Sunday

17th Feb 2019

Slovakia bitterly divided on social issues

  • The referendum, if valid, would bind the parliament to legislate in the spirit of the vote (Photo: Janis Zakis)

Socially conservative Slovakia has been locked in a bitter debate about marriage and gay rights for several months, culminating in the country’s first ever referendum – on Saturday (7 February) – as the result of a citizens’ petition.

The initiators of the referendum on marriage and sex education lay the blame on Western Europe for what they see as a threat as to their traditional values.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

“Seeing what kind of ideologies are coming to Slovakia, we want our citizens to express their views on the issues regarding family and not leave these issues just to politicians and judges,” said the Alliance for Family, a group of NGOs.

The referendum asks three questions.

Should marriage be exclusive to a man and a woman?

Should same-sex couples be denied the right to adopt children?

Should schools be forbidden to demand children’s participation in sex education if their parents disagree with its content?

There is a participation quorum of 50 percent for the vote to be valid. Out of seven previous referendums in Slovakia, only one proved legitimate - a vote on EU membership in 2003.

Polls suggest conservative views on marriage and family matters prevail in Slovak society.

But as a way of protest, critics of the current vote are prepared to boycott it.

“There are no right answers to the bad questions,” said Inakost, one of the NGOs representing the LGBT community.

In contrast, the referendum is strongly supported by churches – mainly the Roman Catholic church.

And all political parties, except the Liberals, have either openly said or hinted that they favour “traditional” values, including the ruling Socialist Smer party.

Europe as a threat

As the Alliance for Family stepped up its campaign for “Three times YES in the referendum” in January, the debate between its supporters and opponents turned ever more bitter.

At one stage Slovak president Andrej Kiska warned against the polarisation of society and broken friendships.

“We should not hurt each other over this issue,” he said.

Apart from the argument that a majority should not vote to limit rights of a minority, the Alliance has also faced criticism the vote would change little even if successful.

The man/woman-only definition of marriage has just been enshrined in the constitution (as a political deal between the Smer and the Christian democrats in 2014)

There are limited possibilities for adoption by gays and lesbians. Meanwhile, parents already have the right to express criticism on sex education.

The family campaigners say that the status quo needs to be cemented to prevent similar developments as in some other EU member states.

They cite the recent verdict by the Austrian court on allowing same-sex registered partners to adopt children and refer to the EU’s “judicial activism” and to “gender ideology” appearing in schools and education.

“A family is not threatened by a small number of homosexuals but by the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bi- and trans-sexual] lobby,” Christian activist Renata Ocilkova said.

But Janka Debreceniova, a lawyer and civic rights activist, suggested that Slovak society needs a proper debate about the difficulties people in different forms of families and partnerships face.

“This referendum has killed the debate before it even started,” she said.

According to a poll by Focus agency for the SME daily, some 35 percent of voters are planning to vote on Saturday, with 72 percent of them ready to vote Yes on all three questions.

Opponents are expected to stay at home to make sure the referendum does not reach the 50 percent threshold.

Slovakia votes with migrants and corruption in mind

Outgoing social-democratic PM Fico expected to win new mandate Saturday, but might be forced into coalition with right-wingers after a campaign marked by anti-migrant rhetoric and corruption deja vu.

Chemnitz neo-Nazis pose questions for Germany

UN human rights commissioner urged EU leaders to condemn violence that recalled the 1930s, but the local situation in former East Germany does not apply to the whole country.

News in Brief

  1. Spain's Sanchez calls snap election on 28 April
  2. 15,000 Belgian school kids march against climate change
  3. May suffers fresh Brexit defeat in parliament
  4. Warning for British banks over Brexit staff relocation
  5. Former Italian PM wants Merkel for top EU post
  6. Antisemitic incidents up 10% in Germany
  7. Italy's asylum rejection rate at record high
  8. Hungary will not claim EU funds for fraudulent project

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Latest News

  1. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  2. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  3. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK
  4. Belgian spy scandal puts EU and Nato at risk
  5. EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency
  6. Saudi Arabia, but not Russia, on EU 'dirty money' list
  7. EU agrees draft copyright reform, riling tech giants
  8. Rutte warns EU to embrace 'Realpolitik' foreign policy

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us