MINELRES: Law Banning Discrimination Born in Slovakia

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Tue Jun 8 19:05:38 2004

Original sender: Roma Network <romale@zahav.net.il> 


KDH plans to bring law to Constitutional Court over positive
discrimination clause

31/5/2004- Discrimination based on sex, race, religion, health,
ethnicity, and sexual orientation will be banned in a single law as of
July 1. A strong majority of 107 coalition and opposition MPs approved
the anti-discrimination law, which was welcomed by representatives of
various groups including gays and lesbians, women, and the Roma. Until
now, non-discrimination requirements were incorporated into several
laws. Human rights activists said such a system was inefficient and
called for the legislation to be put the under one umbrella. Marian
Vojtek, the head of the homosexual association Ganymedes, welcomed the
law, and noted that it was "just the first step on a long path to
achieving acceptance of homosexuals as fully valuable parts of society."
The law, which was passed on May 20, does not allow homosexuals to adopt
children, nor to get married. The law allows positive discrimination for
disadvantaged ethnic or national groups, a move particularly welcomed by
Slovakia's Roma minority, which is known for its difficult economic and
social situation. Unemployment among the Roma is far higher than the
national average, and many see their limited access to jobs, schools,
and health care as a result of hidden societal racism. The new law also
bans inciting xenophobia.

Klara Orgovanova, the cabinet's plenipotentiary for Roma issues, told
the private news agency SITA shortly after the passage of the law that
the minority of an estimated 350,000 - 500,000 people could profit from
the legislative change. The passage of the law came after years of
effort to push through such legislation, often hindered by the
opposition of the ruling Christian Democrats (KDH). The party's MPs
opposed or refrained from voting on the law on May 20. Shortly after the
law was passed, KDH member Justice Minister Daniel Lipsic announced to
journalists that he would initiate a motion at the Constitutional Court
against the law's positive discrimination clause. He argued that
positive discrimination was against the Slovak constitution and that it
also "degrades the human dignity and strengthens stereotypes" of certain
groups of people. According to Orgovanova, however, the temporary tool
of positive discrimination was "inevitable for those who are dealing
with the problems of the Roma communities in Slovakia", arguing that a
large portion of the Roma do not have opportunities similar to those of
other Slovaks. According to Miroslav Ciz, an MP for the opposition party
Smer, positive discrimination is a natural part of every democracy
through which the majority population shows solidarity with its
potentially disadvantaged groups. "[After all,] we create special
conditions for handicapped people and pensioners," Ciz said. "We should
think about the scope of positive discrimination rather than about
banning it", he added.

Roma activists agreed that positive discrimination was necessary for
them to overcome their current social problems and to be able to
gradually catch up with the rest of society. Tibor Loran from the Roma
Communities NGO Council said that this was "the first time in Slovakia's
history that Roma will be able to live normal and standard lives in this
society". The law was originally prepared by the Deputy PM for EU
Integration Pal Csaky, who is also responsible for human rights and
minorities in Slovakia, although MPs pushed through some changes to his
draft. "The new Slovak anti-discrimination law has a real chance of
becoming a model piece of legislation in the enlarged 25-member EU,"
Csaky said. The EU recommends that its members approve
anti-discrimination measures, although it leaves it up to the states
whether to have the measures incorporated in several laws or have a
single law covering the issue. According to the new law, all forms of
discrimination are banned and divided into four types. These are direct
and indirect discrimination, harassment, and illegitimate recourse. The
law defines direct discrimination as an action in which a person is
treated less favorably than a different person would be treated in the
same situation. Indirect discrimination is seen as a seemingly neutral
action that favours one person to the detriment of another. People can
go to court to demand financial compensation for instances of
discrimination. The Slovak National Centre for Human Rights will oversee
adherence to the law. The Slovak law also incorporates two EU directives
that deal with the equal treatment of all people regardless of their
racial or ethnic origin, and equal treatment in the workplace.

 The Slovak Spectator http://www.slovakspectator.sk