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Czech Republic: Justice for Roma women 'coerced' into sterilisation

Czech women forcibly sterilised between 1966 and 2012 to receive reparation

‘No amount of money will bring us back the chance to have more children, but the compensation is important for justice’ - Elena Gorolová

After years of campaigning by survivors the Czech Senate today finally voted to compensate thousands of Roma women who were unlawfully sterilised by the Czechoslovak and subsequently Czech authorities between 1966 and 2012.

Unlawful sterilisations happened due to widespread discrimination against Roma people, which impacted every aspect of their daily life and continues to do so: from schools, through employment to housing where they routinely experience racial segregation and being pushed to the margins of society.

Barbora Černušáková, Amnesty International’s researcher on the Czech Republic researcher, said:

“This is a shameful chapter in the Czech Republic’s history.

“Thousands of women, the majority of whom were Roma were coerced into signing consent forms, often while they were in labour or recovering from Caesarean sections. In many cases these women were not told what they were agreeing to. This was a gross violation of their rights, including the right to be free from torture, or ill-treatment.

“Today’s vote will finally establish a path to justice for survivors of unlawful sterilisations. For decades these brave women have had to live with the trauma they were subjected to at the hands of the authorities, yet they never gave up fighting for their rights.”

Elena Gorolová, a survivor of unlawful sterilisation who has been campaigning for justice for years, said:

“The compensation bill means a lot for me after all these years of struggle. Although the government apologised to us in 2009, it wasn’t enough.

“What kept me going was the fellow women who suffered sterilisations and had to live with it.

“No amount of money will bring us back the chance to have more children, but the compensation is important for justice. A lot of things happened during all those years. We got older and some of us have died, but I kept telling myself: you cannot just let it be.

“The struggle is not over. Our group of volunteers will now be helping survivors to prepare the evidence and submit their applications for compensation. It won’t be easy, but these women deserve it.”

Background

In 2009, the Czech government apologised to survivors for the unlawful sterilisations. However, due to the statute of limitations, they were denied redress for the severe harm they endured, and any form of judicial remedy was inaccessible for most survivors.

Survivors of unlawful sterilisations will be eligible for compensation of 300,000 CZK (10,000 GBP), which must be applied for through the Ministry of Healthcare, within three years of the law entering into force.

To apply for compensation the women must provide evidence supporting the claim; and a description of the case, including the name of the hospital where the unlawful sterilisation was carried out.

As documented by the European Roma Rights Centre, the sterilisation procedure was often performed at the same time as caesarean sections or women were presented with consent forms when in great pain or distress during labour or delivery. However, there were also cases when Roma women underwent the procedure after threats to institutionalise their children or withdraw welfare benefits.

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