Prime Minister Róbert Fico was quick to hail Slovakia’s EU presidency as a great success. Within days of the country ending its six-month stint at the helm of the European Union, Fico opened the New Year with a press statement describing the Presidency as “truly successful in every extent, all the highest representatives of the EU confirmed that.
The UN Human Rights Committee has once again called on Slovakia to acknowledge its responsibility for past practices of forced sterilisation of Romani women; to eradicate widespread de facto practices of school segregation; to ensure that evictions from public land “are a means of last resort”; and hold local authorities to account for segregationist policies and behaviour.
When words fall on stony soil and hearts harden in the face of injustice: On coercive sterilisation and social theatre
In Czechoslovakia coercive sterilisation policies primarily targeted groups that were considered a threat to the public health of society. Romani women were among these targeted groups, and over a period of almost thirty years, hundreds of Romani women were either sterilised without their knowledge, or unduly pressured by doctors and social workers to ‘consent’ to sterilisation. It was a bitter and cruel historical twist that Czechoslovakia launched its eugenic program focused on limiting the reproductive capacities of its ‘problematic’ groups in the early 1970s, just when Sweden finally chose to abolish its coercive sterilisation policies. Sweden had the unsavoury distinction of being the first country to introduce eugenic laws in the 1930s, even before Nazi Germany or fascist Italy. Only in 1993 did Czech-Slovak authorities abolish such abusive state policies, but in the absence of any new comprehensive policy framework, the practice mushroomed and continued until early 2000.
Despite some glimmers of hope and signs of progress, two reports published by the Council of Europe last Tuesday (October 13), paint a broader and quite frankly dismaying picture of persistent segregation of Roma in schools and housing, worrying levels of anti-Roma hate speech and hate crime, numerous reports of police brutality, and a general climate of intolerance among majority populations towards Roma in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
“There can be two types of racism in the police. The first type relates to the attitudes, behaviours and beliefs of police officers. The second type is inherent to rules and regulations which are applied by the police and is commonly defined as institutional racism. […] Institutional racism does not mean that all officers working in the institution have racist behaviour, but that racism lies in the procedures and culture of the institution.”1