August 1999 – Central European Review
A Queer Taboo
by Andrew Stroehlein, Editor-in-Chief
Homosexuality is gradually becoming a phenomenon which the Western world accepts as a natural part of human existence. In Central and Eastern Europe, as this week’s articles on the subject make clear, this is hardly the case.
Granted, in the bad old days, it was worse; Communist regimes bludgeoned most things which did not conform to strict party doctrine, and though the situation did vary from country to country within the region, gays were clearly not part of the officially permitted ideal anywhere. Gay life and gay culture were forced underground – much like other aspects of unofficial life.
But in the intervening decade since the collapse of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe, while other aspects of underground culture and politics have emerged loudly – even triumphantly – homosexuality is still very much a taboo, something hidden from public view and only joked about nervously if mentioned at all.
There is something odd about this. Everything else imaginable emerged boldly after 1989: political parties, heavy metal, environmentalism, radical right racism, long hair on men, conspicuous consumption, kareoke, snowboarding – you name it, it is now all out in the open. But try to find two guys holding hands in pubic in central Prague, and you will be looking for a very long time, indeed.
This is not easily explained.
In the case of the more devout countries in the region, Poland for example, traditional religious beliefs would seem to be exerting their influence, but such reasoning would not explain homophobia and intolerance in a country such as the Czech Republic, which is about as atheist a country as one can imagine in Europe. Czech society is hardly Victorian in its approach to sex, yet the subject of homosexuality and homosexuals’ rights are rarely discussed openly.
Even deeper than religious beliefs in the countries of this region is a strong cultural conservatism. These societies were not allowed to develop naturally, promote public debate and differentiate in the manner seen in Western Europe and America over the last 50 years. While the West was discussing difference over those decades, the Communist societies were generally subjected to one ideal, one model of appropriate living. Everything else was deviation and not acceptable.
Some say that these societies were kept in a social deep-freeze for four decades and are only now going through the cultural changes that the Western world went through in the 1950s. According to this view, which presumes a belief in "stages" of social and cultural evolution, the great social revolutions seen in the West in the 1960s are still waiting to be unleashed.
Actually, the situation is somewhat more serious than that.
Social change was not put on hold from the 1940s to the 1990s; socially conservative values were actively unified across each country and relentlessly re-enforced in each individual. The nuclear, 2.4 family was the only lifestyle that did not draw suspicion from the authorities, and thus, even if it were not so officially sponsored with both slogans and financial incentives as it was, the traditional family was the retreat of almost everyone who was frustrated with other aspects of his or her life.
Work was a joke at best, travel was limited, shopping was a drudgery and local clubs and organisations were untrustworthy, so the only outlet for individual expression and a sense of freedom was the traditional family unit. Only within that unit could a person feel safe, say what was on his or her mind and forge any kind of decent human relationships. Everything outside that unit – whether an individual or an institution – was suspicious and had to be treated with caution, and, although it may well be ten years since the end of those regimes, economic troubles have kept Central and East European families very tight.
Thus, it is hardly surprising that a phenomenon which can appear to reject that traditional unit of trust is viewed negatively in these societies.
In Central and Eastern Europe, homosexuality is not seen as the natural part of humanity that it is but as something threatening to the only basis for human relationships that people truly hold dear. Perhaps only after trust has spread out from the family and into society in general will tolerance of homosexuality become the norm in this region.
September 5, 2000 – Radio Prague
Czech Homosexuals come out in Support of Slovak Gays and Lesbians
Prague – (Radio Prague)
After four decades of living in the closet, homosexuals in post-communist states are fighting for their place in the sun.
Ironically, it seems that while the general public is by and large tolerant and sympathetic, some of the most serious hurdles on the way to gay rights are erected by politicians. This is true of the Czech Republic, and recent developments have shown that it is also true of neighboring Slovakia, the Czech Republic’s one-time federal partner.
Just a fortnight ago, Slovak Justice Minister and head of the Christian Democratic Party Jan Carnogursky shocked the international community with a statement that was both uninformed and vicious. He advised Slovak homosexuals to forget about gay rights and seek medical attention, adding that as long as he was in office, their pleas would fall on deaf ears. In case this left anyone in any doubt, a psychiatrist and member of parliament for the aforementioned Slovak Christian Democrats, Alojs Rakus, explained that "homosexuals do not breed and since they fail to fulfill this basic reproductive function, it is obvious that they are biologically defective."
The fact that neither politician has since retracted the statement, apologized, or resigned shows how long and arduous the road to gay rights in Slovakia could be. However, if you think that the philosophy of homosexuals as a defective breed is foreign to other statesmen in Central Europe, you would be mistaken.
Czech homosexuals were treated to similar insults in Parliament from Christian Democrat MP Pavel Tollner not so long ago. During a heated debate on a proposed law on registered same-sex partnerships, Mr. Tollner called them pigs and said they should not be allowed to undermine the sacred institution of marriage. The law was rejected, and Mr. Tollner’s words evoked a storm of protest from politicians, the public and the media.
According to the head of the Czech Homosexuals’ Association, Jiri Hromada, such attacks on gays actually help their cause. "It makes people aware of the fact that we are being discriminated against and it makes them more supportive of our cause than they might otherwise have been," he told reporters. Although the politicians in question are not resigning, the association hopes people will remember their words when the next elections come around.
Meanwhile, the Association of Czech Homosexuals has dispatched letters in support of Slovak homosexuals to key Slovak institutions. Like Slovaks, Czech gays and lesbians are still fighting for the right to register same-sex partnerships as a form of marriage. The advantage Czech homosexuals have at present is that the Cabinet supports their demands and has been making repeated attempts to get the proposed law approved by Parliament.
26 October 2001 – Gay.com U.K
Czech Parliament Rejects Gay Marriage BillThe lower chamber of the Czech parliament today rejected a draft law that would grant certain legal rights to gays and lesbians, returning it to the government for revision.
It would have allowed couples who register their unions in local government offices to enjoy inheritance and health care rights similar to those granted to heterosexual married couples. It was the third time the Czech parliament has rejected a bill legalizing homosexual unions.
2003 – NYU.edu
Creeping Out of the Closet – The Emerging Gay Community of the Czech Republic
by David Keating
The Velvet Revolution of 1989 in Czechoslovakia ushered in a new era for Czech society, a time when previously underground elements of society came pouring out into the public realm. Czech society has undergone a dizzying self-transformation in the last ten years, and in the process it has in many ways reinvented itself. As someone who is very involved with the gay community in the United States, I was quite curious to see what gay life would be like in this particular post-communist society. Over the course of my semester here I have endeavored to find out as much as possible about the gay community in Prague, through both outside research and personal interviews with members of the community. What I uncovered was a sometimes puzzling mix of attitudes, some promising and others quite disheartening. One very noticeable aspect of the gay community in Prague is the distinct separation of the lesbian and gay communities. For this reason I chose to focus my attention and research on gay men only, as a cross-section of the gay community as a whole. During the course of my interviews with gay men aged 18-32, I hoped to uncover attitudes held by the first generation of Czechs emerging from communist rule. The results of my findings led me to one conclusion: attitudes toward sexuality in the Czech Republic are in a state of transition, in that although ideologically homosexuality would seem to have a promising level of acceptance in the Czech Republic, in practice people still carry with them a great deal of baggage from the past.
First a few words on the general state of homosexuality in the Czech Republic. Homosexuality is legal in the Czech Republic, and has been for 41 years. The age of consent, 15, is the same for homosexuals and heterosexuals (World Legal Survey 2). These are very promising statistics, and policies toward transgender people are also very positive. Ian Prochazka writes that according to article 268/1949, “Transsexuals can request the medical services necessary for sex reassignment. Legal change of gender is permitted under the law concerning registers of births and deaths, which covers mistakes and changes of gender” (Prochazka 46). However, in other areas the Czech Republic has no legislation at all. There are no antidiscrimination laws to protect gays and lesbians. A constitutional list of human rights and freedoms was accepted by the Czech Parliament in 1991. Deputy Klara Samkova wanted “sexual orientation” to be added to the list, but this was not approved by the majority of parliament (World Legal Survey 2). There has been a continuing struggle to introduce domestic partnership legislation in the Czech Republic, but it has been closely defeated each time it’s been introduced. Public policy and public attitude, however, is very favorable toward homosexuality compared to other countries. Miriam Miknar posits that this is due to the strategy used by gay activists in the Czech Republic to take their case first to the media and then to the politicians, whereas in Hungary and Slovakia this was done the other way around. Czechs were able to first change public attitude and then change public policy (Molnar 1). There are a variety of media available for the gay community in Prague, most notably the monthly Soho Review, which is mainly male oriented. Papers for lesbians and gay men are generally separate. Bona Dea is a weekly 25 minute radio program on the state owned station CR1 (Molnar 4). There are a few well-known LGBT people present in the media, most notably Jiri Hromada, a former actor, and Vaclav Fischer, an openly bisexual senator.
On the surface, it would seem that things are pretty good for Czech gays. In talking with Czech people about gay life in Prague, one thing inevitably came up over and over. Czechs were continually asserting that Czech society is generally quite tolerant about homosexuality. Radek, for instance, a 26 year old Czech dancer who has lived in Prague for four years, had this to say about Czech cultural attitudes: “Czech people are not very religious or anything, so people here are very open-minded. They do not have inhibitions”. Many Czech people who I spoke with thought that Czech attitudes toward homosexuality were even more tolerant than in the U.S. They justified this perception by pointing to the favorable coverage of gay issues in the news media and that there is a relatively low level of violence against gays. In fact one of my interviewees, Thomas, a 19 year old college student, estimated that ¾ of Czech Society has no problem with homosexuality. But as I heard these descriptions something seemed at odds to me, because this had not been my impression at all. Coming from New York City, Prague gay life seemed very underground, and Czech attitudes about homosexuality seemed to be ambivalent at best, disdainful at worst. In my eyes this just wasn’t the open-minded, tolerant atmosphere that Czechs were describing to me. So, I set out to discover where the cause of this discrepancy might lie.
