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Czech human rights minister fails in many of her efforts

Prague, 7.1.2009 15:38, (ROMEA)

Dzamila Stehlikova, Czech minister for human rights and minorities who expects her dismissal in the near future, has failed to push through many of her plans in support of handicapped groups of inhabitants, and her proposals often met with lukewarm reactions of people.

Stehlikova (junior ruling Greens, SZ) recently said she expects Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek to dismiss her within the envisaged reshuffle of his centre-right cabinet.

Topolanek has not criticised Stehlikova's performance as a minister so far. Last August he said that though some of her proposals were controversial, she fulfilled the role of a human rights watchdog very well.

"Although she is not a member of my party, she enjoys my absolute support," Topolanek (Civic Democrats, ODS) said at the time.

Despite Stehlikova's strong efforts, the Czech Republic does not have an anti-discrimination law as yet. The parliament passed the relevant bill last year but it was vetoed by President Vaclav Klaus.

The Czech Republic is the only of the 27 EU states not to have a law against discrimination. If it fails to pass any, it may face a series of lawsuits from the EC, along with fines.

Stehlikova has also failed to push through the introduction of special cards for pregnant women that would make their lives more comfortable. For example, passengers in public transport would have to offer their seats to the card holders.

Stehlikova's national programme of prevention of violence aimed against children and women is under preparation. Stehlikova wants these vulnerable groups to be better protected by law.

Some politicians, however, consider her proposal for the abolition of corporal punishment of children controversial. Stehlikova, on her part, says the plan is not to prosecute parents for cuffing their kids. Up to one-quarter of cases of corporal punishment amount to maltreatment, she points out.

Stehlikova has pushed through that the mandatory registration of newborn children with child practitioners be embedded in the bill on medical services, a step to help solve the situation in exluded localities. If the parents failed to have their child registered, they could lose their social allowances.

The bill is yet to be discussed by parliament.

Stehlikova has also prepared a bill on publicly beneficial organisations, and she wants the new Civic Code to protect old people from being moved out from their flats.

Stehlikova has failed to push through the introduction of a system of marks on TV screens informing the viewers that the next film contains violent scenes.

Also inconclusive have been her efforts to open a discussion on the possibility for homosexual couples to adopt children, to specify the conditions for the sterilisation of women and castration of men, and to simplify the conditions for people to change their sex.

Stehlikova has also been working on the enhancement of protection of the population against HIV and AIDS, and of young people against gambling, and on a better access of the disabled to education.

She said the financial management of non-profit organisations must be made more effective.

Late last year, Romany activists openly stood up against Stehlikova and called for her dismissal.

Ivan Vesely, head of the Dzeno association and deputy head of the government council for Romany affairs, said Stehlikova had breached the "basic confidence" of Romanies. Her project of a government agency for social integration in excluded localities had "fatally failed," Vesely said.

Stehlikova said it is premature to assess the agency's effect, which in her opinion will become visible in two years.

Nevertheless, there were controversies between Romanies and Stehlikova even before. Moreover, she repeatedly ran into a dispute over the Romany issue with Jiri Cunek, deputy PM and local development minister for the Christian Democratic Union (KDU-CSL).

Stehlikova, who will turn 46 next month, is one of the SZ's four ministers in Topolanek's 18-member government established two years ago.

CTK
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