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 and domestic violence victims had access to shelters and counseling offered by NGOs and government-funded programs. NGO service providers complained that authorities provided only a small portion of necessary funding, forcing many centers to close or fundraise additional resources from private and international donors.
Domestic violence against women is punishable by three to eight years’ imprisonment. Domestic violence was widespread, and activists claimed official statistics failed to capture the magnitude of the issue. NGOs also asserted the government did not enforce the law effectively. Experts complained there were no written procedures for referring battered women to counselling centers or shelters and no services for batterers. The lack of affordable public housing or rent-controlled housing often forced victims to return to abusive households.
In January the regional court in Kosice confirmed a 23-year prison sentence for a former police officer who in 2016 stabbed his fiancee to death and burned her remains in Spisska Nova Ves.
In March a 22 year-old man attacked his girlfriend and her three friends, breaking her nose and causing other injuries. The woman immediately reported the incident to police, who reportedly failed to provide first aid to the victims, downplaying the incident. The assailant was later found guilty and sentenced to a fine. After intense media coverage, the regional prosecutor’s office in Banska Bystrica announced it would reexamine the case.
In September the regional court in Banska Bystrica confirmed a 16-year prison sentence for a man who stabbed his wife to death in July 2017 while she sat in the back seat of a police patrol car that had responded to her domestic disturbance call. The man gained access to the patrol car by telling police he wanted a chance to apologize to his wife. As of October the two police officers who failed to prevent the attack awaited trial on charges of criminal negligence.
According to a 2017 report on gender equality and domestic violence by the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Family, more than 21 percent of adult women had experienced violence at the hand of their partner.
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. A coordination center for gender-based and domestic violence under the Labor, Social Affairs and Family Ministry implements and coordinates countrywide policy to prevent and eliminate violence against women (including sexual harassment) and coordinates education and training efforts for the public and professionals. The government operates a 24/7 hotline for women subjected to violence.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status for women as for men. Discrimination against women remained a problem, particularly in the labor market, where women were less likely to be offered employment than men with equal qualifications, and faced a 20 percent gender pay gap.
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 2013 government study (the latest available) showed that 23 percent of 13- to 15-year-old persons suffered physical abuse, 20 percent emotional abuse, and 7 percent sexual abuse. Domestic abuse carries basic penalties of three to eight years’ imprisonment.
The government continued implementing and annually updating the National Action Plan for Children for 2013-22, funded through the government budget. Government bodies provided financial support to crisis centers for abused children and to NGOs that worked on child abuse. The Labor and Social Affairs Office had dedicated departments for overseeing childcare and operated a national coordination body for dealing with violence against children, which collected data, provided information on domestic violence and abuse of minors, helped refer victims to service providers, and ran a national helpline.
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 against a child carry basic penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment. The law establishes 15 as the minimum age for consensual sex. In addition to prohibiting trafficking in persons, the law criminalizes 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 ombudsperson 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.
In February the regional prosecutor in Trencin indicted a former employee of the private juvenile rehabilitation facility Cisty Den for sexual abuse and causing bodily harm to a minor. The facility lost its official Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Family accreditation in September 2017 after a series of allegations of severe malpractice and misconduct. Experts criticized the labor minister for failing to protect the children housed in Cisty Den after suspicions regarding the facility first surfaced more than a year before the center’s accreditation was revoked.
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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.
Jewish community leaders estimated, and the 2011 census data indicated, the size of the Jewish community was 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 11 percent or higher.
In July the Special Prosecutor’s Office indicted LSNS leader and MP Marian Kotleba for his charitable donation of 1,488 euros ($1,710) to three families at a 2017 event marking the founding of the Nazi-allied wartime Slovak state (The number 1,488 refers to a white supremacist 14-word slogan and a numeric representation of HH, for “Heil Hitler.”). Also in July, the Specialized Criminal Court acquitted LSNS MP Stanislav Mizik of extremism charges in a case concerning a January 2017 Facebook post in which he criticized President Kiska for giving state awards to persons of Jewish origin. The judge ruled there was insufficient evidence to prove that Mizik wrote the statement. The Special Prosecutor’s Office appealed the verdict, and the case remained pending. In February LSNS MP Milan Mazurek verbally attacked an expert witness during a court hearing at his trial, saying the witness was “not impartial, since he is a Jew.”
