 per cent of its gross domestic product. So far Slovakia had reached only 0.09 per cent. All European Union new Member States had committed to reach half of the United Nations development aid target, 0.35 per cent, by 2015. Since Slovakia had also committed to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, the Expert asked how it intended to meet those targets. Secondly, as a member of the European Union and the United Nations, Slovakia was well aware of the so-called ‘human rights approach’ to international development. To what extent did Slovakia pursue a human rights approach in that field?
On gender equality, the delegation had emphasized that for the first time gender mainstreaming had been incorporated into Government policy. If gender was rightly mainstreamed, then there should be an equal composition of men and women in Government bodies – could the delegation confirm that? The current anti-discrimination act did not allow the introduction of quotas or temporary special measures, which were essential in advancing the rights of any disadvantaged group, women, persons with disabilities, minorities, and etcetera. Would the State party consider adopting temporary special measures?
What rights did homosexual couples have under civil legislation in Slovakia, the delegation was asked; did non-heterosexual couples have civil rights, for example, access to health insurance, loans or mortgages? What was the situation regarding the position of the Deputy Prime Minister at the current time?
Response from the Delegation
The very issue of Roma in Slovakia was not perceived by the Government as the problem of Roma, but as the whole population’s problem, a delegate told the Committee. The Government did not want to just address separated partial issues, but to deal with the situation as a whole in a holistic manner. Education, employment, housing and health were the key areas. If a person was educated, he or she was better qualified to find a job, having a job allowed income for housing and health, and being healthy allowed you to live a long and happy life, thus closing the circle. Roma were now recognized as a nationality in Slovakia. In 2008 Roma language was standardised, so for the future Roma could use their language in day-to-day life, including being educated in it. Of course there was much to do, the delegate said, but he wished to point out accomplishments to show what had already been achieved. Other successful programmes had been run in the fields of social care, healthcare in Roma communities and training of specialist police offices to work within Roma communities. Of course those programmes needed to be anchored into law. There also needed to be a shift in public opinion and attitudes towards Roma. A special programme was dedicated to eradicate prejudices and false myths about the Roma and to promote magnanimity of the majority population.
The Schools Act did forbid segregation in schools and the Government was adopting measures to end it, but in Slovak law there was no definition of segregation. Guidelines given to schools were open to interpretation. The Government understood segregation to be the elimination of exclusion or separation of Roma children due to their ethnic origin often accompanied by socially disadvantaged separation from the remainder of other children. The Government concentrated on de-stigmatization and de-segregation. School inspectors were tasked with identifying cases of segregation. For example one school separated Roma and non-Roma children for lunchtimes, which was unacceptable. There had been a court decision in eastern Slovakia on the non-segregation of Roma children in schools, although the school had appealed so that case was pending. In one region there were 30 Roma-only schools, making it difficult to implement mixed classrooms. It was not always possible to de-segregate, but improving the quality of the educational process, the curricula, school facilities, went a long way.
The Government did involve civil society in drafting national strategies and reports. Drafting of strategies was always preceded by public debate. Non-governmental organizations were represented in the Governmental Council for Human Rights, National Minorities and Gender Equality and its individual committees. There was direct cooperation with individual institutions and civil society representatives. The Government was delighted to receive the contribution of civil society to its reports.
Temporary special measures had been used, for example measures towards the creation of a temporary labour market to tackle unemployment, building of lower-standard and affordable housing and recruitment of teaching assistants.
The Governmental Council for Human Rights, National Minorities and Gender Equality was one of three permanent advisory and consulting bodies to the Government. Its mandate included the protection of basic human rights and liberties, political and civil rights, rights of members of national minorities and ethnic groups, economic, social and cultural rights, rights to environmental protection and protection of cultural heritage, the rights of the child and enforcing the best interests of the child and enforcing the principle of equal treatment and of equality including gender equality. Within the Council there were Committees and Working Groups specializing in key areas such as disabilities, minorities, gender equality, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance and development education.
