Czech government formally recognises antigypsyism as a specific form of racism

16 April 2024

By Bernard Rorke

On April 8, the Czech government adopted a definition of the term ‘antigypsyism’ which embraces both the words and deeds of individuals and the practices and strategies of institutions to exclude Romani people, devalue their culture, and incite violence against them. 

As reported in, Commissioner for Roma Minority Affairs Lucie Fuková, who drove the initiative, welcomed the gesture as “a necessary step toward settling a debt that has existed for years” which sends a strong signal that discrimination is unwelcome in the Czech Republic.

The wording states that as a consequence of this discrimination, Romani people are treated as an “allegedly foreign, different group and are associated with many insulting stereotypes and biased ideas which in and of themselves represent a specific form of racism.” The full definition and wording can be accessed on

In contrast to the amendment to Spain’s anti-discrimination law in April 2022, the Czech definition is not legally binding. The Spanish amendment includes specific mention of anti-Roma racism, and added the term ‘anti-gypsyism’ into the criminal code and made such discrimination punishable with up to four years in prison. The Czech gesture, according to a government press release, is merely intended to aid the authorities to get a better grasp of this specific form of racism so they can better respond to it. 

Some might say that after decades of structural racism, segregation and sterilisation, the Czech authorities have a very fulsome grasp of what it takes to discriminate against Roma and are more than familiar with the specifics of antigypsyism.  

But there can be no doubt that this act of recognition does matter, and henceforth the ethical imperative will be to effectively combat racism, and to move on redistribution and reparation to undo the damage done. As the Government Commissioner for Human Rights, Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková, put it, with regards to Roma, “the adoption of this definition unequivocally sets the boundaries of courteous, correct behaviour and unambiguously states what is not acceptable in our society.”

Beyond recognition

Beyond setting boundaries, some idea of the extent of antigypsyism in the Czech Republic was made clear in the report by the then Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Dunja Mijatović, following her February 2023 visit. The enormity of the task ahead, and what is needed to move beyond the rhetoric is spelled out in her report. 

The Commissioner expressed her deep concern that “Tangible progress on the advancement of the rights of Roma and their equal treatment has by and large been lacking”; that Roma continue to face discrimination in education, housing, employment and their interactions with police; and that the implementation of policy and legislation was stymied by the fragmentation of responsibilities and diffusion of powers between the state government and regional and municipal authorities.

More than 15 years after the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of D.H. and Others v. the Czech Republic, the Commissioner found that progress remained minimal, and that there had been “no reduction of Roma pupils in special classes, nor of their segregation within regular classes and schools, over the past five years.” 

Concerning housing, Commissioner Mijatović found that the consequence of years of deliberate discrimination and neglect was that “Many Roma continue to live in unsuitable housing, which can lead to situations that seriously infringe on their private and family lives, as well as on their right to health, and in some cases their right to life is put at risk.”

With regards to mechanisms for compensation for Romani victims of forced sterilisation, the Commissioner called on the authorities to swiftly ensure “that victims can receive prompt and adequate reparations for the serious human rights violations to which they were subjected.” The Commissioner reported that she heard much about the “ongoing lack of trust in the police among many in the Roma community”, especially in relation to the handling of potentially discriminatory incidents and alleged police violence. 

Commissioner Mijatović stated that many of the issues she identified are “underpinned by the antigypsyism that remains prevalent in Czech society”, echoing ECRI’s concerns about a "growing trend towards xenophobic populism in the Czech Republic”, and the frequency of racist anti-Roma hate speech in the public sphere and media, including by national and local politicians.

Now that the Czech government has recognised antigypsyism and provided a working definition for the authorities to get a better grasp of the specifics of this form of racism, it is time to fully heed and take concrete action on all of the recommendations made by Commissioner Mijatović. For beyond the long overdue first steps of recognition, much remains to be done to respect the fundamental rights of Roma and make a tangible difference to their lives as citizens of the Czech Republic.



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