Hungary provides compensation to coercively sterilised Romani Woman
24 February 2009
Budapest. During a parliamentary session today, MP Jozsef Gulyas posed a question to the Hungarian Prime Minister regarding the coercive sterilisation of a Romani woman, Ms A.S. The State Secretary of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour, Mr. Lajos Korozs, responded that the Ministry shall provide financial compensation to her.
The ERRC and the Legal Defence Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKI) welcome this decision of the Hungarian Government as an important acknowledgement of the seriousness of this human rights violation, and of the importance of respecting the rights of women under international law.
On 2 January 2001, a Romani woman (Ms A.S.) was sterilised by doctors at the Fehérgyarmat hospital without her consent. During preparation for a caesarian section operation to remove a dead foetus, Ms A.S. was asked to sign forms giving her consent to this operation as well as to her sterilisation. However the doctors did not explain the procedure, its nature, possible risks, or what the consequences of being sterilised would be. Only after the operation did Ms A.S. learn that she had been sterilised.
On 15 October 2001, Ms A.S. and her attorney filed a civil claim for damages against the hospital. On appeal, the Szabolcs-Szatmar-Bereg County Court held that the hospital doctors had indeed acted negligently, because they had not informed Ms A.S. of "the exact method of the operation, of the risks of its performance, and of the possible alternative procedures and methods". Nevertheless, the same Court concluded that since Ms A.S. had provided no proof that she had suffered a lasting detriment, she was not entitled to compensation.
On 12 February 2004, the ERRC and the Legal Defence Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKI) jointly filed a complaint with CEDAW relating to the illegal sterilisation under the CEDAW optional protocol. In August 2006, the Committee found the Hungarian government to be in violation of the Convention. The Committee recommended the Hungarian government provide appropriate compensation to Ms A.S.; review domestic legislation on the principle of informed consent in cases of sterilisation and ensure its conformity with international human rights and medical standards; and monitor public and private health centres, including hospitals and clinics that perform sterilisation procedures to ensure that fully informed consent is given before any sterilisation procedure is carried out. A year later, the Committee expressed concern at the Hungarian Government's failure to implement the Committee's recommendations and again urged the Hungarian government to "provide appropriate compensation to Ms A.S." 
In 2008, the Hungarian Government amended the Public Health Act to ensure that appropriate information be provided to patients in the context of sterilisation procedures to ensure informed consent. However, in March 2008 the Hungarian government advised the ERRC that it would not provide compensation to Ms A.S.
Today, after eight years of national and international legal proceedings, the ERRC and NEKI welcome the State Secretary's response on the compensation of Ms A.S.
Ostalinda Maya, ERRC's Women's Rights Officer, stated: "The offer of compensation means not only justice to A.S. but the recognition by the Government of Hungary of its obligations to all women under international law. It is an important step forward in ensuring respect for the optional protocol of the CEDAW Convention. We hope that Hungary's actions will serve as an example to other countries, like the Czech Republic and Slovakia, where the problem of coercive sterilisation still has not been fully addressed."
The ERRC and NEKI will monitor the implementation of the Government's decision.
For further information, contact:
Bea Bodrogi, Legal Defence Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKI), +36 30 606 1655
Judit Geller, European Roma Rights Centre, firstname.lastname@example.org, +36 1 413 22 00
- The full decision of the Committee can be found HERE.
- The ERRC submitted a shadow report on the situation of Romani women in Hungary that can be found HERE.
- The Committee's concluding comments can be found HERE. Prior to this meeting of the Committee, the ERRC submitted a shadow report on the situation of Romani women in Hungary that can be found HERE.