Tuesday, November 22, 2011


A few years ago the Czech Republic was forced to admit to the heinous crime of forced sterilization of Romani women.  These sterilizations were not something out of the ancient past. Rights groups claim that from the 1970s until 1990, Romani women were systematically sterilized under a Czechoslovak government program aimed at reducing the "high, unhealthy" birth rate of Romani women.  A number of women and various organizations demanded some answers.  They haven't gotten them.  Not only has there been no official government investigation or report, but the State has made it almost impossible for women to even make claims.

One woman who got nowhere in the Czech court system took her case to European Court for Human Rights (ECtHR).  Last August, the Court found violations of the right to protection against inhuman and degrading treatment, and the right to the protection of family and private life. Vanda Durbáková, one of the plaintiff's legal representatives stated at that time:

 "We welcome the Court's judgment because it has confirmed what we have claimed since we were founded more than 10 years ago, that Romani women have been forcibly sterilized in hospitals without their informed consent. The plaintiff is just one of the Romani women who have decided not to accept this serious violation of their rights and found the courage to take a stand.
"This case is a significant breakthrough in the efforts which should lead to the practice of the forced sterilization of Romani women in Slovakia being dealt with. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The Counseling Center hereby calls on the Slovak Government to finally stop denying that forced sterilizations have occurred in Slovakia, to apologize to all of the victims of this illegal practice, and to compensate them."

Still waiting for compensations...

The following is from Roma Buzz.

Still No Answer for Forcibly Sterilised Romani Women in the Czech Republic
Ostrava, Brno, Budapest, 22 November 2011: Two years after the Czech Government under Prime Minister Fischer expressed regret for individual sterilisations of Romani women, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), Life Together, the League for Human Rights and The Group of Women Harmed by Forced Sterilisation remain deeply concerned that no effective steps have been taken to provide the victims with adequate redress for irreparable injuries.
No official government follow-up has ever ascertained the extent of the problem or offered to support those affected. Current legislation in the Czech Republic prevents the majority of victims of coercive/forced sterilisation from bringing claims due to statutory limitation regulations.

“I was sterilised against my will. I was asked to sign a paper but nobody explained what it was. Only later did I realise that I cannot have children. They took my ability to have children away,” said Elena Gorolova, a member of the Group of Women Harmed by Forced Sterilization.

“It’s unacceptable that this practice, which was state-sanctioned, has never been addressed by the government. Thousands of Romani women who were unlawfully sterilised cannot access any remedy at all,” said Dezideriu Gergely, Executive Director of the ERRC.

“The recent favourable Czech Supreme Court verdict concerning the sterilisation of a Romani woman does not bring any real changes for the possibility of other Romani women to bring claims, as that verdict was very specific and no general analogies can be drawn from it. Therefore, it’s still very difficult for other Romani women to obtain redress through the courts,” Kateřina Červená, lawyer of the League of Human Rights, said.

In other European states where sterilisations of Romani women occurred, measures have been taken to perform outreach to victims and compensate them. In Sweden in the late 1990s, the government established an independent commission to investigate the scope of the problem of coercively sterilised women and subsequently set up a compensation mechanism for victims.

The organisations call on the relevant Czech authorities to urgently take the necessary steps to establish an independent commission to collect information on the numbers of sterilised Romani women in both the former Czechoslovakia and the present-day Czech Republic. This data should form the basis of a compensation mechanism.

“There is a responsibility for the government to ensure that the Romani women who have been unlawfully deprived of their reproductive ability obtain effective remedy. The damage done to these women is irreparable. As miserable a remedy as it may be, the bare minimum would be to give them financial compensation and a study of the long-term bodily and psychological effects of sterilisation,” Kumar Vishwanathan, Director of Life Together, stated.

At present, two cases brought by coercively/forcibly sterilised Romani women are pending against the Czech Republic before the European Court of Human Rights.

Recently, the European Court held Slovakia in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights for the unlawful sterilisation of a Romani woman there under circumstances overwhelmingly similar to those of many women in the Czech Republic who have suffered these abuses.

For more information, please contact:

Sinan Gökcen
Media and Communications Officer
European Roma Rights Centre

Elena Gorolová (Czech only)
Group of Women Harmed by Forced Sterilization
+420 775 761 194

Kateřina Červená
League of Human Rights
+420 777 701 621

Kumar Vishwanathan
Life Together
+420 777 70 191
© ERRC 2011.

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