Czech Women's Lobby: 6 ways Czechia is still failing women in 2023

A group of 37 women's rights groups have highlighted the challenges women living in the Czech Republic face today in a newly released call to action.

Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas

Written by Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas Published on 08.03.2023 11:47:00 (updated on 08.03.2023) Reading time: 3 minutes

On International Women's Rights Day, March 8, activists and NGOs are drawing attention to the ways in which the Czech Republic is still failing women.

In its manifesto, released yesterday, the Czech Women's Lobby (ČŽL) outlined six key areas where policymakers must step up their efforts to level the gender divide – among them consent, equal pay, stronger legislation around domestic violence, parental responsibility, and bodily autonomy.

"In our country, men are increasingly making decisions about public matters, women are paid significantly less for the same work, and domestic and sexually motivated violence against women is not adequately combated. There are also new problems related to the impact of the climate on women and other vulnerable groups," said ČŽL president Marta Smolíková.

Foremost among the rights outlined by the lobby is the right to safety, calling for the adoption of the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women, which the Czech Republic has signed but has not yet ratified.

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has criticized Czechia for its weak policies on domestic and sexual violence with other member countries calling on the nation to extend its definition of rape and also ratify the Istanbul treaty.

The prevailing murky definition of what constitutes rape leads to only those cases that involve violence being pursued by police, activists argue. Currently, 13 European countries frame their definition of rape according to consent.

A lesser-known issue facing women in Czechia is the availability of abortions, which currently depend on the patient's nationality and ability to pay, complicating the situation for refugees from Ukraine with unwanted pregnancies, for instance, but also for Czech women in poor economic conditions. 

In addition, maternal violence, or ignoring a woman's choices during childbirth remains a common problem in Czechia.

The lobby goes on to demand fair pay in the workplace, pointing to the persistent gender pay gap and highlighting women's rights to participate in company management. The lobby says a social shift should be driven by the adoption of measures to support the involvement of fathers in the care of young children.

"Not only do women in the Czech Republic earn on average about 16 percent less than men, but their work for the family and in the home is not valued at all. Caring is also work. The lower incomes of women of working age also mean that they are at risk of poverty in retirement age. At the same time, they usually work in two shifts at work and for their loved ones," ČŽL writes.

  • Although women make up half of the Czech population, their representation in the legislative and executive bodies averages around 20 percent. In managerial positions, it is around 30 percent.
  • According to the Forum organization, women have a quarter of the seats in the House of Representatives, less than a fifth in the Senate, 22 percent in regional councils, and 29 percent in cities and municipalities. There are two female ministers in the seventeen-member government. 

ČŽL concludes its list with the right to a favorable environment and the pursuit of sustainability.

ČŽL director Hana Stelzerová pointed out that women have the same rights as men. "However, the practical side of this idea is still very weak in the Czech Republic. Unfortunately, the equality of women and men before the law does not mean equality in real life," added Stelzerová.

In the end, the lobby says that, in its persistent failure to address the gender gap on a wider policy level, Czechia loses out on an important asset and resource that is critical to its economic and social growth.

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