Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, including of women and men, including spousal rape, as well as domestic or intimate partner violence, and provides for a penalty of two to 10 years in prison for violations, with longer sentences in aggravated circumstances. Although the government enforced the law effectively, some police officers and judges implicitly condoned gender-based or domestic violence.
NGOs called for revising the definition of the crime of rape to focus on the victim’s lack of consent and not on evidence of violence. Women’s advocates pointed out that rape survivors who do not resist rape out of fear for their life or safety often lack evidence that both the investigators and the courts typically required (e.g., bruises, bleeding, and other injuries).
In April, a court decided a woman had not been raped by her partner. The woman had told her partner she did not want to have sex with him but had then said “okay, rape me” after the man insisted. The court decided the behavior fulfilled all indicators of a rape; however, it could not be classified as rape due to the given consent of the victim based on the country’s criminal definition of rape.
Observers reported prosecutors and judges in rape cases sometimes lacked knowledge on the subject and cited a shortage of experienced judicial experts. Penalties were often low, and only half of all sentences included prison time.
Perpetrators of spousal rape, including brutal attacks, were frequently given inadequate sentences, including probation. Observers acknowledged that conditional sentences were more often correctly combined with restraining orders that effectively protected victims from perpetrators.
NGOs cited a continued lack of funding as a constraint on their ability not only to lobby for equal opportunities for women and men, but also to provide other services to sexually abused women or survivors of domestic violence. NGOs highlighted that organizations providing pro bono assistance to survivors could no longer access Ministry of Justice funds to cover the costs of those services.
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 government generally enforced the law effectively.
The government supported shelters and NGOs working with survivors. It also funded a widely used hotline for gender-based violence crimes, including domestic violence. The government continued training police officers on responding to domestic violence. It also contributed to the creation and use of a mobile app and website financed by Vodafone Foundation that provided practical support and information on how to respond to domestic violence.
A research report released in April by the Institute of Sociology of the Academy of Sciences and the NGO ProFem showed that the system of assistance to survivors of domestic violence and violence between partners was fragmented and individual services were not linked. The report found cases were often downplayed, and only physical outbursts were considered serious; solutions were complicated due to the lack of housing for victims; and prevention was underfunded.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and treats it as a form of direct discrimination. Although the government generally enforced the law effectively, approximately one-third of women in a 2021 survey reported instances of verbal harassment and nonconsensual touching. 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.
In reaction to numerous cases of sexual harassment, sexism, and abuse of power previously reported by university students, many universities established an ombudsperson position in 2021 and during the year. While specific mandates varied, generally the universities charged the ombudsmen with investigating cases of unequal treatment of students and staff and improving the academic environment through education on sexual harassment and discrimination. Offenders convicted of stalking may receive sentences of up to three years in prison.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
Transgender individuals are required to be sterilized to obtain gender altering surgery or receive legal gender recognition (see Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity or Expression, or Sex Characteristics).
In 2021, the government passed legislation to compensate women who were involuntarily sterilized between 1966 and 2012. Under the law eligible women are entitled to compensation of CZK 300,000 ($14,000). According to estimates, there were approximately 400 women, primarily Roma, who were sterilized without their knowledge or full and informed consent during that period and were eligible for compensation. Observers claimed, however, that implementation of the law was problematic. The main problem was noncompliance with the 60-day legal deadline and nonrecognition of evidence other than medical records despite being permitted under the law. As of August, 261 applications were submitted but only 74 cases had been decided; of those, only 35 received a positive determination. In August, a group of sterilized women sent an open letter to the prime minister and health minister calling on the government to ensure a more effective compensation process and greater cooperation between the authorities that assess applications and experts working on the topic. In November, a court in Prague ruled the government, specifically the Ministry of Health, must help applicants for compensation to prove their claims.
