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Human rights policies still found lacking


The Slovak Spectator, 26. 1. 2016

At the very end of the current government’s term refugees became the main issue on Slovakia’s minority and human rights agenda, but for much of the previous three years the excluded Roma communities and LGBTI issues topped the agenda, according to Zuzana Števulová from the Human Rights League non-governmental watchdog. “Nothing significant has been achieved on any of these topics,” Števulová told The Slovak Spectator.

From the perspective of human rights advocates – although less so for the general public – the adoption of the Human Rights Promotion and Protection Strategy that the government aimed for all through the election term was the most important undertaking in the sector. The strategy was prepared by the Foreign Ministry, which at that time oversaw the human rights agenda and which spent a lot of time on dealing with more or less petty conflicts between the conservative and the liberal members of the Human Rights Council.

When the strategy finally passed in February 2015, it outlined tasks like a comprehensive analysis of the state of affairs in protection of human rights. It also proposed creating a nationwide committee for education on human rights, improving the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence and intolerance and introducing equal rights and protection for those living in partnerships outside marriage.

“The problem is that the whole election term we spent creating the strategy to cover up the fact that all the things formulated [in the strategy] should have already been happening,” Šarlota Pufflerová, the executive director of the Citizen, Democracy, Responsibility (ODZ) non-governmental organisation, told The Slovak Spectator. The administration was acting as if it could take a break from really solving the problems in human rights area with the argument that they were busy passing the strategy, she explained.

All the problems that the state is dealing with do have a human rights perspective that should be taken into consideration, Pufflerová noted and mentioned education and health care, the two sectors that have recently gained the most attention due to the protests of teachers and nurses. President Andrej Kiska mentioned health care and schools as the most problematic areas of Slovakia’s life in his New Year’s speech too.

Education and raising awareness about human rights issues not only at schools should be among the next government’s priorities, “so that all those who represent public power are properly trained and understand the commitments we have in this area,” Pufflerová said. She believes the new government should also pay more attention to the rights of women and reproductive rights.

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Michaela Terenzani
Radka Minarechová contributed to this report
© The Rock, 2015
The article was published by The Slovak Spectator, Slovakia’s only English-language bi-weekly, on January 26, 2016 at 6:55 in the section Politics & Society.