Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape and sexual violence, which carry a penalty of five to 25 years in prison. The law does not specifically define spousal rape, but the criminal code covers spousal rape and spousal sexual violence under the crime of rape and sexual violence. NGOs and rape victims criticized police for sometimes failing to enforce the law effectively and for often failing to communicate appropriately with rape victims. Rape victims had access to shelters and counseling offered by NGOs and government-funded programs.
Domestic violence against women is punishable by three to eight years’ imprisonment. Domestic violence was widespread, and activists claimed the government did not enforce the law effectively. As of August police had identified 350 domestic violence cases, up from 284 during the same period in 2016.
Sexual Harassment: The law defines sexual harassment as unlawful discrimination, subject to civil penalties. Victims usually avoided legal action due to fear of reprisal, lengthy court proceedings, and lack of accessible legal services.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Roma women continued to pursue compensation through the courts for involuntary sterilization, and NGOs called on the government to establish an independent investigative body to determine the scope of the practice. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .
Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status for women as for men. Discrimination against women remained a problem.
A 2015 Eurobarometer survey estimated the gender pay gap in the country at 20 percent, and 33 percent of entrepreneurs were female.
Birth Registration: Children acquire citizenship by birth to at least one citizen parent, regardless of where the child is born. Each domestic birth is recorded at the local vital statistics office, including for children born to asylum seekers, stateless persons, and detained migrants.
Child Abuse: Child abuse remained a problem according to child advocates. A 2012 government study showed that 23 percent of 13- to 15-year-old persons suffered physical abuse and 7 percent suffered sexual abuse. Domestic abuse carries basic penalties of three to eight years’ imprisonment. As of September, police reported 376 cases of domestic abuse of minors.
The government continued implementing the National Action Plan for Children for 2013-17, funded through the government budget. Government bodies provided financial support to crisis centers for abused children and NGOs that worked on child abuse. The Labor and Social Affairs Office had dedicated departments for overseeing childcare and monitoring child abuse.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18. In exceptional cases, based upon request of one of the marrying couple, a competent court may allow marriage of a person as young as 16, if both parents consent. Women from marginalized Romani communities were transported to the United Kingdom by force or deception to marry foreign citizens attempting to avoid deportation by marrying an EU citizen, and might consequently have been subjected to trafficking in persons.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: Rape and sexual violence carry basic penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment. The law establishes 15 years as the minimum age for consensual sex. In addition to prohibiting trafficking in persons, the law prohibits the prostitution of children. These abuses were not common, and there were no obstacles to enforcement of the law.
The production, distribution, or possession of child pornography is a crime with penalties ranging from two to 20 years’ imprisonment.
Institutionalized Children: Reports published by the Office of the Public Defender of Rights during the year and in 2013 found that juvenile offenders at educational rehabilitation centers regularly endured hunger and were subjected to degrading treatment, including compulsory gynecological examinations of girls after their trips outside the facility. The reports also found substandard levels of education at the centers.
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.
Jewish community leaders estimated, and the 2011 census data indicated, the size of the Jewish community at approximately 2,000 persons.
Organized neo-Nazi groups with an estimated 500 active members and several thousand sympathizers occasionally spread anti-Semitic messages. Latent anti-Semitic attitudes characterizing Jewish people as greedy or secretly influencing world affairs were widespread, even beyond neo-Nazi groups and their sympathizers.
Polls revealed increased support for the neo-Nazi LSNS, polling at 10 percent or higher. In September, LSNS chairman and governor of Banska Bystrica, Marian Kotleba, recommended the public read Protocols of the Elders of Zion to learn how a Jewish conspiracy to control the world was causing the migration crisis in Europe. An LSNS member elected to parliament in March 2016 wrote on social media that the Holocaust was a “fairy tale” and praised Hitler. In August police charged a far-right radical who ran for the LSNS in the 2016 parliamentary elections with Holocaust denial related to online content published between 2013 and 2016. In January an LSNS MP criticized the president on LSNS social media for giving state awards to people of Jewish origin. While direct denial of the Holocaust was relatively rare, expressions of approval for the World War II-era Slovak fascist state, which deported tens of thousands of Jews, Roma, and others to death camps, occurred frequently. Throughout the year, far-right groups organized small events to commemorate dates associated with the Slovak fascist state and its president, Jozef Tiso. On March 14 and April 19, the LSNS organized commemorations of the creation of the fascist Slovak state in 1939 and Tiso’s execution in 1947.
