108.On 14 October 2016, an agreement was signed on the establishment of a joint investigation team between the SR and the United Kingdom under the name of the operation SYNAPSIS, with the aim of facilitating and improving the efficiency of investigations into organised crime groups. In February 2017, Slovak and British police jointly charged 11 people with the offence of human trafficking, including 10 Slovak citizens (6 men and 4 women) and one Pakistani citizen. A total of 12 Slovak victims, aged between 18 and 28, were identified.
109.The project aimed at assisting the victims of human trafficking was launched within the Caritas Slovakia in 2008 and it has been financed by the MoI SR since the beginning. The main goal of such work is to directly help victims with their reintegration into the society by providing comprehensive as well as long-term care. It also ensures assisted voluntary returns and pre-return assistance. Currently, the Caritas Slovakia operates also the National Helpline for Victims of Human Trafficking 0800 800 818. As a member of an Expert Group of the MoI SR, they are involved in systemic improvement of operation of the governmental Victims of Human Trafficking Support and Protection Programme. As a member of international RENATE and COATNET networks, they cooperate at an international level in the area of combating human trafficking. During this period of time the Caritas Slovakia has trained a number of people also directly in marginalized Roma communities. In 2019, it trained 12 Roma persons in Jarovnice who formed and trained other groups in the settlement during a period of six months. Those Roma trained about 200 persons in the settlement in Jarovnice and they now help other Roma people. The topic of violence against women was also discussed during the trafficking training sessions.
110.Disrespect of women and girls in the pornographic industry. Globally, the consumption of pornographic material has increased considerably during the COVID‑19 pandemic. It is estimated that as many as 90per cent of children aged 8–16 consume pornography on the internet every day. With states’ silent support of the spreading of such material, women and girls are facing serious sexual exploitation in the society.
A.Assistance and protection
111.The SR is obliged to build a comprehensive system of protection and assistance to victims of trafficking based on the principles of respect for human rights. Ensuring the fundamental human rights and dignity of victims of trafficking depends on their early identification. This is the reason why it is necessary to provide the timely identification of all victims of trafficking in Slovakia.
112.Services provided to victims include information on legal options of tolerated stay, residence permits or international protection, assisted voluntary return (including assistance and mediation before and after assisted voluntary return), financial support, social support, psychotherapeutic services, interpretation services, legal assistance, health services, retraining courses, safe accommodation. Services for victims included in the programme are funded from the budget of the MoI SR and are provided by NGOs on a contractual basis following a public procurement procedure. Furthermore, “in the assistance and support of victims, it is necessary to pay attention to services provided to victims, as recently there have been number of cases of victims with insurance debts and psychological problems requiring permanent solutions. Many victims were homeless, which also requires a long-term solution to their situation in order to eliminate their repeated trafficking and victimisation. Due to the fact that this has been a dynamically evolving field of crime, it is necessary to adapt the communication between aid actors as well as between law enforcement agencies to this situation, not only at national level, but also at international level”.
113.The MoI SR assists victims through the Programme for Support and Protection of Victims of Human Trafficking. NGOs participate in the provision of comprehensive care within the programme on a basis of contracts concluded with the MoI SR on the provision of funds from the state budget of the SR.
114.Assistance to victims of human trafficking is also mediated through the Information Offices for Victims of Crime, which are established by the Crime Prevention Department of the Office of the Minister of the Interior of the SR (by the MoI SR) in each regional city within the framework of the National Project “Improving Access to Services for Victims of Crime and Establishment of Contact Points for Victims” (hereinafter referred to as “Information Offices”). The Information Offices provide information and assistance to victims and potential victims of crime, including victims of human trafficking and this assistance is free of charge and discreet:
•Elementary information on the rights of victims of crime and on criminal proceedings procedures;
•Assistance in getting aware of options for dealing with situations related to the crime and its consequences;
•Mediation services and consultations with experts in the field of legal guidance and support, psychological and social counselling;
•Directing to specialised institutions providing follow-up professional assistance.
115.In the reported period (2020) the assistance through Information Offices was provided in 4 cases of the crime of human trafficking. In one case, a victim of human trafficking applied to Information Offices for assistance and was provided with legal guidance, support and psychological counselling. The client was informed about the Programme and referred to the CS for follow-up professional assistance; in two cases, these were whistle-blowers of the crime of human trafficking; in one case, a person related to a victim of human trafficking, who was provided with elementary information, information about the Programme and contacts to the Caritas Slovakia. All complaints were within the framework of the reporting obligation pursuant to Section 3 (2) of Act No. 301/2005 Coll. Criminal Procedure Code reported to the National Unit for Combating Illegal Migration of the Bureau of Border and Foreign Police.
116.For the needs of Information Office staff, a Methodology for Information Offices for Victims of Crime focusing on the needs of victims of human trafficking was also developed in 2020. The Methodology has been developed in cooperation with the members of the Expert Group on Combating Human Trafficking and in accordance with the Regulation of the MoI SR No. 144 of 10 December 2018 on the provision of the Programme of Support and Protection of Victims of Human Trafficking and the National Referral Mechanism in order to align the procedures of the Information Offices with those applied by other entities of the Programme.
117.In 2020, cooperating NGOs were networked to support and assist victims of crime.
118.In the following period, the Crime Prevention Department of the Office of the Minister of the Interior of the SR of the MoI SR will continue to build and operate the established platforms.
119.The information material called the “Compensation of victims of violent crimes” has been created in close cooperation with the Centre for Legal Aid to provide victims with elementary information that could help them in claiming compensation and damages from the state.
Based on the statistics (above) of the MoI SR, sexual exploitation occurred in 16 cases (3 (2016), 7 (2017), 2 (2018), 4 (2019)) and forced marriages in 4 cases (1 (2016), 1 (2018), 2 (2019)).
