Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, including spousal rape, and provides a penalty of two to 10 years in prison for violations, with longer sentences in aggravated circumstances. The government enforced these provisions.
Observers reported prosecutors and judges often lacked knowledge on the subject and that there was a shortage of experienced judicial experts. Demanding criminal procedures required repeated victim testimonies that contributed to their further traumatization. Penalties were often too low and only half of all sentences included prison time.
In March the Regional Court in Ostrava reduced the punishment from 33 months in prison to probation for a man who sexually abused his daughters. One of the daughters reported the case to police after another daughter, who was mentally handicapped, became pregnant. The court asserted the man needed to take care of the newborn baby.
The government announced in September it would cut funding by 70 percent for all NGOs working on gender issues. NGOs reported the cuts would lead to their closure or very limited services affecting not only lobbying for equal opportunities for women and men, but also other services they provide such as counseling and legal support to sexually abused women or victims of domestic violence.
NGOs reported some gynecological offices did not provide services to rape victims because they did not have access to rape kits and referred them to local hospitals. Once at a hospital, some staff told victims they needed either a police report or to come back with a police officer before they could conduct a rape examination.
NGOs noted women in immigrant communities underreported instances of violence due to fear their immigration status would be negatively affected.
Domestic violence is punishable by up to four 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 states a removal order can remain in effect for a total of up to six months, including extensions. The Ministry of Interior reported police removed 1,282 offenders from their homes in 2018.
The law also provides protection against domestic violence to other individuals living in the household, especially children and seniors. The government supported a widely used hotline for crime and domestic violence victims.
The Vodafone Foundation, police, and the NGO Rosa launched a new mobile application, Bright Sky CZ, in October. The application enables endangered persons to document incidents of domestic violence and provides a list of nearby domestic violence support services. It also serves as a resource for family and friends to help those suffering from abuse.
Sexual Harassment: The antidiscrimination law prohibits sexual harassment and treats it as a form of direct discrimination. If convicted, penalties may include fines, dismissal from work, and up to eight years in prison. 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.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization. The government agreed at the end of 2018 to reconsider compensating women who were involuntarily sterilized in the 1990s and early 2000s. Although the statute of limitations expired, the government was also considering a law that would frame conditions for such compensation and financial limits. Most sterilized women were Romani.
Discrimination: The law grants men and women the same legal status and rights, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. Women sometimes experienced employment and wage discrimination (see section 7.d.).
Although the number of children growing up in institutions has declined from 10,000 in 2011 to 8,500 in 2018, the Czech Helsinki Committee criticized the length of foster care proceedings, the rising number of social work cases involving abuse or mistreatment, the lack of public housing, and difficulty accessing adaptive equipment for children with disabilities. Observers also criticized the lack of effective tools for identifying child victims in a timely manner. The lack of a centralized regulatory body or coordinated interministerial approach to child issues made the reform process slow.
In February police detained a 20-year-old man in Louny suspected of violent behavior that resulted in the death of his girlfriend’s three-year-old son. According to observers, police did not take proper steps to prevent the death despite making several visits to the family.
Birth Registration: Children derive their citizenship from their parents. Any child with at least one citizen parent is automatically a citizen. Children born to noncitizens, such as asylum seekers or migrants, retain their parents’ citizenship. Authorities registered births immediately.
Child Abuse: Prison sentences for persons found guilty of child abuse range from five to 12 years.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs registered approximately 2,500 cases in which children experienced family violence, although a 2018 UNICEF survey suggested 14 percent (175,000) of children may have suffered family violence. NGOs estimated 40,000 children experience some form of violence each year. Experts estimated 10 to 15 percent of those children received professional care. In 2018 the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs reported authorities removed approximately 590 children from their parents based on court decisions due to abuse, exploitation, or mistreatment, which was 11 percent more than the previous year. Four children died due to abuse or mistreatment.
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 younger than 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 more in the presence of aggravating circumstances. The law prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes punishments of two to 10 years in prison for violations, with longer sentences in the presence of aggravating circumstances. These laws were generally enforced.
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/reported-cases.html.
There were approximately 10,000 Jews in the country. Public expressions of anti-Semitism were rare, but small, fairly well-organized right-wing groups with anti-Semitic views were active. The Ministry of Interior continued to monitor the activities of extremist groups and cooperated with police from neighboring countries.
The Ministry of Interior recorded 15 criminal offenses related to anti-Semitism in 2018. The Supreme Court rejected an appeal from a man who previously received a suspended two-year prison sentence for incitement to hatred, libel, and genocide denial in August.
The Prague Municipal Court upheld the suspended one-year prison sentence for former Freedom and Direct Democracy Party (SPD) secretary Jaroslav Stanik in September. In October 2017 Stanik stated that Roma, Jews, and homosexuals should be shot at birth.
The government approved the 2019 Counter Extremism and Hate Crime Strategy in May that emphasized communication, prevention, and education to combat hostility and discrimination toward the Romani community and others. The strategy also addressed extremism and hate crimes on the internet.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The ombudsperson acted as a mediator in most cases, and a small number of cases were prosecuted in the courts. Persons with disabilities continued to face a shortage of public accommodations. Economic growth and measures to increase employment opportunities for persons with disabilities led to a significant decrease in the number of unemployed disabled persons.