Several temporary measures had been adopted for the use of languages of national minorities since 2009. The Act on the Use of Languages of National Minorities was amended in 2009 to be stricter on the use of national languages and included sanctions in order to protect the State languages. In 2010 an additional amendment was approved to that act to lower the sanctions rate, and in some fields completely remove sanctions. Some shortcomings concerning the use of language in public conduct were also removed; for example there were limitations for national minorities who wanted to use languages in culture. In 2011 the Slovak Government adopted an additional major amendment to that and other acts to meet its international commitments and the requirements of national minorities. The main aim was to broaden the use of national minority languages, particularly in public administration and writing. Today certain Government bodies were obliged to issue their public documents in two languages. Verbal use of minority languages, under current legislation, could be used throughout Slovakia if a public administration official approved that. Minority languages held co-official status when the size of the minority population met the legal threshold of 20 per cent, but following the 2011 census it was planned to reduce that percentage to 15 per cent.
A delegate said it must be pointed out that not all Roma children or their parents were interested in being educated in the Roma language, and also that many school-aged Roma children did not speak Slovak very well. The Government was aware of the need to teach Roma children both their own Roma language, as well as the Slovak language.
Regarding the situation of the Deputy Prime Minister for Human Rights and Minorities, a delegate explained that the Government had recently decided to abolish that position. They aimed to retain the important competencies of that position and in replacement to appoint two plenipotentiaries, one for national minorities, and one for human rights. Those plenipotentiaries would coordinate the activities of individual ministries on a human rights-related agenda, and also the activity of the advisory bodies to the Government. The model was still a work in progress, but appointments would be made in the future.
Follow-Up Questions from Experts
Could the delegation elaborate on the Government’s cooperation with non-governmental organizations, an Expert asked? An Expert said she feared that bodies working on gender equality were not very visible, and could in fact disappear. Could the delegation reassure the Committee?
On another issue, no minority currently met the 20 per cent figure; the closest was the Romanian community; could the delegation please explain the situation?
Response by the Delegation
When the statute of the Governmental Council was drafted a primary goal was for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society to be represented in it as much as possible and to be given permanent representation. The majority of the work of the Council and its committees was in fact now conducted by NGOs. Regular round-table meetings were often held that were open for anybody to attend. Since NGOs had a permanent seat they had the right to initiate proposals that were then debated by the Council. Their proposals were then submitted to cabinet meetings and to the then-Deputy Prime Minister, thus providing a direct link between NGOs and cabinet ministers.
A delegate said that in the future gender mainstreaming would fall under the new human rights plenipotentiary, but could not give more information on that at this time.
Concerning the use of minority languages, a delegate explained that the Government did guarantee that minorities could use their language in public conduct, a right bound by regulations and acts. One such regulation was the State Language Act, which governed rules of using State and minority languages. Since 1999 there has also been a Minority Language Act, as separate legislation, the purpose of which was follow-up to the State Language Act. There were officially 13 minorities in Slovakia, and the State officially recognized nine minority languages which could be used in public conduct. Of course not all nine languages would actually be used by citizens, in reality, as some were very small. The use of those languages was based on a threshold principle which was originally 20 per cent in a list of 656 municipalities throughout Slovakia; so if in one municipality the percentage of the population speaking a minority language exceeded 20 per cent, then the language could be used in official or public conduct.
Questions from Experts
It seemed that asylum seekers did not have access to the labour market, an Expert noted, asking whether that was true, and also what deadlines had Slovakia committed to with regard to recognizing asylum seekers and refugees?
The minimum wage in Slovakia appeared to be one of the lowest in the European Union. What was the current minimum wage level? Did workers have the right to strike, and what limitations were there for civil servants? An Expert pointed out that they should not be working today as it was International Labour Day: although many countries observed it, the United Nations did not. Still, the delegation was here today, so they must continue. He asked about unemployment rates in Slovakia, and what was being done to help the long-term unemployed.
What about the principle of equality of pay for equal work? Legislation did not yet give the right to equal pay for men and women for equal work. What was the discrepancy in wage levels between men and women – that discrepancy existed the world over and was not unique to Slovakia, but the Committee would like that figure.
An Expert said that the last time Slovakia came before the Committee there was concern about employment differences in various regions of the country. Could the delegation give an update on how those employment gaps had developed?
What rights did persons with disabilities have? The proportion of persons with disabilities in registered unemployment had significantly fallen by one third. Could the delegation explain what was behind that important development? Was it the result of Government programmes, or under-registration?
An Expert asked about incapacity or sickness benefits, and also old age pensions – how did they relate to a person’s wage before retirement, and to the subsistence minimum in the country? She also asked about unemployment insurance, as the report only gave a very modest amount of information on that: how much was the average monthly unemployment benefit in Euros and how did that relate to the minimum wage?
