Romani Woman Harassed by Racist Hospital Staff during Childbirth Wins Case

18 January 2017

Budapest, 18 January 2017: A Romani woman harassed by staff while giving birth at a Hungarian hospital has won a decision in her favour from the Hungarian Equality Body. The woman who gave birth to her baby daughter in February 2016 was alone in the hospital and intimidated by staff who subjected her to verbal harassment and racial slurs, with one doctor telling her “you Gypsies give birth only for the money!”

In her statement before the Equality Body, the woman described her ordeal:

“I was transferred to the hospital by the ambulance on the morning of the 10 February. I was alone in the maternity ward. […] During labour I was shouting because of the pain when the midwife yelled at me ‘if you shout once more I will push the pillow into your face’. […]. The doctor also walked in and said ‘if you had shouted once more I would have called the psychiatrist who would have taken your child away and then you wouldn’t receive the child benefit, because anyway, you gypsies give birth only for the money!’”

The Equality Body held two hearings on the case and decided that the hospital had violated the equal treatment of the Romani woman and was guilty of harassment based on her ethnicity. This is the first case before the Equality Body involving harassment based on ethnicity in the area of reproductive rights. The hospital must now make a public announcement on the decision and pay a fine.

“The hospital challenged my credibility” said the Romani woman. “I am happy that my truth was finally revealed. I cannot prevent this happening to other Romani women, but I’m sending them the message now to dare to stand up for their rights, to know their rights, and to cease this humiliating, inhuman treatment against them. I am thankful to the Equality Body for the decision, and to those people who helped me and supported me to take forward this case.”

For Romani women in the region, this is a truly groundbreaking case, both in the sense that it is the first of its kind before the body, and also for the way in which the case was brought. The ERRC supported the Romani litigant only after learning of her traumatic experience for which she sought justice by herself. The woman walked into the local office of the Equality Body and brought her own case after being harassed by the hospital staff; an attorney was only provided by the ERRC after we had learned of her actions to seek justice. We warmly congratulate her on her success in taking control of her rights and approaching the Equality Body. We hope her story will serve as an inspiration to other Roma who are facing similar discrimination right now across the country and the region.

Recent field research by the ERRC on discriminatory treatment of Romani women in the field of reproductive health has shown that this is not a one-off story. There have been several other cases of similar abuses of the reproductive rights and dignity of Romani women not only in Hungary, but throughout the region.

In June 2016, shocking testimony emerged from Macedonia of a Romani woman being brutally abused by hospital staff  who physically assaulted her, verbally harassed her and provided grossly inadequate care causing her further pain.

The ERRC want to make clear that discrimination against Romani women will not be tolerated, nor be allowed to happen without consequences. We will continue to support Romani women who stand up for their rights and bring cases against degrading treatment from medical professionals, wherever this harassment may occur.

For more information contact:

Jonathan Lee
Communications Officer
European Roma Rights Centre
+36 30 500 2118

Judit Geller
Senior Lawyer
European Roma Rights Centre
+36 30 500 1531


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