120.Providing legal assistance to victims of crime, including victims of trafficking, is governed by the Victims of Crime Act, which enacts the provision of legal information and representation both in criminal and civil proceedings, including in relation to claims for compensation. Pursuant to the Article 7 of the Victims of Crime Act, the legal assistance is provided under the conditions laid down in a specific regulation.
121.In principle, the legal assistance can be provided to victims by accredited NGOs, such as the Human Rights League, which provided legal advice to asylum seekers placed in asylum facilities of the MoI SR. By the end of 2019, the Human Rights League implemented a project financed by EU from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund and by the MoI SR which included access to asylum facilities of the MoI SR and legal consultancy and representation for asylum-seekers during asylum procedure.
122.The Victim Support Programme includes the provision of psychological counselling and psychotherapeutic services. The Caritas Slovakia, which has been authorized by the government to implement this program, employs a clinical psychologist, who examines each victim and makes an assessment of the victim’s readiness for treatment. Psychotherapy and psychological sessions are provided by external providers, with whom the Caritas Slovakia or its partner organization, the Greek Catholic Church, has concluded agreements.
123.The protection of victims of human trafficking is primarily provided through the Programme for Support and Protection of Victims of Human Trafficking, which is specifically set up for this type of victims and is therefore considered by the competent authorities to be more suitable and adapted to their needs than the witness protection system established pursuant to the Act No. 256/1998 on Witness Protection and on amendments and supplements to certain acts, as amended. A specialised unit has been established in the MoI SR, which is responsible for implementing witness protection measures under this law. Nevertheless, these measures have never been applied to victims and witnesses of trafficking. In cases where it is not possible to ensure the safety of victims or witnesses of crimes in any other way and there is a danger to the life or health of the persons concerned from perpetrators, who may have committed serious crimes punishable by life sentences, or from perpetrators who are involved in organised crime, the protection and the assistance shall be provided in accordance with the Act No. 256/1998 on Witness Protection, as amended. This protection may be extended to persons close to the witness. There is an internal document of the MoI SR (128/2010) with more detailed provisions on what forms the protection of victims and witnesses of crime can take.
E.Studies, cases, surveys
124.Since 2013, the National Unit has participated in four Joint Investigation Teams (JITs) together with the UK authorities. The first case, which began in 2013, concerned the trafficking of Slovakian women for sexual exploitation and forced marriage in the UK. The case was completed by 2017 and resulted in prison sentences for Slovak citizens ranging from 16 months to eight years. The second case, which has not been closed yet, began in 2016 and also relates to the sexual exploitation and forced marriages in the UK. The third case, which has not been closed yet, began in 2017 and relates to human trafficking for labour and sexual exploitation in the UK. The fourth joint investigation team, which is still operating, was established in 2017 and relates to human trafficking for labour exploitation in the UK. The second joint investigation team mentioned above finished in 2018, whilst 4 defendants were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 7 to 12 years. The latter two joint investigation teams continued their work in 2019. In June 2019, a fifth joint investigation team was agreed on between the UK and Slovakia in relation to trafficking Slovak nationals for forced labour in the UK. GRETA welcomes the participation of the Slovak authorities in multilateral and bilateral international cooperation and encourages the Slovak authorities to strengthen the international cooperation in the field of protection of victims of trafficking.
125.The Information Centre for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and for Crime Prevention has trained a number of experts involved in the implementation of the national mediation mechanism, including child protection and social services, of the Department of Traffic Police and Aliens Police, Ministry of Defence staff responsible for training soldiers deployed on missions abroad, staff of foster homes, educational institutions and psychological counselling centres, health professionals and NGOs.
126.In 2020, the IOM Slovakia, in cooperation with partner organizations La Strada in the Czech Republic and La Strada in Poland, implements the SAFE Work and Travel – Prevention of Human Trafficking project in SR, CZ and PL with the aim of raising public awareness of the risks of trafficking in human beings. Within the project, IOM and its partners will update the SAFE Travel & Work Abroad mobile app.
127.In the previous year, the Crime Prevention Department of the Office of the Minister of the Interior of the SR of the MoI SR implemented through a national project several educational activities.
X.Participation in political and public life
128.Women’s political participation in Slovakia has been slowly growing. In the 2016 elections to the National Council of the SR, 29 women deputies were elected, i.e. 19.3 per cent of the total number of representatives. This represented an increase by 5 women compared to the 2012 elections. In the 2020 elections, this trend continued slowly with 32 women elected, making up 21 per cent of the National Council. At the same time, women accounted for 23.1 per cent of the total number of candidates, indicating their slightly lower success rate compared to men, also due to their lower position on the candidate lists.
129.The presidential election was a significant moment in 2019; it was won by Zuzana Čaputová, making her the first woman to hold the Slovak presidency. Also significant was the reconstruction of the government in 2018, after which the number of female members of the government was the highest in the history of independent Slovakia – 5, thus bringing Slovakia above the EU average. After the 2020 elections, 3 women occupied government posts.
130.On the other, hand, women have had a strong representation in the justice, where they are 1.7 times more numerous than men, according to the latest data. A fairly balanced composition can also be observed in the Supreme Court, where four colleges are headed by 2 men and 2 women.However, in regard to the Constitutional Court of the SR, only 2 out of the 13 judges on the Constitutional Court are female.
131.High differences also persist in the field of economic decision-making. There is not a single woman in the five-member Bank Board of the National Bank of Slovakia. Women hold 22.2 per cent of management positions in the largest listed companies, which is also above the EU average, where the average percentage of women in these positions is only 6.7 per cent. Slovak data indicate doubling of the share of women in decision-making positions over a short period of time – in 2016, only 11.4 per cent of senior executives in large companies were women.