Individuals had access to safe, effective, and affordable methods of family planning and contraception. The government does not allow women access to artificial insemination if using the cells of an anonymous donor without the written consent of their partner, and medical providers can use artificial insemination only for opposite-sex couples. Unmarried persons, persons who do not have consent from a partner, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons are ineligible to receive treatment.
Women had access to health-care services for pregnancy and childbirth and to provide parents with the best chance of having a healthy infant. Some observers reported that Roma women faced obstructions in access to health care in general, including to reproductive health care.
The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence as well as access to emergency health care, including services for the management of complications arising from abortion. Emergency contraception was available, but women had to cover the costs of emergency contraception themselves.
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, which affected Roma women in particular. The government generally enforced the law effectively.
The government acknowledged the country continued to lag behind other EU member states in gender equality. Observers cited obstacles to achieving gender equality, including women holding most household and childcare responsibilities and professional and societal stereotypes.
On September 1, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs began accepting applications for a CZK 500 ($20) monthly payment to individuals who took parental leave. The government policy was aimed at reducing the old-age pension gap between men and women caused by the use of parental leave, which results in women typically having fewer years of service.
There were NGO reports of alleged hate crimes, including hate speech, targeted at women based on gender, which were not taken seriously or handled adequately by police and the courts. In March, the Constitutional Court ruled that long-term harassment through hateful messages must not be trivialized, and serious cases of violations of privacy and human dignity should be dealt with by criminal courts. This ruling was related to a case in which the director of a leading NGO focusing on hate crimes received repeated death threats and emails containing sexually explicit content. Earlier legal proceedings had not provided the individual with compensation or led to criminal charges against the perpetrator. Most of the cases had been dealt with by misdemeanor courts.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
The law prohibits discrimination and hate speech against members of racial and ethnic minority groups. The government generally enforced the law effectively. The situation of the Roma minority remained one of the country’s most pressing human rights problems. Despite partial successes, marginalization, social exclusion, and territorial segregation of some Roma continued. Moreover, Roma faced daily prejudice, intolerance, and discrimination in education, housing, and employment.
In the first half of the year, the ombudsman recorded 13 complaints alleging discrimination on the grounds of race or ethnic origin, of which eight were on the grounds of Roma origin/Roma ethnicity. Observers confirmed the number of complaints alleging discrimination against Roma was lower compared with previous years, which they said could be explained by lower trust in the Ombudsman’s Office by Roma due to the ombudsman’s controversial statements or because of Russia’s war against Ukraine, which shifted the attention of many extremist anti-Roma groups toward the Czech Republic’s support for Ukraine and the energy crisis (see section 2.a.).
In September, the director of a housing cooperative published an apology for defamatory statements made about a Roma woman who was a member of the government Roma council. In May 2021, the district court in Most ordered the director to issue the apology and to pay compensation of CZK 50,000 ($2,000) to the Roma woman after he insulted her in the media.
Approximately one-third of Roma lived in socially excluded communities and continued to face difficulties obtaining both public and private housing. This occurred despite the 2021 Constitutional Court annulment of a 2017 amendment to the law addressing poverty that some municipalities used as a tool to push Roma and other low-income citizens to the peripheries of cities. Securing housing was also a problem for Roma who fled Ukraine following Russia’s full-scale invasion (see section 1.e.).
Reports published by PAQ Research estimated approximately one-third of Roma refugees from Ukraine had encountered intolerance in the country, and every sixth Roma refugee had experienced discrimination from government authorities.
The Mayor of Bilina openly refused the government’s request to provide housing to Roma children younger than 14 and their female relatives in a privately owned apartment building or anywhere else in the town. The mayor called the children and women of Roma origin “inadaptables.”
In June, the ombudsman issued a recommendation for municipalities not to deny housing requests for Roma refugees from Ukraine based solely on their ethnic origin. The ombudsman said that if municipalities refused to accommodate such refugees in state facilities because of ethnicity, it might be an incitement to discrimination. Some municipalities responded by providing accommodation to Roma refugees from Ukraine.
