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

Kateřina Červená
League of Human Rights
+420 777 701 621

Kumar Vishwanathan
Life Together
+420 777 70 191

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