Senate to consider handing out “fidelity” awards for long-lasting marriages
The Senate is due to convene on Wednesday for its opening session after the elections and the first issue on its agenda is raising eyebrows. The upper chamber will address a proposal by two of its members for the Senate to hand out “fidelity” awards for long-lasting marriages.
Are married couples who have gone through life hand-in-hand for 50, 60 or 70 years deserving of an award? Senators Daniela Kovářová and Jitka Chalánková think they are, and are proposing it as a nice way for the Senate to express support for traditional family values. Therein lies the hitch –how will “fidelity” be defined under the proposal and is not support for the traditional family model in reality a veiled attack on relationships that don’t fit into that slot?
The proposal has already raised controversy in the Senate’s sub-committee for family matters. Christian Democrat Senator Jiří Čunek considers it a good initiative because it will boost the traditional family model, which he says is under threat due to a break-down of the society’s basic values.
"The basic unit of the state is the family, i.e. a man, a woman and their children. It is the only unit that can reproduce itself and can thus sustain the state and the nation. If you look at it financially, then this family model is the most advantageous for the state and the state has no real instrument to support it."
Senator Adéla Šípová from the Pirate Party, who is on the same sub-committee, sees these arguments as highly discriminatory.
"Married couples are only a subset of the families that exist in our country. There are many couples that are faithful to each other, faithfulness does not depend on sexual orientation. If we privileged just one group of families, it would be a slap in the face of those other families. As a lawyer, I disagree with the definition of the family as “a man, woman and child”. That is not enshrined in our legal system. Families can have many forms -a grandmother caring for a grandchild, single-parent families or childless couples. All the different forms of families must be defended, because they all form the basis of the state."
Although efforts to give the LGBT community equal rights in the form of a regular marriage and other proposed amendments to the law have evoked criticism from conservative-minded lawmakers, never before has the upper or lower chamber engaged in a debate about rewarding the “traditional family model”. Senator Šípová says the Senate has more important matters to consider.
"What families need is not awards but good conditions for them to develop according to their needs, abilities and desires. There are many things we need to address like the economic situation of Czech families, the problems single parents have, domestic violence, or the problems of minorities, including those of the LGBT community. I am somewhat taken aback by the fact that the Senate will spend time discussing people’s fidelity."
Meanwhile, true to form, Czechs are already cracking jokes about the proposal that the Senate is due to address. One of the cartoons published in the Czech press shows a married couple having a huge row that ends with the wife saying “ You’re damn lucky that I want that award”.