The ombudsman investigated the functionality of the regional coordination centers responsible for assisting refugees from Ukraine (KACPU). Based on a review of the regional registration center in Prague, the ombudsman found that Roma arriving from Ukraine were treated differently than other refugees. The ombudsman also investigated the case of a Roma mother with three children who did not have accommodation and was not allowed by the Brno KACPU to apply for temporary protected status. The ombudsman recommended that everyone must be able to submit a request for temporary protection, regardless of whether they have accommodation.
The government took some steps to mitigate discrimination against Roma by appointing the first-ever Roma commissioner, by addressing poverty with special financial support to families with low incomes, and by educating the public and promoting Roma culture and heritage. The government continued to fund the establishment of a new Roma cultural center in Prague in a property donated to the Museum of Roma Culture by the Ministry of Culture in 2021. The government also funded the demolition of a communist-era pig farm at the site of a World War II concentration camp for Roma in the town of Lety, which began in July.
Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship from their parents and not by birth within the country’s territory. Any child with at least one citizen parent is automatically a citizen. There were no reports of denial or lack of access to birth registration on a discriminatory basis. Authorities registered births immediately.
Education: Insufficient language support to school children who do not speak Czech as their first language increased with the rising number of foreigners residing in the country; however, the government made efforts to hire Ukrainian support staff and teachers to lead special groups for Ukrainian pupils. The government ensured Ukrainian children could attend obligatory basic education. It was difficult, however, for Ukrainian refugees to enroll in secondary schools with only a quarter attending secondary school in the country. More than half received online instruction from Ukraine, and the remaining 19 percent received no schooling. Of the 67,000 Ukrainian children who were registered at schools in the country, approximately 10,000 did not start the school year. In an effort to improve the situation, in November the Czech and Ukrainian governments signed an education cooperation agreement that provides mutual recognition of each state’s education programs.
School segregation of Roma children remained a problem. Following the 2007 judgment of the ECHR in D.H. and Others v. Czech Republic, the government is obliged to prevent the inappropriate placement of Roma into segregated schools, and to integrate them into schools with the general population. Children who attended segregated schools were found to have lower academic attainment and fewer employment opportunities due to the lower quality of education and decreased social integration.
In September, the ECHR announced an out of court settlement after six years under which the government agreed to pay CZK 100,000 ($4,000) to a Roma man who was represented by the European Roma Rights Center for placing him in a special school in 1985 on the grounds of his Roma origin. The government was given three months to pay.
Despite legislative changes in 2016 to expand the use of inclusive education, the situation improved only slightly. Observers criticized the continued use of a controversial diagnostic tool for children’s mental and intellectual abilities and a ministerial decree that limits the use of supporting measures and assistants. According to a survey issued by the ombudsman in May for the 2020-21 school year, 25.3 percent of the total number of primary school students who attended segregated programs were Roma (compared with 24.2 percent in the previous school year); Roma students comprised 3.6 percent of the total primary school population.
Observers praised the government for offering free lunches at preschool education facilities, as parents’ inability to pay for lunches was often the main reason Roma children did not attend preschool programs.
Child Abuse: Prison sentences for persons found guilty of child abuse range from five to 12 years. The law requires citizens to report suspected cases of child abuse.
The government actively focused on combating and preventing child abuse during its presidency of the Council of the European Union and initiated several new activities during the year. In October, the Ministry of Interior funded research to determine whether child abuse in the country following the COVID-19 pandemic was still more prevalent among socially excluded families, households suffering from poor communication and stress, households inhabited by persons addicted to substances or gambling, foreigners and ethnic minorities, children of juvenile parents, young single mothers and other disadvantaged persons, and children who were homeless or disabled. The ministry also launched activities to improve the effectiveness of the national system of early intervention for children to improve communication and interventions of regional and local institutions. In May, a court sentenced a social worker from Prague to a five-month conditional sentence for failing to attempt to see a Roma girl, age six, who was declared missing in 2017, during repeated visits to the girl’s place of residence. The social worker was forced to resign from her position.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 18. The law allows for marriage at the age of 16 with court approval.
