Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, including spousal rape, and provides a penalty of two to 15 years in prison for violations. The government effectively enforced these provisions. Although experts still considered rape underreported, they noted an upward trend in the number of rape convictions. They attributed this trend to improved police training, public awareness campaigns, and greater interaction between police and NGOs. In the first six months of the year, authorities recorded 325 rapes and adjudicated 195 of them. Courts convicted 134 offenders, 75 of whom received prison sentences; the remainder received suspended sentences.
Experts believed violence against women was more widespread than suggested by the number of cases reported to authorities due to the stigma associated with such abuses. NGOs noted in particular the underreporting of violence against women in immigrant communities, where victims often feared losing their immigration status or being subjected to cultural stigma. Some NGOs continued to offer increased social, legal, and psychological services to rape victims.
Domestic violence is punishable by up to three years in prison, with longer sentences in aggravated circumstances. Police have the authority to remove violent abusers from their homes for 10 days. The law limits to six months the total time, including extensions, a removal order can remain in effect. The NGO White Circle of Safety reported that, in the first six months of the year, police removed 672 offenders (some of them women) from their homes.
In the first six months of the year, the Ministry of Interior received 321 reported cases of domestic violence, and police investigated 211 cases. During the same period, courts convicted 116 individuals of domestic violence, sentencing 39 of them to prison terms. The courts issued suspended sentences to 76 persons convicted and put one under house arrest.
The law also provides protection against domestic violence to other persons living in the household, especially children and seniors, and allows legal emancipation for children from the age of 16 under certain circumstances. For example, a child may request a court order to remove an aggressor from the family in case a parent (usually the mother) was not willing or able to do so.
According to the Czech Psychiatric Society, 32 percent of women and 2.5 percent of men experienced domestic violence in the first half of the year. Research conducted by the ProFem society found that 28 percent of women experienced domestic violence and one third of them needed medical treatment. In 68 percent of cases, children witnessed domestic violence. The Ministry of Interior reported that all police officers undergo specialized training that focuses on the law on domestic violence, assistance to the victims, and other related issues.
Sexual Harassment: The antidiscrimination law prohibits sexual harassment and treats it as a form of direct discrimination. A person who has been harassed may seek justice through the courts and request compensation for possible harm. The burden of proof is on the accused party, who has to prove that he or she did not discriminate against the accuser. Penalties for conviction may include fines, dismissal from work, or imprisonment for up to eight years. Most cases of sexual harassment took place in the workplace. According to NGOs police rarely investigated such cases because victims usually preferred to seek advice on how to stop the harassment rather than accuse colleagues or supervisors and risk losing their jobs. Police often delayed investigations until the perpetrator committed serious crimes, such as sexual coercion, rape, or other forms of physical assault.
Offenders convicted of stalking may receive sentences of up to three years in prison. In the first six months of the year, police investigated 259 reports of stalking and adjudicated 164 of them. Police also cleared 49 cases from previous periods. In the first six months of the year, courts convicted 113 persons of stalking, of whom 12 received prison sentences, 89 received suspended sentences, and the others were fined or sentenced to community service. According to police statistics, 75 percent of the victims were women.
NGOs reported an increase in cyberbullying or cyberstalking, not only of children but also of adults of both sexes. In response to this rise, the NGOs Gender Studies and ProFem conducted a campaign against cyberbullying.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the basic right of couples and individuals to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence.
In October the government rejected a bill proposed in September 2015 by the minister of human rights on compensation for persons, most of them Romani women, who were sterilized without their full consent between 1971 and 1991.
Discrimination: The law grants men and women the same legal status and rights, including under family, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. Women sometimes experienced discrimination in the area of employment (see section 7.d.).
Birth Registration: Children derive their citizenship from their parents. Any child with at least one citizen parent is automatically a citizen. Authorities registered births immediately.
Child Abuse: Although illegal, child abuse remained a problem. By law any person under the age of 18 is a minor. Additionally, a child is considered an endangered individual and regarded as a victim in cases of domestic violence, even if the violence does not specifically target the child.
NGOs estimated that 40,000 children experienced some form of violence every year. According to police and the Ministry of Interior, there were 751 cases of child abuse filed in 2015 and 432 cases filed in the first six months of the year, including sexual abuse and commercial sex exploitation. According to a report released by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in April, the number of abused or mistreated children rose from 8,478 in 2014 to 9,433 in 2015. Six children died due to abuse or mistreatment in 2015. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs reported that in 2015 authorities removed 2,368 children from families and placed them in children’s homes due to abuse or mistreatment.
