Slovakia

Slovakia

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Gender-political situation in Slovakia

Contents:

Legal situation:

Protagonists:

Academia:

Brief description and evaluation
A distinguishing feature of Slovak society is its persistent adherence to traditional gender roles. As a result, Slovak women face discrimination on the labour market, in the health sector, and in the academic or political fields. Traditional role models are conveyed early on in schools, which, among other things, has an effect on the future career options of pupils.

Quotation from the document:

Negative cultural practices and education
(...) the Committee is concerned about the persistence of traditional stereotypes regarding the roles and tasks of women and men in the family and in society at large, including in specific areas, such as the labour market, the health sector, academia and politics, that are strongly conditioned by traditional views. The Committee expresses concern at the persistence of gender stereotypes prevailing in school textbooks, which is a root cause of the traditional academic choices of boys and girls. The Committee is also concerned at the insufficient access to sex education in schools, which does not seem to meet the needs of girls and boys or to contribute to the fulfilment of the State party’s responsibilities in that regard.

Slovakia is influenced by an older, national and Christian tradition. Women’s policy only works whenever emphasis is placed on the loyalty of women to men and the fulfilment of tasks is for the exclusive benefit of preserving the nation. Slovakia’s social structure is traditionally rural.

Discussions on women in politics, sparked by NGOs and a handful of women politicians, remain quantitative and superficial. The balance of power between men and women is never called into question. Even women politicians hold these views.

Initiatives advocating equal opportunities for men and women have been forced to deal with the high degree of aversion towards the “dirty business” of politics. Anti-feminist mindsets, conservative perceptions of the woman’s role, and the liberal-capitalist legitimisation of politics hamper progress in this area.

The country’s socialist past has also proven to be a stumbling block to the implementation of legislation in support of equal opportunities. Left-wing parties have rejected gender equality measures for fear of being accused of upholding communist views.

For the majority of Slovaks, the family is the most important unit. Generally speaking, women with small children are perceived to be unsuitable for political life.

The structure of political institutions is far removed from what was demanded and subscribed to in declarations and treaties. There are no checks and balances. The “Concept of Equal Opportunities” was not the result of the combined efforts of various actors such as the government, NGOs, women’s organisations, etc. NGOs have merely been allowed to make comments. The evaluation was not an independent and objective process (see also under Government and ministries).

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Legal situation

Gender equality law
Every gender equality treaty has been signed in the course of accession negotiations. Although gender equality has not become a political goal, a handful of tools have been created for the purpose of implementing this policy.

Legislative level:
The present Slovak legislation in the area of the equality of opportunities is largely
compatible with the EC gender equality legislation. No specific law on gender equality exists in Slovakia, but the individual provisions of the EC directives have been incorporated, particularly in the Anti-discrimination Act.

Institutional level:
The institutional framework of gender equality is insufficient in Slovakia. One of the key problems is based on an insufficient budget allocation for the work of the relevant institutions working in the area of gender equality, such as the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights.

The Gender Equality and Equal Opportunities department, or, its equivalent, the Office for Equal Opportunities and Anti-Discrimination, is under the remit of the state secretary of the ministry, who, in turn, reports to the minister, Jozef Mihál. Furthermore, there are four central sections, one of which is the “Section of Social and Family Policy”. Here, there is no one department that deals exclusively with gender equality issues but rather various departments which, for example, focus on the following: family support, integration of disabled people or the protection of children and the family.
It is discernible that great importance is attached to family values in Slovakia, that these values are, as it were, institutionalised within the ministry in the shape of own departments.

Institutional level:
The Department for Gender Equality and Equal Opportunities of the Ministry of Labour, which performs tasks related to the administrative and technical safeguarding of the Council’s activities, fails to create the conditions allowing the members of the committees of the Council to acquire information about prepared and implemented changes in legislation and to submit their comments to these changes. Such initiative is desirable also because it may help the systematic application of the gender aspect in the legislative process, which is not applied yet in Slovakia.

The senior ministry is the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family of the Slovak Republic.

Its main content focus includes: employment, social and pension policy. Some of the specific issues it addresses include: dealing with disabilities and material hardship, as well as social and legal protection for children and the coordination of family policy.