On March 25, President Andrej Kiska unveiled a commemorative plaque at a grammar school in Poprad to mark the 75th anniversary of the deportation of 1,000 Jewish schoolgirls–the first transport of Slovak Jews to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. On September 9, government officials commemorated the Day of the Victims of the Holocaust and of Racial Violence at the Holocaust Memorial in Bratislava. The new coalition government undertook initiatives to promote Holocaust education in schools. Government leaders including Prime Minister Fico and President Kiska denounced the anti-Semitic rhetoric of the far-right. During a public speech in January, Prime Minister Fico criticized support for the LSNS party.
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, access to health care, the judicial system, other transportation, or the provision of other public services.
Psychiatric institutions and hospitals, which fall under the purview of the Ministry of Health, used cage beds to restrain patients. The law prohibits both physical and nonphysical restraints in social care homes managed by the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Family.
No broadcaster complied with laws requiring television stations to provide audio descriptions for viewers who are blind or have impaired vision. While the law defines mandatory standards for access to buildings, NGOs noted they were not fully implemented, although access to privately owned buildings improved more rapidly than access to public buildings.
The government’s Council on Human Rights, National Minorities, and Gender Equality operated a committee on persons with disabilities. The council served as a governmental advisory body and included representation from NGOs working on disability problems. The country’s first national human rights strategy included a chapter on the rights of persons with disabilities.
According to the 2011 census, approximately 458,000 ethnic Hungarians lived in the country. The law provides for the imposition of fines on government institutions, civil servants, and legal entities that do not provide information required by law in Slovak. Members of the ethnic Hungarian minority criticized the provision as discriminatory and a restriction on their right to free speech. In February the Ministry of Transport and Construction started placing dual language signs at train stations serving Hungarian minority populations.
Societal discrimination against Roma and individuals of non-European ethnicity was common. As much as 53 percent of the Romani population resided in marginalized communities. The UNDP atlas identified 231 segregated rural settlements located, on average, less than one mile from neighboring municipalities.
There were reports of violence against members of ethnic minorities during the year. In February a man attacked a French national in the town of Banska Bystrica while shouting racist abuse, causing injuries to the victim’s face with broken glass. The media reported the attacker was motivated by the victim’s skin color. A Supreme Court tribunal ruled in September the attack was not racist and released the attacker from custody.
Marginalized Romani communities were subjected to controversial police raids. In May the media published a video recording of an April 16 police raid in the Romani community in the village of Zborov. Several police officers appeared to chase, threaten, and beat–using punches, kicks, and batons–numerous community residents, including children and the elderly, who did not appear to be resisting police. Three residents required medical assistance. Shortly after the publication of the video, the police president said the Inspection Service Department of the Ministry of Interior would investigate the incident. The investigation was pending.
NGOs reported racially motivated attacks on minorities throughout the year, but authorities’ investigation of such incidents varied by jurisdiction. In December 2016 the Ministry of Interior Inspection Service Department brought charges against the police officer who commanded a 2015 raid in a Romani community in the village of Vrbnica. According to reports, a group of 15 officers entered the community, allegedly to locate and arrest individuals evading arrest warrants, and severely beat, mistreated, and harassed a number of Romani residents. The investigation was pending. At the same time, the investigation into several other police officers involved in the raid was halted, allegedly due to lack of evidence.
Between December 2016 and March, police investigated several community residents who had testified as witnesses in the previous investigation into a 2013 police raid in Moldava nad Bodvou and charged four residents with perjury. Expert testimony claimed the witnesses had a “Romani mentality,” which the expert claimed made the witnesses inherently less trustworthy.
In May a Kosice district court disallowed the use of a video recording as evidence and again acquitted all of the police officers accused in the 2009 case of police abuse against a group of six Romani boys ages 11 to 15. In 2016 the Kosice regional court overturned the initial 2015 acquittal. The prosecutor appealed the latest verdict, and the case remained pending.
The LSNS continued to organize marches against “Gypsy criminality” and operated patrols on train lines that allegedly experienced crime at the hands of Roma. The patrols refrained from violence, but patrol members–wearing standardized LSNS outfits–intimidated Romani passengers.
Police generally responded quickly to gatherings targeting the Romani community and prevented crowds from entering Romani communities or inciting confrontations.
There were instances of public officials at every level defaming minorities and making derogatory comments about Roma. In September opposition Freedom and Solidarity chairman Richard Sulik said it was a problem that 76 out of 85 children born in the town of Velka Lomnica during the year were Romani and proposed offering free sterilization to Romani women with at least four children.
