Coercive Sterilisation of Romani Women in the Czech Republic: Organisations Welcome Ombudsman Report
11 January 2006
Groundbreaking Document Recognises "Problem" and Calls for Far-Reaching Changes to Law, Policy and Society
Brno, Prague, Budapest, Ostrava, 11 January 2006. Civil society organisations today welcomed a report published by the Czech Public Defender of Rights ("Ombudsman") on investigations into allegations of the coercive sterilisation of Romani women in the Czech Republic.
The report is the result of more than a year of research by the Ombudsman and his staff, on the basis of complaints brought by 87 women. It followed discussions between the Ombudsman and the European Roma Rights Centre (Budapest), the League of Human Rights (Prague/Brno), Life Together (Ostrava) and the Group of Women Harmed by Sterilisation (Ostrava). The report was finalised on 23 December 2005, and has been made public this week.
The report concludes that "The Ombudsman is convinced that in the Czech Republic, the problem of sexual sterilization -- carried out either with unacceptable motivation or illegally -- exists, and that Czech society stands before the task of coming to grips with this reality." Measures undertaken by the Czech Ministry of Health are seen as to date grossly inadequate.
Three areas of recommendations are brought by the Ombudsman:
1) Changes to Czech domestic law to better anchor the principle of informed consent in these areas;
2) Supplementary measures to ensure a change of culture with regard to informed consent in the medical community, as well as among users;
3) A simplified procedure for compensation to victims, where social workers have been involved in implementing coercive sterilisation policy.
Pages 25-59 (i.e., approximately 1/3 of the report in total) concern "Sterilization and the Romani Community" and reach the conclusion of racial targeting. Case summaries included in the report highlight events in which, for example, the medical files reveal that social workers and doctors recommended caesarean section births in order to manufacture "indicators" through which sterilisation would appear legitimate and necessary.
The text of the report also includes detailed summaries of Czechoslovak state policies toward Roma in the 1970s and 1980s, in which social workers were enlisted in the task of controlling the Romani birth-rate -- regarded as too high by policy-makers -- and creating a culture of invasive control over Romani families which endures to today. The report also includes a separate section on the history of eugenics in Czechoslovakia, which the report's authors evidently regard as key for the policies and practices detailed in the report.
Further information is available at:
Michaela Tomisova (legal representative of the victims): ++ 420 73 795 13 23
Kumar Vishwanathan, (Life Together): ++ 420 77 77 60 191
Jiri Kopal (League of Human Rights): ++ 420 60 87 19 535
Claude Cahn (ERRC): ++ 36 20 98 36 445