Perhaps it’s only a point of comparison for them. After all, before 1989 things were much worse for homosexuals living in Eastern Europe. Communist regimes bludgeoned most things that did not conform to strict party doctrine, and gays were clearly not part of the officially permitted ideal. Gay life and gay culture were forced underground – like most other aspects of unofficial life under communism. But after the fall of communism these aspects of “underground life” rapidly began to emerge triumphantly into the public realm, with one notable exception. Although other aspects of underground culture and politics have emerged, homosexuality in the Czech Republic is still very much a taboo, something hidden from public view and not visible in everyday life. Indeed, it was the sheer invisibility of gay culture which most struck me about gay life in Prague. Most gay bars and pubs are hidden, often they have no sign identifying them at all. Most have locked doors at all times, and you must ring a bell to have someone from the bar come and open it for you (the same goes for when you’re leaving). When I asked my Czech friends why this system existed, they all weren’t really sure, suggesting that perhaps it is a remnant from the days under communism when gay bars were “private clubs” which were kept very, very secret. Yet the locked doors have not been removed, and more figuratively, the locked doors of the gay community in the Czech Republic are still tightly closed. Martin, a 21 year old waiter who grew up in Prague 8, theorized, “There are a lot of guys, especially older, who don’t want to be seen at a gay bar. I think it makes them feel safer to have the door locked”. There is something quite conspicuous about why gay culture in Prague should remain so secretive if Czech people are supposedly so open and tolerant about it. After all, everything else imaginable has emerged boldly since 1989: political parties, rock music, environmentalism, radical right racism, long hair on men, consumerist culture, karaoke, snowboarding – it’s now all out in the open. But try to find two men holding hands anywhere in Prague and you’ll be looking for a very long time indeed.
The invisibility of gay culture is more easily explained in more devout countries in the region, such as Poland for example. Being an extremely Catholic country, traditional religious beliefs in Poland exert a tremendous influence on daily life. But such reasoning cannot explain homophobia and intolerance in a country as areligious as the Czech Republic. Czech society is hardly Victorian in its attitudes toward sex either. One need only look at the explosion of pornographic advertising, strip clubs, and prostitution after the Velvet Revolution to see that. As Tess Slavickiva observes, “Women in a variety of sexual poses and states of undress leer from giant advertising billboards; pornographic magazines sit alongside gardening monthlies at news-stands” (Slavickova 21). Yet the subject of homosexuality and gay rights are rarely discussed openly (Radio Prague 3). It would seem as if attitudes toward sex in the Czech Republic were fairly lax. So why is the gay community still hiding?
To understand the differences between the way homosexuality has been received and incorporated into Czech culture versus Western culture, we must look at the very different historical paths eastern and western Europe have trod in the last century. In many ways the societies of Eastern and Central Europe which fell under communist rule after World War II were kept in a social deep-freeze for four decades, missing out on many of the cultural developments which occurred in the west. According to this line of argument, these post-communist societies are only now going through the cultural changes that the Western world went through in the 1950’s and 60’s. One of the main social movements which the Czech Republic missed out on was the gay liberation movement of the 1970’s. This movement had an earth-shattering affect on the way in which gay people live their lives. In his book, A Queer Geography, Frank Browning writes about the ways in which the gay liberation movement in effect created the modern notion of the “homosexual individual” and the “gay community”. Browning argues that it is important to keep in mind the fact that the concept of the homosexual is an entirely new concept only a little over a century old. Prior to the late 19th century, homosexuality was thought of in terms of conduct, not personality. Homosexuality was an act, not a human trait. Around the time of the greatly publicized trial of Oscar Wilde, homosexuality was suddenly turned into an affliction. A new type of person was invented, known as “the homosexual”, an individual who, through arrested development, had the unfortunate mental handicap of being attracted to members of his or her own sex. (Browning). This is where the world’s conception of homosexuality was when Czechoslovakia entered into its long hibernation. But while it was sleeping, circumstances aligned on June 11th, 1969, the date of the legendary Stonewall Rebellion, to create an explosive event which launched a movement seeking to create a viable and strong minority community out of what had previously been considered an individual mental disorder. However, this attitude toward homosexuality as a mental disorder was never amended in the Czech Republic under communism, and homosexuality was listed on the official list of diseases, which also contained such treatable diseases as the flu and measles (Radio Prague 1).
The effects of this difference were reflected in many of my interviews with Czech gay males. I asked each participant if he thought there was a gay community in Prague, and whether or not he felt like a part of it. A surprising 40% of those interviewed responded that they didn’t think there was a gay community in Prague, and 70% said that if there was, they didn’t feel like they were a part of it. Many of those interviewed seemed even puzzled by the expression “gay community”, as if they had never thought of gay people as making up a community before. As Michael, a 28 year old working in the hotel industry, put it, “I don’t think we have the same ideas about making up this kind of family or something. I don’t think I have things in common with someone just because they are also gay. It just happens to be what I do on the weekends”. This reluctance to identify oneself as part of a “gay community” probably had a great deal to do with the fact that most of the participants in my interviews were not out to family and friends. 70% of Czechs interviewed were not out to their parents and 50% were not out to straight friends. Many of those interviewed spoke of their sexuality as something personal about themselves, rather than as a status connecting them with a larger community.
Many aspects of the former communist regime seemed to taint the ways in which the Czechs I interviewed perceive their own sexuality. Under the communist regime, sexuality was a taboo subject, always there but never openly discussed. Jiri Hromoda, the president of SOHO (an umbrella organization of Czech gay organizations) has observed, “Up until 1989, homosexuality was not discussed, there were no open clubs, no magazines, and no platform for members of the gay minority to discuss the problems they faced. No one publicly acknowledged that gay men could live together and have long-term relationships. They were closely watched by the secret police” (Radio Prague 1). At the same time, consensual homosexual behavior between adults was decriminalized in 1961, earlier than in West Germany or England. However, under the new penal code, some homosexual acts could still be punished. According to paragraph 244, the legal age of consent for a same-sex sexual encounter was 18, compared to 15 for heterosexuals. Also according to paragraph 244, if the sex took place between a dependant person and his or her superior, such as between a teacher and a student or among soldiers of different rank, then it was illegal, and was punishable by 1-5 years imprisonment (World Legal Survey 1). The secret police kept a collection of information known as the “Pink Files” which contained photographs and fingerprints of those suspected of engaging in homosexual activity.
It would seem that although the Czech Republic is not a particularly religious country, the socially conservative values which were enforced in Communist Eastern European society and then re-enforced in each individual has had an indelible impact on social attitudes here. Under communism, the nuclear 2.4 children family was the only lifestyle that did not draw suspicion from the authorities. The institution of the family and its role in daily life was officially sponsored doctrine promoted through propaganda as well as financial incentives, much as in the West (Stroehlein). But the importance of the family was heightened in communist countries because it not only served social interests but also doubled as a refuge from society. The traditional family unit was the retreat of almost everyone who was frustrated with other aspects of life. Work was often static and pointless, travel was severely limited, shopping was quite unpleasant, and local clubs and organizations were untrustworthy, so the only outlet for individual expression and a feeling of comfort was the traditional family unit. A person could only feel safe within that unit, because everything outside was suspicious and had to be approached with caution (Stroehlein). To a great extent, the gay community in the west was made possible by exactly the opposite, a drifting away from family life. Because of revolutions in communications and transportation, suddenly it became possible, in the 20th century, to live a self-sufficient life without the aid of one’s family (Persky 46). However, because of economic troubles and a housing shortage, many young people here still rely on their families for support. Michael, 21, told me, “I could never be gay to my family because I am still living with them and they would, I think, make me leave. That’s why I am sometimes nervous that they will find out”. Looking at it this way, it is easy to see how homosexuality might be viewed negatively in these societies, as something which threatens the only basis for human relationships that people can trust. One could theorize that once Czech society experiences a similar transition away from family life which the Western world has, homosexuality might begin to be more out in the open. Again, it’s all a matter of transition.
In studying gay life in the Czech Republic, I feel as if I’ve gained a great insight into how social factors affect the gay community and its development. Many of the attitudes I encountered during my interview were very interesting, revealing a society which seems uncertain as to how it feels about sexuality. On one hand, nominally it is quite tolerant, but on the other it seems to be uncomfortable with homosexuality entering into the public realm. During my interviews I found that many aspects and problems of the gay community here in Prague are similar to those encountered in the United States. Other aspects were quite different. As the gay community continues to expand and consolidate, it can only benefit from encounters with differences encountered within the various gay communities which have formed around the world. My research in the Czech Republic has certainly led me to a greater understanding of global gay life.
June 10, 2003 – Ananova (U.K.)
Soldiers facing disciplinary action over gay porn photos
Nine members of an elite presidential guard are facing disciplinary action after they posed for a gay pornographic website. The soldiers form part of the Czech Republic’s most prestigious army unit, the so-called Castle Guards, and are usually seen protecting the country’s president. But desperate for some extra cash they stripped down to their army briefs for a gay website. News of their sideline reached headquarters three weeks after pictures had been posted on the internet.
Head of the Castle Guard Jaroslav Pekar says he accepts the soldiers had not meant to embarrass the unit in any way but says they will be punished. The Castle guard who was behind the idea and who rounded up his comrades for the shots has already handed in his resignation. The soldiers, who were paid just £11 for each picture, could be fined or dismissed.
June 14, 2004 – International Herald Tribune, Neuilly Cedex, France
A Prague Spring for gays?:Same-sex unions debated in Eastern Europe
by Brian Whitmore, The Boston Globe
Prague– Katarina Benova and Irina Vychopenova did not want to wait for politicians to decide whether they could marry. With the Czech Parliament scheduled to debate a bill on same-sex civil unions this month, the lesbian couple donned veils and wedding dresses and held an unofficial wedding ceremony on the historic Old Town Square in Prague.
On a cloudy Saturday morning before dozens of friends and some local media, Benova and Vychopenova, who have lived together for several months, exchanged vows, rings and embraces as curious tourists and other passersby looked on.
"We are here to show that we love each other and care for each other just like a heterosexual couple," Benova, 32, said afterward. "The promise we made here was intimate and important." The two hope they can soon make those same vows again, in a civil ceremony recognized by their government.
Gay marriage is becoming a hot political issue in Eastern Europe. The gay-marriage debate has been winding its way through courts and legislatures in Europe for years, producing a patchwork of laws and an array of legal statuses for same-sex couples across the Continent. In the Netherlands and Belgium, same-sex marriage is legal. In other European countries, including Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, as well as in some provinces of Spain and Switzerland, there are laws that recognize some form of civil unions and partnerships.
Among the former Communist nations of Eastern Europe, many of which have recently joined the European Union, the process has been slower. In some of these countries, attitudes from the Communist era – when homosexuality was either illegal or considered a mental illness – linger. Moreover, a high-profile Vatican campaign against gay marriage has resonated in heavily Roman Catholic countries like Poland and Slovakia.