Sexual harassment was raised by an Expert who said a recent survey showed that 66 per cent of the workforce had experienced sexual harassment. What sort of new legislation or methods could be adopted to tackle that serious issue?
Response by the Delegation
In response to these questions and comments, the delegation said that persons with disabilities were supported in the labour market by a 2008 amendment to the Employment Act, which obligated and motivated employers to employ persons with disabilities and document whether they met the targets. As of June 2011 nearly 10,000 persons with disabilities were working.
The Governmental Council was one third composed of women and the Gender Equality Council was composed of a majority of women.
The Government held working group meetings with representatives of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and with non-governmental organizations who worked in that field. Those meetings resulted in specific projects aimed to support the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender minority, and awareness-raising events. Any discrimination due to sexual orientation was forbidden in all areas, including employment and education.
During 2010 the average unemployment rate fell from 15.1 per cent to 13.9 per cent. There was a 0.4 per cent difference between the unemployment rates of men and women. In the same year 33.6 per cent of youths were unemployed, while the unemployment rate of 55 to 64 year olds was 10.4 per cent. As a result of the global economic crisis the unemployment rate rose in 2011, and there had been a six per cent increase in the average unemployment rate between 2008 and 2011.
The right to strike was governed by the Collective Bargaining Act. Participants were governed by major Labour Code provisions and international labour law. Both legal and illegal strikes were recognized. A solidarity-based strike under the Collective Bargaining Act could only be considered such if the employer could impact the course of the strike. The right to strike could not be applied by health facilities or social care facilities employees in cases where the lives, health or security of people could be threatened. The same went for employees of nuclear, fissile material and oil and gas facilities, as well as emergency rescue, fire-fighters and telecommunication operators.
Pensions were normally based on the salary earned by a person 15 years before retirement. If someone worked for 40 years, his pension would be 50 per cent of what his salary was prior to retirement. In 2011 the average unemployment benefit was €289 per month, 36 per cent of the average salary of €786 per month. The minimum salary was €317 per month.
The Labour Services Act covered the accessibility of a third country national (not a European Union or Slovakian national) and provided asylum seekers with a legal right to seek jobs and be employed, when they met certain conditions.
Equality in salary between genders was impacted by global salary differences, as did a woman’s duties as a mother and wife. The equal position of men and women in the labour market in 2010 showed continued prejudices, and recently the salary gap had widened. The average salary in 2010 was €831 per month: €941 for men and €709 for women.
Segregation of Roma children existed from primary level in schools in some municipalities, particularly in eastern Slovakia. Each municipality had its own history, background, population composition and local conditions for running a school. There were positive cases where schools operated in Roma-dominated city districts and transported children by bus to mixed schools in other districts, in order to decrease segregation. Desegregation applied in general at high school level, where there was no Roma segregation whatsoever. It was up to the economic standing of a family whether they could support their child through high school. The Government provided for scholarships, as an incomplete high school education obstructed a person’s employment prospects.
Questions from Experts
An Expert said he was somewhat disappointed that the report did not provide the detailed disaggregated health data on an annual basis, which allowed the Committee to judge progress made. He asked about access to water, and noted that in 2002 many communities used local wells because it was too expensive to draw water from regular sources. How had that situation improved?
The HIV/AIDS rate rose steeply from 2002 to 2005 while the mortality rate stayed constant. Had those figures continued to rise after 2006? The report said that the number of beds in mental health institutions has been stabilized: could the delegation explain what was meant by ‘stabilized’, was it a positive change? Had there been a decrease in tobacco consumption?
An Expert noted that trafficking in persons was now a crime, but asked whether domestic violence had also been made a crime. Had cases of domestic violence gone before the courts, and what type of criminal penalties had been handed down to perpetrators? Trafficking in persons was not really addressed in the report, especially trafficking in women and children, so could the delegation inform about the extent of the problem, numbers, and how it related especially to Roma women and children? What policies were in place to combat trafficking?
Did common-law couples have the same rights as married couples, for example with respect to property ownership?
An Expert said she was surprised to hear about the ‘Baby Hatches’, 14 ‘public incubators’ where women could leave their newborn babies for up to six weeks. What was the point of the Baby Hatches, was it to prevent infanticide or abortion? And some mothers claimed their babies back after a few weeks – how could the Government be sure the mothers were claiming back their own babies?
