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Czech Human Rights Minister drafting law to compensate illegally sterilized women

Prague, 19.2.2014 18:55, (ROMEA)
Romani women demonstrating in Ostrava in 2006 against forced sterilizations. Their sign reads
Romani women demonstrating in Ostrava in 2006 against forced sterilizations. Their sign reads "Sterilize cucumbers not women".

News server iDNES.cz reports that illegally sterilized women in the Czech Republic have not yet been compensated. Two years ago the Czech Government Human Rights Council recommended the cabinet compensate them, but it has not yet happened.

Czech Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier wants to resolve the situation and is preparing a compensation bill. Dienstbier told iDNES.cz that compensation for women who were wrongfully sterilized is one of the topics he will be involved in.  

"There is of course a need to establish the compensation amount and determine the number of people who can claim compensation," the minister said. For the time being he cannot say when the bill will be ready. 

"It's a rather long road from the drafting of a law to its approval," Dienstbier said. However, he does believe it is necessary to resolve the matter once and for all. 

"It's a question of preserving the good name of the Czech Republic that we take a proper stance on this problem," he added. The Czech Helsinki Committee prepared its own draft of a compensation law last December.

The human rights group then sent its bill to the Justice Ministry and all of the parliamentary parties. Dienstbier says that material is one of the "inputs" he is making use of.

Most of the women who have been sterilized without their informed consent are Romani. In the past there was an effort to regulate the birth rate of the Romani minority.

Since the statute of limitations has expired on most of those cases, they cannot be addressed through the courts. The Czech Government Human Rights Council recommended to the cabinet in February 2012 that the women be financially compensated some other way.

The Council instructed the Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner, the Finance Minister, the Health Minister, the Justice Minister, and the Labor and Social Affairs Minister to submit a proposal on how to undertake the compensation to the Government by 31 December 2013. No such proposal has been submitted.

"The government at the time resigned before it could complete its plan. The next developments will depend on the position of the Human Rights Section at the Office of the Government and on ultimately on the cabinet's decision," Radek Ležatka of the press department at the Czech Finance Ministry told iDNES.cz.

The Czech Government Human Rights Council proposed two years ago that each woman receive roughly CZK 100 000. Women would be able to claim compensation who were subjected to sterilization without their informed consent between 1972 and 1991, when a decree was in force making it possible to offer women CZK 10 000 to end their fertility.

For the time being, no one precisely knows how many women doctors prevented from having children in the past. The Czech Government Human Rights Council estimated that at the most 1 000 people could claim compensation.  

The Czech Helsinki Committee posted a call on its website last August for women who have suffered this treatment to come forward, but so far not quite 50 have done so. "I can guarantee there are more women than that. I personally know about 150 such women, but some have moved and we don't have their new addresses," Elena Gorolová of the Group of Women Harmed by Forced Sterilization, who has worked with the Czech Helsinki Committee on finding the women, told iDNES.cz. 

Gorolová was sterilized by doctors in 1990 at the age of 21 and believes the state will ultimately compensate the women. "I have been working on this for nine years, and I would be terribly glad to see it come to an end. It's a long time and the women are impatient. If nothing happens, then they will demonstrate, just like we did at the beginning, but I hope the compensation will come one day," she said.

The Czech Republic's first ombud, Otakar Motejl, proposed the women be compensated in 2005 after roughly 90 women turned to him with complaints. The situation has also previously been criticized by the European Roma Rights Centre. 

In the year 2009 the Czech Government, headed by PM Jan Fischer, apologized to the women. During communism there were repeated attempts to warn of the fateful practice, the first of which, by the Charter 77 organization, occurred in 1978.

During the 1990s the Office for the Documentation and Investigation of the Crimes of Communism also researched the illegal sterilizations. The Czech human rights community has also noted that dozens of mentally disabled women have also been sterilized without their informed consent. 

voj, server iDNES.cz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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odškodnění, sterilizace, vládní zmocněnkyně pro lidská práva, ženy



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