132.Currently, the sexual education is considered as an interdisciplinary subject. The MoED SR has developed a curriculum for a cross-cutting topic called “Education in Marriage and Parenthood”. The particular implementation of the subject is determined by individual schools and the schools supplement their education in this area with external lectures and programmes where necessary. The Gender Equality Department is working to include the sexual relationship education into the new curriculum being developed.
133.There has been a major progress in the areas of desegregation, inclusion and access to high-quality education (mainly of children and specifically of girls from socially disadvantaged environment/MRCs). In 2020 there were several sessions of a working group of the MoED SR for drafting a legislative proposal of a definition (and assessment methodology) of segregation in education, comprising representatives of the MoED SR and directly managed organizations, Office of the Plenipotentiary of the Government for Roma Communities and experts from the non-governmental sector. The working group prepared a draft definition of segregation in education which would complement the segregation ban. The legal definition of segregation is fully in line with the anti-discrimination doctrine with a relevant legal framework for sanctioning such practices. At the same time, the MoED SR is proposing an amendment the aim of which is to prevent pupils with a low degree of mental disability from being denied the right to complete lower secondary education (ISCED 2) during the period of compulsory education. After pupils pass external tests, they may study at secondary vocational schools. At the same time, it is proposing to introduce an obligation to respect the segregation ban when creating school districts for both elementary schools and kindergartens. The Ministry has undertaken to prepare a desegregation manual for directors and establishers by the end of 2021.
134.Transformation of the consultancy system includes separation of consultancy establishments from special schools. As a result, Roma pupils cannot be intentionally diagnosed with mental disabilities in order to be placed in special schools. Moreover, after procedural standards have been adopted, content-related and performance standards are being prepared which also include standardization of diagnostic procedures which will be binding for the establishments.
135.Amendment the School Act that brought a new provision on education and training of children and pupils from socially disadvantaged backgrounds entered into force on 1 January 2016. The amendment to the Education Act directly stipulates that “A child or a pupil whose special educational needs result exclusively from his/her development in a socially disadvantaged environment must not be admitted to a special school or a special class of a kindergarten, a special class of a primary school or a special class of a secondary school”. In practice, this is supposed to mean that the fact that a child comes from a socially disadvantaged background cannot automatically be a reason for his/her placement in a special school or class. The measure aimed at preventing segregation makes it compulsory to place children and pupils from socially disadvantaged backgrounds in classes together with other children.
136.Taking part in a good quality pre-primary education has a positive impact on later educational results as well as one’s position in the labour market and the social system. In case of disadvantaged children, this impact is even stronger than for the majority population.
137.New legislation enacted on deaf children education has improved educational opportunities for deaf girls/women. Act No. 151/2017 Coll. amending the Act of the National Council of the SR No. 149/1995 Coll. on sign language for the deaf and amending Act No. 245/2008 Coll. on education and training (School Act) and on amendments and supplements to certain acts, as amended, defined a group of “deaf persons” and introduced their right to education in sign language.
138.The National Enlightenment Centre systematically addresses human rights issues of vulnerable groups, including the equality of women and men, equal opportunities, prevention of discrimination against women and prevention of all forms of violence, including violence against women and domestic violence, in the framework of regularly implemented informal training of employees in the field of cultural and educational activities and through the professional journal called the Social Prevention. The activity of the organisation primarily focuses on raising the awareness of cultural workers at regional and local levels, who work with diverse target groups and thus have the potential to contribute to the promotion and development of the rights of vulnerable groups at their place of work.
139.In the context of education, the 2019 amendment to the Education Act - effective from January 2021 is worth mentioning. It introduces compulsory pre-primary education for 5-year-old children and abolishes the possibility of postponing compulsory schooling or zero grades. The above-stated pre-school education means a strongly positive turn in lives of children from MRCs when transitioning to elementary schools and at the same time it may also reduce the number of children in special schools.
140.The Labour Code bans discrimination of any kind. According to Section 119a (1) of the Labour Code “Wage and salary conditions must be agreed on without any discrimination based on gender”. Furthermore, “women and men alike have the right to equal pay for equal work or work of equal value.” and “where an employer applies a job evaluation system; this evaluation must be based on the same criteria for men and women without any discrimination based on gender.” However, the gender pay gap remains roughly the same, at around 19 per cent.
141.In 2018, the Act No. 63/2018 Coll. amending Act No. 311/2001 Coll. the Labour Code, as amended, and amending and supplementing certain acts, and Act No. 5/2004 Coll. on Employment Services and on amendments and supplements to certain acts, imposed an obligation on employers to disclose the amount of basic wage when advertising a job offer. At the same time, when negotiating an employment contract with an employee, it prohibits agreeing on a lower basic wage component than the amount of the basic wage component published in the job offer. The aim of the legislation is to contribute to salary transparency at least partially.
142.These sectoral differences between genders cause significant differences in average earnings between women and men. In 2019, the average gross nominal monthly salary for male workers averaged to EUR 1,399, compared to only EUR 1,116 for female workers. In 2019, the best earners were executives in finance and insurance, with the average gross nominal monthly salary of EUR 4,623. They were followed by executives in research and development and presidents and CEOs of companies and organisations, who earned an average of EUR 3,504 and EUR 3,425 per month respectively. Women in the same positions earned significantly less – only EUR 3 258, EUR 2 906 and EUR 2 981 respectively.
143.Women are more often among the low-income groups of employees, i.e. their hourly wages compared to men more often do not even reach 2/3 of the median hourly wage in the Slovak economy. It is also the case that with women, the basic salary accounts for a larger share of total earnings. The difference is reflected in the paid bonuses, with women being paid 45 per cent lower bonuses than men.
