Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks in a report he released on Tuesday notes the Slovak legal system does not recognize same-sex couples.
Members of the Slovak Parliament in 2012 overwhelmingly rejected a proposal that would have allowed gays and lesbians to register their partnerships. Lawmakers in June 2014 approved a proposed constitutional amendment that sought to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
The Alliance for Family, a coalition of groups opposed to nuptials for same-sex couples, in August 2014 submitted more than 400,000 signatures in support of a referendum on marriage and whether to prohibit gays and lesbians from adopting children. The Pope Francis-backed effort failed earlier this year because of insufficient voter turnout.
The report notes transgender Slovaks are able to legally change their name and gender on their birth certificates. It indicates ”the actual process of transition is not adequately regulated,” in part, because it is based on a 1981 law.
“In essence, a medical diagnosis of a psychiatric condition as well as irreversible surgical intervention in practice for the recognition of gender reassignment, although such surgery is not required by law,” reads the report.
The report notes the majority of LGBT Slovaks who took part in a 2013 survey said they had experienced discrimination because of their sexual orientation within the past year. More than 60 percent of respondents said they faced violence in the previous 12 months because they are LGBT.
Slovakia’s hate speech laws do not include sexual orientation or gender identity.
“The commissioner is worried at the growing negative rhetoric and hate speech directed against LGBTI persons in recent years and urges the authorities to take measures to extend the provisions of domestic hate speech legislation to cover sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics,” reads the report. “The commissioner calls on the authorities to ensure that law enforcement officials and legal professionals are adequately equipped to recognize and effectively confront such incidents, which have deeply destructive effects not only on the victims, but also on society.”
The report notes the Slovak government has made progress in terms of its response to LGBT-specific issues.
The government in 2012 established a committee in support of “the promotion of the human rights of LGBTI persons.”
“The on-going work on the adoption of an action plan concerning the human rights of LGBTI persons and the establishment of an advisory committee with competencies in this area are positive developments,” reads the report. “The commissioner looks forward to receiving from the Slovak authorities more information on the outcome of these deliberations.”
The Council of Europe published the report — which also highlights discrimination against Roma and those living with disabilities — roughly four months after Muižnieks traveled to Slovakia.
“The relevant ministries of the Slovak Republic will make an effort to take into account the commissioner’s recommendations addressed to the Slovak Republic in their ongoing work with the aim to consistently uphold and further develop human rights in Slovakia,” said the Slovak government in a statement it provided to the Washington Blade. “Slovakia welcomes the opportunity to engage in constructive dialogue with the commissioner’s office and we would like to thank the commissioner for close co-operation during and after the visit.”
Slovakia’s anti-discrimination law has included sexual orientation since 2008.
Martin Macko, executive director of Inakost, a Slovak LGBT advocacy group, told the Blade that Muižnieks met with LGBT advocates in the country during his visit.
“This report is about long-term issues…ignored so far by all Slovak governments,” said Macko.
ILGA-Europe in a separate statement agreed with Macko, noting the Slovak government “has not initiated” an “honest conversation on legal recognition for same-sex couples and their families” in the wake of February’s referendum. The European advocacy group also notes the country is among the least LGBT-friendly nations in the region.
“ILGA-Europe wholeheartedly agree with the commissioner’s recommendation that the Slovak authorities should promote respect for the rights of LGBTI people and take a stronger position when their human rights are violated,” said ILGA-Europe.