Since the New Year began, Czechs have been marking the 30th anniversary of Charter 77, the dissident movement that sought to bring respect for human rights to Communist Czechoslovakia. Since that time, the Czech Republic has enjoyed well over a decade of freedom and democracy, but a new citizens' group says there is still work to be done in the realm of human rights.
After seventeen years in the movement, Jiri Hromada is moving on. Last week he announced that Gay Iniciativa, the lesbian and gay rights group he has led for the past seven years, is closing down. Already, the little alcove off of his bedroom, which once served as Gay Iniciativa's main office, has been tidied up and is beginning to look more like an ordinary study.
There are now more than 200 registered homosexual partnerships in the Czech Republic, a daily newspaper reported on Tuesday. A new law allowing gay and lesbian couples similar rights to married couples came into effect on July 1. Jiri Hromada of the Gay Initiative said they had expected much less interest in registered partnerships.
The Prague city hall has finally decided to buy a special river boat to provide shelter to homeless people. The boat which will provide 250 beds, a canteen and sanitary facilities, will cost 23 million crowns (around a million USD) and should welcome its first guests in mid-January. The city hall is still deciding where exactly the boat should be anchored. According to estimates there are up to 6,000 homeless people in the Czech capital and only 600 beds available in shelters.
Police shut down a rock concert attended by about 120 right-wing extremists in Ceske Budejovice on Saturday night. The lyrics of one song by a group called Imperium constituted incitement to hatred, said a police spokesperson. Seven arrests were made. The Tolerance watchdog group said it was the first time the police had intervened to break up a meeting of that type for three years.
The Prague city hall is planning to establish a special working group involving doctors and social workers, to tackle issues connected to homeless people in the capital. The number of homeless persons in Prague is estimated at 6,000 and there is a shortage of beds available for them in winter months. A special boat on the Vltava River should serve as a dormitory for homeless people as of January and in the case of severe weather, a special tent city will be raised like last year.
When the mayor of Vsetin Jiri Cunek evicted several hundred Romany rent-defaulters from their homes and moved them to a complex of portacabins on the outskirts of town several weeks ago he set off a storm of controversy. Some called him a racist, others applauded his courage in addressing a long-standing problem. On Thursday the Senate's Human Rights Commission set out to investigate the matter - and concluded that the mayor had made the right decision.
Students from a secondary school in Prague where almost all the pupils come from the Roma minority recited poetry, sang and even performed a jazz improvisation at a Prague cafe on Thursday evening. This was all to celebrate the presentation of a new set of annual literary awards, named after the academic Milena Hubschmannova, who until her death last year had devoted many years to supporting Romany writing and culture. The competition received several dozen entries, and there was only one condition: they had to be written in the Romani language,
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