According to law, only children with significant disabilities should attend special schools with specially trained teachers. Many children with disabilities were able to attend mainstream primary and secondary schools and universities, but sufficient funding remains an issue.
The Prague Municipal Court ruled a handicapped student had the right to a special assistant at a mainstream school. The court also ruled that the government must reimburse the parents for funding the special assistant because the school and region did not have sufficient funding.
The ombudsperson’s office became a monitoring body under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in June 2018. The ombudsperson made visits to 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 ombudsperson criticized workplace discrimination against persons with disabilities and the low availability of dental services for persons with mental disabilities, especially for persons on the autism spectrum who need examinations under general anesthesia.
According to the Office of the Government, ministries were not complying with the law requiring companies and institutions with more than 25 employees to have 4 percent of staff be persons with physical disabilities. Instead of employing persons with disabilities, many companies and institutions either paid fines or bought products from companies that employed persons with disabilities, a practice that the National Disability Council and the ombudsperson criticized.
The ombudsperson reported more than 30 percent of proven discrimination cases from 2009 to 2018 were due to disabilities.
There were approximately 300,000 Roma in the country, and many faced varying levels of discrimination in education, employment, and housing, as well as high levels of poverty, unemployment, and illiteracy. The government introduced some legal measures that were considered controversial and moved the Agency for Social Inclusion from the Office of the Government to the Ministry of Regional Development. The agency lost the capacity to coordinate work with different ministries.
Hate crimes against Roma and minorities continued to be a problem.
In April police investigated a man and woman for brutally assaulting five Romani children in Lipnik na Becvou. Two children received hospital treatment. The man and woman were charged in September with three felonies and faced up to five years in prison if convicted.
Despite approved legislative measures to promote integrated education, the estimated share of Romani children educated in special needs programs decreased from 13.2 percent to 12.7 percent in the last three years, compared to 1.1 percent of non-Romani students who were educated in special programs.
In September the ombudsperson and several NGOs, including Amnesty International, criticized an amendment to the Ministerial Decree on Special Education that decreased the maximum number of special assistants per classroom. The amendment omitted a provision stipulating that disabled students be educated in mainstream schools and enabled more special schools to be created for students with various kinds of disabilities, including mild mental disabilities. Observers asserted the amendment hindered progressive steps toward inclusive education. Future funding supporting Romani desegregation in schools and special needs students was uncertain.
Approximately one-third of Roma lived in socially excluded communities. While the law prohibits housing discrimination based on ethnicity, NGOs stated some municipalities discriminated against certain socially disadvantaged groups, primarily Roma, and based their decisions not to provide housing on the allegedly bad reputation of Roma. Unemployment in these communities was 31 percent, compared to 6 percent or less in nearby areas.
The 2017 amendment to the law addressing poverty, which was intended to solve housing problems, had the opposite effect in some cases. The amendment reduced government housing subsidies in areas that cities designated as undesirable for a variety of reasons, including poor living conditions and high crime. Some cities began to use this designation as an instrument to push Roma and other low-income citizens into a city’s periphery. Several senators initiated a constitutional complaint and requested the Senate to annul certain provisions of the law. The case was pending at the end of September.
The government decided in April to launch an investment program focused on building new public housing units and providing social services through two projects totaling 1.35 billion crowns ($58 million). In December the city of Most approved funding to build housing out of shipping containers in the Chanov housing division. The ombudsperson and the Agency for Social Inclusion previously criticized the plan on the grounds it would contribute to residential segregation. The Agency for Social Inclusion also called for Chanov’s gradual closure.
Roma were the most frequent targets of hate speech on the internet.
In April the Constitutional Court ruled a lower court was wrong not to consider Romani singer Radoslav Banga an injured party from racist online posts or to ask for his testimony during trial. In 2016 Banga posted on Facebook that he had walked out of the Czech Nightingale music awards ceremony to protest an award given to Ortel, a band associated with the far right. In response one commenter on Facebook called for a “white homeland” and for minorities to be sent to gas chambers. Authorities identified the commenter, a student, who was subsequently sentenced to 100 hours of community service for displaying sympathy towards a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms.
In the months following President Zeman’s September 2018 comment suggesting Roma chose not to work, approximately 9,000 Roma posted photos of themselves working.
In 2018 the government bought a pig farm located on the site of a WWII-era concentration camp for Roma in Lety for 450 million crowns ($18 million) and officially handed it over to the Museum of Romani Culture to build a memorial to Romani Holocaust victims. The Ministry of Culture also provided the museum with a facility in September to open a Roma and Sinti Center in Prague by 2023.