In a recent survey of the 15 West European countries that made up the European Union before it expanded to 25 members in May, 57 percent favored gay marriage. The same survey showed that in 13 mostly East European nations – including the 10 that joined the EU this year – just 23 percent favored same-sex unions.
But the Czech Republic is one of a handful of former Communist countries, including Hungary and Slovenia, where gay and lesbian couples believe there is cause for guarded optimism. Czech lawmakers have already voted down legislation several times on same-sex civil unions, or "registered partnerships" as they are known here. But public opinion has become increasingly favorable toward same-sex unions in recent years, and analysts say the legislation has a reasonable chance of passing when Parliament begins debating the issue this week.
"We’re trying not to raise our hopes too high," said Tereza Kodickova, spokeswoman for the Prague-based gay and lesbian rights group G-Liga. Gay rights activists here say the Czech bill is significantly weaker than they would like. It contains neither tax nor pension benefits, for example, and it does not allow same-sex couples to adopt. "We know that under the current circumstances, an act that would satisfy our needs and wishes will not pass," Kodickova said, adding that she and others hoped the measure would be the first step toward full marriage rights.
The proposed law, a compromise sponsored by lawmakers from four of the five parties represented in Parliament, has met with fierce resistance from the Christian Democratic Party, which said the measure would destroy the institution of marriage.
The last time the issue went before Parliament, in 2001, Czech Roman Catholic bishops initiated an opposing petition, signed by 68,000 people, press reports said. It said the legislation "risks confusing a significant number of young people who are having problems seeking their own sexual identity."
Today, 50 percent of Czechs say they favor gay marriage, according to recent polls, the highest among the former Communist nations. And despite what gay rights activists call lingering homophobia in some segments of society, support for same-sex unions has been steadily rising since the 1989 revolution, pollsters and sociologists say. "The attitude toward gay marriage is relatively positive and open," said Jan Hartl, director of STEM, a Prague polling agency.
One reason for this, analysts and gay rights activists say, is the limited influence that religion has on politics in the Czech Republic, one of the most secular and anticlerical nations in Europe. Proponents of civil unions are having a harder time in heavily Roman Catholic Poland, where antigay sentiment runs strong and just 19 percent of the population supports same-sex unions. When 800 gay-rights activists marched through Krakow in May, they were met by about 200 counterdemonstrators who threw stones, eggs and firecrackers, some chanting, "down with gays."
A lawmaker who introduced a bill on same-sex civil unions into the Polish Senate earlier this year was picketed by antigay demonstrators who called her a "witch" and presented her with a broom, according to press reports. Gay-rights activists are also looking hopefully at Hungary and Slovenia.
In 1995, Hungary’s Constitutional Court struck down a law barring homosexual couples from common-law marriage but stopped short of allowing same-sex couples the right to full-fledged civil marriages. In Slovenia, the government submitted civil-unions legislation to Parliament for debate on April 28. The bill gives registered same-sex couples the same rights as married couples, except for adoption rights. Gay-rights activists say they are confident that same-sex unions – and eventually full-fledged marriage – will become the norm across the continent. "We are trying to do this bit by bit," Katarina Benova said, before heading off with her bride to their wedding reception. "This is progress. You have no chance against progress."
August 5, 2004 – 365Gay.com
US Gay Tourist Murdered In Prague
by Malcolm Thornberry,European Bureau Chief
Prague – Authorities in the Czech Republic are warning gay tourists to be careful who they pick up following the second killing of a gay tourist in 15 months.
The body of Roy Breimon, a 54-year-old artist from Washington, D.C., was found in an apartment he had rented in the Czech capital. Breimon had lived in the city for about five years but was was officially listed as a tourist. Police have not said how he died but believe that he was killed during a robbery in his home. When his body was found, Breimon was gagged and bound.
A suspect is in police custody, but investigators tell the Prague Post that the man is suspected of "robbery resulting in death" rather than murder.
Breimon’s killing comes 15 months after Grant Russell, a New Zealander, also in his 50s, was found slain in a Prague apartment.
Police say that both Russell and Breimon were well known in a Prague gay bar where hustlers and drug dealers hang out.
Prague has become popular with gay tourists seeking sex, and is one of the world’s gay pornography capitals, but attacks on gays, especially foreigners, have been increasing and some in Prague’s LGBT community say little is done by police to solve the crimes.
October 4, 2004 – Radio Praha
Same-sex unions: Is the Czech Republic ready for gay marriage?
by Coilin O’Connor
A new bill on registered partnerships for same-sex couples is due to go before the Czech parliament in the coming weeks. Although similar legislation has failed in the past, polls show that public opinion has become increasingly favourable toward same-sex unions in recent years, and analysts say that this time the legislation has a reasonable chance of being adopted. So is the Czech Republic about to join a number of Western European countries in permitting registered partnerships? In this week’s Talking Point, we look at the issue of same-sex unions in the Czech Republic and ask whether Czechs really are ready to accept gay marriage.
When it comes to sexual attitudes, the Czech Republic is probably one of the most liberal of the former Communist nations. This is probably why polls show that attitudes to gays and lesbians are relatively positive and open in this country, and that support for same-sex unions has been steadily rising here since the 1989 Velvet Revolution.
Although the Czech parliament has regularly voted down legislation on same-sex civil unions or "registered partnerships" in the past, this may be about to change. The lower house of parliament has recently passed a bill on registered partnerships for same-sex couples in its first reading. The bill is now due to be put to a full vote in the house, and it seems to have a good chance of passing. Nevertheless, the bill is not without its opponents. The Christian Democrat party, for instance, is uniformly opposed to the draft legislation. Vilem Holan is one of the Christian Democrat MPs who will be voting against the bill when it comes before parliament. He does not see why same-sex unions should be legally recognised:
" I would like to emphasise that we have nothing against people with a different sexual orientation to that of the majority of inhabitants. We do not want to intervene in their lives. We have only one reason for opposing the adoption of the law on so-called registered partnerships. The reason is that the traditional family needs and deserves special assistance as well as a special legal position and special legal tools, because it takes care of children and educates them. While legal advantages for homosexual couples would only operate for their benefit and this would be unjust in our opinion."
Many opponents of the bill, such as Mr Holan, feel that the legal recognition of registered partnerships for gays and lesbians is inappropriate at a time when the Czech family is seen as an embattled institution. They say that enacting legislation like this when births and weddings are in decline and divorce rates are soaring sends out the wrong message.
Ivo Prochazka is a member of the Gay Initiative organisation. So what does he think about claims that introducing a bill on registered partnerships serves to undermine family values?
" I absolutely disagree, because I think it’s a conservative law. It’s not something that works against the family. It supports the stability of partnerships. It could also be useful to the heterosexual community if people would stabilise their partnerships. This would be good for everyone."
Mr Prochazka says that registered partnerships would enable gay and lesbian couples in a long-term relationship to have the same rights similar to those married of heterosexual couples. This would hopefully allow them to view information on each other’s medical condition and to be treated as next-of-kin during inheritance proceedings.
Mr Holan, however, believes that current legislation allows for this anyway without the need for registered partnerships to be enshrined in law:
" All these demands can be resolved using civil law. They can have a written agreement concerning inheritance, for example. It is also possible to establish the status of both partners under civil law."
Ivo Prochazka rejects this claim. He says that the idea of a same-sex couple concluding an agreement or contract ensuring all the rights and obligations of a registered partnership would be too impractical, as they would have to think of every possible eventuality that might beset their relationship.
Besides the practical legal advantages of registered partnerships, Mr Prochazka says that there are also important social and psychological reasons for officially recognising same-sex unions:
" It’s also important to accept this law from a psychological point of view, because it allows two people to be officially recognised as partners, and this is important for the stability of their partnership. It supports the feeling that you are part of [one another’s] life and so on. I think it’s not just a legal issue but also a psychosocial issue."
Although the bill would give gay and lesbian couples many of the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts, it crucially stops short of allowing them to adopt children, which would probably be too much for many conservatives to bear.
This does little to appease traditionalists like Mr Holan, however, who fears that this bill might just be the thin end of the wedge, which would eventually lead to same-sex couples being able to adopt children:
" This proposed bill does not propose the adoption of children, but I think that if we adopt this bill, maybe after a few months or years a new proposal will be put forward for such a possibility."
Mr Prochazka, for his part, thinks that if the proposed law is accepted, it won’t have any far-reaching social repercussions, but would simply allow same-sex couples to regularise their relationship.
" I would like to register with my partner if [the law] is accepted, but it’s very difficult to say what kind of difference it could have. Nevertheless, I think it’s important for us because we have been living together for 20 years. We feel it could be useful for us personally, for any situation that could arise."
Public opinion polls show that most Czechs have no objection to the legal recognition of registered partnerships.
Here’s what some Czechs on the streets of Prague at the weekend had to say about same-sex unions:
" For me, a regular partnership is between a woman and a man. So I’m not against [same sex unions] but for me it’s not right. I’m not going to tell someone what to do, but for me it’s not right."
" I’m absolutely in favour of partnerships for lesbians and homosexuals."
There are some who say it would undermine the role of the family in Czech society…
" I don’t think so. This concerns so few people that it won’t have such an influence."
" I think everybody is free and if lesbians want to marry then why not? The same goes for gays as well."
" Why not? We should be open-minded."
You don’t think it damages society in any way?
" Not at all. Damage is something much worse than this."
" I’m of the same opinion."
Do you not think that with the family in such a weak position at the moment and with such a low birth rate that it might send out the wrong message?
" No. It can’t influence this. If somebody is not attracted to the other sex, they cannot have children anyway."
" This is a very difficult question for me. I think it’s good for a child to have a pattern of family life comprising a man and a woman. On the other hand, there are a lot of dysfunctional heterosexual families. So I don’t know. It’s a very difficult question for me."
" I think it’s a good idea. I think people should have the right to a same-sex partnership. However, I’m not quite sure if these people should be able to adopt a child. I don’t think society is quite ready for that. We are quite a traditional society, so I think registered partnerships is a good first step. I’m keen on this idea, but I think that it should stop there."
February 2005 – ceskenoviny.cz
Chamber of Deputies Reject Law on Registered Partnership
Prague – The Czech Republic will not join soon the countries in which homosexuals can conclude registered partnership since the Chamber of Deputies did not pass the law which would allow it.
There have been several bills on registered partnership which were rejected by the lower house. Like in the past years, the vote was very tight and the bill was short of on vote to be passed. After the results were announced, the opponents started applauding in the room.