144.Despite the very good educational level of women (which – in case of Slovakia – is even higher than that of men), women do not achieve comparable earnings to men because the jobs that are more often chosen by women are financially less well rewarded. The gross hourly wage gap between men and women in Slovakia has long been above the EU average – 28. In 2018, unadjusted, it reached 19.4 per cent. According to data from the Statistical Office of the SR, in 2019, the average gross monthly wage of women was 20.2 per cent lower than that of men, with a 12 per cent smaller gap in the 25–30 age group, whereas higher differences are visible particularly in higher age categories.
145.Women and men experience poverty and social exclusion differently. Women are at greater risk of poverty, especially single mothers and older women. Wage and salary differences, together with other labour market disadvantages for women, reduce women’s lifetime savings and pensions, leading to a higher risk of poverty in later life and the consequent feminisation of poverty at old age. The risk of poverty increases when combined with other disadvantaging factors such as age, health disadvantage, ethnicity, household composition, but also origin, i.e. in particular migrant women are disadvantaged.
146.One of the steps to reduce the risk of poverty was the adoption of Constitutional Act No. 422/2020 Coll. amending the Constitution of the SR, approved by the National Council of the SR on 9 December 2020, with effect from 1 January 2023, with which the basic provisions in Art. 39 par. 3 to 5 relating to the right to adequate material security in old age shall be modified and amended. As of 1 January 2023, within the meaning of the Constitution of the SR, the inability to engage in gainful activity due to long-term care for a child during the statutory period after the birth of the child must not have a negative impact on adequate material security at old age. At the same time, it has been embodied into the Constitution of the SR that everyone has the right to decide that part of the tax paid or part of the payment made in connection with participation in the system of adequate material security in old age shall be provided to the person who raised him/her and to whom the material security at old age is provided.
147.This situation is even more serious in areas where more disadvantages culminate. Roma communities suffer from multiple disadvantages caused by poverty and social exclusion. Their members are perceived through their ethnicity, which exposes them to further discrimination. In addition, Roma women face stereotypes that are stronger in Roma communities compared to the majority population. Thus, if Slovak society as a whole has long shown large gaps in labour market status between women and men, these gaps are even deeper in the Roma population. “The paid work rate for Roma people aged 20–64 was 43%, which is well below the EU average of 70% in 2015. The situation of young people is considerably worse: in the average, 63% of the Roma aged 16–24 were unemployed; they did not participate in the education or training at the time of the survey, compared to the EU average of 12% for the same age group. In case of this age group, the results also indicate a significant gender gap, with 72% of young Roma women being unemployed, not taking part in any education or training compared to 55% of young Roma men”.
148.The multiple disadvantages of women living in MRC are confirmed by administrative data. A review of expenditure on groups at risk of poverty or social exclusion has shown that, despite the better educational performance of girls compared to boys, the gender gap in employment rates is more pronounced within MRC than outside of MRC. The review also showed that new mothers with the MRC background are much more likely to be ineligible for the childbirth allowance than in the majority population, which may be related to access to outpatient healthcare in gynaecology and obstetrics and access to obstetric facilities.
149.Reasons for lower wages of women vary. Women continue to choose jobs that pay less such as school, nursing or other care work more often than men. The good news is that teachers’ salaries have recently increased and a special work allowance was approved for health workers during the COVID 19 pandemic. These measures have not yet had measurable results in terms of reducing the gender pay gap. The Gender Equality Strategy aims, inter alia, to reduce the gender income gap; to reduce horizontal and vertical segregation in the labour market and the evaluation of work in over-feminized sectors; to value the unpaid work adequately and make its economic contribution visible, including by reflecting it in pension levels; promote the equitable sharing of domestic and caring responsibilities between partners; improve the implementation of measures to reconcile family life and work through legislative and non-legislative instruments, to introduce financial compensation for parents caring for children and other dependants, for employed parents in the event of parental separation, and to adequately reward those working in low-wage professions.
150.Women have not been participating equally in economic decision-making. In 2018, 22.2 per cent of women and 77.8 per cent of men were on the boards of the largest listed companies (CEOs and directors).
151.Caring for children, other family members or looking after the household remain the main reasons for women’s low participation in the labour market. According to available data, about 10 per cent of women aged 15 to 64 are inactive in terms of paid working for this reason, and this percentage has only been declining very slowly. Women, who want to return to work face lack of suitable childcare facilities. Recently, the number of places in kindergartens has slightly increased. In September 2020, there were 8,605 more children accepted to kindergartens than in September 2015, which corresponds to an increase of 5.4 per cent. Slovakia has the lowest rate of placement of children under 3 in formal childcare or formal education. The amendment to the Act No. 448/2008 Coll. on social services, which entered into force on 1 March 2017, regulated the care of children up to three years of age as part of social services. The SR is preparing to introduce a legal entitlement to nursery care for all children aged 3 and above.
152.Ever more fathers go on parental leave. Since the introduction of this measure in 2011, the number of fathers on parental leave has doubled every year. In proportion to the number of born children, less than 5 per cent of fathers were on maternity leave in 2015. In the first half of 2019, it was already around 25 per cent. The main motivation seems to be the higher amount of maternity pay and the possibility of working alongside maternity leave, as fathers can continue to run their business or find a new job while on maternity leave. Although the number of fathers on maternity leave has increased significantly in recent years, it is not possible to determine from this figure how many fathers have actually taken over the full care of the children and the household from mothers.
153.The Gender Equality in the Workplace project (see supra), supported by the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund, was launched in 2020. The main objective of the project is to improve conditions for reconciling work and family life and increasing the employment of persons with parental responsibilities, in particular women.
154.In the period 2018–2020, the Office of the Government Plenipotentiary for Roma Communities implemented the National Project called “Support for pre‑primary education of children from MRC”. (NP PRIM I.). Since November 2020, the planned second phase (until 2023) of NP PRIM II. began to be implemented.
