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Czech politicians can send a signal (for over a decade now) that they want to help victims of violence

The ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (hereinafter "the Convention against Violence") is likely to be debated in the upper house of Parliament in January. Although the vast majority of Council of Europe [1] member states have long since ratified the document and violence is a widespread problem in the Czech Republic, our politicians are often very reserved about the Convention. Why? Who knows.

Do you know what Hungary, the Czech Republic or Azerbaijan have in common? They are one of the few Council of Europe countries that have not taken the time to ratify the Convention against Violence in ten years. While Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Austria, Germany (as well as more than 30 other countries) have decided to tackle gender-based violence and domestic violence with the Convention against Violence, the Czech Republic seems to be tackling the problem affecting hundreds of thousands of people (mostly women) quite possibly on its own, in its own way. In a nice Czech way, as they say. Or maybe they will come up with an effective plan with Hungary.

Europe is going west, but where is the Czech Republic going?

The tendency to go against the tide of European human rights obligations is not unique in the Czech Republic. While more than 80% of the Council of Europe member states have ratified the Convention against Violence in the last decade, the Czech Republic is dragging its feet. While more than half of the European Union member states have straightened out the rights of same-sex couples and allowed them to marry in the last twenty years [2], the Czech Republic will be deciding on a constitutional ban on marriage, which was last adopted by Putin's Russia and previously also, now pro-Russian, Slovakia [3] or Hungary. [4]

I do not mention marriage for all couples in this text on the Convention against Violence by accident. In both cases there is an eternal, but unfortunately not substantive, debate about whether or not to accept these commitments. On one side are the people who want to incorporate both issues into our legal system. They base their arguments on the available data and scientific knowledge. On the other side are the opponents, who are diverting the debate from the substance of the matter and refusing to discuss these issues in a substantive and decent manner. And that I have had the "privilege" of seeing some of these debates, for example, during the debate on marriage for all couples on the floor of the House of Commons last June.

Opponents of both marriage for all couples and the Convention Against Violence have managed to make a lot of things out of it: a move that could lead to the abolition of Easter (I'm not kidding, the former head of the KDU-ČSL, Jan Bartosek, actually made this polemic) [5], to the disintegration of our society, to the erasure of biological differences between men and women, and who knows what else. At this point, I will not go into the individual myths that, at least in the case of the document from the Council of Europe, have been repeatedly debunked by the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic. [6] Instead, I will focus on the issue of the presence of violence in our society, and on the substantive content of the much talked-about Convention, because the debate needs to be brought back to the substance of the matter (and not just from my point of view).

Violence in the Czech Republic is a problem, period

If anything can make me angry, it's people who speak in isolation and then make decisions on issues that affect many lives very intensely. Just because an issue does not affect (or perhaps it does, but they do not talk about it, or they do not attach that much importance to it) the 281 figures who sit in Parliament does not mean that the issue - in this case, violence - is not a phenomenon that negatively affects the lives of hundreds of thousands of us.

According to available data, one in three women and one in nine men in our country have experienced some form of domestic violence (physical, sexual, psychological or economic). [7] According to representative quantitative research, this problem can affect up to 40% of the population. [8] Every year, the OSPOD registers about 2 500 cases of domestic violence in families where children are growing up. [9]

According to a survey by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, a third of women have experienced physical or sexual violence, 12 percent have experienced sexual abuse and 5 percent rape [10], so there are about 12 000 such crimes per year [11], only a few hundred of which are reported. Violence is very much present in Czech society, and although it is primarily perpetrated against women, anyone can be a victim: a child, a spouse, an ex-partner, a senior citizen, your classmate, your teacher or a shop assistant.

The Convention protects all victims... even men

The Convention consists of more than 80 articles, but it is not the ambition of this text to provide an exhaustive interpretation of the entire Convention. Indeed, anyone who wants to can search and read it all in a few clicks. I will limit myself here to what forms of violence the Convention wants to address, and what instruments it would use to do so (it already uses them in almost forty countries).