Representatives of the Gay and Lesbian League said behind the scene that they would try again to have the law on registered
Read more at following link:
Taking it easy in Brno, Czech Republic (Travel story)
by Rich Rubin
When I arrive at the train station in Brno, the Czech Republic’s second biggest city, I can’t find my map. I start digging through my bags, but somewhere between my e-ticket and my hotel reservation I make an impulsive decision: I’m just going to feel my way around. It’s not that the city is so small (it has almost 400,000 residents, after all), and of course I could take a taxi, but for some reason I just head out. A flight of stairs leads to a plaza; I climb it. The street curves around a nineteenth century-looking comer; I take it. Another heads off to the left; it feels right. Lo and behold, within ten minutes I’m standing in the Zelny Trh (Cabbage Market). The lovely Royal Rice, my hotel, is just steps away. Gee, Brno is easy, I think. It’s a feeling that doesn’t change throughout my time here. It’s a place full of surprises, and for once all of them are pleasant.
Most Americans are only familiar with Prague, the country’s capital, but Czech’s second city is a remarkably gracious and sophisticated destination that is well worth a visit. It’s the capital of the province of Moravia, in the country’s southeast. Prague, in the province of Bohemia to the northwest, is just three hours away. Vienna, by contrast, is only about 90 minutes away, as Brno sits very near the Austrian border. Home to two dozen museums, an active performance scene, and perhaps the best collection of Modernist architecture in Europe, Bmo is a remarkably untouristy and attitude-free city.
Unspoiled by masses of visitors, it is welcoming to all, and boasts a gay scene that might not be overwhelmingly full of nightlife, but offers enough distractions to keep it interesting. The big event on the GLBT calendar is, of course, the Czech Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (www.mezipatra.cz). The Czech Republic’s largest GLBT event (usually held in November), which includes international feature films, shorts by Czech film students, and documentaries from Czech television. "If you are interested in cinema," says programmer Ales Rumpel proudly, "you do not miss the festival." It’s much more than film, with gay-themed art and photography exhibits, theatrical performances, literary readings, and political round-table discussions. Organized around a theme every year (in 2004 the topic was "beauty"), it’s a milestone in a country that has no gay pride marches, and it’s exciting to see the city filled with signs touting the various events.
While the festival now extends to Prague, locals point out proudly that this landmark event had its birth and still has its biggest incarnation-in Brno. It’s sponsored by the gay organization STUD, an invaluable resource for both locals and visitors, which also sponsors a variety of activities aimed at a primarily young crowd. It’s an important factor in an increasingly open gay scene. While locals complain about the relatively small amount of night life-"you see pretty much the same people cruising each other week after week," notes Rumpel sardonically-for a town this size, it’s not bad at all, with half a dozen bars and dance clubs catering to both gay/lesbian and men-only crowds. All the gay venues have a welcoming air that’s sometimes lacking in the bigger cities; in short, it’s a down-home, friendly scene-which is only appropriate in a down-home, friendly city.
Brno has always been a city that knows how to enjoy itself; with a student population of 50,000, there’s a lively spirit.
Theatres offer both standard fare and experimental works, from the grandeur of the opera house to a puppet theatre and several "fringe" spots. Of course, most of the theatrical works are in Czech, but especially in the more experimental venues they’re worth seeing for the purely physical creativity; it’s long been my view that the most interesting theatre doesn’t depend on language. Even more important to the Czech language-challenged: the vibrant music scene.
The highlight, of course, is September’s International Music Festival (2005 will mark its 40th anniversary), where you’ll indulge in a cornucopia of tunes from orchestras to soloists to ballet; it’s one of Eastern Europe’s leading events of its kind. Throughout the year, Brno holds festivals for all tastes. The aforementioned film festival is the one geared specifically to a gay crowd, but you’ll find members of the community in abundance at such celebrations as May’s Exhibition of New Music (2005’s event will feature everything from a percussion ensemble to an electronic orchestra); June’s New Dance Festival, celebrating the best of contemporary choreography; and September’s International Performers Competition which is held in conjunction with the Music Festival and in 2005 will be devoted to, of all things, tuba virtuosos! From classical guitar to chamber music to folklore, there’s always something being celebrated on the active cultural calendar. Add to this such places as Sklen Louka ("Glass Meadow"), a performance space where you might find chanting monks, poetry readings, avant-garde music, or jazz recitals.
Then there’s the city itself. As I set out to explore Brno appreciate the convenience of the Royal Ricc (the lovely individually-designed rooms and helpful staff don’t 1 either). Just steps away lies Zelny Trh, where the fruit and vegetable market is held. This cobblestone plaza, surrounded buildings of lemon, beige, and gray, boasts a huge statue at center of a very muscular Hercules with a lion’s head. Vendors sell flowers, melons, broccoli; long blue plastic bins hold pota1 and onions; homemade jams and fresh-pressed juices alongside bundles of slim, gorgeous leeks and big, knobby, roots; bay windows, gables, archways, and stucco flourishes Ii the surrounding facades.
It’s one of many squares around which Brno’s Old Town is compact and easily walkable, the area is filled with the neo-Baroque buildings popular in the late nineteenth century. According to Sparling, head of the International Studies department at BI Masaryk University, Brno was quite a wealthy city at the end of the nineteenth century, and the well-to-do new residents, largely in nearby Vienna, set about refashioning the city in the prevailing style. According to Sparling, "from 1880 to 1910, eighty percent of the was torn down and rebuilt in the neo-Baroque and neo-Gothic styles that were in fashion at the time."
It’s the early twentieth-century Functionalist movement, how that’s the city’s claim to fame and draws architecture fanatics throughout Europe. Yes, other eras are represented: a walk fron Cabbage Market toward Namesti Svobody, Brno’s main square, reveal four muscular stone men holding up a balcony on Masary street, draped in scanty stone "cloth" and looking none too happy about their duty. Just across the way is one of the town’s few remaining Renaissance buildings.
In between, however, are functionalist classics. In fact, so important that the tourist board produces a modern architecture map; follow it to the Moravian Bank building on Namesti Svobody (1930); the Czech Savings Bank on Janska (1939); and the trade fair exhibition grounds, a veritable cornucopia of late 1920’s architecture. You’ll notice all over the city the clean lines, open-design ground floors, and starkly outlined rows of windows above. Don’t be surprised if this exploration of Brno’s architectural signature ends up being a full-day project, as you journey to the outskirts to look at a Bohuslav Fuchs-designed school or, along a residential hillside, the home of Modernist great, Josef Kranz. The more you see, the more you come to respect the movement; while it might or might not be your cup of tea, the philosophy behind it and the forward-looking nature of these buildings, which contemporary structures can only mimic, is a subject that grows in depth the more you investigate.
You’re now ready to see what’s perhaps the most important building the Functionalist movement produced: Villa Tugendhat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the edge of town. Don’t believe locals when they tell you it’s "way out in the suburbs," it’s only a twenty-minute walk or five minute tram ride from the heart of the city. Designed by renowned architect Mies van der Rohe, it’s a classic of streamlined form and open design, the first building in Europe to feature an open’ living space rather than discrete rooms. With its steel beams and wide-open living space, it presages in many ways the modern loft approach-if only modern loft dwellers could afford the rosewood doors, travertine marble floors, and onyx panels of this 1930 villa. It’s a sight that no self-respecting architecture fan can afford to miss.
While it’s Brno’s "celebrity" building, it’s far from the only sight of interest. Right on Zany Trh, I check out the Moravian Museum. I’m expecting a small and charming facility. What I find is an astonishing collection of archaeological and prehistoric wonders: perfectly-formed Jurassic fossils; bead necklaces; stone tools; scary-looking swords; earthenware jugs; bronze amulets; medieval necklaces.
The Applied Arts Museum is another favorite with its displays of furniture, china, crystal, and other crafts arranged by periods from medieval to modernist. Perched above town, Spilberk Castle is worth the hike for its fascinating Brno City Museum and scary jail cells (as well as summer musical performances).
Edgier stuff can be found at the Brno House of Arts where recent exhibits included Czech art of the 1960’s, works by Man Ray, and one display entitled "Between the Avant-Garde and the Underground." Not cutting-edge enough for you? Check out Gallery G99 for the latest video works by young Czech artists, or installations, drawings, and "videocards" by risk-taking artists from such spots as England, the Netherlands, and the Ukraine.
You can easily spend a day church-hopping here. I love the starkly Gothic St. James with its stone columns and vaulted ceilings. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the super-baroque Jesuit Church looks like a cake someone layered too much frosting on, with its salmon marble, flying angels, frescoes, paintings, slim Moorish statues trimmed in more gilt, and elaborate stucco work. You can find Art Nouveau churches, Functionalist Churches, and no shortage whatsoever of the baroque. At the top of a hill overlooking an evocatively cobble stoned scene, The Cathedral’s lofty ceilings and beautiful stained glass windows are quite impressive. Don’t miss its fascinating stations of the cross carvings, beginning on one side in straightforward and realistic manner, and ending with an almost abstract quality on the other side, rough-hewn and horrifyingly powerful.
Then there’s the Capuchin Church. I don’t know that my reading quite prepared me for what I find here. As I enter the cellar space I’m greeted by room after room of mummified bodies, some in coffins, some lying casually on the ground behind glass. You can actually read ( or imagine) expressions on their faces: one woman, her head tilted to one side, looks positively demure; a couple of guys lying on the floor look quite merry (that one of them is missing a foot doesn’t seem to impinge on their mirth); another seems downright peaceful. As I prepared to enter another room, I see prominently displayed over a row of mummies a sign reading "Sic Transit Gloria Mundi" (thus passes the glory of the world). Indeed.
In Brno, you never know what’s going to lie behind a blank-faced door. It might be a bunch of mummies, or it might be a cellar restaurant, barely marked on the outside but warm and inviting once you’ve stepped in. Most of the cellars beneath the town sat empty during the Communist era, says Jeff Vanderziel, chair of Masaryk’s English and American Studies department, but recent years have seen them transformed into eateries, with new ones springing up every day.
In VIP, I enjoy amazing cream of mushroom soup and salty crepes seasoned with chervil and stuffed with chopped chicken, peaches, and Chinese cabbage. In Pod Radnicnim I choose from among oddly named dishes like Ring the Bell (potato pancakes stuffed with chicken) and Do Not Shout Until You Are Out of the Woods (fried pork schnitzel). In the dramatically-lit vaults of U Kralovny Elisky, I savor palacinka, delectable pancakes filled with ice cream and/or fruit. You’ll find pretty similar offerings in dozens of spots. Czech cuisine tends to be (how can I say this nicely?) devoted to certain favorites: roast pork, sausages, stuffed potato pancakes, smoked meats, roast duck. Visit a down-home eatery in Brno and you’re likely to discover what Vanderziel jokingly refers to as "menu envy:" a vast selection of options that differ from each other only in infinitesimal ways.
