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Homosexuals denied Labour Code umbrella

Homosexuals are considering leaving Slovakia, a country which they say allows for the legal "firing, bullying and blackmailing" of citizens based on their sexual orientation. This statement came from the Inakosť ('Otherness') Initiative, an umbrella organisation of Slovak gay and lesbian organisations, after the Slovak parliament passed the country's new Labour Code on July 2.
Slovak members of parliament refused to include in the code a clause which would have banned discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation. Of the 128 present MPs, 43 voted in favour of the ban, 63 were against, 9 abstained, and 22 did not vote.
The decision received international criticism from at least one European Parliament (EP) member, who called the law "short-sighted".

Homosexuals are considering leaving Slovakia, a country which they say allows for the legal "firing, bullying and blackmailing" of citizens based on their sexual orientation. This statement came from the Inakosť ('Otherness') Initiative, an umbrella organisation of Slovak gay and lesbian organisations, after the Slovak parliament passed the country's new Labour Code on July 2.

Slovak members of parliament refused to include in the code a clause which would have banned discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation. Of the 128 present MPs, 43 voted in favour of the ban, 63 were against, 9 abstained, and 22 did not vote.

The decision received international criticism from at least one European Parliament (EP) member, who called the law "short-sighted".

Joke Swiebel, a lesbian MP for the Dutch Labour Party, who also leads the EP's Committee for Gay and Lesbian Rights, told The Slovak Spectator July 9 that the Slovak vote went against the European Union's acquis communautaire, a list of rules and principles aspiring countries must satisfy before gaining membership. She added that Slovakia would have to add a clause banning all forms of discrimination by December 2003, if it hoped to join the EU in 2004.

"Discrimination on any grounds - including sexual orientation - must be explicitly and effectively forbidden," she said.

Some Slovak MPs, however, dismissed Swiebel's views. "Her comments are absolutely irrelevant" said Peter Muránsky, an MP for the government Christian Democratic Party (KDH). "The opinion of one European MP doesn't interest me, especially if it's the opinion of an MP who leads such a committee.

"The homosexual minority [in Slovakia] isn't discriminated against," Muránsky continued. "And this minority doesn't deserve any reverse discrimination, which the [anti-discrimination] clause would have brought homosexuals."

Muránsky added that the vote against the anti-discrimination clause was good for the country's younger generations. "Homosexual teachers, for example, could easily negatively influence their pupils."

Confusing vote

During the July 2 vote, Peter Kresák, an MP with the government Party of Civil Understanding (SOP), proposed that a clause banning discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation be added to the Labour Code. MPs approved the motion, to the satisfaction of homosexual observers. But their joy was only to last 37 minutes.

Immediately after the vote, opposition Movement for Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) MP Katarína Tóthová called for a revote, arguing that she had unwittingly approved the clause. "I didn't know what we voted on," she said.

The clause was struck down in the revote. "Slovakia as a whole is not yet prepared to acknowledge the right of legal protection for homosexuals," said Mária Kadlečíková, Slovakia's Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration. "I'm sure we'll have to go back to this law in the next 12 to 18 months and fix it," said added. "But at this time, it's simply too early for such change."

Kadlečíková said that homosexuality had long been a taboo subject in Slovakia. "It's so influenced by Christian religious thinking," she said. "It was unrealistic to expect that the proposal would be passed now that a larger public discussion of homosexuality has only just started. Many people still believe a homosexual is a bad and immoral person."

Greener pastures

With Slovak homosexuals left feeling alienated and discriminated against, Inakost's Požgai said he would not be surprised if members of the community began leaving the country "to live somewhere else, somewhere where they would be taken as equal citizens, not as evil creatures."

The KDH's Muránsky, however, said that threats of leaving the country were "not to be taken seriously".

He added that he was convinced that most homosexuals were not gay for biological reasons, but for social ones - "people in certain circles, like artists and ballet dancers, behave as if they were homosexual, when in fact they are not. How can someone tell me he is homosexual when I know he's twice divorced and has five children?"

Although the rejection of the clause does not legalise discrimination against homosexuals, Muránsky said "that which the law doesn't explicitly forbid is, so to speak, allowed."

The EP's Swiebel was critical of Muránsky's statements. "This is out of step with the European reality," she said. "There is a growing political consciousness and a growing political activism against discrimination."

Inakosť said it would appeal to Slovak President Rudolf Schuster, who still has to sign the draft Labour Code into effect. If Schuster signs the law in its current form, the group added, it would take its case to the Slovak Constitutional Court.

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