Actions to Challenge Women's Rights Abuses in the Czech Republic
15 August 2006
US government, United Nations to Hear Testimony
Budapest, Brno, New York, Ostrava, Washington DC – August 15, 2006. Three important human rights events will take place this week on the issue of coercive sterilization of Romani women:
- Today, expert testimony on problem of coercive sterilization of Romani women in the Czech Republic will be heard by the US Helsinki Commission, the US government's premiere human rights watchdog agency.
- During review of the Czech Republic's compliance with international human rights law, human rights experts and victims of extreme abuses, will testify before the United Nations women's rights committee (CEDAW) on 17 August.
- Also 17 August a public event will be held in Ostrava, Czech Republic, to protest the continuing failure by Czech authorities to provide due legal remedy to victims of coercive sterilization.
These events aim to draw attention to the continuing failure by Czech policy- and lawmakers to ensure that women in the Czech Republic are protected from extreme harms such as violence at the hands of family members and coercive sterilization.
In the run-up to these events, NGO partners have provided detailed documentation to the UN CEDAW Committee in the form of an NGO Shadow Report by the League of Human Rights, European Roma Rights Centre, and Gender Studies. The report addresses a number of categories of serious human rights abuses of women, including extreme forms of abuse such as domestic violence and coercive sterilization, as well as very problematic law, policy, and practice in a number of areas of relevance to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The NGO Shadow Report is available at: http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=2136.
The Shadow Report comes to the conclusion that "legal protection against discrimination remains insufficient in the Czech Republic" and notes that women in the Czech Republic remain vulnerable to extreme forms of human rights abuse. The relevant state bodies have failed to adequately address the issue of coercive sterilization by introducing a compensation mechanism for the victims. As a result, nearly all of the hundreds of victims of this practice have to date been denied due remedy.
Testifying at the CEDAW Committee session will be:
- Gwendolyn Albert, Director of the League of Human Rights and representing at the CEDAW session the League of Human Rights and the European Roma Rights Centre;
- Elena Gorolova of the victim initiative "Women Harmed by Coercive Sterilization" and herself a victim of these practices;
- Alena Kralikova of the Prague-based NGO Gender Studies.
Victims of coercive sterilizations have also organised a peaceful meeting to raise awareness about the issue in front of the Fifejdy hospital in the city of Ostrava on August 17, the same day the NGO Shadow Report will be presented to the United Nations.
Other issues detailed in the NGO shadow report include:
- The failure to date by Czech Parliament to adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination law, to give domestic law effect to the rights guaranteed in the CEDAW Convention.
- The need to improve the justice system's response to domestic violence.
For Romani womens rights issues in the Czech Republic:
- Gwendolyn Albert, Director, League of Human Rights, Tel in US: + 1 860 538 8137, Tel in Europe: + 420 777 621 227
- Ostalinda Maya Ovalle, Women's Rights Officer, European Roma Rights Centre,
Tels: +36 1 41 32 200, + 36 70 60 258 31
- Michaela Kopalová, League/ERRC lawyer representing sterilization victims, Tel: +420 545 210 446
- Madla Cechova, League domestic violence coordinator, Tel: + 420 545 245 996
For the meeting in Ostrava:
- Life Together, Lucie DiAndrea, Tel.: + 420 596 130 716, + 420 775 761 191
Note for editors
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Convention) is the primary international law mechanism setting out states obligations to end discrimination against women. The CEDAW Convention can be downloaded here: http://www.ohchr.org/english/
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee) is the premiere women’s rights review body in the world, and the arbiter of matters under the CEDAW Convention. UN CEDAW Committee periodically reviews States’ compliance with the CEDAW Convention. It will review the Czech Republic’s compliance with the CEDAW Convention on August 17. Information on the UN CEDAW Committee is available at: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/.
The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent agency of the U.S. Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Final Act and other commitments of the 56 participating States in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). (http://www.csce.gov/)
The League of Human Rights is a nongovernmental organisation providing legal aid to victims of human rights violations, particularly to those who are members of groups most at risk of such violations. More at http://www.llp.cz.
Life Together is a Czech Romani organisation fighting social exclusion and marginalisation in the Ostrava region of the Czech Republic, as well as strengthening Czech-Roma mutual confidence and co-operation.
The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is an international public interest law organisation engaging in a range of activities aimed at combating anti-Romani racism and human rights abuse of Roma, in particular strategic litigation, international advocacy, research and policy development, and training of Romani activists. Information about the European Roma Rights Centre is available at http://www.errc.org.
Gender Studies (GS) is a non-governmental non-profit organisation performing the function of an information, consultation, and education centre on relations between women and men and their positions in society. The goal of the organisation is to gather, analyze, work with and disseminate further information related to gender-relevant issues. More at http://www.en.genderstudies.cz.