Adéla Horáková|Photo: Ian Willoughby, Radio Prague International
How is it that there is such a gap between political representation and the rest of society when it comes to the rights of LGBTQ+ people? “I ask myself that question every day and I don’t have an answer to it,” says Adéla Horáková, lawyer and activist from the Jsme fér initiative. “It’s blatant. Everyone notices it. Journalists, LGBTQ+ people and everyone else who supports us. They’re all asking me, ‘how come it’s so stuck? After all, we have public support. How is it possible?’ This is a question for SPD, ODS, KDU-ČSL and a large part of ANO. Unfortunately, the attitude of many politicians is so ingrained that there is no room for debate. If the Czech parliament reflected the mood of the entire society, we would have marriage for everyone in the Czech Republic a long time ago.”
Czech Republic in international comparison
The Czech Republic in six chapters: How do LGBTQ+ people live in the Czech Republic?|Photo: Saxon State Agency for Civic Education
So what is the situation of LGBTQ+ people in the Czech Republic? And how are we compared internationally? Of course, it depends on who the Czech Republic wants to compare itself to. “If we compare ourselves to Slovakia, Hungary and Poland, we will be better off. If we compare ourselves with Germany, Austria and Great Britain, we will be worse off. And it seems to me that when we talk about other topics, the Czech political representation has the ambition to compare itself with countries other than Slovakia, Poland or Hungary. But when it comes to LGBTQ+ people, same-sex couples and rainbow families, suddenly it’s as if they’re competing to see who can get closer to Hungary or Poland faster.” assesses lawyer Horáková.
Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková|Photo: Šárka Ševčíková, Czech Radio
The government commissioner for human rights, Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková, also considers the current legislation in the field of LGBTQ+ people’s rights to be insufficient. “We have a registered partnership in the Czech Republic, albeit in a limited form. But we don’t have, for example, specific protection of LGBTQ+ people from prejudiced violence. At the same time, mandatory castration during official sex change has still not been abolished. We are working on both – both on better protection against prejudicial violence and on the abolition of compulsory castrations. In the other Visegrad countries, some of these sub-issues have been resolved, but they may not have legalized or registered partnerships. So I definitely wouldn’t say that the Czech Republic is doing exceptionally well. We definitely have room for improvement.”
The Czech public is in favor of the rights of LGBTQ+ people
Photo: Prague Pride
In one respect, however, the Czech Republic is in a slightly better position than Poland, Hungary or Slovakia. Public opinion in the Czech Republic has long been in favor of the rights of LGBTQ+ people, reminds Michal Pitoňák from the National Institute of Mental Health. “In this respect, the Czech Republic is more similar to countries in Western Europe. If you look at the map of public opinion that we prepared as part of the Queer Geography think tank, you can see that we are similar to Germany or Austria and very different from Slovakia, Poland and Hungary. On this issue, public opinion in the countries of the Visegrad Four is not united.” According to Adéla Horáková, the overall social atmosphere towards LGBTQ+ people in the Czech Republic is relatively favorable. “If I simplify it a lot, our problem is not on the street, with the general population. Of course, there are manifestations of hostility and discrimination. We also point this out and it is a problem. But it is not a predominant feature of Czech society. Most of the hate speech comes from the Czech parliament and from church circles – and that makes me very sad,” says Horáková.
Is the Czech Republic threatened by a Hungarian or Polish scenario?
Michal Pitonák|Photo: Barbora Linková, Czech Radio
This is also why, according to Horáková, it is not impossible that the Czech Republic will follow countries like Hungary or Poland, where the situation of LGBTQ+ people has significantly worsened in recent years. “We have concrete reasons to be concerned about this when we look at what is presented in the House of Commons and how politicians across the political spectrum are behaving – in this case, the division into government coalition and opposition does not apply. Visegrad region, or the governments of the Visegrad countries are very unfriendly towards LGBTQ+ people. And Eastern Europe is starting to become a kind of homophobic open-air museum on a global scale,” adds Horáková. After all, this is evidenced by the results of regular surveys carried out by the LGBTQ+ association ILGA Europe in around fifty mostly European countries. “In 2013, the Czech Republic was in about 18th place out of some 50 countries. In 2023, the Czech Republic finished in 33rd place. So we see a constant decline. And the reason is obvious. Since 2006, nothing has been done for LGBTQ+ people in the Czech Republic – with the exception of the regulation of registered partnerships in 2016. While in other states they do not sleep and politicians are not afraid to make decisions that sometimes need to be explained more to society,” concludes Michal Pitoňák.
Why is the discussion about the rights of LGBTQ+ people dividing the Czech political scene? What role does the Catholic Church play in this debate? And how do LGBTQ+ people in the Czech Republic perceive the current situation? You will find out in the third episode of the Czech Republic podcast in six chapters.