Social Watch criticizes Czech Republic over anti-Romani protests, residential hotels
The international NGO coalition Social Watch has criticized the Czech Republic in its annual report for last year over the rise in overpriced, substandard residential hotels housing the indigent and the ongoing anti-Romani demonstrations in the country. The report also reiterates that there are too few women in Czech politics.
The document was presented today in Prague by its authors. They view the current year much more favorably for the time being, mainly due to the reinstitution of the post of Human Rights Minister, the presence of more women in government, and the preparations for a law on social housing.
The Social Watch coalition includes 700 organizations from 70 states worldwide. It focuses on the fight against discrimination, poverty and racism and the fight for environmental protections.
The Czech section of Social Watch is comprised of eight organizations: Alternative 50+, Ecumencial Academy of Prague, Eurosolar, Gender Studies, Fórum 50 %, the Masaryk Democratic Academy, Nesehnutí, and the Trust for the Economy and Society. According to the Social Watch report, last year "chaos and incompetence" governed the Czech Republic.
The country remained in recession, unemployment was at a record high, real wages fell, and the situation of the population did not improve. The report mainly criticizes Czech housing policy, alleging that it is dysfunctional and unsystematic.
The authors say the main problem is that of the residential hotels. They point out that such facilities are almost the only safe havens available to the indigent.
"The abuse of this kind of business and the boom in it are creating homelessness and social exclusion," the report states. The numbers of families with children, people living with disabilities and senior citizens are rising in such facilities, according to the report.
The authors say residential hotels are the most expensive kind of subsidized housing in the country, most of which is being paid for through welfare. The state continues to pay billions more for this kind of housing while simultaneously failing to support nonprofit organizations and the shelters or training apartments they operate.
Social Watch also criticizes the fact that last year, just as in previous years, anti-Romani demonstrations continued in many towns. "The conveners of these demonstrations presented them as protests against 'inadaptables', a code term that has become widespread in the Czech Republic to avoid directly mentioning Romani people in the public arena," the report states.
The report also reviews last autumn's early elections. The number of female MPs fell from 44 to 39 after all the votes were in.
Not quite one-fifth of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies are now occupied by women. "While women most frequently were placed on candidate lists starting at number 21, men were most frequently listed in the first five slots," the report says.
Social Watch believes there is a need to introduce gender quotas in the Czech Republic. The authors are, however, more optimistic about the composition of the current government, which includes three female ministers.
However, the report reminds readers that the governing Czech Social Democratic Party did not nominate its female minister until after its male candidate backed out. "Unfortunately, this tells us a great deal about the approach taken by the biggest Czech left-wing party," the report states.
Social Watch considers it good news that the post of Human Rights Minister has been revived, and welcomes the proposals in the coalition agreement on equalizing opportunity for men and women in various areas. The report names introducing alternative alimony arrangements and supporting flextime as two good ideas.
The document also mentions the new era of Czech diplomacy and its dubious approach to human rights. Agreements with China were given as the example.
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