April 18, 2010 – The New York Times
Prague’s Vital Gay Scene
by Charly Wilder
It’s Friday night at Termix, a nightclub in Prague’s affluent Vinohrady district, and the dance floor is clogged with unseasonably tanned Czech men in well-laundered shirts (Trebizskeho 4a; 420-222-710-462; club-termix.cz). Mirror-plated wine bottles hang from the ceiling, and the front half of a cartoon-pink sedan juts out over the bar, where three husky patrons shout over vintage Madonna.
Down the street are a number of other gay-friendly bars, cafes and clubs, including the multilevel disco Valentino (Vinohradska 40; 420-222-513-491; club-valentino.cz). Two decades after the fall of Communism, Prague’s gay community seems to be making up for lost time, turning Vinohrady into the center of what is one of the most vital gay scenes in the former Eastern Bloc. “Every gay friend I have lives here in Vinohrady,” said Grant Maxfield, a student from Connecticut who moved to Prague two years ago and now helps run Come2prague.com, a gay-oriented tourist site.
Among this young community’s fixtures are places like Prague Saints (Polska 32; 420-222-250-326; praguesaints.cz), which has become a hub for gay expatriates and tourists since opening five years ago. “Ten years ago, there were gay bars here, but there weren’t many,” said Paul Coggles, a former Londoner who owns Prague Saints. Now the maple-lined streets of Vinohrady, he added, are peppered with gay-owned businesses.
Another hub is the Piano Bar (Milesovska 10; 420-222-727-496; pianobar.sweb.cz), which looks like a traditional Czech pub but serves an older, mostly gay clientele.
One of the newest is FenoMan (Blanicka 28; 420-603-740-263; fenomanclub.cz), a small basement club that opened last November and caters to a young, mostly Czech crowd. The music varies from schmaltzy Czech pop to European techno, and the club hosts theme parties like Hollywood night and so-called travesty shows, which are similar to drag shows but more rooted in European burlesque.
A couple of blocks away is Bumbum (Ondrickova 15; 420-724-585-676; club-bumbum.cz), a gay club that opened last December and also caters to the young, but with a more licentious bent. It has several backrooms where sexual activity takes place openly.
Some attribute the growing tolerance toward gay life in Prague to a kind of live-and-let-live indifference. Indeed, gay soldiers can serve openly in the military, and the Czech Republic legalized registered partnerships for same-sex couples in 2006.
“People don’t care what other people do in private,” said Petr Vostarek, a drag queen who goes by the stage name Chi Chi Tornado. Mr. Vostarek performs several nights a week at Tingl Tangl (Karoliny Svetle 12; 420-224-238-278; tingltangl.cz), a restaurant cabaret in Prague’s Old Town. And while some social stigma remains, especially among the older generation, that, too, seems to be fading.
“From the eastern part of Europe, Prague is the place where there is the most freedom for gays,” said Mr. Vostarek, who bills himself as the first drag queen in the post-Communist Czech Republic. While touring in Poland and the former Yugoslavia, Mr. Vostarek says, he encountered considerable homophobia. But in Prague, he added, “I don’t have problems when I go to expensive restaurants. With or without makeup, I do whatever I want.”
June 23, 2010 – PinkNews
Potential violence expected at Czech Pride
by Christopher Brocklebank
The Czech city of Brno will host the country’s third gay pride festival this coming Saturday. However, organisers say that threats of organised violence have already appeared on some nationalist websites. The first Queer Parade Brno in 2008 was not a success, as violent attacks by right-wing extremists occurred. Last year’s parade went off smoothly. The European Parliament Intergroup on LGBT rights has sent a video message in support of the day and patrons include former Czech minister for human rights and minorities, Dzamila Stehlikova, now of the Government Council for Human Rights.
In a press release the organisers said, "Sadly, there is not only support for the parade. Several counter-events are planned. Among them the illegal gatherings of far right-wing groups." Mirek Zajdak, one of the parade organisers said, "They appeal to ‘decent’ people, however, the threats published on their websites are a disgrace. It gives us a reason to be prepared for problems. However, we are confident that the police will protect our legal gathering and will not tolerate any disturbance."
The parade will gather for speeches at 1pm on Saturday before setting off through the historic streets of Brno, the Czech Republic’s second city. Jolana Navratilova, another of the organisers said, "We expect a high turnout. Security measures have been developed in close co-operation with the police and their special anti-conflict team. We believe that Brno Queer Parade 2010 will be a great success.