There are exceptions, of course, and my favorite is Brabander. As I approach, the sign proclaiming it a "living restaurant" gives my cynical self a little pause, but once I head down their stairs to the cellar, all doubts are removed. The decor is inviting: light wood tables, dark tile floors, a profusion of fresh flowers. The staff is young, cute, and sweet. And the food! Based in Czech cuisine but spinning it off in new directions, it’s as intriguing a menu as you’ll find in town. From a bewitching zucchini carpaccio with whipped sheep cheese, a sprinkle of pine nuts, and drizzles of olive oil (who knew zucchini could be so good?), to a tower of duck breast slices perfectly medium-rare with a rich, luscious chanterelle sauce.
Not up to a huge meal? There’s a plethora of cafes in Brno; as in much of Europe, the term is used for a wide variety of places. Some, like the sleekly minimalist Onyx, seem mainly spots to stop for coffee. Some, like 1926 Zemanova Kavarna (the last word means "cafe"), are really closer to restaurants. Others, like the always-hopping Spolek, tend to combine the two; with a bookstore upstairs and walls lined with posters for exhibits and performances, it’s the place of choice for the young intellectual crowd who gather over coffee, beer, or full meals.
As I sit eternally over cappuccino (no self-respecting Brno cafe would boot you out even if you stay for hours), a group of twenty-somethings discusses in animated tones what I imagine to be the state of the world; singles sit quietly over a glass of wine and a plate of pasta, often with a newspaper or book in hand; a gay couple leans across their corner table, enjoying an intimately whispered conversation. In a city that lacks the cafe scene of somewhere like Vienna, it’s an admirable (and gay-friendly) gathering-spot for those devoted to arts, politics, or simply a reasonable meal or endless coffee in the company of friends.
If caffeine’s not your thing, be assured you can enjoy some of the area’s best vintages. Brno’s province, Moravia, is the country’s wine producing region, with a particular emphasis on whites, and many of those mysterious cellar doors will lead to winning wine bars where you can enjoy some exceptional local selections. If you’re more into malt, local breweries provide the traditional Czech lager.
While you won’t see many gay couples walking hand in hand here in conservative Moravia, attitudes are opening up, particularly among the young. Perhaps, notes Ales Rumpel from the Czech Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, this is a result of the new generation that didn’t grow up with the paranoia of Communism. These days, gay people are pretty well accepted; in fact, it looks like a Czech domestic partnership law is soon to be passed. When right wing politicians utter homophobic remarks, the rest of the political spectrum is quick to condemn them; compare that to the situation in the United States and the Czech Republic begins to look downright progressive.
At any rate, the visitor will experience a pleasing variety of spots to mingle with the community. I start my own exploration in Acko, a simpie pub/cafe with wood tables, vaulted ceilings, and yellow walls turning brown from years of smoke. It’s a mixed’ crowd of men and women, primarily gay, and it’s presided over by friendly Honza and Zdenek. My main thought when I walk in is "It’s so nice to see people having a good time." No posing here, no attitude, just friends gathered over a meal or (more often) a beer. For a gay visitor, it’s unmissable, as much community center as pub, people stopping friends as they come in, cheek-kissing and catching up on the latest news. In short, it’s the kind of place I wish there were more of-gay and non-gay mixing with ease, men and women sharing tables, people gathered in a spirit of friendliness and fun.
From there to H46, a tiny bar with a cave-like feeling: rounded pink walls, half a dozen tables, and an angular bar at the corner with a row of stools. The first thing I notice is that some of the most gorgeous men I’ve ever seen are sharing tables with guys who are noticeably less gorgeous-something that would rarely happen at home. The crowd’s mainly in their thirties and forties; the place, about the size of a postage stamp, feels cozy and welcoming rather than stifling (at least, until you try to put on your coat at the end of the evening). As at Acko, the feeling is more one of gathering friends rather than heavy cruising, and even with my non-existent Czech, I manage to make myself understood to the amiable bartender. Cozy, welcoming, friendly, amiable-those are getting to be key words in Brno, especially gay Brno, and it’s one of the things I like the most about the scene here, and the city as a whole.
Want to dance? Head to U Richarda (Richard’s), in the "suburbs" near Villa Tugendhat. According to Vanderziel: "Locals call it ‘the garage’ because it used to be, literally, someone’s garage. During the Communist era it was a secret place where gay people could gather." Though it’s been enlarged, and now feels basically like a typical Euro disco, its history makes me appreciate it a little more, seeing beyond the’ gyrating bodies to a history of bravery in a different era.
The largest gay dance spot in Brno, Kings Club, offers dancing on the first floor and a video "darkroom" downstairs. Unlike U Richarda, where people meet both to dance and to socialize at the bar, it’s pretty much just a dance spot.
Want something more mixed than the all-male Kings? Try the new hot dance club Cerberus, a lesbian-owned spot that caters to women but where gay men are also welcome. So pick your style: mixed or mono-gender, dancing or chatting, booze or food, or some combination of the above.
As I head back to the Royal Ricc after a full evening of… research, I pause to look over the winding streets, the brick walls, the stairways, and I think, why is the beauty of this city so under-appreciated? I could spend days (and do) just wandering around, exploring tiny side streets, marveling at the contradictions/amalgams of architecture, sipping in a dozen different wonderful coffeehouses, enjoying hearty Czech cooking and any thoughts of a diet be damned. It’s small, manageable, walkable; and if you exhaust the possibilities right in town (unlikely), there’s a wealth of exploration to do in the area around Brno, from castles and chateaus to small wineries and several UNESCO World Heritage sites.
It’s all there waiting to be discovered on your own time, and that’s what’s nice about Brno: it reveals its layers to the intrepid as well as the casual stroller. Everyone who comes here is rewarded with a city where the most important activity is taking things slow and easy, enjoying life and the company you’re with. There’s really no rush to do anything here, so slow down and take things on "Czech time." Get yourself a glass or mug of whatever you fancy. Sit for a while. That’s how it’s done in Brno, and you might as well join in the spirit.
When calling from the U.S., dial 011-420 before all numbers unless otherwise indicated.
You can easily fly to Prague on Czech Airlines, Tel: 800-223-2365. I remain amazed at how easy it is: from check-in through flight to customs procedures on arrival, it’s probably the most hassle-free international travel I’ve ever done. You might also consider flying to Vienna, which is much closer to Brno (90 minutes as opposed to two-plus hours). www.csa.cz.en
The best way to get from Prague (airport or city) to Brno and vice-versa is Student Agency Express. Their comfy and well-appointed buses (coffee is served onboard, and movies, sometimes in English, are shown) beat the pricier and less convenient trains any day. www.studentagency.cz
Best Western Premier Hotel International, Husova 16. Tel: 542-122-111. Doubles $220. Run by the U.S. chain, this rather faceless building has been transformed into a comfortable hotel with a good location near the Applied Arts Museum. www.bestwestern.com
Grandhotel, Benesova 18-20. Tel: 542-518-111. Doubles $208-$373. Across from the train station, the Grand is a bit faded around the edges but is great for those who love the old-style regal hotels. www.grandhotelbrno.cz
Hotel Pegas, Jakubska 5. Tel: 542-210-104. Doubles $79. A hidden gem upstairs from the restaurant of the same name, this 14-room lodging offers affordable digs right at the heart of town. www.hotelpegas.cz
Royal Rice, Starobrnenska 10. Tel: 542-219-262. Doubles $143-$164. This boutique hotel in a sixteenth-century building has it all: location, lovely design, friendly staff. The best choice in town. www.romantichotels.cz
1926 Zemanova Kavarna, Jezuitska 6. Tel: 542218-096. A reproduction of one of the classic functionalist buildings, with a traditional Czech menu enlivened by a few surprises.
Brabander, Jostova 4. Tel: 542-211-922. Creatively-prepared cuisine, based in Czech traditions but tilting toward the global, in this comfy "Living Restaurant" on the edge of Old Town.
U Kastelana, Kotlarska 51a. Tel: 541-213-497. Another great choice for imaginative and nicelypresented cookery, specializing in Mediterranean cuisine with some Czech flavors.
U Kralovny Elisky, Mondelovo namesti. 1. Tel: 543-212-578. It’s as much about atmosphere as food in this longtime favorite, the former wine cellar of the monastery where Gregor Mendel worked. It’s lit by candlelight and offers a wide range of Czech choices.
Pegas, Jakubska 5. Tel: 542-210-104. The beer hall atmosphere and hearty portions make this one of the city’s most popular.
Pod Radnicnim Kolem, Mecova 5. Tel: 542-211135. This cozy spot is patronized by both locals and tourists for its Czech dishes named in an offbeat fashion but that still hit the spot.
Stopkova Plzenska Pivnice, Ceska 5. Tel: 542211-094. An old-time Czech pub/restaurant that’s a good introduction to the local cuisine.
VIP, Grohova 2. Tel: 541-2248-778. Another cellar spot, this one offers a nice blend of the traditional and creative (great staff, too).
Acko, Starobrnenska 16-18. Tel: 603-398-273. Whether you come for a snack, a meal, or a beer, this low-key joint is what a (mostly) gay place should be: inviting, friendly, and welcoming.
Cafe Onyx, Zamecnicka 1. Tel: 542-211-406. A chic new "neo-functionalist" cafe, the panels on the wall show where it got its name: a favorite with Brno trendies.
Kavarna u Kapucinu, Kapucinske namesti 7. Tel: 542-212-757. A place to refuel after visiting the gruesome wonders of the nearby Capuchin vaults.
La Dolce Vita, Bisupska 3. Tel: 543-237-348. If you’re after hot chocolate, you can’t go wrong here
where you’re given a daily "hot chocolate" menu to choose from and a spoon to help you with the thick, rich drink.
La Solitaire, Kozi 12. Tel: 737-243-020. Snug and amicable coffeehouse with several rooms, good music, and a nice crowd.
Spolek, Orlf 22. Tel: 542-219-002. A favorite with the young crowd (though you’ll find people of all ages), it’s a perfect stop for anything from an espresso to a dish of pasta.
=Acko, Starobrnenska 16-18. Tel: 603-398-273. Okay, is it a cafe or a nightspot? Whichever, it’s the place of choice to begin your nightlife prowl, so don’t miss it.