Contact:
Špitalska 4,6,8
816 43 Bratislava
Slovak Republic
Tel.: + 421 2 2046 0000

Details of points of contact: Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family of the Slovak Republic (in English) - Contacts

Further institutions:

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Anti-discrimination law
The Anti-Discrimination Act was passed in 2004 (May). Slovakia has no legislation prohibiting discrimination because of participation in power or in decision-making processes. There are no separate statutory regulations in support of specific measures promoting the establishment of equal opportunities. Proposals to this effect – such as the introduction of a quota for women in regional elections – have proven unsuccessful.

On 3 June 2010, the European Commission sent Slovakia a so-called reasoned opinion reprimanding the country in connection with the EU directives governing the equal treatment of women and men on the labour market.

The Commission took this step, the final one before going to the Court of Justice, after Slovakia had failed to transpose the directives agreed at EU level into its national legislation.
The Commission had instituted infringement proceedings against Slovakia in June 2007. In the second stage of these proceedings, it pointed out that the directive prohibits gender-based discrimination in employment unless specific occupational requirements necessitate this. Slovakia has not correctly implemented this restriction as specified in Article 2, Section 6 of the Directive.

Slovak law does not grant women returning to work after their maternity leave all of the rights that they are entitled to under Article 2, Section 7 of the Directive. Consequently, they have no guarantees that they will benefit from all of the improvements in working conditions which they would have been entitled to during their absence or that, on their return to work, they will be given a job of equal standing or be allowed to work on the same terms as before.

Article 3, Section 1(a) of the Directive, which prohibits any direct or indirect discrimination with respect to access to gainful employment or self-employment, has not been expressly transposed into Slovak law.   

Directive 2002/73/EC is the cornerstone of EU legislation governing the equal treatment of women and men. It aims to implement the principle of equal treatment in employment and occupation and defines the concepts of direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and sexual harassment. It also prescribes the establishment of one or more agencies whose task it is to promote, analyse, observe and support the implementation of the equal treatment of all people without discrimination based on gender. The deadline for transposing the Directive into national law was 5 October 2005.

Page 166:
The Anti-discrimination Act also allows exceptions to the principle of equal treatment. Objectively justified by a legitimate aim, the differences in treatment on grounds of sex shall not be deemed to constitute discrimination where they consist of determining different retirement ages for men and women, and their purpose is to protect the provision of services and goods more favourably to members of one sex.

Page 171:
The social partners still pay little attention to equal opportunity. Trade unions primarily try to negotiate the highest possible increase in wages and the greatest degree of job security for employees. Equal opportunity issues which have been included in collective agreements have mostly concerned the working conditions of pregnant women and employees taking care of young children.

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Laws on quotas, above all in the political and economic fields.
No quotas exist. Recent polls reveal that the majority of Slovaks are in favour of a fixed number of seats in parliament being “reserved” for women.

Iveta Radicová, Slovakia’s Prime Minister, does not think much of quotas for women.

derStandard.at: “Slovak politics is also heavily patriarchal in a Central and Eastern European context. Do you see yourself as someone who can open doors?”
Iveta Radicova: “Women in Czechoslovakia were given the right to vote in 1919, so just over 90 years ago. This is an important point. Especially after the collapse of Communism in 1989, women were very quick to participate in the democratic process and fill top political posts. Little by little, admittedly, but through a natural process. I don’t believe in quotas for women at all. I hope my election campaign is a sign for women that it is possible to actively participate in politics.”

  • Source: derStandard.at: "Von Frauenquoten halte ich nichts" (Interview: 18.3.2009)

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Other laws/statutory regulations and government programmes

Political developments
A National Action Plan for Gender Equality exists for the years 2010-2013 (NAP), which was compiled by the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family and thus entails problems and rejection.

Page 141:
The main problem of the draft NAP is that it was not preceded by public and expert discussion, leading to the elaboration of a comprehensive and conceptual document. Due to many weaknesses in the submitted draft, NGOs have requested the Government not to approve this document in its present form, but to complete it with active involvement of all interested ministries and non-government organizations and to adopt a quality document with adequate financial coverage.

In the area of economy and social affairs, the effort to develop mechanisms for the cross-sectional application of the gender aspect in all measures and decisions, to which the Government has committed itself in its Manifesto, is lacking.

