This Report deals with the 2016 activities of the Czech Public Defender of Rights, as the national equality body. Apart from its national engagements, it has a focus on standards for equality bodies, and highlights its rich participation in the Equinet network.
Forward by the Public Defender of Rights
Each annual report represents an opportunity to evaluate our activities and successes, as well as the numerous continuing challenges we encounter in the area of protection against discrimination. Nevertheless, I am happy to say that our collective efforts in the last year resulted in an improved situation of the persons who approached us for help and we also managed to draw attention of the responsible institutions to certain systemic shortcomings. To our satisfaction, most of the responsible entities accepted our recommendations. I would like to present a few examples.
For several years now, we have been receiving complaints from people claiming discrimination because of their disability. For this reason, in 2016 my colleagues and I concentrated on tackling the obstacles faced by people with disabilities. We count among our greatest successes that the Government agreed to draft a bill regulating the rights of persons with disabilities accompanied by assistance dogs.
The year 2016 marked the 10th anniversary of the Registered Partnership Act, which provides for civil unions of same-sex couples. We inquired whether the 14 registry offices which can officiate the conclusion of a registered partnership treat homosexual couples equally as the heterosexual ones. We found that most registry offices treated everyone equally, or changed their procedure during our inquiry, which we of course appreciated.
In reaction to frequent questions, we issued a recommendation for schools providing a guideline on how to ensure equal access to education in connection with enrolment of first-graders. We prepared a simple orientation tool for headteachers to help them differentiate between children justly and in a non-discriminatory manner. Based on our recommendation, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports amended the decree on elementary education, adding more details and specifications, and adjusted its guidelines. The Czech Schools Inspectorate incorporated our conclusions in its inspection activities. This represents another example of effective co-operation between the authorities and the Defender.
However, we have not achieved complete success in all the issues we dealt with. One of the outstanding issues is the wide gender pay gap. We are determined to continue discussing its causes and present potential solutions. This is why we have invested a significant effort in a project aiming to improve public awareness of this negative phenomenon. Discussions with high-school students revealed that they find equal pay very important. We have also initiated co-operation on preparing new guidelines for the district labour inspectorates on how to inspect equal pay. We might say there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Concerning European affairs, the discussion on Equinet standards for national equality bodies reached a conclusion. In the future, the standards should ensure independence and sufficient powers to all European equality bodies to promote shared European values: the rule of law and protection of human dignity from discrimination. This will surely be a long-term effort, but it has to start somewhere. We are happy that we were able to contribute to the formulation of the standards (including translating it into Czech). Read more about standards for equality bodies here.