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 are punishable by a prison term of up to 12 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. The most frequent cases involved distribution of child pornography. These laws were generally enforced.
In May, a foreign national, who had previously been sentenced based on evidence collected during the filming of the In the Net documentary to 15 months in prison for contacting an underage girl on the internet, tried to arrange a personal meeting with her. The court sentenced him to an additional nine months of imprisonment for similar behavior and attempts to spread pornography, abusing a child for its production, establishing illicit contact with a child, and endangering her upbringing.
Displaced Children: The International Protection of Children Agency reported 140 unaccompanied children from Ukraine fled to the country as refugees as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs reported there were a total 30,000 displaced children from Ukraine in the country, including those who arrived with individuals other than their parents.
Institutionalized Children: More than 6,500 children younger than 18 were in institutional care. The 2021 legislation that forbids placement of children up to three years of age in so-called infant care centers by 2025 led to a significant drop in the number of children placed in those institutions during the year.
The infant centers are government-funded institutions. Experts had criticized the centers for a variety of reasons, including their cost, quality of care, unavailability of specialist care (e.g., from psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists), and the fact that children admitted to the centers must be separated from their parents to receive government assistance. In preparation for the closure of so-called infant care centers, authorities opened several centers during the year that offered support to parents, especially mothers who have difficulty taking care of their infants. As a result, these infants were no longer placed in institutionalized care. The government also increased support to foster parents. Nonetheless, experts claimed there was still a lack of preventive services in some regions to resolve problems related to housing and other issues before infants needed to be placed in care centers. Government data indicated that nearly half of infants in these care centers were Roma. Experts claimed poverty, reluctance of foster parents to care for Roma children, and general discrimination against Roma contributed to the problem. In March, the ombudsman found that children in the Vysocina children’s home were treated badly and lived in a stressful and harmful environment. Based on the ombudsman’s recommendation, the director of the facility resigned. The governor promised to provide maximum cooperation and support in ensuring increased psychological and therapeutic care for the children and staff of the facility. Subsequently, the ombudsman issued a report from a series of visits to 12 facilities for children ages three to 18 who could not be cared for by their biological or foster families. The report made systemic recommendations for improvements that were implemented.
There were approximately 10,000 Jews in the country, approximately 3,000 of whom are registered members of the Federation of Jewish Communities. Expressions of antisemitism in public were rare, but small, well-organized right-wing groups with antisemitic views were active. Antisemitic hate speech on the internet increased and constituted the vast majority of antisemitic incidents in the country. The Ministry of Interior continued to monitor the activities of such groups and cooperated with police from neighboring countries as well as the local Jewish community.
The Ministry of Interior recorded 37 criminal offenses related to antisemitism in 2021. The Federation of Jewish Communities reported 1,128 incidents with antisemitic motives in 2021, of which 98 percent were cases of hate speech on the internet. The report included one case of physical assault, three cases of property damage, and five cases of threats or harassment.
In January, the district court in Zdar nad Sazavou convicted the publisher of a book on the grounds of denying the Holocaust and justifying genocide and imposed a fine of CZK 45,000 ($1,800) to the publisher and CZK 15,000 ($600) to its executive officer.
The government continued to implement the 2021-2026 Counterextremism and Hate Crime Strategy that emphasizes communication, prevention, and education to curb extremism and combat hostility of radicals. The strategy also addresses extremism and hate crimes on the internet.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity or Expression, or Sex Characteristics
Criminalization: No laws criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults.
Violence against LGBTQI+ Persons: NGOs identified 57 reports of homophobic hate crimes during the year, compared with 32 reports in 2021. Those reports included both verbal and physical attacks on LGBTQI+ individuals.
In December, four men verbally attacked two gay men in Brno using homophobic language and broke the arm of one.