In the area of education, the objective of the NAP is to include the gender issues in the pedagogic and organizational instructions, although the content and process of implementation are not clearly defined. The education of teachers and pedagogic managers, who should have been the main actors in the enforcement of gender equality in education, is fully absent.

The NAP does not sufficiently deal with the area of healthcare and reproductive health which has key importance for the area of gender equality. It does not contain measures to solve multiple discrimination of certain groups of women – e.g. Roma women, single mothers, non-heterosexual women or older women. It also omits many institutional solutions, such as the creation of the function of Deputy Prime Minister for gender equality, without which the long-awaited changes in the area of gender equality cannot be achieved. The solution of issues of women’s access to justice is equally unsatisfactory. On the one hand, the NAP mentions the support of temporary compensatory measures, but on the other hand, it does not propose any changes in the relevant legislation that is required for their implementation.

A National Action Plan for women in Slovakia exists which was prepared far up in the government bureaucracy chain but was not made public. It is based neither on feminist reflections nor on the philosophy of women’s and men’s rights. The NAP’s focus leaned heavily towards the role of women as mothers (for which the Slovak government was criticised by the CEDAW Committee – see text in preamble.)

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Current political discourse
Government programme: “Manifesto Of The Government Of The Slovak Republic For The Period Of 2010 – 2014; August 2010

Throughout the 58-page government manifesto, the word ‘gender’ is mentioned one single time:

Page 24
The Government will pursue a more effective and flexible functioning of all institutions and mechanisms serving for the protection and promotion of human rights, such as the Slovak National Centre for Human programmes and institutional mechanisms to protect the human rights of marginalised and disadvantaged groups in the population. In making, implementing and evaluating government policies and their impacts, the Government will enforce measures to eliminate gender-based discrimination.

From page 27 onwards, focus is placed on the traditional family: raise the birth rate; support families where both parents work in order to develop a strong, economic, Slovak society.

Page 8
Family relations
The Committee is concerned that, as a result of the rising number of divorces, the number of single mothers has significantly increased in Slovakia. It regrets the lack of information in the report of the State party on the possible negative economic and social consequences of divorce for women, in particular single mothers, as well as on the situation of women in non-traditional family situations. It is further concerned that the current legislative framework does not adequately provide for an equal distribution of marital property upon divorce.

Conversely, this means that traditional family ties are given plenty of support; women are penalised in all aspects of personal life due to a lack of a legislative framework which could sufficiently support single or divorced women.

Non-governmental organizations
Page 48
The Committee notes with concern the insufficient level of cooperation and communication between the State party and women’s non-governmental organizations, which became apparent during the constructive dialogue.

Moreover, with respect to institutional and legislative issues – relating to gender equality – the government either caters inadequately or not at all to women’s NGOs. The government is also publicly accused of such inaction (see above: National Action Plan 2010-2013).

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Further information
On 12 June 2010, new elections to the National Council of the Slovak Republic (parliament) were held. The party which received the most votes was the social-democratic Smer party led by Robert Fico. Since 8 July 2010, however, the country’s Prime Minister has been Iveta Radicová from the Slovak Democratic and Christian (SDKÚ-DS) party, which heads a four-party centre-right coalition. The government holds the majority of the seats in the National Council (79 of 150).

A number of other national elections resulted in only small changes to the gender balance amongst elected members. In Belgium there was a small increase in the share of women in the Chamber of Representatives (40% from 38%) but a small decline in the Senate (38% from 41%). There were also small reductions in the share of women members following June elections in the Netherlands (41% from 42%) and Slovakia (16% from 18%).

Source: Women and men in decision-making: highlights (third quarter 2010)

Significant pay gaps:

On average, Slovak women earn 1/5 less than their male counterparts. Women on the labour market and the fight against unequal pay are an issue – very much in keeping with the EU directive and the need for human resources.

The concept of gender equality and the problem of structural discrimination remain issues that fall on deaf ears.

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Protagonists

NGOs: political parties, civil society organisations
Generally speaking: women’s NGOs tend to operate along more traditional lines, i.e. performing charitable tasks. They combat symptoms. Other organisations such as “Women in professional fields” have tried to enforce a quota regulation for women participating in politics.

Alliance of Women in Slovakia/Aliancia žien Slovenska (in Slovakian)
This organisation is committed to women’s rights. This is expressed in lectures and publications, most notably on the issues of violence in families as well as human trafficking. It does groundwork for CEDAW.

