Czech Republic - Human Rights & Minorities Minister Draws Attention to Forced Sterilization of Romani Women
Elena Gorolová of the Group of Women Harmed by Forced Sterilization in Ostrava told ČTK yesterday that the most recent forced sterilization incident concerning a Romani woman in the Czech Republic of which the Group is aware occurred in 2007. The incident allegedly concerns a Romani mother of four from Frýdek-Místek, who is now 40 years old.
Yesterday Czech Human Rights and Minorities Minister Michael Kocáb also drew the attention of the caretaker cabinet of Czech PM Jan Fischer to the issue of forced sterilizations.
"A woman from Frýdek-Místek was forced to submit to sterilization under pressure from her social worker,” Gorolová said. Since the woman does not yet have legal representation, she does not want to release her name. "She underwent the procedure because of her enormous concern that otherwise her children would be taken into institutional care,” Gorolová said.
The problem has been discussed in the Czech Republic since the autumn of 2004, when the European Roma Rights Center publicized suspicions that Romani women were being forcibly sterilized. According to European Romani activists, forced sterilization has also occurred in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania, but the greatest number of cases is alleged to have occurred in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Czech Human Rights Minister Kocáb is also aware of the case currently being publicized. In the conclusions of his material on the state of the Roma community in the Czech Republic in 2008 which the government approved yesterday, he writes: "It is necessary to once again open up the question of the illegal performance of sterilization on Romani women, thanks to which the Czech Republic has become the object of international criticism.”
Gabriela Hrabaňová of the Czech Government Council for Roma Community Affairs said the most recent case mentioned by Gorolová has not yet made it to court. She believes the woman harmed is preparing to sue the hospital or physician responsible.
"There are definitely more such women," Gorolová claims. In her view, women do not report cases of forced sterilization because they fear losing their welfare benefits. They are also afraid of the negative effects of publicity.
Forced sterilization of Romani women
13 September 2004 – The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) publishes information on suspicions of the forced sterilization of Romani women in the Czech Republic. ERRC says cases have come to light in which women never gave any consent to the operation, or to which consent was given in extremely tense situations or under the threat of social benefits being taken away. According to various studies, Romani women were forcibly sterilized in the former Czechoslovakia from 1959 – 1990.
17 September 2004 - ERRC and three Czech nonprofit organizations call on the Czech government to set up a commission to investigate the forced sterilization of Romani women. A commission to review the allegations was later established at the Health Ministry.
1 October 2004 - Ombudsman Otakar Motejl confirms he has received initial reports from 10 women who allegedly underwent forced operations between 1991 and 2001 in North Moravian health care facilities. Most of the cases allegedly occurred between 1991 and 1997. Over time approximately 80 women, most of them Romani, complain to the ombudsman.
4 March 2005 - Helena Ferenčíková, of the Vítkovice quarter of Ostrava, sues Blahoslavená Marie Antonína Hospital in Ostrava for sterilizing her without her consent. The hospital rejects the complaint, saying she agreed to the operation.
8 July 2005 - Ombudsman Otakar Motejl declares that the sterilization of Romani women during recent years in the Czech Republic has been a rare occurrence. “I have no evidence for the claim that programmatic sterilization of Romani women is occurring on the territory of the Czech Republic,” Motejl said.
11 November 2005 – The Regional Court in Ostrava rules that hospital management must apologize to Helena Ferenčíková. The court rejects her claim for financial compensation in the amount of CZK 1 million.
6 January 2006 - Motejl proposes the government consider adopting a law to compensate women who have been forcibly sterilized. The ombudsman says that in the past as many as 58 women were illegally sterilized. In his view racial discrimination was not involved, but the medical records lack written requests for the procedure and also lack confirmation that the patients were fully apprised of the consequences of the surgery.
18 August 2006 - Elena Gorolová, a Romani woman, testifies to the UN at its headquarters that doctors in Vítkovická Hospital sterilized her years ago. She admits to having signed a document agreeing to the surgery but claims to have done so without full awareness of what she was signing.
17 January 2007 – The High Court in Olomouc confirms that Helena Ferenčíková has the right to receive an apology for her unwanted sterilization, but once again rejects financial compensation for the non-monetary harm caused to her. The management of the hospital apologizes to Ferenčíková in March. 28 May 2007 – The sterilization of women without their consent is a crime, according to the District State Attorney in Most, which is investigating the cases of two women alleging forced sterilization in a hospital there.
12 October 2007 – The Ostrava Regional Court awards Iveta Červěňáková compensation for her forced sterilization in the amount of CZK 500 000, to be paid by the Ostrava City Hospital (Městská nemocnice Ostrava). However, last November the High Court in Olomouc struck down the compensation, saying the statute of limitations on the claim for financial compensation had expired. The hospital only has to apologize.
2 March 2009 – The Constitutional Court rejects Červěňáková’s complaint regarding the shelving of criminal charges against the two doctors who performed the sterilization on her.