In the first place, it is worth mentioning that the Convention aims to protect all victims from all forms of violence, while at the same time achieving the prevention, prosecution and suppression of such violence. The aim is therefore to help not only women, although they make up the majority of victims, but also men, children or the elderly - in short, all individuals, if you like.

The Convention focuses, in Article 3, on, among other things, violence against women, which is understood as all acts of gender-based violence that result or are likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm, and domestic violence, which, again, is understood in its entirety: physical, psychological, sexual, economic. Domestic violence can occur in the family or in the home, between current and former partners, whether or not the perpetrator shares a household with the victim.

The Czech Republic looks nice on paper, but that's about it

The Convention, like other legal documents of the Council of Europe, sets out a list of legal provisions that should be incorporated into the respective Member States. These are mainly a few substantive provisions, but also a few procedural ones.

This part is not so important for us, for the simple reason that the required norms have already been included in our legal system for the most part for a long time, as the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic stated years ago. These include, for example, the requirement to penalise sexual violence, including rape, sexual harassment, psychological violence, physical violence or forced abortion.

We need education like salt

But what is missing in the Czech Republic, and what NGOs have been calling for for a long time, is a system of sufficient prevention and protection. And the Convention remembers these areas as well. By ratifying the document, the Czech Republic would commit itself to educating, educating students, training experts - psychologists, psychiatrists, creating prevention programmes and requiring the cooperation of the private sector and the media.

And, hand on heart, we really do not have to be scientists, some Czech institutions really have reserves here. "If I had a flashlight, this wouldn't have happened," the head of the Supreme Court "joked" at his lecture on ethics about rape [12].  Very often, very often, a woman's report of some sexual violence is fabricated. Very often... It has happened to me personally in my practice at least twice," the police chief said [13].

These are exactly the formulations that result from not educating those who may come into contact with a victim of violence. Not to mention the impact on the victims, who can easily get the feeling that even a possible report will be useless if they are to be helped on their journey to justice by such a would-be funny person as the gentleman from the court. However, it is not just that the people in these institutions sometimes take an inappropriate approach to the whole issue of violence; the problem is that there are too few of them.

What the NGOs don't do, the citizens of the state don't have

Last but not least, the Convention focuses on instruments to protect and support victims. The State would undertake to establish sufficient general support services, specialist assistance services or a telephone helpline. The Convention would put pressure on our State to remember not only to have enough of these facilities, but also to make them geographically accessible to all victims of violent crime.

Specifically, the Convention would, among other things, pressure the State to ensure, for example, that there are sufficient beds in safe and specialized homes. According to the Czech NGO Acorus, there are only ninety such beds in the Czech Republic, and only in two cities. The Council of Europe recommends 1 000 such places for the whole of the Czech Republic, about 11 times as many. [14]


In my view, the Convention against Violence has only one aim: to help all victims of violence. In doing so, it remembers the whole process. It wants to ensure not only that the state punishes the perpetrator effectively, but also that the victim has the necessary help available to overcome the violent experience and that the system works with them as sensitively as possible. Last but not least, he wants society to say a clear no to violence, and that is a thesis that I hope we can all agree on. So let us see what our senators and representatives have to say.

 
Czech politicians can send a signal (for over a decade now) that they want to help victims
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Suggested citation: Kaška, Ondřej, Czech politicians can send a signal (for over a decade now) that they want to help victims of violence, CHR - Student Blog, 14/1/2024, https://www.chrprfcuni.com/post/czech-politicians-can-send-a-signal-for-over-a-decade-now

 

[1] COUNCIL OF EUROPE. Chart of signatures and ratifications on Treaty 210: Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (CETS No. 210) [online]. Available from: https://www.coe.int/en/web/conventions/full-list?module=signatures-by-treaty&treatynum=210.