Contact
Nábelkova 2, 841 05 Bratislava ICO 30809177
alianciazien@alianciazien.sk 

EsFem
This is an independent, feminist non-governmental organisation. Since its establishment, it has been committed to supporting women’s and children’s rights, is actively engaged in combating all forms of discrimination against women and improving equal opportunities for women and men.

EsFem is especially committed to gender sensitisation in the way it challenges existing female and male stereotypes. EsFem pursues these goals above all by training teachers and holding workshops in schools, and by developing methodical teaching materials; textbooks and sex education in schools are analysed.

The website lists numerous links (including to feminist websites).

Contact
Budovatelská 11, 080 01 Prešov
esfem@esfem.sk

Fenestra (in Slovakian)
This women’s NGO has been focusing on violence in marriage since 1999. It provides help to women and children, holds training courses on these issues, and is therefore actively engaged in raising awareness of the subject of domestic violence, also outside the working sector.

Contact
Fenestra
P.O.Box F-12
042 92 Košice
fenestra@fenestra.sk

Moznostvolby (translated: for the elections; in Slovakian; little information available in English)
This organisation was founded in May 2001 with the primary aim of actively assisting in the coordination and cooperation of various projects run by human rights organisations as well as feminist and women’s NGOs.

One of the causes it advocates is the right to abortion. The organisation wrote an open letter to the government. Its “Family Planning” page campaigns for, among other things, prescription-free contraceptives.

Contact:
Možnost volby, O.Z.
Medená 5, 811 02 Bratislava
mail@moznostvolby.sk

CHANGENET.SK (in Slovakian)
An organisation which operates on many different planes – gender equity, poverty reduction, genetic engineering, etc. Unfortunately only in Slovakian, but seemingly very enthralling with a wide range of articles; would support the hypothesis that ‘gender-..’ is an entire life plan; last posts relating to women (zeny) in 2009.

Ženská Loby Slovenska/Slovak Women’s Lobby (in Slovakian)
This is the national coordinating body for women’s NGOs in Slovakia for the European Women’s Lobby.

Contact
Medená 5, 811 02 Bratislava
mail@zenskaloby.sk
Tel. 02 5443 1364

European Platform Of Women Scientists (EPWS) (in English)

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Government, ministries
Gender (in Slovakian)
sits within the Ministry of Labour; main issues: women and men in politics, labour market.
The website is unfortunately only in Slovakian – it contains statistics, articles and a comprehensive glossary as well as best practice examples.

Iniciatíva piata žena (in Slovakian)
Initiative against violence against women; a national campaign.

18.01.2011
National Equality Body
Under: Slovak National Centre For Human Rights (in English)

… the Council Directive 2004/113/EC implementing the principle of equal treatment between men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services the Centre is regarded as a national “equality body” aimed at the promotion of equal treatment and combating all forms of discrimination. As such, it covers all grounds of discrimination. The Centre has been registered as a member of the European Network of Equality Bodies (EQUINET).

Contact
Kycerskeho 5
811 05 Bratislava, Slovak Republic
Fax: +421 2 208 501 35
Tel: +421 2 208 501 14
info@snslp.sk    

Institutional level: 
(…) Slovak National Centre for Human Rights = national gender equality body. Even though the Centre is regarded by the Government as the gender equality body, it does not have a special division on gender equality with sufficient funding and gender equality experts.

PAGE 166:
The third amendment to the Anti-discrimination Act, in effect since October 2008, allows the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights (equality body) and NGOs operating in the anti-discrimination area to file public actions (actio popularis) in their own name for cases where the violation of the equal treatment principle might lead to the infringement of rights of a larger or indeterminate number of persons, or where such violation might seriously harm the public interest.

  • Document: European Gender Equality Law Review 2010, p. 142 et seq (PDF, 169, 875 KB)

Under the Antidiscrimination Act, the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights (‘the Centre’) acts as the sole institution safeguarding equality, by assessing the observance of the right to equal treatment according to the Antidiscrimination Act. The Centre annually elaborates and publishes the Report on the Observance of Human Rights including the awareness of the equal treatment principle in the Slovak Republic for the previous calendar year. The Centre monitors and evaluates the observance of the fundamental rights and freedoms, including children’s rights, as well as the observance of the principle of equal treatment in the Slovak Republic. (…)

In 2008/2009, the Centre examined dozens of claims regarding gender inequality. Maternity as a ground of unequal treatment was claimed most frequently; several cases concerned sexual harassment, termination of employment on the ground of pregnancy, etc. The majority of these cases referred to unequal treatment in employment or similar legal relations.