In August Communist leader Vojtech Filip blamed rising pork prices on the pig farm’s closure. Filip claimed on Twitter the closure lowered pork production by 30 percent and questioned whether the pig farm overlapped with the former WWII site. His comments were denounced by the Museum of Romani Culture.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The country has antidiscrimination laws that prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons in housing, employment, and access to health care, and the government generally enforced such laws. The country does not have specific hate crime provisions covering sexual orientation and gender identity. The number of incidents of violence based on sexual orientation was low. Local LGBTI leaders stated citizens were largely tolerant of LGBTI persons but feared society tended generally to be more divided and intolerant to minority groups.
In May the ombudsperson issued the results of a survey on LGBTI rights. Approximately half of LGBTI persons surveyed reported believing lesbians and gays were able to live as they wish, while a third believed this was true for transgender persons. Among transgender persons, 86 percent reported experiencing discrimination in the last five years, compared to 58 percent of lesbian and 33 percent of gay persons. More than a third of LGBTI persons surveyed claimed they had faced discrimination in the previous five years, which was three times higher than for the general population. Of LGBTI survey participants, 91 percent indicated they did not report incidents of discrimination to authorities because they believed the incidents were either minor or that authorities would not take action. The most common locations where discrimination against LGBTI persons occurred were at work and school.
During Prague Pride Week in August, an individual set fire to a rainbow flag and fired flares at visitors to Pride Village–the main site of Prague Pride activities. The night before the event’s parade, 20 liters of oil were poured onto a staircase near the end of the parade route. Pride week organizers also reported a similar incident at a gay nightclub in Ostrava during Ostrava Pride Week. Prague municipal cleaning services removed the oil before the parade, and police were investigating the incidents. Police also detained 10 far-right protesters who attempted to assault parade participants.
Transgender individuals are required to be sterilized in order to obtain a sex change or receive legal gender recognition. The Council of Europe found this practice contrary to EU member commitments on the protection of health. The ombudsperson recommended the government should submit amendments to relevant laws. In May the Supreme Administrative Court ruled, contrary to the European Court for Human Rights, the sterilization requirement was legitimate.
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 several cases of discrimination, primarily in access to health care, especially due to the legal requirement to inform every doctor when a patient is HIV-positive. The cases were usually unsolved or ended in mediation. HIV/AIDS is classified as a disability under the antidiscrimination law, which contributed to the stigmatization of and discrimination against HIV-positive individuals. Individuals with HIV/AIDS often preferred to keep their status confidential rather than file a complaint, which observers believed led to underreporting the problem. The Czech AIDS Help Society noted most insurance companies did not provide health insurance to persons with HIV/AIDS.
The Czech AIDS Help Society reported the judicial system lacked qualified experts knowledgeable about technical HIV/AIDS issues. At the end of 2018, the NGO successfully lobbied to a regional health office in Prague to change procedures that previously resulted in some persons with HIV/AIDS receiving fines that year for unsafe sexual health practices.
Other Societal Violence and Discrimination
Observers noted an increase in discrimination against foreign nationals as well as hate or violence against individuals with different political views. There were frequent verbal, online, and sometimes physical attacks on human rights activists, NGO representatives, and some politicians. Observers reported hate crimes were not sufficiently recognized by police, prosecutors, and judges, who often lacked either will or adequate knowledge.
After several racist online attacks in January against Czech-Ethiopian MP Dominik Feri that did not lead to any prosecution, two men attacked Feri at an event in April. Feri was hospitalized with light injuries. Although a witness heard one of the attackers address Feri using a racial slur, the prosecutor did not believe race played a factor in the assault. The prosecutor elected to postpone indicting the attackers. If the attackers do not commit a crime or misdemeanor within 15 months, the case will not go to court. Feri stated he did not intend to file a complaint and that the prosecutor’s solution was “sufficient.”
The director of an NGO that provides legal support to hate crime victims was the victim of online attacks, including death threats, on Facebook in two separate cases in 2017 and 2018. Police initially considered the first case a minor offense and imposed a 5,000 crown ($200) fine. In the second case, an appeals court downgraded the case to a misdemeanor and moved the case to the local government at the beginning of the year. In both instances, prosecutors did not believe the director was in danger, either because the posts were not on her personal profile or because she did not block the commenter.
In 2014 a hotel owner in Ostrava was fined 50,000 crowns ($2,100) for refusing to accommodate Russian tourists unless they signed a form condemning the Russian government’s 2014 occupation of Crimea. The owner appealed, and the Supreme Administrative Court ruled discrimination occurred but agreed to lower the fine. In April a Constitutional Court judge reviewed the owner’s constitutional appeal and ruled business owners are free to refuse their services based on their personal opinion.
NGOs actively worked to combat anti-Muslim attitudes, although violence and hate against Muslims and their allies remained widespread. A prosecutor indicted a couple in June for the July 2018 attack on a Muslim woman and her husband. The couple confronted the woman and her husband in a park in Teplice with an air gun and threatened to kill them. The case was pending. An anonymous person posted an article in reaction to the investigation, calling for the investigating officer to be killed and containing false information about the case. Although police began investigating the case, it was ultimately dropped.
In December the Supreme Court overturned the Prague Municipal Court’s 2017 decision that a female Muslim student could not wear a hijab to a secondary medical school. The court stated religious pluralism must be respected.