=Barclub H46, Hybesova 46. Tel: 543-234-945. Tiny, cozy, and fun for a drink or conversation.
=Cerberus, Stara Osada 15. Tel: 545-242-493. A relatively new entry on the scene, this lesbian-run spot is male-friendly and a place to find the community united in dancing up a storm.
=King’s Club, Pekarska 7. Tel: 543-237-106. Brno’s largest dance club, with main floor dance spot and downstairs "darkroom."
U Richarda, Luzova 29. Tel: 545-572-937. This longstanding favorite was a secret gay club during Soviet years and continues to lure a faithful crowd for both dancing as well as chatting around the bar.
Sights and Attractions
=Applied Arts Museum, Husova 14. Tel: 532-169-111. www.moravska-galerie.cz
=Brno City Museum, Menfnska 7. Tel: 542-214-946. www.spilberk.cz.
=Brno House of Arts, Malinovskeho nam. 2. Tel: 542-211-808. www.dumb.cz.
= Gallery G99, Dominikanska 9. Tel: 542-423-440. www.dumb.cz.
=Moravian Museum, Zelny Trh 8. Tel: 542-321-205. www.mzm.cz
=Sklenena Louka (Glass Meadow), Kounikova 23. Tel: 549-241-812. www.sklenenalouka.cz
=Spilberk Castle, Spilberk 1. Tel: 542-123-611. www.spilberk.cz
=Villa Tugendhat, Cernopolni 45. Tel: 545-212-118. www.tugendhat-villa.cz
For gay information, your best bet is STUD. Tel: 549212-728. www.stud.cz.lt.s best to send an e-mail for further details after checking their online gay guide as telephones are often busy.
December 16, 2005 – 365Gay.com
Czech Republic, Austria Move To Legalize Gay Unions
by Malcolm Thornberry
Prague – A bill to create a domestic partner registry for gay and lesbian couples passed the lower house of the Czech Republic on Friday. The legislation would give same-sex couples many of the same rights as marriage, including inheritance and the ability to make health care decisions for ailing partners. It does not, however, permit same-sex couples to adopt children.
Eighty-six of the 147 deputies present voted in favor of the draft, 54 were against and seven abstained from the vote.
Most of the deputies for the Social Democrats and Communists voted in favor of the draft, while Christian Democrats and deputies of the center-right Civic Democratic Party opposed it.
Parliament turned down similar proposals five times in the past. It was rejected by a majority of just one vote in the last vote on the issue in February.The draft still needs approval by the Senate and the president to become valid.
If enacted, the legislation would allow couples who register their partnership with authorities to have rights to inheritance and health care that are similar to those granted now to heterosexual married couples. " Our ideas (about same-sex partnership) are much wider than the draft, but this is an acceptable compromise," said Jiri Hromada a leading Czech gay activist.
Meanwhile, in Vienna on Friday, Austria’s justice minister announced that he is considering legislation to grant limited recognition of same-sex couples.
Justice Minister Karin Gastinger, a member of the center-right Alliance for the Future of Austria, told the Austria Press Agency in an interview that gay and lesbian couples would be able to sign a registry and get rights to partners’ estates and medical care. Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel’s conservative Austrian People’s Party is in a coalition with the Alliance. It is unclear with Schuessel supports the move.
Next week the first same-sex couples in the United Kingdom will begin exchanging vows under Britain’s new civil partnership law. Thursday, Latvia became the first European country to amend its constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
February 16, 2006 – China View.com (Xinhuanet)
Czech President Vetoes Registered Partners Bill for Gays
Prague – Czech President Vaclav Klaus said Thursday that he has vetoed the bill on registered partnership of same-sex couples. The bill will return to the Chamber of Deputies where its supporters need 101 votes out of the house’s 200 MPs to override the president’s veto. Klaus said that the bill over which he got in a dispute with Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek had the support of 86 deputies. Paroubek had called on Klaus to sign the bill into law.
"Even if I as president did not have a clear opinion, I would insist that such marked intervention in the legal arrangement of human and especially partner and intimate relations must be supported by a majority of deputies, or that at least 101 of them must vote in support of the law," Klaus said.
Klaus considers the bill bad because it extends the "area of state interventions into people’s lives." "This is just the contrary of liberalization," he added. He said he hopes that the debate in the lower house will not be just formal and that it will not take the form of "party leaderships pressing on individual deputies."
The legislation ensures the partners’ right to information on the health condition of their partners and a chance to inherit property just as married couples. It also counts with the mutual obligation to pay maintenance and allows the homosexual partners to raise children, but it does not allow them to adopt them.
According to a poll from last October, only 30 percent of Czech citizens oppose the introduction of registered partnership, while 62 percent support it.
The legislation would have brought the Czech Republic in line with many other European Union countries, which offer some form of legal recognition – if not full marriage equality – to same-sex couples.
Klaus’ veto angered gay rights advocates in the Czech Republic. "This is a tragic decision of a medieval monarch, not of a president of a developed democratic state in the 21st century," Jiri Hromada of the Czech Gay Institute said in a quote published by the Daily Monitor. "It isn’t a bad bill and it is in the interested of the public to pass it, same as in other European countries."
March 15, 2006 – Reuters
Czech parliament votes to override presidential veto; approves gay partnerships
Prague – The Czech lower house of parliament voted on Wednesday to override a presidential veto and approve a law allowing same-sex partnerships.
The law allowing same-sex couples to officially register, and terminate, their relationships was originally approved by the lower house. But in mid-February right-wing President Vaclav Klaus vetoed the bill saying it increased state regulation and copied a set-up justifiable only for traditional families.
An absolute majority of 101 in the 200-seat lower house was needed to override the veto and approve the law. The government got exactly that, with 101 of the 177 deputies present approving the law.
The law had strong backing from Social Democrat Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, but junior government coalition party the Christian Democrats opposed the measure.
The rightist opposition Civic Democrats voted against it saying Paroubek pushed the law through as an election gimmick.
Czechs head to the polls in a general election on June 2-3.
The law also allows access to information on the health of a gay partner. It allows same-sex couples to raise children, but it does not permit adoptions.
Czechs are mostly non-religious and surveys show most support same-sex couples having the option of registering their partnerships.
June 03, 2006 – Radio Praha
Tereza Kodickova – registered partnership matter of recognition for gays
by Rob Cameron
Rob Cameron’s guest in One on One this week is Tereza Kodickova, spokesperson for the Gay and Lesbian League. On Tuesday, the lower house of parliament will meet to discuss whether to overrule President Klaus’s veto of one of the most controversial acts of legislation passed by the Czech parliament since the fall of Communism. The bill on registered partnership – approved by parliament but vetoed by the president – would give gay couples many of the rights enjoyed by heterosexual married couples, and the sexually liberal Czech Republic would become the first post-Communist country in the EU to legalise gay marriage.
Tereza, a personal question to start with – when did you know you were gay?
"At the age of 24."
So it took you some time?
Is that an experience that is shared by many gay and lesbian people do you think – that it takes them a while to discover their sexual orientation?
"I think this is the case more in women. I know it’s more frequent for women to find out later."
How different is life for gay and lesbian people now in the Czech Republic and before 1989 in communist Czechoslovakia?
"Well, gay people were persecuted, so life was very difficult. It was completely impossible to be gay or lesbian publicly. Which is not the case now, but paradoxically – particularly among the older generation, or not the completely young generation rather – people still have the same fears they used to have before. So they refuse to come out, which means the community is almost equally invisible to the previous times. I think that’s a pity, and when I’ve spoken to the people who have come out, apart from a very few exceptions, they’ve always said – you know, it was much less horrible than I thought. Which means that the fears people have are not grounded any longer, but they still have them."
What was it like for you, coming out?
"It was quite easy I would say. Because I was away, I was studying abroad, and I came back and things were different, and then I thought – is it worth it? Is it worth thinking all the time, did I use the right pronoun, did I cover it up sufficiently. So I just decided not to bother, and I told practically everyone. Some people disappeared from my life, most of them remained, and now being the spokesperson of the Gay and Lesbian League! Actually it’s a good way of coming out because you don’t need to tell anyone at all."
No explanation needed.
"Yeah, no explanation needed. So that’s quite…good."
And your parents’ reaction?
"Oh. That was not easy. That wasn’t easy, and it wouldn’t be easy still if it wasn’t for the fact that now I’m actually seeing a man. So my parents are more than happy and they’re hoping for me to – I don’t know – get married very soon and stuff like that. But they never accepted it."
The Czech Republic seems to me a very tolerant country, especially in matters of sexuality. The Czech Republic is often described as one of the most sexually liberal countries in Europe, if not the world. Does that extend to the way the population views the gay community?
"Well the Czech population is quite lazy in being violent towards anyone."
So it’s a matter of laziness is it?
"Partly. Partly because since it’s a fairly secular country, we don’t have the strong arguments against we know from countries where religion plays a bigger role. But usually, when you live the life, you see that the tolerance is of the kind – OK, let them do whatever, until they come into my life. If they do, I just don’t want to see them, I don’t want to be near them. On the other hand, this is the beginning. And if you actually manage to take the person to a café and talk to them for three hours, usually the end is – actually, hmm, you know you’re quite normal!"
And has that happened to you personally, that you’ve managed to convince someone?
"Oh indeed. Many times. Many times. It’s just a matter of knowing what to say and not taking stuff people say personally."
One person you haven’t convinced is the president of this country, Vaclav Klaus, who recently vetoed legislation that would allow registered partnerships – i.e. that would allow gay people such as yourself to live almost in exactly the same way as heterosexual married couples. Where do you think the opposition really lies with him?
"As he says, his opinion is stable and long-term. So, basically, it’s just – well, I have to say it – homophobia. And of course you can always find all sorts of reasons to cover the fact that you just don’t like the people and that you don’t want to let them live the same way as you do because you think that your life is in some way better or more useful or whatever. But the basis – and I think he doesn’t even try to cover it – is that he just doesn’t want it."
But he did explain it by saying that there was just not enough political support in parliament for this law, pointing out that only 86 MPs voted in favour of the bill, which is a far from overwhelming expression of support, isn’t it?
"Yes, but the bill has been approved. So the parliament expressed enough support for the bill to be approved. There are other bills that have passed by one vote, so I don’t quite see…again it’s just a justification for his dislike of this bill."
He invited representatives of the gay community to come to the Castle and discuss the matter with him. You said no. Why?
"We didn’t say no."