Also in the course of 2009, the Centre dealt with claims of discrimination on the ground of pregnancy. Although the Labour Code and other labour regulations provide for the protection of pregnant women, the Centre received many complaints concerning the dismissal of female employees during their probation period. Although exact statistics of pregnant women dismissed in their probation period are not available, this trend is increasing. In the probation period, when both parties, i.e. the employer and the employee, have the right terminate the employment without further formal procedure, this right is often abused by employers.

The Centre also dealt with the issue of equality of remuneration, but it only mentioned this phenomenon without making proposals for solution, and in particular improvement, of the situation.

The Centre refers to the unwillingness of victims of discrimination to solve their situation by legal action, which consists in the overall distrust of the judicial system, financial and time exigency of legal proceedings, but also in the lack of information and ignorance of legal remedies. The result is a long-term small number of valid court decisions.

In spite of the initiative of the Centre from previous years that courts should include in their statistics the identification of filed and decided actions concerning the violation of the principle of equal treatment by grounds and areas of antidiscrimination law, records on cases related to the violation of the principle of equal treatment still do not exist, so the said information only has an indicative character.

According to the Antidiscrimination Act, the Centre is an institution to which the state authorities are obliged to submit reports on the justification of continuation of adopted temporary compensatory measures. However, in 2009 the number of state authorities that used the possibility to adopt temporary compensatory measures for disadvantaged groups under the conditions laid down by the Antidiscrimination Act did not increase.

The Centre only received information from a number of ministries and from the Office of the Government Plenipotentiary for Roma communities. The Ministry of Education did not supply any information at all and from the information provided by the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family of SR it results that it has not defined the category of special temporary compensatory measures. (...)

A major weakness of the report is the fact that the Centre as equality body fully disregarded the issue of temporary compensatory measures on the ground of sex, which are still missing in national legislation. The Centre was expected to be much more critical in this area.

Institutional level:
Page 171:
The same applies to the Government Council for Gender Equality. Although the Council has its own Executive Committee and Consulting Committee, the potential of this multi-level structure is not sufficiently used. The majority of the members of the Council and its committees is appointed by the individual ministries. The Council is only formal and only makes ‘recommendations’ to the Government that correspond with the Government’s opinions.

Information on the structure under Slovak National Centre For Human Rights - About us (in English)
According to its organisational chart, the National Centre is divided into three departments: Department of Legal Aid and Services, Department of Education, Librarian and Information Services and Department of Research and Rights of Children. In addition, there are seven regional offices. It is astounding that the terms ‘gender’, ‘equality’ and ‘opportunities’ do not appear explicitly and/or officially here.

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Other gender actors

  • This link contains details of noteworthy women working in gender faculties: KNOWING (in English)

ASPEKT
A feminist journal which ran until 2004. Its goal was to raise awareness for gender issues.

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Academia

Universities

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Sources
Description of state of source material:
There is not an abundance of source material. Identifying suitable keywords is a long and laborious process. There are few websites in English (those that are only offer rudimentary summaries). The majority are in Slovakian.

Citing of relevant sources:
Website links have always been cited directly in context.

Jana Cvikova/ Jarmila Filadelfiova, “Die Partizipation von Frauen am politischen Leben in der Slowakei” [The participation of women in political life in Slovakia] in:  Hoecker/Fuchs, Handbuch Politische Partizipation von Frauen in Europa [Handbook of political participation of women in Europe], Band IIVS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2004

Olga Pietruchová / Paula Jójárt, “Gender Mainstreaming in Slovakia: Rather Down than Top”, in: Gender mainstreaming How can we Successfully Use Its Political Potential?, Heinrich Boell Foundation Warszawa, December 2008, ISBN: 978-83-61340-08-9

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This study was conducted by Tanja Berger und Pamela Dorsch and comissioned by the Gunda Werner Institute of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in 2010.


All images, except marked otherwise: Public Domain CC0