22 October 2010 – United Nations OHCHR
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women concludes forty-seventh session
Committee Adopts Conclusions on the Periodic Reports of Burkina Faso, Czech Republic, Malta, Tunisia and Uganda as well as on an Exceptional Report by India
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this morning concluded its forty-seventh session, adopting concluding observations and recommendations on the periodic reports of Burkina Faso, Czech Republic, Malta, Tunisia and Uganda, which it examined at this session, as well as concluding observations on an exceptional report submitted by India regarding the impact of the Gujarat massacres of 2002 on women. The Committee also adopted a general recommendation on the rights of older women and a general recommendation on Article 2 of the Convention.
The six countries whose reports were examined at the present session are among the 186 States parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. In ratifying the Convention, these States commit to submitting regular reports to the Committee on how they are implementing the Convention’s provisions. Following an examination of those reports, in the presence of delegations from the States parties, the Committee adopted, in private session, concluding observations and recommendations for each report, contained in the following documents: for Burkina Faso, CEDAW/C/BFA/CO/6; for the Czech Republic CEDAW/C/CZE/CO/5; for India CEDAW/C/IND/CO/SP.1; for Malta CEDAW/C/MLT/CO/4; for Tunisia CEDAW/C/TUN/CO/6; and for Uganda CEDAW/C/UGA/CO/7. These documents will be available on the Committee’s Web page here
In her closing statement, Zou Xiaoqiao, acting Chairperson of the Committee, said that during this session, the Committee had considered the reports of six States parties and had held informal meetings with entities of the United Nations System, national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Committee members had also attended several lunchtime briefings organized by non-governmental organizations, and they were very pleased by the high level of attendance of NGOs, which once again made a significant contribution to the work of the Committee. The Committee was thankful to those entities which had provided it with detailed information and encouraged them to deepen their advocacy for the promotion and protection of women’s human rights and the implementation of the Convention.
In addition, the Committee adopted a general recommendation on the rights of older women, a comprehensive interpretation of human rights and States parties’ obligations as they apply in the context of aging. The Committee said it was concerned about the multiple forms of discrimination experienced by older women on the grounds of age and sex which was often a result of unfair resource allocation, maltreatment, neglect and limited access to basic services. The Committee recognized the need for statistical data disaggregated by age and sex as a way to better assess the situation of older women. The Committee also recognized that older women were not a homogeneous group. They had a great diversity of experience, knowledge, ability and skills. Their economic and social situation, however, was dependent on a range of demographic, political, environmental, cultural, employment, individual and family factors. The general recommendation on older women and the recognition of their rights explored the relationship between all the articles of the Convention and ageing. It identified the multiple forms of discrimination that women faced as they aged; outlined the content of the obligations assumed by States as parties to the Convention, from the perspectives of ageing with dignity and older women’s rights; and, included policy recommendations to mainstream the responses to the concerns of older women into national strategies, development initiatives and positive action so that older women could participate fully without discrimination and on the basis of equality with men in the political , social, economic, cultural, civil and any other field in their society.
6 December 2010 – PinkNews
Czech Republic uses ‘gay tests’ on asylum seekers
by Paul Canning
The Czech Republic has been condemned for using “phallometric testing” to check whether asylum seekers who claim to be gay are lying. According to a report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), the practice tests the physical reaction to heterosexual pornographic material. It is apparently used on people who apply for asylum on the basis of suffering homophobic persecution. According to information provided by the Czech Ministry of the Interior, ‘phallometric testing’ for asylum seekers who claim to be gay may be used “where inconsistencies appear in [an] interview”.
This procedure came to light in a German court regarding the claim of a gay Iranian man. In principle, asylum seekers cannot be forced to undergo the test and must give written consent and be fully briefed about the technique. However, those who refuse the test may be assumed to be lying and may fear that their application will be rejected outright if they refuse. In addition, bisexual people are unlikely to pass the test.
Hungary is also said to have been using psychiatrists to test whether asylum seekers are really gay. The FRA says that the practice violates international human rights laws which prohibit torture and inhumane or degrading treatment. It may also violate provisions around the right to a private life. The agency added that the use of such tests was particularly inappropriate for asylum seekers because “many of them might have suffered abuse due to their sexual orientation and are thus specifically constrained by this kind of exposure”.
The UN Refugee Agency says that “self-identification as LGBT should be taken as an indication of the individual’s sexual orientation”, and that any doubt should benefit the asylum seeker.
Paul Canning is a gay rights activist and the webmaster for LGBT Asylum News.