Prison sentences for persons found guilty of child abuse range from five to 12 years in the case of the death of a child. The Ministries of Interior and Justice introduced special interviewing rooms for child victims and witnesses. A child victim is not required to give testimony in court when specially trained police officers have followed the correct procedures for interviewing the child, including having psychologists and, in some cases, judges and defense attorneys present.
Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 18. Some members of the Romani community married before reaching legal age. The law allows for marriage at the age of 16 with court approval; no official marriages were reported of anyone under 16.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children and the possession, manufacture, and distribution of child pornography, which is punishable by imprisonment for up to eight years. The minimum age for consensual sex is 15. Sexual relations with a child younger than 15 is punishable by a prison term of up to eight years or up to 18 years in the case of the death of the child. The government prohibits all forms of trafficking under the criminal code, which prescribes punishments of up to 16 years’ imprisonment for violations. According to Ministry of Interior statistics, police investigated 55 cases of commercial sexual exploitation of children in the first six months of the year, compared with 25 cases in 2015.
In the first six months of the year, the Ministry of Justice reported that courts convicted 41 individuals for production or handling of child pornography, two of whom received prison sentences of up to five years in prison, three received sentences of up to 15 years in prison, and the remaining 36 received suspended sentences. Courts convicted 17 individuals of misuse of a child for the production of pornography, five of who received prison sentences.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
The country’s Jewish population numbers approximately 10,000. Public expressions of anti-Semitism were rare, but small, fairly well organized right-wing groups with anti-Semitic views were active around the country. The Ministry of Interior continued to monitor the activities of such groups, increase cooperation with police from neighboring countries, and shut their unauthorized rallies.
In 2015 the Ministry of Interior recorded 47 criminal offenses with anti-Semitic motives, compared to 45 in 2014. During the same period, the Federation of Jewish Communities reported 39 anti-Semitic incidents, including damage to property, spray painting of anti-Semitic slogans and Nazi symbols, threats, and harassment. The number of anti-Semitic articles written by Czechs on the internet, including incitement to violence against Jews, decreased from 191 in 2014 to 182 in 2015. A well-known anti-Semitic blogger continued his internet postings, including statements denying the Holocaust. In March he was put on probation and in April charged with incitement to hatred and Holocaust denial. The case was pending at year’s end.
In July the Ministry of Culture designated a former Jewish cemetery in Prostejov as a cultural monument. The move invigorated a three-year effort, led by a foreign philanthropist, to restore the cemetery, which had been eradicated by the Nazis. After the war the site was turned into a public park. The local mayor opposed the restoration, claiming the park provided needed access to a nearby school and another part of the former cemetery was used for residential parking.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, public transportation services, access to health care, the judicial system, and the provision of other government services. The government generally enforced these provisions. Nevertheless, persons with disabilities faced a shortage of public accommodations and were unemployed at disproportionately high rates. Most children with disabilities were able to attend mainstream primary and secondary schools and universities.
In April the parliament passed an education law intended to reduce the use of special schools for children with mild disabilities and for certain minorities (including Roma). The law went into effect in September, and as a result over 200 first grade students with disabilities or from socially excluded localities enrolled in mainstream schools. According to the law, only children with significant disabilities should attend special schools with specially trained teachers.
The law requires a legal guardian to assure that the preferences of a person with a mental or psychological disability are considered. Courts cannot deprive such individuals of their full legal rights but may limit rights in some clearly specified areas (for example finances, the right to vote). Courts have three years to review cases of mentally or physically disabled persons with curtailed legal rights to determine whether the treatment of such individuals complies with the law.
The ombudswoman is required to make regular visits to all governmental and private workplaces employing incarcerated or institutionalized persons, including persons with disabilities, to examine conditions, assure respect for fundamental rights, and advocate for improved protection against mistreatment. The ombudswoman’s office conducted such visits throughout the year. The ombudswoman cooperated with the Supreme Public Prosecutor to protect incarcerated or institutionalized persons.
According to a report by the Ministry for Human Rights, during 2015 government ministries were not complying with the law that requires 4 percent of the staff of companies and institutions with more than 25 employees to be persons with physical disabilities. According to the report, only three of 25 government ministries and their branches met the requirement. Instead of employing persons with disabilities, many companies and institutions paid fines or bought products from companies that employed persons with disabilities, a practice that the National Disability Council criticized.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs continued an EU-funded program to assist persons with disabilities in transitioning from institutional care into mainstream society.