An Expert asked about access to contraceptives, and the mandatory waiting period of 48 hours for a requested abortion, which health professionals must report to the authorities with full identification of the woman asking for an abortion. All of those issues were related to the absence of a Family Planning Strategy. What methods of family planning were available?
Response from the Delegation
Regarding access to water, 68 per cent of Roma settlements said that their drinking water was of a good enough standard for drinking. The Government was taking measures to improve that situation, and there was funding available for projects to build wells, etcetera.
Comparing Slovakia with neighbouring countries, such as Russia, the figures for HIV/AIDS were decreasing and looking good. The Government was running successful programmes that were making a difference.
Concerning persons with mental health issues, in 2008 a National Programme for Mental Health was adopted to address the issue. A Council for Mental Health was established within the Ministry of Health which worked closely with civil society and supported non-governmental organizations’ own programmes, which ran in sheltered workshops.
Regarding sexual and reproductive health protection, and guarantees that women would be taken care of, the Sexual Health Protection Programme was currently being considered for adoption. However a National Programme for Care of Mother and Child had been adopted, which partly addressed the issues. Since the 1990s there had been a declining trend in abortions. Conscientious objection to abortions did exist: it was up to an individual doctor as to whether she or he would perform an abortion, but no woman could be refused an abortion if she wished it.
Healthcare for people who did not make social security contributions, for example the homeless, was covered by State contributions – the homeless were given a health insurance card, and if they needed treatment medical facilities were obliged to treat them. A similar situation applied to immigrants, including pregnant women, and persons waiting to hear whether asylum status has been granted.
Controlling tobacco abuse was the responsibility of the Ministry of Health, which ran a public health inspection authority that had 38 branches throughout the country and provided health advisory offices where citizens could receive advice on a variety of health-related issues, including substance and tobacco abuse.
Regarding the protection of children from sexual abuse, schools were obliged to monitor the behaviour of children and report any changes in their behaviour, in order to apply preventative measures, for example for cases of sexual abuse.
Personal and sexual education was on the school curriculum, where teaching emphasized development of self-respect and a healthy regard of one’s own body, how to tackle peer pressure and to develop interpersonal skills to make friends, improve communication skills, resolve problems and listen to others. Students were taught about their basic rights, and also to know what was desirable and undesirable physical contact and sexual abuse. Students were taught about the development of the human embryo and biological and social changes during adolescence. Students were also educated on parenthood and motherhood.
Questions from Experts
Did children with disabilities automatically get sent to special schools? One Expert said that it was highly laudable that the State party provided scholarships for children with disabilities, a practice other States should follow.
How was human rights taught in schools, and how were teachers trained in teaching methods to deliver that subject?
Response from the Delegation
A delegate described special measures taken to help children with disabilities and special educational needs to be educated in mainstream or special schools. Continuous education was provided for teachers, with a focus on extending their knowledge of inclusive education. Education facilities and school conditions were being improved, funded by the State and the European Social Fund. As to the differences between rural and urban areas, the obligation to provide for children with special educational needs applied equally to city and village schools. If a local school did not have the required facilities then the State would pay for a child to travel on public transport to the closest school that could provide for their needs.
Statistically, no more than five per cent of the total population of pupils had a disability. Methods to diagnose a disability or special educational need involved the school registration process, and if a child’s disability was not noticed at the kindergarten stage then it would be picked up at registration for elementary school.
The Ministry of Education coordinated the teaching of human rights. The strategy for human rights education was split into several parts. One part focused on the content of the syllabus and was implemented as a cross-subject topic. Another part was the training of educational staff in human rights areas including xenophobia and discrimination, and also on how to teach topics such as the Holocaust and migration. Guidelines were provided both to teachers and the trainers of teachers. Another part was the monitoring of the scope and quality of human rights training, which included the attitudes of both the children and the teachers. Monitoring had been conducted since 2005 and some data was already available.
A nationwide Human Rights Olympic competition had run in high schools for 14 years, and now elementary schools took part. In 2012 around 5,000 students would take part. The competition involved students taking part in role plays re-enacting human rights ethical dilemmas or legal cases in a mock court, an example theme being ‘quotas in relation to the promotion of gender equality’ held on the International Day of Women.
