Social Watch report highlights gender issues and treatment of the poor

Цыгане в Чехии (Фото: (c) Марк Видорн)

A new report on poverty and gender equality in the Czech Republic for 2008, put out by the international network Social Watch, has criticised the country for discriminating against women on the labour market. The report also highlights issues concerning the country’s Romany minority as well as the situation of the poor. The editor of the report, Tomáš Tožička, explains which of these groups is facing the biggest difficulties.

“The organizations which participated on the report will of course say that their group is the most vulnerable in our society. But I would generally say – because al the groups are somehow interconnected – that poor people are the most vulnerable group in the Czech Republic, while Gender and racial issues make poverty harder to deal with.”

One of the problems your report criticises is the state of gender equality in the Czech Republic. Is that an issue that’s common to most post-communist countries?

“According to the Gender Equity Index, the Czech Republic is really not at the best place, and many countries, even poorer countries, are doing better. I’m not sure if we can say that gender issues are a problem of post-communist countries but after the changes in the former Soviet bloc, we could see a decrease in economic and political power of women, according to statistics, so I think it’s partly connected with the post-1989 changes.”

The report also criticizes the government’s tax reforms, introduced in 2007, and generally any cuts in expenditures. But wouldn’t you agree that most countries are doing the same right now?

Partly, but if you look at the United States, for example, they are doing the exact opposite. The Social Watch network has been criticising these deregulations and privatizations of public services for the last ten years or so, especially in health care. And that’s what we see not only in the Czech Republic, but elsewhere as well, that poor people are pushed away from health care and social services.”

Are you concerned at all that your report might not be taken seriously because some might say you are biased? For instance, you describe the outgoing government of PM Mirek Topolánek as “ultra-conservative”.

“We can of course talk about if the government is ultra-conservative or not. But I think that what happened in 2007, that is what government officials said about women and about Roma, the regressive tax reform which they introduced – all that is usually described as neo-liberal or ultra-conservative. I’ve been asked about this many times, whether we should use more careful language and so on, but I think if you want to say that the emperor is naked, he is simply naked. Saying that his clothes are not coherent with the weather would not make it clear enough.”