155.In November 2020, a second stage of the project (NP PRIM II.) started to be implemented where in addition to continued TCM application in selection of teaching and professional staff also new work positions of “parent assistants” were created whose role is inter alia to improve the cooperation of kindergartens and families and to work with families in the natural environment of marginalized Roma communities For these as well as other work positions, the Office of the Plenipotentiary of the Government of SR for Roma Communities applies preferential employment of Roma applicants, thus contributing to increasing the employment of Roma men and women.
156.Reconciliation of family life and work has also been indirectly supported by the following acts. Including the Act No. 95/2017 Coll., which introduced a ban on retail sales during public holidays, certain non-working days and Easter Sunday, which is a non-working day. This is a total of 15 days a year plus a half day on 24 December. The Labour Code permits work to be carried out on these days only exceptionally. The reason for the amendment in question was that many employees working in shops are unable to spend time with their families during the holidays.
157.Another change was brought about by amendment of the Labour Code – Act No. 380/2019 Coll. amending Act No. 311/2001 Coll. the Labour Code, as amended. This Act has extended the length of basic leave to five weeks also for employees, who have not reached the age of 33 yet but have been permanently caring for a child. This has now been a generally accepted social standard for employees in other EU Member States as well as a common employee benefit for many employees in the SR.
158.Sectors with significant prospects for regional and local development and for employment include the social economy, which, through its entities – social enterprises, creates jobs for disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of the population, strengthens social and territorial cohesion, promotes active citizenship, solidarity and an economy with democratic values putting people first. On 13 March 2018, the Act No. 112/2018 Coll. on the Social Economy and Social Enterprises and on Amendments and Supplements to Certain Acts, as amended (Act No. 112/2018 Coll.) was approved and entered into force on 1 May 2018. The Act No. 112/2018 Coll. defines the social economy sector, defines social economy entities, social enterprise, disadvantaged persons and vulnerable persons, as well as other concepts in the field of social economy. A disadvantaged person within the meaning of this Act is, inter alia, any person older than 50; a person who lives as a single adult with one or more dependants or takes care of at least one child before the end of compulsory school attendance; a person belonging to a national minority or an ethnic minority; a person with a disability; a natural person returning to the labour market after the end of maternity leave or after the end of parental allowance (for more information see Section 2 (5) and (6) of Act No. 112/2018 Coll.). The Act thus takes into account disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of persons and their inclusion in the labour market.
159.The right to protection of health is one of the most important rights for everyone because it has in immediate impact on the quality of existence of a natural person. In the SR human life and health are protected as fundamental human rights by many legal regulations, particularly the Constitution of the SR, acts in the area of healthcare, e.g. Act No. 576/2004 Coll. on healthcare and healthcare-related services and on amendments and supplements to certain acts, as amended (hereinafter referred to as the “Act No. 576/2004 Coll.”), Act No. 577/2004 Coll. on the scope of healthcare reimbursed from public health insurance and payments for services connected with the provision of healthcare and on amendments and supplements to certain acts, as amended (hereinafter referred to as the “Act No. 577/2004 Coll.”), Act No. 578/2004 Coll. on healthcare providers, health professionals, professional organisations in healthcare and on amendments and supplements to certain acts, as amended (hereinafter referred to as the “Act No. 578/2004 Coll.”).
160.Health-related legislation is based on the premise of provisions of the Constitution of the SR, particularly Article 40: “Everyone shall have the right to protection of his or her health. The citizens shall have the right to free health care and medical equipment on the basis of medical insurance under the terms to be laid down by law”.
161.In accordance with Section 11 (8) of Act No. 576/2004 Coll., in relation to healthcare provision everybody has the right to protection of dignity, respecting the bodily integrity and mental integrity and to a humane, ethical and dignified approach of healthcare workers.
162.The institute of informed consent is defined in Section 6 of Act No. 576/2004 Coll. The above-stated Section of the Act generally says that attending healthcare workers are obliged to inform about the purpose, nature, consequences and risks of any provision of healthcare as well as to provide clear and considerate instruction without any pressure and with a possibility and sufficient time to freely decide for informed consent and appropriate intellectual and will maturity and health condition of the person they are to instruct.
163.Guarantee of rights of natural persons in the provision of healthcare is comprehensively regulated in the Slovak legislation. If they are violated, there is a mechanism in the SR to protect them through an independent Health Care Surveillance Authority the competence of which is governed by Act No. 581/2004 Coll. on health insurance companies and healthcare supervision and on amendments and supplements to certain acts, as amended, and through independent judiciary.
164.According to the Gender Equality Index 2019, Slovakia scores 85.8 in the field of health, which means an increase of 2.3 points since 2005 (+0.5 points since 2015). The gender equality has improved in terms of their health and access to health services.
A.Situation of health care staff at times of pandemics
165.Healthcare sector was hardly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. In such an unprecedented situation it was necessary to implement pandemic measures in order to limit the spread of the disease and to protect the health of the population as well as to create such conditions in healthcare facilities where it will be possible to take care of all patients safely. Healthcare workers had to be prepared to cope with high numbers of patients with an infectious disease which was unknown at that time, while still looking after other patients. By treating high numbers of patients in hospitals healthcare workers were overloaded, what could have been reflected in their physical and mental condition. The long-term unfavourable situation with a lack of healthcare workers was emphasized even more during the pandemic. Maternal morbidity and mortality and preventable neonatal deaths
166.As for neonatal deaths in Slovakia, statistical data shows that the proportion of neonatal deaths (without a minimum limit regarding gestation period or birth weight) per 1,000 live-born children was 3.3 in 2015, 2.9 in 2016 and 3.0 in 2018. Compared to 2016, neonatal death rate was 3.5. We may thus state that neonatal death rate in Slovakia has dropped only a little in the last 15 years.