The approximately 300,000 Roma in the country faced varying levels of discrimination in education, employment, and housing and have high levels of poverty, unemployment, and illiteracy. A series of public opinion polls reflected societal prejudice. A poll conducted by the Center for Research of Public Opinion (CVVM) in March, for example, found that 82 percent of respondents considered Roma “unlikeable” or “very unlikeable,” while only 3 percent had compassion for Roma and 14 percent had neutral opinions. A 2015 poll conducted by the European Commission found that only 29 percent of Czechs would feel comfortable or indifferent about working with a Romani person and only 11 percent would feel comfortable or indifferent if their child fell in love with a Rom. The same poll indicated negative attitudes towards certain perceived attributes of Asians and blacks.
According to research data published by the NGO In Iusticia, there were 10 ethnically motivated violent incidents recorded in the first half of 2015, four of which were directed against Roma. According to the Ministry of Interior, Roma were the victims of 33 various criminal acts in 2015.
According to the Ministry of Interior’s 2015 Report on Extremism, there were 175 hate crimes reported during that year for which 130 persons were prosecuted and 115 charged. Two persons were sentenced to one to five years in prison, one person was sentenced to one year in prison, 37 persons were put on probation, and nine were sentenced to community work.
In June, two defendants were sentenced to over six years in prison for attempted murder in connection with their racially motivated attack against Roma in 2012. The case is pending because of an appeal. Regional police were investigating an August incident in which an armed man intimidated Czech and Slovak Romani children attending a summer camp. In February a dentist who refused to treat a Romani man and his daughter was ordered by a court to apologize in writing and to pay compensation to her victims.
A white supremacist webpage registered outside the country, listed the names and addresses of Romani activists and hacked the website and e-mail addresses of several high-profile individuals who either worked on Romani issues or expressed support for Roma in the past.
During the year the deputy prime minister and finance minister came under criticism for stating (incorrectly) that the World War II-era Lety concentration camp for Roma was only a camp for those unwilling to work. He later apologized and corrected his statement.
A high number of Romani children attended special schools, which effectively segregated them into a substandard educational system.
Approximately one-third of Roma lived in “excluded localities” or ghettos. According to an October 2015 report by the Ministry for Labor and Social Affairs, the number of ghettos doubled to 606 since 2006, and their population grew from 80,000 to 115,000. Ghettos usually have substandard housing and poor health conditions.
NGOs examined multiple housing advertisements and found that Romani applicants experienced discrimination when seeking to rent residential or business properties. While the law prohibits housing discrimination based on ethnicity, NGOs stated that some municipalities discriminated against certain socially disadvantaged groups, primarily Roma, basing their decisions not to supply housing on the allegedly bad reputation of Romani applicants from previous residences. Other examples of discrimination against Romani consumers also included failure to serve them food in restaurants and a refusal to accommodate Roma in a motel. Roma were disproportionally subject to indebtedness due to lack of access to banking services and exploitation by predatory lenders.
The Agency for Social Inclusion is responsible for implementing the government’s strategy to combat social exclusion mainly among the Romani population; to improve access to education, housing, security, and family, social, and health services; and to stimulate regional development of most affected areas. The minister for human rights and the minister for labor and social affairs also made public statements in support of socially disadvantaged groups, in particular Roma, and advocated policies favorable to them within the government.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The country has antidiscrimination laws that cover sexual orientation. In its report published in October 2015, the European Commission against Racial Intolerance criticized the country for not having specific hate crime provisions covering sexual orientation and gender identity.
The government did not keep statistics on incidents of violence directed at individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, but NGO contacts reported the number of such incidents was very low. Local LGBTI activists stated that citizens were largely tolerant of LGBTI persons. A June opinion poll by the CVVM, for example, found that 74 percent of respondents agreed that gays and lesbians should have the right to enter a registered partnership. The same poll found that 37 percent of respondents said they had friends in the LGBTI community. According to the poll, 48 percent of respondents believed that “coming out” would cause problems for them in their town or village.
According to a survey conducted by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, 36 percent of LGBTI persons reported experiencing discrimination and harassment due to their sexual orientation, while 26 percent reported they had been physically attacked or threatened over the previous five years.
In July, Pavlina Nytrova, Czech Social Democratic Party parliamentarian, speaking against adoptions by LGBTI persons, stated that such persons are highly promiscuous, have above-average rates of alcohol abuse and drug addiction, and will want to legalize sex with children. The comment caused an uproar and the labor minister (also a Social Democrat) suggested Nytrova resign from the party.
Some health care measures, such as in vitro fertilization, are available only to heterosexual couples.
