Location: Bowdoin / Gender and Women's Studies / Redefining the Common Good After Communism / Abstracts / Elaine Weiner

Gender and Women's Studies

Elaine Weiner

Elaine Weiner
Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology
McGill University

Title: The Inequality in Equality: (Anti-)Discrimination, Economics and the Law in the Czech Republic.

Abstract: Among the many obligations of European Union (EU) membership is each member state’s inclusion of an anti-discrimination bill into their national legal framework.  Such a bill aims to ensure equal access to education, employment, health care and social benefits irrespective of age, ethnicity/race, sexual orientation, disability, sex, or religious/world view.  26 of the 27 EU member states have complied with this mandate.  The Czech Republic constitutes the sole country that has failed to meet this requirement despite the threat of sanctions from the European Commission.  Over the past several years, the bill has gone through several revisions in an effort to win over the opposition.  In April of 2008, the Czech Parliament adopted its latest iteration.  However, the Czech Senate had added a disclaimer that noted its non-identification with the “character of the bill,” and encouraged the government to resist the imposition of further EU anti-discrimination regulations.  This proviso did not escape Czech president Václav Klaus’s notice, deeming it “extraordinary and strange” as well as “unprecedented.”  He vetoed the bill, deeming it “useless” and a philosophically-flawed, fallacious form of “social engineering.”  In this paper, I analyze this resistance – that is, why the Czech Republic has has opted to become a rogue state in this legislative realm, contesting a supposed “common good” in the EU.  I contend that this act constitutes an attempt at reasserting state authority, with this bill construed as antithetical to a national (economic) interests by a currently right-leaning government.