There were programmes to support cultural activities of marginalized groups. In 2011 €38,670 was spent on eight arts and educational events aimed at minority groups. For example, a puppet theatre show targeted at Roma youth was staged in order to teach about healthy lifestyles, hygiene, recycling and education through an informal dramatic forum. A programme titled ‘Know your history and culture’ endeavoured to teach Roma persons about their roots. Furthermore, the new plenipotentiary office had its own grant purely to support cultural and educational activities for Roma people, and last year distributed 105 grants amounting to €750,000. Other programmes focused on providing clean drinking water in a settlement, or supporting community centres. The grant system had proved successful and popular, particularly as it was relatively simple to apply for funding.
Concerning health and year-on-year morbidity, the death rate per 1,000 citizens in 2006 was 9.9, and in 2009 it had decreased to 9.8. The medium life expectancy increased from 70.24 in 2006 to 70.71 in 2009. Cardiovascular disease, tumours and then accidents were the three main causes of death. For 30 to 40 year olds accidents were the major cause of death. Older people were most likely to suffer cardiovascular disease, while the majority of women died from tumour-related diseases.
There were 3,673 beds available in psychiatric hospitals for mentally ill persons, and an additional 633 beds were available for people suffering from drug addiction. There was no statistical data available on tobacco consumption since 2006, but public surveys showed a decreasing trend overall, although there had been an increase in tobacco consumption among high school students. There was no general smoking ban in Slovakia, and the European Union did not provide for any such binding ban – smoking regulations were in the power of individual European Union States.
Contraception was paid for by the medical health insurance scheme when it had been prescribed by a doctor, and any patient could request a prescription. The cost of a three-month package of contraception varied from €9 to €40.
In answer to the question about emergency incubators for newborn babies, the delegation said that the reason for the establishment of those was to protect unwanted babies.
In 2009 the poverty risk rate was 10 per cent in Slovakia, which was below the European Union average of 16 per cent. Slovakia was among European countries with a lower poverty risk rate, and in recent years the rate had significantly decreased. That positive trend directly related to the economic progress seen in Slovakia. The social protection system also played an important part in decreasing the poverty risk rate, especially the provision of pensions.
In September 2002 the Criminal Code was amended to allow violence by a partner, former partner, parent or related person who lived in the same household to be included as an offence. The crime of domestic violence was defined in the criminal code as violence towards a person under your custody, and also included areas such as forced begging and so on. The delegation would provide detailed information to the Committee on that. In Slovakia, even after divorce, a former partner could be found guilty of domestic violence. The amendment also allowed for harsher sentencing for such offences. Both those perpetrated within and outside of marriage. It was true that domestic violence crimes were still viewed in a more benevolent manner and the situation of victims of domestic violence had not seemed to improve since the major amendment of the Criminal Code
The same Criminal Code amendment allowed that the crime of torturing a related person or a person in custody carried a two- to eight-year prison sentence. There was a three- to ten-year prison sentence for crimes of corruption in the public service.
The Programme to Protect Trafficking Victims operated well. Those working on the Programme formulated an Action Plan and appointed working groups who submitted reports on how to fulfil the plan, for instance one group worked on providing support to victims, another on preventative measures and another on drafting legislation. The Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family was responsible for providing assistance to victims, and worked in cooperation with non-governmental organizations. Legislation specifically provided for social services to support child victims. There were emergency shelters available, in secret locations, which were funded by the Programme to Protect Trafficking Victims. There was a crisis centre and an orphanage for child victims. If necessary, social and legal assistance bodies would take measures to provide for children. In 2011, 13 men, 18 women and one child who were victims of trafficking, sought assistance.
Under social security provisions, in Slovakia there were basic essential living conditions provided to people living in emergency situations, consisting of shelter, clothes and one warm meal a day. That service was provided to Slovak citizens and foreigners, including people who had no identification or papers.
FEDOR ROSOCHA, Permanent Representative of Slovakia to United Nations Office at Geneva, said he appreciated the experience of the Committee which played an irreplaceable role, and saw its comments and recommendations as significantly beneficial to Slovakia. The Slovak Republic would make a maximum effort to fulfil the Committee’s final recommendations, and thanked the Committee for its attention.
ARIRANGA GOVINDASAMY PILLAY, Committee Chairperson, said he was glad of Slovakia’s commitment to implement the Covenant, and hoped the delegation had found the interaction with the Committee useful. The Committee appreciated the delegation’s cooperation and sufficient information that would allow it to draft its concluding observations.
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