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 September 9, government officials commemorated the Day of the Victims of the Holocaust and of Racial Violence at the Holocaust Memorial in Bratislava. The coalition government undertook initiatives to promote Holocaust education in schools and funded school field trips to Auschwitz and the Slovak Holocaust Museum in Sered. Government leaders including President Kiska and Speaker of Parliament Danko denounced the anti-Semitic rhetoric of the far right.
Representatives of the Central Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Slovakia noted the number of anti-Semitic comments and hate speech on the internet and social media increased following statements in March by then prime minister Robert Fico (Smer-SD), in which he accused philanthropist George Soros, who is Jewish, of instigating a coup against his government.
In January the ministers of finance and culture commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day by visiting the Holocaust Museum in Sered where they announced a subsidy of one million euros ($1.15 million) to complete the museum’s campus.
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. The Ministry of Transport and Construction continued placing dual language signs at train stations serving Hungarian minority populations. In February the ministry changed a decree to allow the use of dual-language traffic signs.
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 UN Development Program has 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 May a Filipino man with permanent residency status died after being brutally beaten for protecting his female colleagues from unwanted sexual advances on the streets of Bratislava. Authorities initially released the attacker from custody after the prosecutor’s office stated it saw no risk of him committing similar attacks. Following intense public pressure, the prosecutor reversed the decision and detained the alleged attacker, who faces a possible 12 years in prison. Media cited witnesses who reported the attacker was likely motivated by the victim’s skin color and perceived sexual orientation.
In July, three Romani boys from the northern city of Zilina were chased and attacked by a group of violent hooligans. Police pressed charges against three individuals, who remained in pretrial detention. Police and prosecutors initially refused to confirm the attack was racially motivated, but media outlets published testimony of eyewitnesses who claimed the assailants shouted, “Gypsies, we will kill you!” while hurling stones and bottles and chasing the boys.
Marginalized Romani communities continued to be subjected to controversial police raids and brutality. In November 2017 media reported on a police raid in the Romani community in the village of Jarovnice. Several police officers, including a special operations unit and a K9 unit, allegedly ransacked a house looking for three men wanted for petty larceny. While no one was injured during the raid, human rights activists questioned the appropriateness and proportionality of the police response. In May the Ministry of Interior Inspection Service terminated an investigation into the 2017 police raid in Zborov and concluded police officers did not break the law. Released video footage from the Zborov raid appeared to show police chasing, threatening, and beating numerous community residents, including children and elderly persons, who did not appear to be resisting police. Three residents required medical assistance.
Authorities’ investigation of violent incidents involving police was inconsistent and varied by jurisdiction. In 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 remained pending. At the same time, the investigation into several other police officers involved in the raid was halted, allegedly due to lack of evidence.
In November 2017 the Constitutional Court dismissed a motion protesting police brutality during a 2013 raid in a Romani settlement in the town of Moldava nad Bodvou as unsubstantiated. Six witnesses who had testified about excessive force used by police faced prosecution on charges of perjury. In June the district court in Kosice found two of the witnesses guilty in an accelerated procedure and sentenced them to suspended sentences. Both appealed the ruling and the cases remained pending. An expert testifying for the prosecution claimed the witnesses had a “Romani mentality,” which he claimed made them less trustworthy.
In May the Kosice regional court overturned for the second time a lower court ruling that acquitted all of the police officers accused in the 2009 case of police abuse against a group of six Romani boys between the ages of 11 and 15. The case was returned to the Kosice district court for the third time.
The LSNS continued to organize marches and gatherings against “asocial Gypsies.”
Police generally responded quickly to gatherings targeting the Romani community and prevented crowds from entering Romani communities or inciting confrontations.
In January during a visit to a Romani settlement in eastern Slovakia, then interior minister Robert Kalinak (Smer-SD) announced a new legislative package that included collecting statistics on “Roma crime,” greater police powers, and a constitutional amendment eliminating social benefits for persons who did not take appropriate care of their children. NGOs and the government plenipotentiary for Romani communities criticized the interior minister, claiming he incited hatred against the minority by portraying the Roma as a security and public order threat.
There were instances of public officials at every level defaming minorities and making derogatory comments about Roma. In April, MP Milan Mazurek (LSNS) was found guilty of anti-Roma hate speech for his remarks during a public radio broadcast in 2016. The Specialized Criminal Court in Banska Bystrica fined Mazurek 5,000 euros ($5,750) and gave him a suspended six-month prison sentence that he would serve should he fail to pay the fine.