But the groups representing lesbians and gays refused his invitation.
"One group said no, the other – that’s us – said yes. We feel that he is the president, and if we had refused he would have had yet another argument to say – they don’t even want to talk to me, so why should I support them? Personal meetings always give you a chance, so we’ve decided to use it."
So you think that given the opportunity of sitting down with him face to face that you’ll be able to persuade him?
"Not that probably. But my experience as the spokesperson is that when the people see you and they have the opportunity to talk to you, something changes for them."
Opponents of the bill have pointed out that the point of marriage is to raise children, so why give this right to gay couples. How would you answer that criticism?
"The Family Act says the main cause for marriage is to raise children. There are also many other justifications for marriage, such as mutual economic, social, psychological support that people give to each other. That’s one thing. There are many childless marriages and they have not been cancelled because there haven’t been any children. The other thing is that many gay couples do raise children, be it from previous marriages or from the current relationship they live in. So this argument doesn’t work either. I also know that there are people who have been through the Communist times and they see this as the country saying – OK, we now take you as fully-fledged citizens and we do accept you for this."
So for many gay couples it’s about recognition.
July 1, 2006 – www.news24.co
Gay Czechs say ‘I do’
Prague – The first same sex marriages in Central Europe took place at registry offices across the Czech Republic on Saturday, as gay couples seized the opportunity to take advantage of a long fought for change in the law. The very first Czech gay marriage was between cook, Pepa, and railway worker, Karel, in the registry offices of the eastern city of Ostrava. "It is the first registered partnership in the Czech Republic," proclaimed registrar, Jana Stancikova, who conducted the ceremony.
The law allowing single-sex marriages, or registered partnerships, took effect on July 1. The Czech Republic is the first country in the region to allow same-sex marriages. Pepa and Karel, who have lived together for seven years, intended honeymooning in Croatia. They said one of the main reasons for sealing their relationship with a civic ceremony was to put their finances on a more stable footing.
"We have saved a bit of money together. Now we know that we will have the right to something if something happens to one of us," they said. Stancikova later married 27-year-old baker, Stepanka, and 30-year-old Vendulka, both from Opava.
"As soon as I knew that the law had been passed, I asked Stepanka for her hand," said Vendulka. Vendulka regretted that the new law – approved in December and won with the bare overall majority required to overturn a veto by President Vaclav Klaus – does not allow single sex couples to adopt children.
Klaus said the vote was "a defeat for all of us who believe that the family in our society is fundamental, unique and unrivalled".
Stancikova said 10 gay and lesbian couples had booked the civic ceremony with dozens of others asking for more information.
An opinion poll this year showed 62% of Czechs in favour of same-sex marriages or registered partnerships.
Previous proposals for registered partnerships had been rejected in four separate votes in parliament. The last, in February, was defeated by a single vote.
3 July 2006 – www.gcn.ie
Low Turn Out For Gay Czech Civil Partnerships
Only three gay couples took advantage of the Czech Republic’s new law for civil partnerships on its first day, last Saturday. The law will allow couples who register their partnership with authorities to have inheritance and health care rights similar to those granted now to heterosexual married couples. The law, however, does not allow marriage or adoption of children by same-sex partners.
The first couple to enter into register their partnership was a pair of gay men identified only as Josef and Karel in Ostrava, in northern Moravia. "We’ve saved some money together. Now we are sure of not losing it if either of us passed away," Karel told the local press. Recent public opinion polls show most Czechs support same-sex couples having the option of registering their partnerships.
January 2, 2007 – www.playfuls.com
Gay Marriages Growing In Czech Republic
by News Staff
More than 200 gay and lesbian couples registered their partnerships in the Czech Republic in the past six months, Prague Radio said Tuesday. Jiri Hromada, of the Gay Initiative, said his non-governmental organization had expected "much less interest" in registered same-sex marriages, the Czech Mlada Fronta Dnes newspaper reported.
On July 1, the Czech Republic became the first post-communist central European country to legalize gay and lesbian partnerships. The new same-sex marriage law grants gay and lesbian couples the same rights as traditional unions, except it bans them from adopting children. The Czech Republic joined the European Union in 2004.
January 3, 2007 – www.playfuls.com
Czech Activist "overwhelmed" By Success Of Gay Marriage
by Editorial Staff
The president of the largest Czech gay and lesbian organization said Wednesday he was overwhelmed by the number of same-sex couples that have tied the knot in the Czech Republic over the past six months. Over 200 same-sex couples have exchanged vows since a law permitting gay marriage came into effect on July 1, 2006, showing such unions had lost all whiff of scandal, Jiri Hromada, president of Gay Iniciativa said.
"That also means however that our organization will be dissolved after 17 years, because it has achieved its essential objectives," said Gay Iniciativa’s co-founder. The Czech Republic became the first former Communist country to adopt gay marriage last year. Same-sex couples still do not, however, have the right to adopt children.
January 17, 2007 – Czech Radio
Landmark ruling on discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation
Forty-three year old Lech Sydor from eastern Moravia was promised a job as a masseur in a rehabilitation centre. When the centre’s management found out that he was gay, it refused to employ him. Mr Sydor took his case to court and won. As Dita Asiedu reports, this is a landmark case in the Czech Republic where a court has never before ruled on a sexual orientation discrimination case. Seventy thousand crowns in damages – around 3,200 US dollars – and an apology. That’s what Lech Sydor, who is now a manual labourer in a private company has been awarded. One of the reasons why Mr Sydor had the courage to take his case to court was that the company that refused to employ him did not even try to hide the reason why.
"When I spoke to the director, he looked me straight in the eye and told me that he cannot afford to employ me because I am gay." In court, the Beskydy Rehabilitation Centre claimed someone who was better qualified had applied for the job. But after the ruling, its spokesperson Tomas Zelazko admitted that the centre feared that its clients would react negatively to a gay masseur.
"We have employees who are of a different sexual orientation but they work in places where the elderly for example wouldn’t be bothered. We object to the fact that we are not permitted to ask during job interviews whether the applicant drinks alcohol or takes drugs or what his sexual orientation is." Though Mr Sydor was the first to go to court, gay and lesbian organisations say he is not the only one to have been rejected by employers on the grounds of sexual preference.
Tereza Kodickova of the Gay and Lesbian League welcomes the court ruling and hopes Mr Sydor’s act of bravery will set a precedent. "Firstly, we are very happy that the justice understood that our sexual orientation is a cause of discrimination and secondly, we are very happy that someone has finally found the strength to come out and publicly ask our state to say that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is wrong. We do hope that in the future more people will find the courage to come out so that the discrimination will become visible and will be reduced."
Although Mr Sydor won his case in court he plans to take it a step further. If the Labour Office also finds the rehabilitation centre guilty of discrimination, it can grant a fine of up to one million crowns.
23 January 2007 – From: "Jaroslav Kopecky"
Subject: Valentine’s Day Packages
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16th April 2007 – PinkNews
Changing Czechs embrace gays and rich people
by PinkNews.co.uk writer
A survey into attitudes of Czechs towards a range of groups of people shows increasing tolerance of gay people. 1046 people over 15 responded to the poll. In 1997, 29% of people said they "tolerated" homosexuals: the figure has doubled by 2007. The other group who have found more acceptance in the former Communist country are the rich.
In 2003, 42% of respondents would not like a homosexual to be their neighbour, this year only 29 percent of people gave that response. In 2005, 16% of citizens did not want to live next to the rich, while now one in ten does not want rich neighbours.
In the past, people of a different religion or political view were the least desired neighbours for Czech people. How it is drug addicts, alcoholics, smokers and the mentally ill that are the neighbours they do not want.
November 06, 2007- Radio Praha
South African court orders re-arrest of Radovan Krejcir
A court in Johannesburg has ruled that fugitive Czech businessman Radovan Krejcir may be arrested again provided that the Czech Republic supplies all the required documents. The prosecutor acting on behalf of the Czech Republic says all materials are already in South Africa and wants to have Mr Krejcir arrested immediately. The businessman, whose whereabouts are unknown at the moment, was arrested in South Africa in April but was released last week because the Czech authorities did not file extradition documents in time. However, both Czech Justice Ministry and South African prosecution claim the period had not expired. Mr Krejcir can move freely in South Africa, but may not leave the country. In the Czech Republic, he is wanted for a number of economic as well as violent crimes.
International Union of Architects: New National Library building tender was fair
The International Union of Architects says that the tender for a new National Library building in Prague was fair. In an unofficial response to an inquiry by eight Czech architecture studios dissatisfied with the results of the contest, the Union confirmed the position of the international jury that chose the project by Czech-born London-based architect Jan Kaplicky. The results of the tender were published in March and immediately provoked criticism based both on technical and aesthetic objections. The new National Library should be finished by 2010 on Prague’s Letna Plain and will cost about two billion Czech crowns.
Ostrava witnesses first divorces of gay couples
The district court in Ostrava has been dealing with first cases of divorces of gay couples. Ales Palkovsky, the vice-chairman of the court, said three lesbian couples have asked the court to cancel their registration, and two of them have already been cancelled. Conditions for the cancellation of registered partnerships are much softer than they are for heterosexual marriages, said Palkovsky. In the Czech Republic, gay couples have been able to contract registered partnerships since last July, after a long-term camping by homosexual advocacy groups.
Skoda was the largest Czech exporter in 2006
Skoda Auto was the biggest exporter in the Czech Republic in 2006, according to the CZECH TOP 100 Association. Skoda’s exports rose 10 percent last year and reached 178 billion Czech crowns, or more than eight billion US dollars. The Czech car maker was the top exporter in 2005 as well. The foreign trade of the Czech Republic, relying mostly on car exports, closed with a surplus of 47.3 billion crowns last year, which was the best result in history.
Most Czechs support death penalty, poll suggests
Fifty-eight percent of Czechs support the death penalty, indicates a poll carried out by the CVVM agency in May. Most supporters of the death penalty say that it is an adequate and just punishment for grave crimes. The death penalty in former Czechoslovakia was abolished in 1990. Until then, about 1200 people had been executed since the end of the WWII. The number of people supporting capital punishment has been decreasing since 1992, when 76 percent of the population were in favour, while in 2000 it was 60 percent.
Tax Freedom Day in the Czech Republic
Monday marks the beginning of tax freedom in the Czech Republic and Czechs are no longer working for the state, says the think tank Liberal Institute, referring to estimates by the OECD. The Tax Freedom Day symbolically ends the period of 164 days during which all income was paid to the authorities. This year, the day came three days earlier than last year. The date of the Tax Freedom Day varies in different countries depending on tax duty.