B.Ensuring appropriate and safe procedures during childbirth
167.In order to strengthen positive impacts on the health of women and children and reflecting medicine-based evidence and the Convention on the Rights of the Child we are including the area of promoting breastfeeding and bonding through a Baby friendly hospital initiative. The initiative started to be implemented in Slovakia in 1992 with support of UNICEF. In the meantime, the support was gradually decreasing. Reflecting new WHO/BFHI 2018 guidelines, the MoH SR has taken over the auspices in this area and is implementing a National BFHI Initiative project. The national project has created a platform for comprehensive solution of the issue and it has become an efficient and progressive tool in adopting measures with an impact on healthcare legislation, standard procedures in medical science and care, budgets, related policies, proactive cooperation of the MoH SR with management of hospitals, positive influencing of education of healthcare workers, etc. The platform provides possibilities of systemic assessment of implementation of the set measures and of monitoring the development and quality of the provided healthcare to women and children. On the basis of continuous questionnaire assessments and performance of clinical audits in hospitals we can see a positive increase in implementation of BFHI principles and in the quality of healthcare in the SR.
C.Artificial interruption of pregnancy
168.According to legally stipulated conditions, women in Slovakia may undergo artificial interruption of pregnancy. Artificial interruption of pregnancy is governed by Act of the Slovak National Council No. 73/1986 Coll. on Artificial Interruption of Pregnancy and it is also contained in decrees and in the Healthcare Act. Everybody in the SR is entitled to select a healthcare provider with exceptions defined in the legislation.
169.Women may undergo artificial interruption of pregnancy on their request without stating a reason while complying with legislative conditions such as the duration of pregnancy. However, artificial interruption of pregnancy may also be performed when healthy development of the foetus is in danger or for health reasons of the woman. Any woman who is younger than sixteen may undergo artificial interruption of pregnancy in accordance with conditions governed by law with consent of her legal representative or of the person in whose custody she is. The woman is supposed to receive an instruction which should contain information about the artificial interruption of pregnancy itself, its risks, foetal development, alternatives to artificial interruption of pregnancy and subsequently the woman gives an informed consent with artificial interruption of pregnancy. Artificial interruption of pregnancy is not reimbursed from public health insurance with the exception of cases of artificial interruption of pregnancy for lawfully defined health reasons. Confidentiality is ensured for women undergoing artificial interruption of pregnancy since in accordance with a special regulation all employees of the medical facilities are obliged not to disclose any facts they have learnt of in relation to the artificial interruption of pregnancy, to ensure confidentiality and to protect legitimate interests of the woman.
170.Assisted reproduction is possible in the SR. Under certain circumstances it is reimbursed from public health insurance in accordance with the law. Not more than three cycles of assisted reproduction are reimbursed from public health insurance for women younger than 39 in cases defined by the law.
171.The current legislation of the SR enables healthcare workers to exercise conscientious objection. Exercising conscientious objection enables healthcare workers to fully exercise the right to freedom of conscience and personal belief regarding protection of an unborn human life. It is regulated in the Healthcare Act (Act No. 576/2004 Coll.) and in the Act on healthcare providers, health workers and professional organizations in the health (Act No. 578/2004 Coll.). The right of healthcare workers to exercise conscientious objection is also explicitly governed in the Code of Ethics of Healthcare Workers forming Annex 4 to Act No. 578/2004 Coll.
172.Conscientious objection does not represent any major obstacle in the access to artificial interruption of pregnancy, while it enables to maintain an appropriate level of personal freedom and integrity of doctors and institutions.
F.Legislative regulation of the medical service of sterilisation as a form of birth control
173.The priority of the SR is an equal access to available and high-quality healthcare for all citizens including observance of all human-rights aspects. The national legislation fully incorporates all rights of patients in accordance with the international legislation and conventions.
174.The SR has adopted systemic, legislative and other practical measures to ensure performance of sterilisations as a medical service and method of birth control which women may use at their own request. The institute of informed consent has been introduced.
175.The medical procedure of sterilisation is defined in Section 40 of the Health Care Act (Act No. 576/2004 Coll.) as the prevention of fertility without removing or damaging a person’s reproductive organs. The conditions for sterilisation are defined in a special, effective and systematic manner in the same Act. Sterilisation may only be performed based on a written request, which a person submits to the provider performing the sterilisation and written informed consent after prior instruction of a person who is legally competent, or the legal representative of a person incapable of giving informed consent, or based on a court decision at the request of their legal representative. Instruction preceding the informed consent must be provided in the manner stipulated by the referenced Act and must include information on alternative birth control and family planning methods, a possible change in life circumstances which led to the request for sterilisation, the medical consequences of sterilisation as a method aimed at irreversibly preventing fertility and the possible failure of sterilisation. Sterilisation cannot be performed in less than 30 days after informed consent. Legislation contains templates of informed consent in the official language and the languages of national minorities.
176.Sterilisation is recommended in the SR for medical reasons after repeated Caesarean sections under lawfully determined conditions. Medical procedures from a catalogue of procedures performed during sterilisation are reimbursed from the public health insurance if it is necessary for maintaining the health of the person.
177.Since NGOs indicated suspected illegal and forced sterilisations in the past, the MoH SR created in 2003 a group of experts who had a task to discover facts in relation to the suspicions. Investigation was performed by national as well as international teams of several human-rights organisations with a conclusion that performance of such practices and procedures was not proved in the SR. It was discovered that those were cases of insufficient appropriate informing of women about the act of sterilisation and about irreversibility of the act. As stated above, the institute of informed consent has been introduced and a possibility to perform sterilisation only 30 days after the informed consent was given has been determined by law.
