Between 1966 and 2012, many women were involuntarily sterilised in Czech and Czechoslovak hospitals. The government has since apologised for the practice and discussed compensating the victims. However, no definite solution has yet been established. On Tuesday, selected MP’s and government representatives held a special meeting that looked into the problem.
Czech woman Elena Gorolová has been named on an annual BBC list of 100
inspirational and influential women. Ms. Gorolová is a Roma social worker
based in Ostrava. The BBC highlighted her campaigns against forced
sterilisation and work to return institutionalized children to their birth
The 49-year-old told Czech Radio that Czech doctors were no longer carrying out forced sterilisations and the focus of her work today was securing financial compensation for victims of the practice. She herself was sterilised without her knowledge.
Women forced to undergo sterilisation in the Czech Republic should receive financial compensation from the state in the next few years, according to new legislation drafted for the minister for human rights, Jiří Dienstbier. Under the bill the women, many of whom are from the Roma ethnic minority, would receive CZK 300,000. A government committee proposed financial compensation in 2006. Three years later the then cabinet apologised for the practice but to date no compensation has been paid out.
The Czech government is planning to compensate victims of forced sterilization by 2015, the news agency ČTK reported quoting the government’s response to the UN Committee for Human Rights. The cabinet says it will next year put forward legislation that should comprehensively address compensation and other claims of the victims towards the state. In 2004, several dozen mainly Romany women approached the authorities with complaints there were forcibly sterilized. The government apologized to the victims in 2007 but the issue of compensation has not since been resolved. The UN committee has repeatedly criticized the Czech Republic for its failure to compensate the women as well as other issues including the wide-spread discrimination and segregation of Romanies.
Along with Charter 77 and the Committee for the Defence of the Unjustly Persecuted, the Czechoslovak Helsinki Committee was a key dissident organisation in the communist period, pressuring the government to adhere to its human rights commitments. Today known as the Czech Helsinki Committee, it is still active, advocating for people who often have nowhere else to turn. I discussed the committee’s work with its director, Lucie Rybová. But I first asked her about the reasons for its establishment, in November 1988.
Plans are afoot to compensate thousands of Czech women, many from the Roma minority, sterilised against their will between the early 1970s and the early 1990s. Lidové noviny reported on Friday that victims could receive up to CZK 150,000 each under legislation being prepared by the human rights minister and an NGO, the Czech Helsinki Committee. I asked the latter’s director Lucie Rybová how many victims were likely to benefit from the scheme, if it is approved.
Compensation of between 100,000 crowns and 150,000 is likely to be offered to women who were sterilized without their consent under a law being prepared by the minister for human rights, Jiří Dienstbier, the daily Lidový Noviny reported on Friday. The sterilizations, mostly of Roma women, took place from 1972 until 1991. Many of the woman signed forms consenting to the operations but said afterwards that they did not realize what was being proposed. The Czech Helsinki Committee estimates that around one thousand women could qualify for compensation. Some women in the past won court cases that they were wrongfully sterilized but were not awarded compensation.
On Thursday, the High Court in Prague awarded compensation to two women, one of them a Romany sterilized without her knowledge in 2003, the other a non-Romany whose fallopian tubes were removed without her consent in 2006. The ruling confirmed a previous verdict – the first of its kind – and raised the amount originally awarded. Gwendolyn Albert, a human rights activist and expert on the issue, discusses the verdict.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court in Prague ruled that two women, who were sterilized without their knowledge, should receive hundreds of thousands of crowns in compensation. According to the League of Human Rights, the doctors who sterilized the two patients were trying to prevent serious health complications but didn’t offer them the chance to make a decision about their own health. Under the communist regime and even into the late 90s, women predominantly of Roma origin were sometimes sterilized against their will and the Minister of Human Rights and Minorities Michael Kocáb said that new measures will prevent such incidents from happening in the future.
Human rights campaigners won an important moral victory on Monday when the government of Jan Fischer expressed regret over the forced sterilization of women, almost all of them members of the country’s Roma minority. No reliable figures exist for the numbers of women sterilized, but what’s alarming is that according to human rights groups, the practice continues in isolated cases to this day.