In August, there was an anonymous bomb threat immediately prior to the start of the Prague Pride parade. Police resolved the issue quickly, and the event was not affected, with as many as 60,000 persons participating.
Discrimination: Laws prohibit discrimination by state and nonstate actors based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics, and it recognizes LGBTQI+ individuals, couples, and their families, but the law does not provide equal rights. The law also prohibits discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons in housing, employment, and access to health care, and the government generally enforced the law. Experts continued to criticize the fact the country does not have specific hate crime provisions in its criminal code covering sexual orientation and gender identity. Laws allow registered partnerships of same-sex couples but not marriage. The law on victims of crimes covers lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender minorities, but they are not considered “particularly vulnerable persons” and are not entitled to additional legal protections, unlike children, seniors, victims of trafficking or terrorism, and, as of 2021, rape and domestic violence victims.
Registered partners cannot adopt a child together, and the judiciary does not recognize the adoption in a foreign country of a child by a same-sex couple. Moreover, the Constitutional Court rejected in 2021 a proposal of the regional court in Prague to abolish a part of the country’s civil legislation to allow such recognition.
NGOs reported that misleading associations of the monkeypox outbreak with the gay community and bisexual men created stigmatization.
In May, research conducted by the MindBridge Consulting agency showed that 65 percent of citizens in the country support legalization of same-sex marriage. In connection with the significant national debate on this issue, parliament began reviewing the second version of proposed legislation in June. Several members of parliament who opposed the measure proposed a constitutional change that would define marriage as between a man and a woman.
Availability of Legal Gender Recognition: The official change of gender is only available to persons who undergo gender reassignment surgery. Transgender individuals are required to be sterilized to obtain gender altering surgery and receive legal gender recognition. Gender altering surgery is allowed only for single or divorced persons who have a minimum of one year of hormonal therapy and “acting” as the desired gender.
Involuntary or Coercive Medical or Psychological Practices Specifically Targeting LGBTQI+ Individuals: Transgender individuals are required to be sterilized to obtain gender altering surgery and receive legal gender recognition. The Council of Europe found this practice contrary to EU member commitments on the protection of health. The ombudsman recommended that the government submit amendments to relevant laws to eliminate the sterilization requirement. In March, however, the Constitutional Court confirmed that the sterilization requirement was legal. In June, the complainant sent the case to the ECHR. The case was pending at the end of the year. A leading NGO found that many comments from high-level public figures related to discussions on obligatory sterilization of transgender persons were viewed as psychologically harmful to LGBTQI+ persons and as inciting hatred.
Restrictions of Freedom of Expression, Association, or Peaceful Assembly: There were no such restrictions on those speaking out about LGBTQI+ issues or on the ability of LGBTQI+ organizations to legally register or convene events such as Pride.
Persons with Disabilities
Persons with disabilities faced problems accessing public buildings and public transportation on an equal basis with others. The country does not have a unified law governing access for disabled persons. Instead, pieces of legislation in various areas (education, transport, health, construction) contain accessibility provisions linked to technical or EU-approved standards. Experts reported that only buildings built since 2009 or modifications to older buildings require compliance with these standards, while access to older buildings posed a problem. A government working group was created to review the accessibility of government buildings by the end of the year. Its findings were to be reported in the first half of 2023.
Government communication was not always accessible, and the government often relied on the public television service to fill this gap. There was a general absence of videos in sign language and materials in easy-to-read formats for persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities on government websites. After a two-year delay, the government implemented in September an EU directive to make television broadcasting more accessible to persons with visual and hearing impairments. Persons with disabilities organizations criticized the law implementing the directive, which reportedly includes loopholes for broadcasters.
The government continued implementing the National Plan for the Promotion of Equal Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities 2021-2025, the seventh such plan since 1992.