178.A state contributory organisation “Healthy Regions” performs numerous activities in marginalized Roma communities with an aim to raise awareness of health, increase health literacy and improve access to healthcare. Healthy Regions are implementing a project where they are improving the conditions of healthcare provided to Roma women directly at gynaecology-obstetrics departments through their trained employees.
G.Marginalized Roma communities
179.In accordance with Section 21 (5) (b) of the Act of the National Council of the SR No. 523/2004 Coll. on budgetary rules of public administration and on amendments and supplements to certain acts and in accordance with Section 45 of Act No. 576/2004 Coll., the MoH SR has issued a decision on establishing a state contributory organisation “Healthy Regions”.
180.Healthy Regions have created a room to perform measures in competence of the MoH SR implementing temporary balancing measures focused on improvement of the health situation of socially excluded groups. The model of a contributory organisation brings a possibility of a comprehensive, systemic and long-term solution of the situation of disadvantaged groups in the area of health at the national level. One of the main and key activities in this area is implementation of EU-funded national projects (OP Human Resources).
181.The goals of Healthy Regions include in particular: reducing barriers in access to healthcare (including increasing the accessibility of healthcare services and awareness of MRC members in the area of healthcare and prevention), increasing health literacy (including raising MRC members´ awareness of healthcare), improving health-related behaviour (mainly decreasing the risk related to their lifestyle).
182.One of crucial activities in this respect is implementation of a national project Healthy Communities, Implementation of Health Support Assistants in Hospital Environment which started in 2017 and it represents one of overarching measures focused on improvement of availability of common healthcare services for members of MRCs.
183.The above-stated activity is performed through an additional service. The role of HSAHs is to work with patients from MRCs during their stays in hospital facilities, primarily at gynaecology-obstetrics and paediatric departments.
184.Healthy Regions in cooperation with the Family Planning Society have elaborated a methodology for education about reproduction rights where the participants receive information also about family planning and about information awareness in this area of MRCs. Healthy Regions have also prepared education for health support assistants in Healthy Regions which will permit for the use of knowledge from the area of reproduction health also to increase the number of interventions such as visiting a gynaecologist, preventive gynaecological check and visiting a maternity consultancy session provided by the gynaecologist.
XIV.Strengthening economic position of women
185.Several important legislative changes have been made in the field of social security. The Constitutional Act No. 99/2019 Coll., which amended the Constitution of the SR, introduced the existing minimum wage into the Constitution. With effect from 1 July 2019, the maximum retirement age and the reduction of the retirement age for raising children were also enshrined in the Slovak Constitution. The age of 64 was set as a pension upper limit, i.e. the age required to qualify for adequate material security in old age must not exceed 64. Women who have brought up children are entitled to an appropriate reduction of the retirement age under certain conditions. A woman, who has brought up one child, is entitled to a reduction of 6 months, if two children, 12 months, and if three or more children, she is entitled to a reduction of 18 months in her pensionable age. In accordance with the amendment to the Constitution of the SR, which will enter into force on 1 January 2023, the so-called pension ceiling will be deleted from the Constitution of the SR.
186.Several other legislative changes, in particular a change in the calculation of the pension amount, resulted in higher retirement pensions. The minimum pension in 2020 was EUR 334.30 compared to EUR 269.50 in 2015. The financial situation of pensioners also improved slightly thanks to the state social benefit “13th pension”, which was paid to pensioners in the SR for the first time at the end of 2020. The amount of the 13th pension ranges from EUR 50 to EUR 300. For each pensioner, the amount of the 13th pension is determined individually according to the amount of his/her pension or the aggregate of the amounts of pensions, based on the principle of solidarity of society with pensioners, who have low pensions. The lower the amount of the pension or the sum of the amounts of pensions that the pensioner is paid each month, the higher the 13th pension will be.
187.Although the financial situation of elderly people in Slovakia has generally improved, senior women are still significantly worse off than men. At the end of January 2020, the average monthly old-age pension amounted to EUR 477.14. This is EUR 20.94 more than in the same period of 2019. At the end of January 2020, male pensioners were paid the average of EUR 526.29 per month, while the amount of pensions for women was almost one hundred Euro lower. Women were paid the old-age pension averaging EUR 428.46 a month. At the end of January 2019, the average monthly old-age pension was EUR 505.67 for men and EUR 406.98 for women.
188.Within the economic status of women, the parental allowance has been increased from EUR 220 to EUR 270 or EUR 370 per month, depending on whether the parent previously received maternity pay for the child for whom the parental allowance is claimed. This change is effective from 1 January 2020.
Disadvantaged and marginalised groups of women
189.Multiple discrimination is not expressly prohibited by law in Slovakia. There are no legal regulations or judiciary which would expressly deal with the situations of multiple discrimination; however, the Anti-Discrimination Act does not prohibit filing a suit for more than one reason. In its Section 2 (1), the Anti-Discrimination Act does not mention an express ban on multiple discrimination in the list of prohibited reasons for discrimination. Article 9 stipulates that the right to file a suit to the court results from violation of the equal treatment principle itself, not necessarily from discrimination for one reason. However, courts have not dealt with any case of multiple discrimination so far.
190.The concept of multiple discrimination expressis verbis sometimes appears in political documents but its use is more theoretical and it does not propose or implement particular measures.
191.A legislative change in the area of housing rights for women from Roma communities has been made. The Act No. 153/2017 Coll. amending Act No. 330/1991 Coll. of the Slovak National Council on Land Arrangements, Land Ownership Arrangements, Land Offices, Land Fund and Land Communities, as amended, and amending and supplementing certain acts significantly simplified land settlement within Roma dwellings.