Widespread discrimination against Roma continued in employment, education, health care, housing, loan practices, restaurants, hair salons, and public transportation.
In April the Kosice regional court issued a final decision affirming lower court rulings in favor of a Romani woman who was unjustly denied a job as a social worker in the town of Spisska Nova Ves, which must pay the woman 2,500 euros ($2,880) in compensation. In July a Presov district court ruled that the Sabinov municipality and the Transport Ministry had discriminated against local Sabinov Roma by moving them out of public housing in the center of the town and into substandard housing on the city’s periphery.
In May a Romani mother with her children was not allowed to participate in a celebration of Children’s Day in the eastern Slovak village of Velka Ida due to her ethnicity. The local mayor stated this was not discrimination because there were separate events for Roma and a separate Children’s Day event in a preschool. He implied that diseases in the local Romani settlement made it unsuitable for Romani children to attend the larger Children’s Day celebration.
Local authorities continued to use regulatory obstacles, such as withholding of construction permits, to discourage the legal establishment of Romani settlements. In August the Partizanske municipality demolished a dilapidated apartment building inhabited by Roma. NGOs criticized the city leadership for failing to provide replacement housing and pushing Roma inhabitants out of the city limits. The Kosice municipality advanced plans of demolitions of apartment buildings in the marginalized Romani district of Lunik IX but finalized documentation for new housing for the Lunik inhabitants.
NGOs reported Romani women faced multiple forms of discrimination in reproductive health care, including segregation in maternity departments, verbal harassment, and maltreatment by medical personnel. The hospitals claimed they grouped persons according to their levels of hygiene and adaptability, not by race. While there were no reported cases of forced or coerced sterilizations, NGOs continued to express concerns over the way in which medical personnel obtained informed consent from patients. Romani women continued to pursue compensation through the courts for past involuntary sterilization, and NGOs called on the government to establish an independent investigative body to determine the scope of the practice.
Romani children from socially excluded communities faced educational segregation and were disproportionately enrolled in “special” schools or placed in segregated classrooms within mainstream schools. A report issued during the year by the ombudsperson established that Romani children received an inferior education compared with their non-Romani peers. The report found a disproportionately high share (88 percent) of Romani children in “special” primary schools for children with mental disabilities and schools with special classes for Romani children. Only 15 percent of the Romani children surveyed had received preschool education, compared with 78 percent for the general population. The ombudsperson’s investigation also confirmed systemic discrimination against Romani children in academic and psychological testing, where authorities failed to consider personal and special circumstances of the individuals who were tested.
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.
In June parliament adopted a resolution expressing deep concern over growing extremism and hatred in the country and stressing that the country must remain “built on values such as democracy, freedom and tolerance.”
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 in employment, education, state social services, health care, and access to goods and services and identifies sexual orientation as a hate crime motivation that warrants stiffer sentences.
LGBTI organizations reported the law requires that persons seeking legal gender recognition provide confirmation from a medical practitioner that a person has undergone a “gender change” to obtain new identity documents; however, the law does not define “gender change.” In practice authorities required confirmation that a person had undergone permanent sterilization before issuing new identity documents.
The law does not allow educational establishments to reissue educational certificates with a new first name and surname to transgender individuals after they have transitioned. The law does allow institutions to issue such individuals new birth certificates reflecting the name with which they identify.
NGOs reported violence and online harassment of LGBTI persons. In June a group of 10 men attacked two gay 17-year-old boys for holding hands in public in the western Slovak city of Trencin. The group attacked the teenagers in front of a nightclub, kicking and punching them while shouting homophobic slurs. Afraid to reveal their names, the boys refused to report the incident to police or press charges. A widely publicized attack on a Filipino man, who died in June after being brutally beaten for protecting his female colleagues from unwanted sexual advances in Bratislava, was also reportedly accompanied by antigay slurs.
In July SNS deputy chair Anton Hrnko criticized ombudsperson Maria Patakyova for giving a speech at Bratislava Rainbow Pride and accused her of contributing to the spread of “neoliberal gender ideology” which aimed “to dismantle the traditional family.”
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 as a threat to society.
In January then prime minister Fico stated he rejected the creation of Muslim communities in the country. On another occasion, Fico remarked that tourists wanted to come to the country because they did not have to fear explosions and know Muslims will not bother them in public squares.