Czech Government adopts neutral position on bill to compensate women who were illegally sterilized
A group of Czech legislators from the ANO, Christian Democrat (KDU-ČSL), Social Democrat (ČSSD) and TOP 09 parties, led by Czech MP Helena Válková, who is also the Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner, has recently proposed a bill to compensate the women who have been illegally sterilized on Czech territory, and during yesterday's cabinet session the Government adopted a neutral position on the proposed legislation. A one-time compensation payment in the amount of CZK 300 000 [EUR 11,760] could be awarded to as many as 400 women who have been illegally sterilized if the bill is adopted.
"We have many comments about the bill that are of a legal character. It will be important to see what position the lower house takes on it," Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš told journalists after the cabinet session.
"This is a problem for which we are being criticized internationally, and it would be good if lawmakers from across the political spectrum could resolve it," the PM said. If a compensation process for the illegally sterilized women does begin, that agenda would be administered by the Czech Health Ministry, according to him.
The bill outlines a time period of almost 46 years, beginning from when the "People's Health Act" took effect in communist Czechoslovakia and extending until the recent adoption of new norms governing health care interventions of different kinds. The compensation would be paid to women who were sterilized illegally between 1 July 1966 and 31 March 2012.
The women did not freely decide on their own to be sterilized, but were pressured to do so, including through threats to take away their existing children or to be deprived of state benefits. Another motivation for the women to be sterilized could have been the state's offer of monetary or material rewards, which were justified as being in the interests of a "healthy population".
That approach was legislated by the regulations in place at the time. If the bill becomes law, victims would be able to file claims within three years of its taking effect, which it is assumed would happen in January 2021.
Suspicions of forced sterilizations in the Czech Republic, above all among Romani women, were first raised by the European Roma Rights Centre in 2004. Dozens of women then complained to the Czech Public Defender of Rights, with some also complaining to the courts.
The Czech Government Committee against Torture proposed introducing compensation for the forced sterilization victims in 2006. In 2009 the Czech cabinet expressed regret for the illegal procedures.
International human rights organizations are criticizing the Czech Republic for violating the women's human rights and then never compensating them. The lawmakers who have submitted the bill point out that if it is adopted, such criticism would cease and the Czech Republic would also avoid being sued at the European Court for Human Rights by individual plaintiffs.
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