2010 December 11 – Sify News
Czechs to end tests of gay asylum seekers
Prague (DPA) The Czech Republic will no longer require gay asylum seekers to undergo arousal tests to prove that they are homosexual after facing criticism that the procedure is humiliating, an official has said. The testing method – known as phallometry – was invented in the 1950s by a Prague-based sexologist. It is widely used today to determine sexual orientation and deviation.
Vladimir Repka, a spokesman for the Czech interior ministry, told DPA that the asylum applicants would not be given the test unless they ask for it themselves in order to improve their chances for asylum. The Vienna-based European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights had slammed the Czech authorities for using the test, in which sexologists measure the sexual arousal of gay and lesbian asylum seekers while they watch straight porn.
The agency argued in a November report that such testing was unreliable and potentially in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which bans torture and inhumane treatment. Although it did not seem to be the Czech authorities intent to humiliate applicants, the procedure was degrading, the report said, as it ‘involves great exposure of very intimate sexual feelings’. The agency said that the Czech Republic was ‘the only known’ EU country to use the method in asylum proceedings.
Repka said that the ministry stopped the tests earlier this year after an Iranian refugee complained about it to a German court. ‘We understand that it could be degrading, and that is why we no longer use it and are not likely to use it in the future,’ Repka said. The ministry, however, defended the practice, saying that it had been used in nine cases in recent years after a Czech court suspected that an asylum seeker who had claimed persecution on grounds of sexual orientation was pretending to be homosexual.
The court at that time accepted the test as evidence and the applicant was granted asylum. Eight others who later underwent the test were also granted asylum. ‘It can be unpleasant but we had no other way to prove it. The court would have sent him home, where he would be threatened with death,’ Repka said. Phallometry was invented by the Czechoslovak sexologist Kurt Freund in the 1950s and has been used globally to help determine either sexual orientation or deviation, sexologist Petr Weiss told DPA.
A device is attached to the genitals, male or female, which measures changes in their size caused by blood inflow. But the method is not fully reliable and forms only part of a sexologist’s examination, he said. Weiss called the controversy ‘a storm in a tea cup’. ‘It’s ethically sound when people give consent,’ he said. But the question of consent may be tricky in asylum cases. While the ministry has insisted that the testing was in line with the rights convention because claimants had to give informed consent, groups working with refugees disagree.
Magda Faltova, who heads the Prague-based Association for Integration and Migration, said that her group’s clients signed the paperwork without understanding what they were in for. She also said that the gay applicants were under pressure to undergo the procedure. ‘In no way was their consent informed. We had to explain it to them,’ she told DPA. ‘And the question is what would have happened if they had not agreed.’
July 13, 2011 – onclub.cz
Prague: Club Valentino Reveals New Name and Logo
From early August, Prague’s biggest gay club will be known under a new name and with a brand new concept. The legendary venue in Vinohrady will from that moment onwards be known as ON Club. Starting with the Opening Weekend of the Café and Disco floors in early August, ON provides Prague nightlife with a new vision in quality entertainment. “The name we found is versatile in many ways”, says Daniel Goris of the new management team. “ON is not only useable and meaningful in two languages but has a very positive, energetic drive to it. We feel it represents the concept of the club perfectly.”
A first look at the new club will be possible upon opening of the upper two floors in early August: the Café and the Disco. A newly created area will be revealed at the same time. After renovation, the Café relives as a modern, lavish place to sit and relax, open 7 days a week, 19 hours a day from 10am. Besides comfortable seating, service with a smile and a soothing loungy music mix, the Café will have food on offer around the clock as well. “We’re introducing a small, affordable but top quality menu, and will serve people daily from 10am until close”, explains Goris. “This adds an experience that currently is not on offer in Vinohrady and we feel there is definitely a need for it.”
On Fridays and Saturdays a DJ will spice up the night by playing live lounge, deep house and progressive music provided by the sound collective Wave of Sense, mostly known from its front man DJ Pat Heart. The Disco is currently being transformed into a vibrant, colourful dance area, ready for a varying daily program of happy pop and disco music. “With sound proofing, a brand new sound system, a complete
new bar and brand new girls and boys bathrooms, the Disco provides a top quality entertainment experience to our guests”, adds Goris.