In June the Constitutional Court struck down a ban on gay and lesbian persons living in registered partnerships from adopting children as individuals. Joint adoption by same-sex couples and adoption of a same-sex partner’s biological child, however, remains illegal.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Persons with HIV/AIDS faced societal discrimination, although there were no reported cases of violence. The Czech AIDS Help Society reported a number of cases of discrimination, primarily in access to health and dental care and wrongful termination of employment or discrimination during the hiring process. The government took no action in most cases, since individuals with HIV/AIDS often preferred to keep their status confidential rather than file a complaint. In the first half of the year, the ombudswoman’s office delivered a number of presentations at national events concerning the status of HIV infection as a disability under the antidiscrimination law. The ombudswoman also criticized an amendment to the Protection of Public Health Act over concerns that it promoted stigmatization and discrimination against individuals who are HIV-positive.
In March the District Court in Prague opened the case of a former police officer who was dismissed from work five years earlier because he was HIV-positive. The officer asked for financial compensation of 500,000 koruna ($20,400) from the Ministry of Interior. The judge requested expert medical evidence on whether the officer was capable of performing his duty despite his health condition. The case was pending at year’s end.
Other Societal Violence and Discrimination
Societal prejudice and discrimination against Muslims remained a growing concern. NGOs focusing on migration issues reported an increase in telephone and e-mail threats over the previous year, including, in a few cases, death threats.
In the first half of the year, the Ministry of Interior reported 88 extremist criminal acts, 64 of which were considered acts of violence or instigation to violence mainly against Muslims. The authorities prosecuted 50 of those cases.
Throughout the year there were several demonstrations against accepting migrants and refugees and against the EU for imposing resettlement quotas. The groups Anti-Islam Bloc, Usvit (Dawn), and We Don’t Want Islam in Czech Republic organized most of the demonstrations, which drew between several dozen and 1,000 participants. There were also several demonstrations in support of migrants and refugees.
In February demonstrators against Islam threw Molotov cocktails at the “Klinika” social center in Prague. In April several cafes and shops in Prague that were part of a government “hate-free zone” project were sprayed with written threats and Nazi symbols. Police charged five youths in connection with this vandalism.
In July more than 60 neo-Nazis and other extremists demonstrated against a xenophobia awareness event in Ostrava. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s August visit to Prague prompted several demonstrations in support of and critical of her policies regarding refugees and migration. The anti-Merkel gatherings were more heavily attended; criticism focused on her welcoming refugees to Europe.
In August members of We Don’t Want Islam in Czech Republic staged a fake Da’esh attack in Prague’s Old Town Square. Members of the group dressed as terrorists with fake beards, fake suicide vests, and fake shotguns and rode into the square in military vehicles and on a camel, yelling, and firing noisemaker guns. The event was meant to be a stunt but caused panic. Dozens of tourists knocked over tables and chairs as they fled before police interrupted and terminated the demonstration.
Also in August an unknown perpetrator broke windows in the mosque in Brno, and in November someone poured motor oil on the mosque’s doors and walls. No organization claimed responsibility for these incidents, and police continued to investigate the cases.
On September 11, approximately 25 persons staged a demonstration outside the Saudi Embassy in Prague dressed in Arab garments and mocking Islamic traditions.
NGOs reported an increase in the level of hate speech related to migration. Politicians, including the president, the deputy prime minister, members of parliament, senators, and local politicians across the political spectrum, used antimigrant rhetoric with Muslims the main target.
Although the government publicly condemned anti-Islamic rhetoric, President Zeman stated he would be in favor of deploying water cannons against migrants if the migration crisis reached the Czech border. Prime Minister Sobotka criticized President Zeman, asserting that water cannons were not a solution to the crisis. In October Zeman described migration as an organized invasion and suggested migrants be relocated to Africa or uninhabited Greek islands. The foreign minister responded, stating that such a proposal did not reflect the country’s foreign policy. Deputy Prime Minister/Finance Minister Babis said repeatedly that Muslim refugees cannot be integrated, and the country should not receive any Muslim refugees.
NGOs actively worked to combat these attitudes, and several events promoting tolerance took place during the year. In August approximately 80 Muslims assembled in front of a Catholic Church in Prague to protest the growing incidence of violence in Europe. They symbolically attended mass at the church, staying quietly in the back. After the mass approximately 400 attendees, including Muslims, condemned terrorism and formed a human chain around the church.
The Agency for Social Inclusion is responsible for implementing the government’s strategy for combating social exclusion, mainly among the Romani population, to improve access to education, housing, security, as well as family, social, and health services, and to stimulate regional development of most affected areas. The minister for human rights and the minister for labor and social affairs made public statements in support of socially disadvantaged groups, in particular Roma, and advocated policies favorable to them within the government.