Challenges facing feminism in post-communist Czech Republic

iDNES.cz - Nový zákon přesně urÄ?uje, co je sexuální obtěžování
Nový trestní zákon, který přijali poslanci tento týden, zavádí trestný Ä?in, který přesně definuje sexuální obtěžování. Od ledna 2007 bude za sexuální obtěžování bude hrozit od 6 měsíců do 8 let vězení.
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New law outlines clearer guidelines for the police and prosecutors and introduces tougher sentences (from 6 months to 8 years in prison).

"Reagovali jsme také na trend ve spoleÄ?nosti, která sexuální obtěžování vnímá daleko citlivěji než v minulosti," řekl hlavní tvůrce zákona Pavel Šámal.

"We were also reacting to a new trend in society which is much more sensitive to sexual harrassment now than in the past," said Pavel Šámal, the main creator behind the law. Up to know the offenses outlined in the law could be prosecuted under three different statutes leading to much confusion.

However, the law specifically excludes verbal harassment, which will remain subject of civil law or will be possibly treated as misdemeanor.

V průzkumu, který letos zveřejnil Sociologický ústav Akademie věd České republiky, řeklo 28 procent žen, že se s "harašením" setkaly, většinou to bylo formou sexuálních narážek.

28% of Czech women admits to having been 'sexually harassed', which most frequently mean verbal harassment.

Comment: This number seems very low and it is probably due to the bad press sexual harassment has gotten in the early 1990s from emigre intellectuals, most notably the prominent anti-communist writer and publisher Josef Škvorecký, who even coined the term 'sexuální harašení'. Škvorecký and others made a sport of citing allegedly spurious (or in their take ridiculous) sexual harrassment case in the US and Canada to discredit the larger feminist movement. These stories featured wronged men caught in situations which struck the 'Czech male' as very threatening. This was part of a broader (probably unintentional) campaign to discredit feminism and as a result of which there are relatively few women willing to admit to being feminists, usually citing 'it goes a bit too far' as a reason. Another reason could be the relative irrelevance of some of the issues that have defined Western feminism: right to vote (from 1918 in Czechoslovakia), right to work (duty for all and standard under 'communism'), sexual liberation (equally problematic for men and women), access to abortions and contraception (never a huge problem). The broader patter of inequalities both symbolic and in the access to resources which is very much present in the Czech culture is much harder to point to in the absence of some of the outward inequlities present in the 1950s' and 60s' West.

Another possible reason might be the legacy of the 'common enemy' in the 1960s-1980s (i.e. communist government) which 'oppressed' everyone equally and was actually engaged in some of the women liberation discourse itself (Simone de Beauvior was published in translation when many others could not be). This might have prevented women intellectuals from pursuing more radical lines of thought both for fear of splitting the movement and of appearing to agree with the despised government.

The unfortunate consequence is that today's Czech feminism languishes between the 'domestic equality' issues (i.e. 'it would be nice if the husband helped out more') and imports of Western themes. The 'natural division of gender roles' thesis is still the prevailing assumption in most of Czech thought. It is not surprising that in this intellectual climate, much of the otherwise fairly progressive gender equality legislation is not sufficiently enforced.