In July police charged LSNS chairman Kotleba with hate speech for using extremist symbols. In March, Kotleba awarded a charitable donation to a family writing a check for 1,488 euros ($1,800). The number is a white supremacist symbol that stands for “14 words” (“we must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”) and the numeric representation of double “H” (“Heil Hitler”). Kotleba donated 1,488 euros ($1,800) again in October, to a youth hockey team in Velky Krtis. In January, LSNS MP Stanislav Mizik criticized the president’s selection of state award recipients, labelling them “defenders of gypsies and Muslims,” “fanatics of gypsy traditions,” and criticized some of the recipients because of their Jewish origin. In April police charged Mizik with hate speech crimes.
Widespread discrimination against Roma continued in education, health care, housing, loan practices, restaurants, hair salons, and public transportation.
In March the Spisska Nova Ves district court found discrimination in access to employment on the grounds of ethnicity in the 2010 case of a Romani woman who applied for the position of field social worker with the Spisska Nova Ves municipality. Despite the woman’s extensive experience with social work in marginalized Romani communities, the municipality hired a non-Romani woman with fewer qualifications, less experience, and without a grasp of the Romani language. The Constitutional Court overturned lower court decisions and ordered the municipality to apologize and pay out 2,500 euros ($3,000) in compensation.
Local authorities continued to use regulatory obstacles, such as withholding of construction permits, to discourage the legal establishment of Romani settlements. The Kosice municipality announced plans to continue demolitions of apartment buildings in the marginalized Romani district of Lunik IX.
NGOs reported persistent segregation of Romani women in maternity wards in several hospitals in the eastern part of the country. The hospitals claimed they grouped persons according to their levels of hygiene and adaptability, not by race.
Romani children from socially excluded communities faced educational segregation and were disproportionately enrolled in “special” schools or placed in segregated classrooms within mainstream schools.
Schools often justified the segregation as being in the children’s best interest; the ombudsperson identified numerous cases where the parents of marginalized Romani children believed their children were made to attend classrooms that were poorly equipped compared with non-Romani classrooms and were sometimes subjected to aggressive behavior by teachers.
In April the Ministry of Education responded to a petition by the mothers of Romani students at an elementary school in the village of Hermanovce, which asked the ministry to end discrimination and segregation of Romani children at the school. The Romani activists and a local NGO claimed that almost 90 percent of Romani children at the school attended so-called special classes for children with developmental disabilities. The ministry stated the government was not obliged to address discrimination in schools because it did not directly cause it and rejected the petition on technical grounds. The ministry similarly argued it is not obliged to adopt measures that would prevent discrimination, yet claimed the government had nevertheless adopted a number of measures to address discrimination in education.
The Government Council on Human Rights, National Minorities, and Gender Equality operated a Committee for the Prevention and Elimination of Racism, Xenophobia, Anti-Semitism, and Other Forms of Intolerance.
The law bans the spreading of profascist propaganda and hatred in public, including on social media and hate speech against LGBTI individuals. Justice Minister Lucia Zitnanska noted that investigators often misclassified extremism-related crimes as misdemeanors, carrying mild punishments that fail to act as deterrents. The law allows extremism-related cases to be tried by a special prosecutor at the Specialized Criminal Court rather than at the district court level, where expertise on extremism was often lacking.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and identifies sexual orientation as a hate crime motivation. Persons intending to change their legal gender status need to obtain medical approval, which usually requires undergoing gender-reassignment surgery. According to LGBTI rights advocates, prejudice and official and societal discrimination persisted, although no official cases were reported.
The law does not allow educational establishments to reissue educational certificates with a new first name and surname to individuals after they have undergone a gender transition. The law does allow institutions to issue such individuals new birth certificates with their new names.
LGBTI organizations complained that the law requires a confirmation from a medical practitioner that a person has undergone a gender change in order to obtain new identity documents, but does not define gender change. In practice authorities required confirmation that a person had undergone permanent sterilization before issuing new identity documents.
In August SNS deputy chair Jaroslav Paska criticized ombudsperson Maria Patakyova for giving a speech at Bratislava Rainbow Pride and accused her of demeaning the country’s traditional civilizational, cultural, and social values.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
NGOs reported violence and online hate speech towards refugees.
Government officials at all levels and leaders from across the political spectrum, including the opposition, engaged in rhetoric portraying refugees and Muslims in Europe as a threat to society.
In February, LSNS MP Mazurek stated that Islam allows pedophilia, zoophilia, and even necrophilia and that it is nothing other than the work of the devil.
In May, Prime Minister Fico stated that “Islam has no place in Slovakia” and that he did not want “a unified Muslim community to appear in Slovakia” that could “push through their things.”