Natisni vsebino

Ombudsman Convinced Family Law to Benefit Children (interview)

07.10.2011 16:10
Category: work and news

Zdenka Cebasek Travnik put children and elderly in the focus of her term as she took over as human rights ombudsman in 2007. Two thirds into her six-year term, she says a lot of work still needs to be done in the field. She also believes that the new family law brings solutions that would distinctly benefit children.

The Constitutional Court deliberated on Thursday on whether to allow a referendum on the family law, which would also bring more rights to gay couples and their children. The ruling is not known yet, but Cebasek-Travnik says that there is nothing contentious in the law.

"I cannot talk about the referendum or the Constitutional Court, but I can say that in most solutions, the new family law is very good and distinctly for the benefit of children. Getting in the way of implementation of these legislative solutions can be understood as an attack on children's rights."

People do not know enough about the family law and the solutions it brings, which is why in case the referendum is allowed, the legislator would need to stage a broad campaign to show the difference between the situation now and the solutions brought by the law, the ombudsman has told an interview with the STA.

"The majority of the population should recognize the family law as a progressive piece of legislation that could help put right many wrongs done to children."

Looking at her record, Cebasek Travnik is happy with the adoption of the domestic violence act, while regretting that the country still does not have a law on the advocate of the child's rights, or family courts that would enable fast and efficient trial in cases where children are involved.

In her other priority, the rights of the elderly, she points to the absence of a law dealing with long-term care and a lack of facilities to help the elderly who can no longer look after themselves.

"An increasing problem is poverty, which we have noticed in various groups. But poverty is harder to detect in older people, because they keep it more hidden, while they also have poorer access to sources of help."

Soon after assuming office, the ombudsman noticed that poverty was entering Slovenia, although no government body talked about it then. The country was not yet in crisis officially in May 2008, when the ombudsman's office warned the then government of the problems it detected and for which no solutions were prepared.

"Our findings from three years ago unfortunately turned out to be correct... It is also true that we still don't know the detailed structure of the poorer strata of the population. We don't have reports about what exactly the situation on the ground is."

"Poverty risk indicators that are used in comparisons among countries only show one aspect of poverty. But we cannot show well the part that would demonstrate concretely how people live."

Another burning issue is workers' rights. Cebasek Travnik believes that it is perfectly appropriate to describe the situation of some workers as modern slavery. In some cases the employees are almost absolutely dependent on the employer, while they also have limited access to health and cultural commodities.

"It is for those reasons that the workers rarely complain against how the employers treat them because they fear a complaint would only make their situation worse."

The ombudsman sees a solution in following the model of countries, such as Austria or Scandinavian nations, where the relationship between the worker and the employer is well regulated and where inspection services react to the slightest suspicion or even check at their own initiative whether employers follow the rules.

As Slovenia is about to enter campaigning ahead of the 4 December general election, Cebasek Travnik is also concerned with raising public awareness about hate speech. She believes the media's role in preventing hate speech is that they should stop reproducing it and report the perpetrators to law enforcement authorities.

The ombudsman believes the outgoing government made a mistake as it rejected a bill founding a national human rights institution on grounds of lack of money. "Slovenia comes out as a country in which some important things in the field of human rights are not done properly."

She says that her office cannot give the answers sought by international institutions because the ombudsman can only deal with individual cases of violation, while abuse of human rights on the level of the population can only be monitored by the national institution, which Slovenia does not have.

Despite the many problems, Cebasek Travnik does see some progress in the field of human rights in the long run. This is reflected in things like the acts on patients' rights, domestic violence, equal opportunities of people with disabilities.

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