Czech Justice Ministry in debt due to large-scale renovation
The Czech Justice Ministry is in debt and cannot pay the companies it had commissioned, says Hospodarske noviny. The daily reported that one of the companies even sold its claims of nearly 60 million CZK to a foreign bank. The Ministry started renovating court buildings and constructing a new Justice Palace in Brno during the term of the former minister Pavel Nemec; it commissioned more renovation work than the ministry could afford, said the daily.
Beer Barrel Polka is the most played Czech song abroad
Beer Barrel Polka is the most frequently played Czech song abroad, said Blanka Ruzickova of the Czech performing rights society. Beer Barrel Polka, known in Czech as Skoda lasky, or Wasted Love, was composed by Jaroslav Vejvoda in 1930s, and immediately became popular all across Europe and. German soldiers during WWII knew the song as Rosamunde, while American marines enjoyed it as Here Comes the Navy. Today, the song exists in 16 languages with 28 different lyrics.
Hot weather with temperatures above average to last
Hot weather with temperatures just below 30 degrees Celsius will continue in the Czech Republic until 10 July. According to the long-term forecast of the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute, June will be the tenth month in a row with temperatures rising above average. The amount of rainfall for the same period will remain at the usual level, said the Czech weathermen.
It is expected to be mostly sunny with occasional showers and storms. The temperatures should reach up to 31 degrees Celsius.
December 12, 2007 – Edge Philadelphia
Czech Gay Exhibit Traces Evolution of GLBT Rights
by Kilian Melloy, EDGE Philadelphia Contributor
The Czech Republic has made great strides in GLBT equality since the collapse of Communism. Now a touring exhibition showcases some highlights. The exhibit was presented to the public in the Hrzansky Palace to make the day of human rights, reported the Prague Daily Monitor today (www.praguemonitor.com/en/231/life_in_the_czech_republic/15830/).
A leader in the Czech Republic’s early GLBT equality movement, Jiri Hromada, spoke with the press about the exhibit, telling news outlets that the exhibit will be on display in Prague in Jan., 2008. Hromada said that the exhibit will be housed in the Prague House of Ethnic Minorities from Jan. 5–25, The Daily Monitor reported. Explained Hromada, "We want to show to the public that gays and lesbians did not fall from the Mars." Continued Hromada, "The older generation used to say there were no homosexuals in its youth."
The exhibition consists of three parts, which sketch a history of GLBT people in the region from the ancient world, to the upheavals of the 20th century, and the post-1990 era, afer the end of the Communist regime. Of the three periods, the latest has seen the most activity among GLBT people. Several organizations devoted to the rights and needs of GLBT citizens have emerged in the past 18 years, including Gay Initiative, Lambda, and SOHO, the article said.
The Prague venue is, according to the Gay.com Out Traveler Guide (www.gay.com/travel/premium/?sernum=553), a GLBT-friendly place with an active night life, a thriving arts and culture scene, and–fitting for the capital of Bohemia–a scenice beauty that was spared the ravages of World War II.
The modern Czech Republic offers freedoms to all its citizens, including a registry for domestic partners–a considerable change from earlier times, considering that homosexuality had been illegal in the region until 1961. Said Hromada, "Virtually everything we have sought has been achieved since the fall of the Communist regime."
Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.
30th January 2008 – PinkNews
Nearly 500 Czech gay and lesbian couples register
by Tony Grew
Research into the number of homosexual partnerships registered in the Czech Republic since a change in the law in July 2006 has found that not many have taken up their new rights. 353 male same-sex couples and 134 lesbian couples had registered by the end of 2007, reports Czech gay portal Colour Planet. The Czech Republic was the first post-communist to recognise homosexual partnerships. Their registered partnership legislation covers inheritance, maintenance and hospital rights for same-sex partners, but not adoption.
It was initially vetoed by then-president Vaclav Klaus in 2006. He claimed it increased the state’s power to interfere with individual lives. In March 2006 his veto was overturned in the Czech lower house. An opinion poll last year found that nearly 70% of adults in the Czech Republic believe that registered partnership should be available to gays and lesbians. Of the 487 partnerships already registered, 43 were formed with a foreign nationals, mostly from Slovakia, along with Azerbaijan, Taiwan, Israel, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Armenia, the Netherlands, the USA and Canada. Eight of the registered partnerships have ceased to exist – five cases were lesbian couples, the poll showed.
June 04, 2008 – Allafrica.com
Czech Republic Launches Automatic Syringe Machines To Curb HIV
The Czech Republic recently installed two automatic syringe machines in the capital of Prague in an effort to curb the spread of HIV and other bloodborne diseases among injection drug users, CTK/Prague Daily Monitor reports. The machines — the first to be installed in the country — provide a syringe and disinfection materials for 20 Czech koruna, or about $1.25. A second packet for 30 koruna, or about $1.90, also includes clean water, vitamin C and a special substance to dilute drugs. The project was launched by the group PROGRESSIVE to provide constant access to clean syringes, even if pharmacies are closed. "The use of clean syringes prevents the spreading of infectious diseases, such as hepatitis" and HIV, Vojtech Janouskovec, head of PROGRESSIVE’s No Biohazard program, said. If the pilot project in Prague is successful, it could be expanded to other parts of the country, CTK/Prague Daily Monitor reports (CTK/Prague Daily Monitor, 6/3).
20 June 2008 – aktualne.centrum.cz
First Czech Gay Pride has Brno up in arms
by Lenka Smycková
Brno – Southern Moravian capital will see the first gay and lesbian march ever held in the country. The so-called "Rainbow Parade" event, planned for Saturday 28 June, has already caused controversies among far-right and Christian groups. The tradition of gay pride marches emerged in the USA in the 1970s and is now a commonplace in most of the major Western cities. Central Europe has already seen queer parades in Budapest, Ljubljana, Sarajevo and Tallinn. "We want the Czech Republic to join this tradition," said march spokeswoman Andrea Jochmanová.
The event is aimed at reducing the level of homophobia among Czechs. "We also want to point out specific legal and social inequalities in the Czech Republic, such as family issues and legal insecurity of raising children," explained Jochmanová. The Rainbow Parade is organized by the following associations: Holky v Brne, Kluci.info, Gender Information Center Nora, Stud and Nesehnutí. Martina Navrátilová, former tennis player that first came out in 1981has fully supported the Brno event.
Far-right and Christian opposition
Gays and lesbians will ask for tolerance during their march, but it is more than clear some people are not willing to tolerate them. The National Party (Národní strana) sees the event as a "pressure on the majority, pressure that is disgusting and awkward, pressure leading to social acceptation of the children being adopted by homosexual couples." Members of the party are prepared to protest against the march. Police are evaluating potential risks in order to determine what security measures will need to be applied. In their effort to bar the march, Národní strana will be reinforced by other right wing associations: Conservative Party (Konzervativní strana), Law and Justice (Právo a spravedlnost) and a group called National Renewal Action (Akce národní obnovy).
In addition, Právo a spravedlnost are calling on the Christian Democratic (KDU-CSL) leadership, Brno town hall members and all Czech and Moravian bishops to attend their protest too. Christian activists plan a prayer meeting at Brno´s Námestí Svobody square. So far, the parade organizers were not able to say how many will attend. They hope for hundreds of participants.
July 18, 2008 – Prague Daily Monitor
Minister for minorities supports adoption by gay partners by CTK
Czech Minister for human rights and ethnic minorities Dzamila Stehlikova (Greens, SZ) would allow homosexuals to adopt children of their partners, she told reporters Thursday. Czech experts are studying the influence of gay and lesbian parents on children. The studies should be completed in early 2009 and then Stehlikova wants to present them to the public. Similar studies carried out abroad have not proved any negative impact in connection with the sexual orientation of parents, Stehlikova said.
On the basis of the studies’ results, the government working group for sexual minorities will prepare ground documentation for possible legislative changes. Stehlikova said homosexuals should have the right to adopt children of their same sex-partners that they have from their previous marriages. She added that during this election term, no proposal that homosexuals be allowed to adopt children in general be submitted.
Stehlikova, however, said it would be better for children to live with a same-sex sex couple than in institutional care. The Czech Republic has been criticised over a too high number of children in institutional care in the long run. Some 20,000 children live in various institutions in the 10-million country.
September 25, 2008 – PinkNews
Czech vote on discrimination bill delayed until after elections
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
A key parliamentary vote that would bring the Czech Republic into line with other EU nations has been delayed. It is the only country in the European Union with no anti-discrimination law, and wide-ranging legislation that includes sexual orientation is before the Chamber of Deputies. It has decided to wait until after elections to the Senate next month before it votes. A previous vote in June was delayed because of fears it would not pass.
One third of the Senate is up for election. If the bill fails to pass it is likely that the Czech government will not support the proposed anti discrimination EU directive, which also includes sexual orientation. The Czech Republic was the first post-communist government to recognise homosexual partnerships. It joined the EU in 2004. Their registered partnership legislation covers inheritance, maintenance and hospital rights for same-sex partners, but not adoption.
It was initially vetoed by then-president Vaclav Klaus in 2006. He claimed it increased the state’s power to interfere with individual lives. In March 2006 his veto was overturned in the Czech lower house. The European Commission decided in June introduce a new directive on discrimination on the grounds of disability, age, religion and sexual orientation. EU directives are legislation that requires member states to, for example, deal with discrimination, but leaves it up to the states to decide on the best course of action to take.
All forms of discrimination at work are already covered by directives. The directive will cover direct and indirect discrimination as well as harassment and victimisation. However, member states will remain free to "maintain measures ensuring the secular nature of the State or concerning the status and activities of religious organisations."
Jananuary 29, 2009 – KaiserNetwork.org
Global Challenges | New HIV Cases Increasing in Czech Republic; Most Cases Reported Among Men
The number of new HIV cases in the Czech Republic reached 147 in 2008, up from 122 in 2007, Miroslav Hlavaty — head of the House of Light, an organization for people living with HIV/AIDS — said recently, CTK/Prague Daily Monitor reports. Ten new HIV cases were registered in December 2008 alone. The total number of people living with HIV in the Czech Republic is estimated to be about 1,000, with 80% of cases occurring among men. Hlavaty said that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control estimates that one-fifth of people living with HIV in the Czech Republic are unaware of their status. According to data from the State Health Institute Prague and the Czech AIDS Help Society, 142 of the 265 people who have developed AIDS in the Czech Republic have died since 198