[2] KAŠKA, Ondřej. Stává se manželství pro všechny součástí evropské identity? [online]. Centrum pro lidská práva a demokracii. 2022. Available from: https://www.centrumlidskaprava.cz/blog/stava-se-manzelstvi-pro-vsechny-soucasti-evropske-identity

[3]  BERGER, Vojtěch. Slovensko zakotvilo do ústavy manželství jako jedinečný svazek muže a ženy [online]. iROZHLAS.cz. 2014. Available from: https://www.irozhlas.cz/node/5933005.

[4] EURACTIV.cz. Nová maďarská ústava: vstřícná k rodině, nepřátelská vůči gayům [online]. euractiv.cz. 2011. Available from: https://euractiv.cz/section/aktualne-v-eu/news/nova-madarska-ustava-vstricna-vuci-rodine-nepratelska-vuci-gayum-008605/

[5] iDNES.cz. Velikonoce nikdo nezakáže, hájí ministr úmluvu. Vládě mohou pomoci Piráti [online]. idnes.cz. 2018. Available from: https://www.idnes.cz/zpravy/domaci/istanbulska-umluva-knezinek-vlada-cssd-valachova.A181106_113949_domaci_kop.

[6]  Úřad vlády České republiky. Úmluva Rady Evropy o prevenci a potírání násilí vůči ženám a domácího násilí: mýty a fakta [online]. vlada.gov.cz. 2018. Available from: https://vlada.gov.cz/assets/ppov/rovne-prilezitosti-zen-a-muzu/Projekt_OPZ/Vystupy_projektu/brozura_IU.pdf

[7] Pod Svícnem. Výzkum: Každý pátý člověk se stal obětí domácího násilí [online]. pravniprostor.cz. Available from: https://www.pravniprostor.cz/aktuality/vyzkum-kazdy-paty-clovek-se-stal-obeti-domaciho-nasili

[8] DOHNAL, D., HOKR MIHLOVÁ, P., ŠPRINCOVÁ, V., DOMESOVÁ, S. Analýza výskytu a latence domácího násilí v partnerských vztazích (Úřad vlády) [online]. vlada.gov.cz. 2017. Available from:  Analyza-vyskytu-a-latence-DN_final.pdf (gov.cz).

[9] Úřad vlády České republiky. Akční plán prevence domácího a genderově podmíněného násilí na léta 2023-2025. [online]. vlada.gov.cz.2023. Available from: https://vlada.gov.cz/assets/ppov/rovne-prilezitosti-zen-a-muzu/dokumenty/AP_DGPN-2023_final.pdf.

[10] European Union Agency For Fundamental Rights. Násilí na ženách, průzkum napříč EU: Stručně o výsledcích [online].fra.europa.eu. 2014. Available from: https://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra-2014-vaw-survey-at-a-glance-oct14_cs.pdf.  

[11] ŠAFAŘÍK, R. in. Mužské právo. Jsou právní pravidla neutrální? (2020).

[12] BLAŽKOVÁ, L. “Kdybych měl baterku, tak by se to nestalo!” Šéf Nejvyššího soudu přednášel o etice, prokládal to vtipy o znásilnění [online]. denikn.cz. 2023. Available from: https://denikn.cz/1248797/kdybych-mel-baterku-tak-by-se-to-nestalo-sef-nejvyssiho-soudu-prednasel-o-etice-prokladal-to-vtipy-o-znasilneni/.

[13]  VLČKOVÁ, T. Policejní šéf čelí kritice za slova o křivých obviněních ze znásilnění [online]. idnes.cz. 2023. Available from: https://www.idnes.cz/zpravy/domaci/falesne-obvineni-znasilneni-policie-policejni-prezident.A230807_120811_domaci_vlc

[14] Tisková zpráva: “Přijměme Istanbulskou úmluvu,” vzkázaly organizace pracující s oběťmi násilí [online]. czlobby.cz. 2023. Available from: https://czlobby.cz/cs/zpravy/prijmeme-istanbulskou-umluvu-vzkazaly-organizace-pracujici-s-obetmi-nasili.

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