192.Land settlement in Roma dwellings has several advantages for the inhabitants of Roma villages, in particular the development of the area, including the possibility of new construction. Following such a settlement, the municipality can introduce common facilities and infrastructure.
Women and girls with disadvantages
193.On 2 December 2015, the first Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities and the first Commissioner for Children was elected in Slovakia. The positions of the Commissioners were established by Act No. 176/2015 Coll. on the Commissioner for Children and the Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities and on amendments and supplements to certain acts. The Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities is expected to participate in the protection of persons with disabilities by promoting and enforcing the rights granted to them by international treaties which are binding for the SR, i.e. the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
194.Anyone may address the Commissioners on issues falling within their mandate. In the Commissioners Act it is explicitly stated that this right is also guaranteed to persons with disabilities who lack full legal capacity or have been deprived of legal capacity and that legal representation on their part is not required.
195.According to the report, in the period 2016 – 2019 the Office of the Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities dealt with more than 1,800 complaints of violations of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, including complaints regarding violations of Article 6 of the Convention – women with disabilities.
196.According to the report of the Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, as far as the accessibility of housing is concerned, the change in legislation allowed for the installation of wheelchair lifts or other minor adaptations in the common areas of apartment buildings without the consent of other apartment owners. The accessibility of housing for people with disabilities can be increased not only through debarring and renovation but also through the provision of an independent living support service. Only five entities provided this service and 51 clients used it in 2015.
197.As far as the inclusive education for pupils with disabilities in primary schools is concerned, physical barriers are a major obstacle to inclusive education for pupils with disabilities. Only special schools providing education to pupils and students with disabilities tend to be barrier-free.
Migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking women
198.In 2020, 282 persons applied for asylum, including 21 women and 261 men. Out of total number of applicants, 11 asylums were granted. The number of stateless persons in Slovakia remains unclear as no identification mechanism has been introduced.
199.There are two police detention facilities for foreigners, including asylum seekers, in Slovakia. Single women and men are usually detained in the Medveďov police detention facility in western Slovakia. The police detention facility in Sečovce in eastern Slovakia is mainly used for families with children and other vulnerable persons. A foreigner can be detained for a maximum of six months, which can be repeatedly extended. The total period must not exceed 18 months. Asylum seekers cannot be detained for longer than 6 months unless they pose a security risk. Families with children, regardless of whether they have applied for asylum, can also be detained for a period of six months.
200.Persons who have been granted asylum and foreigners who have been granted subsidiary protection have the same rights on the labour market in Slovakia as Slovak nationals. The Slovak government has taken measures to facilitate access to the labour market also for asylum seekers, reducing the period of entry into the labour market for asylum seekers from one year to nine months after the date of filing an asylum application (provided that they have not received a decision on their asylum application within the time limit). Nevertheless, persons who have been granted asylum, subsidiary protection holders who are foreigners and asylum seekers in Slovakia face difficulties in having their graduation, qualification and skills recognised, which makes their entry into the labour market difficult.
201.Slovakia has committed to help people who have had to flee their homes in their home country to demonstrate its contribution to the solution of the European migration crisis in 2015 and 2016. In 2015, Slovakia accepted 149 Assyrian Christians from Iraq who were resettled to Nitra within the framework of a project coordinated by the non-profit organisation Peace and Goodness with the support of the Diocese of Nitra and the MoI SR. By the end of 2017, 16 asylum seekers had been relocated from Greece to Slovakia.
202.The Centre for Legal Aid represents migrants in asylum cases, foreigner detention proceedings and administrative expulsion proceedings if they make a statutory declaration that they have no money to pay for other legal representation services.
203.In 2018, the project called Development of Recommended and Standard Practices for the Performance of Prevention and Early Intervention within the Issue of Migration of Third-Country Nationals was launched. The project has been financed by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and the MoH SR. The main objective of the project is to create recommended and standard procedures for disease prevention and intervention for the early detection, diagnosis and treatment of diseases in relation to migration of third country nationals. The project pays a lot of attention to the health needs of vulnerable groups of people such as under-age girls, pregnant women and victims of trafficking, torture and violence.
Transgender and intersex women
204.The topic of discrimination LGBTI is dealt with in more detail by the Committee for Rights of LGBTI persons which is a permanent expert body of the Council of the Government of the SR for Human Rights, National Minorities and Gender Equality for issues related to LGBTI persons. As part of the Committee’s activities, negotiations were also under way with the MoH SR and MoI SR regarding changes in legislation on gender reassignment conditions in accordance with the latest medical knowledge and international treaties governing human rights and freedoms to which Slovakia is bound.
205.The MoH SR is implementing a project of creation of SPDTP. Recently, experts have proposed creating SPDTP for treating and managing gender incongruence.
XV.Marriage and family relations
206.During the monitored period, nothing has changed in family law regarding matrimonial property and provisions regarding divorce.
207.Provisions of matrimonial law do not apply to cohabitation, the cohabitation of partners without marriage. Which means that “in the event of a separation, this may have very negative consequences on a weaker party. All household and family chores, which are done by a woman during cohabitation are generally considered voluntary. Any made investments may be recovered in civil court in case they can be evidenced. In the event that cohabitation ends, the apartment or house remains with the person who owns/occupies it. In case the female spouse has occupied a flat, of which the other partner is the tenant or owner, she is in danger of ending up on the street with her children in the event of a lawsuit, as she has no right to the flat or house and no right to housing compensation. If the flat belongs to the woman and the man has not acquired any right of occupancy, the woman can apply to the court to evict the flat and have the man evicted, or she can evict the man’s belongings from the flat”.
208.Number of children entrusted to alternate care has been gradually increasing. In 2017, in 8.57 per cent of the total number of custody decisions judge decided on the alternate custody.