With the complete makeover of the whole club also comes the creation of 3 new areas. The first to be revealed to the audience is the Chillout, a relaxing space adjacent to the Disco, packed in red velvet and furnished with an antique look and feel. The Chillout is the perfect place to meet friends, have a beer, catch up and make plans for the rest of the night. The brand new website of ON can be found at www.onclub.cz. While the complete website will be launched during the opening event, it already is possible to check the upcoming program and register as a member. Amongst new members, a number of VIP Tickets for various opening events will be raffled.
“More details on opening events will be revealed shortly”, adds Goris. “In the meantime, we always remain open: our Club floor currently serves guests 7 days a week and will continue to do so until the closing party Goodbye Valentino on July 30th.”
August 5, 2011 – The Sacramento Bee
Czech president defends deputy over gay remarks
The Associated Press
Prague – Czech President Vaclav Klaus has defended his deputy chancellor who criticized the mayor of Prague for supporting a gay pride parade in the capital. Petr Hajek said in an interview the event is "a political demonstration … of a world in which sexual or any other deviation becomes virtue." He also called on Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda to leave the ruling conservative Civic Democratic Party.
His words have been condemned by many politicians, and the major opposition Social Democrats as well as the junior ruling coalition party, the Public Affairs party, said Hajek should apologize. But Klaus refused to distance himself from Hajek’s words and said he was not "proud" of the event. The Aug. 13 parade is part of the first Prague gay pride festival that begins Wednesday.
August 15, 2011 – The New York Times
Czech Leader Is Isolated in Opposing Gay Parade
by Bruce I. Konviser
Prague — President Vaclav Klaus is known for frankly voicing his opinions, and finding popular support. But the latest furor — over Prague’s first gay-pride festival — has left him more isolated than usual, roundly opposed by many in the Czech establishment and publicly at odds with the American ambassador. The tussle over Prague Pride — which drew 5,000 people this past weekend — pitted Mr. Klaus, 70, against virtually the entire Czech political spectrum. Even the unreformed Communists — who won 11 percent of the vote in the last election — have taken a more progressive stance than Mr. Klaus, who spoke out in favor of the traditional family and loudly voiced his opposition to what he called “homosexualism.” The president, who likes to rail against “isms” — “environmentalism” and “feminism” being two of his favorites — emphasized that he was not against homosexuality. But, he stressed, it should be tolerated, not celebrated.
Mr. Klaus’s rhetoric on other issues often engendered a fair slice of public support. On Prague Pride, however, he found himself with little more than an adviser and a rightist politician for allies. The rightist, Ladislav Batora, who is also a senior Education Ministry official, took the unusual step of lashing out at the U.S. ambassador, Norman L. Eisen. Along with 12 other ambassadors, Mr. Eisen signed a letter of support for the parade. It was not clear why the American was singled out, since the letter was initiated by the British Embassy, and signed by the ambassadors of Canada and European countries from Spain to Estonia. Mr. Klaus told the Czech News Agency, “I can’t imagine any Czech ambassador daring to interfere by petition with internal political discussion in any democratic country.”
The U.S. Embassy spokesman, Paul Oglesby, declined to comment. Prague’s mayor, Bohuslav Svoboda, who gave the festival his backing, was clear. “We live in a society where tolerance is a basic philosophical principle,” he said. “This is not a debate about ‘isms.’ It is an obligation of everyone in a tolerant society to protect minority rights.” The president’s office declined requests for an interview. A senior adviser, Petr Hajek, who supported the president’s argument, also refused to be interviewed. Same-sex partnerships have been legal in the Czech Republic since 2006, although gays and lesbians are not allowed to adopt children. Campaigners also want gays and lesbians protected from hate crimes, which are defined as based on race, religion, ethnicity, nationality or political affiliation, but not sexual orientation.
While Mr. Klaus’s remarks stirred no overt homophobia — and a pro-family parade on Saturday attracted only about 200 people — gay rights remain contested in Central and Eastern Europe. In Moscow, gay-pride parades have been attacked by the police. In Belgrade last autumn, rightist extremists attacked a gay-pride parade, prompting the riot police to move in. Dozens were arrested. In Poland, activists claim that anti-gay rhetoric has translated into violence. Greg Czarnecki, of the Campaign Against Homophobia, in Warsaw, said his organization registered a 5 percent increase in physical attacks against homosexuals from 2005 to 2006, the last years for which figures are available, when a conservative government was in power.
By contrast, the organizer of pro-family event in Prague on Saturday, Petr Jurcik, a Young Christian Democrat, emphasized that the event was “not against homosexuals.” As for Mr. Klaus, he added: “Our president is sometimes a little extravagant, but it is his opinion. He has a right to it.”