The most recent survey of the ombudsman, in 2020, identified restrictions on disabled persons’ legal capacity to make financial judgments and to vote as the most significant disability issues, calling them a “deprivation of rights.” Nearly half of the persons with disabilities under guardianships had court restrictions on their voting rights. During the year, the ombudsman drew attention again to a persistent lack of comprehensive legal regulation of guardianship and supporting measures for adult persons with disabilities.
According to the law, only children with “significant” disabilities may attend segregated schools with specially trained teachers. Many children with disabilities were able to attend mainstream primary and secondary schools and universities, but funding for additional educational support, such as teaching assistants and equipment, remained insufficient.
In March, the NGO Spolu published results of its research on the ability of parents responsible for the care of children with special education to freely decide where their children should be educated. One-fifth of these parents received a suggestion or request from school personnel that their child should be transferred to another school. The most common inappropriate school practices included making attendance at school events outside of school contingent on being accompanied by a parent, making parents responsible for providing an assistant to an after-school club, or requiring the child to be moved to another school.
A survey conducted among public and private universities for the academic year 2020/21 showed a 350 percent increase in the number of enrolled students with special needs compared with 2011. Universities offered a full range of support measures, such as time compensation, individual teaching, personal and study assistance, spatial orientation, transcription, interpreting and note-taking services, to a greater extent than did primary and secondary educational institutions.
Research conducted in 2021 and during the year by the InIusticia NGO showed that 76 percent of persons with disabilities faced some form of violence at some point in their lives, including verbal violence, intimidation, or threats of violence. A significant proportion of the respondents also reported experiencing physical or sexual assaults. A handful of victims reported the assaults to police.
Disability was among the most common grounds for alleged discrimination in cases submitted to the ombudsman in 2021. Of the 543 claims of discrimination filed with the ombudsman, 93 were based on alleged discrimination due to disability. In the courts, approximately 23 percent of equal treatment cases were based on claimed disability, making it the most frequently invoked grounds for claiming discrimination in 2020.
In July the Supreme Court confirmed a decision of a district court in Prague that had delivered the first-ever ruling on reasonable accommodation for a public service employee. The plaintiff, a prison educator with a physical disability, sought reassignment to a work location closer to his home due to negative effects to his health of a 180-mile commute. The court found that the employer’s refusal to provide the accommodation amounted to discrimination on the grounds of disability and ordered the employer to cover lost wages and pay damages. The lower court had not determined the amount of compensation by the end of the year.
The Ombudsman’s Office reported to the government in June that the restrictions imposed on the functioning of public authorities during the COVID-19 pandemic had a less favorable impact on persons with disabilities and recommended that the crisis management law be amended. The government promised to prepare a comprehensive revision of the crisis management legislation.
In November media reported the killing of a woman with disabilities and a related, controversial court decision from November 2021. A Prague court reduced to three years the sentence of a social worker who killed a resident of a home for persons with disabilities in Jindrichuv Hradec in January 2021. The social worker allegedly went to calm the woman but instead laid her down, twisted her arms, and pushed her on the chest until she fell unconscious and suffocated. Although a regional court sentenced the social worker to 10 years in prison for committing murder in September 2021, the appeals court subsequently reclassified the incident as killing by negligence. Observers questioned the justification of the second verdict.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Persons with HIV and AIDS faced societal discrimination, although there were no reported cases of violence. HIV and AIDS were classified as a disability under the antidiscrimination law, which contributed to the stigmatization of and discrimination against HIV-positive individuals. Individuals with HIV or AIDS often preferred to keep their status confidential rather than file a complaint, which observers believed led to underreporting of the problem. The Czech AIDS Help Society reported most insurance companies did not provide health insurance to persons with HIV and AIDS. NGOs reported that some physicians refused to treat HIV-positive patients.
Fear, stigma, and basic misinformation continued to be grounds for discrimination and led to the exclusion of persons with HIV from both the private and working spheres and limited their employment opportunities. NGOs prepared a brochure for HIV-positive refugees from Ukraine that contained practical information regarding diagnosis and treatment, and regulations surrounding treatment.