Film: Trial of a Child Denied - Coercieve Sterilization - Czech Republic

2009-09-23 10:34:05 / News read 1034 reading

      When Helena Ferenciková was 19 years old and in the throes of labor
with her first child, she was told to sign a document. Only
afterwards did she realize she had authorized her own sterilization.

     Eleven years previously, the same happened to Elena Gorolová.

     Both women are fighting for justice.

     Helena has chosen legal action, and became the first Roma woman to
win a case in Central Europe against the hospital that sterilized
her in 2001. Elena addresses international audiences to ensure this
never happens again.

     Helena and Elena's situations are a microcosm for the multiple
sources of social injustice facing today's Roma. Through their
poignant and unnerving stories, this film unearths the shocking
anachronism of the practice of forced sterilization that continued
long after the Communist mandate.

     In spite of witnessing the Czech media demoralize other Roma women
with similar stories, and also contending with a possessive husband
abhorring the spotlight on his family, Helena pursued the court
battle over the past two years and continues today.

     Elena was a child of communism, one of the only girls working in the
local ironworks. A young mother at 18, she had two boys before
surgery took away the opportunity to ever have a much-desired
daughter. Elena's greatest wish was to have been informed prior to
her consent to sterilisation; this compulsion continues and she has
now become a spokesperson for her community. She has travelled to
New York, Prague, Bratislava and Strasbourg to address international
audiences like the UN and the Council of Europe despite hostility
back home.

     Recently, Elena found out that Helena Ferenciková was her cousin.
Now she has to contend with the thought that if she'd have spoken
out when it happened, her cousin might have been spared the same

     Video Segment:

     "This project aims to document the systematic denial of the rights
to physical integrity and reproductive autonomy, committed against
Roma women because they are Roma women.  As such, it cuts to the
core of current debates on both xenophobia and women's rights.  I,
for one, can't wait to see it."
              - Marianne Mollmann: Advocacy Director, Women's Rights
Division, Human Rights Watch

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