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Czech Human Rights Minister proposes illegally sterilized women receive CZK 300 000 compensation

7.9.2015 17:10
Czech Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation Jiří Dienstbier
Czech Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation Jiří Dienstbier

Czech Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier will submit a proposal to the Government this month for women who have been illegally sterilized to receive compensation. The amount he is proposing is CZK 300 000 (EUR 11 000).

"For now this is about the outline of a law that will be evaluated this week by the Government's Legislative Council. If the Government approves that outline, then the minister will draft the law by mid-2016 and the women whom it concerns should be compensated in 2017," Deputy Human Rights Minister Martina Štěpánková, who heads the Human Rights Section, told news server iDNES.cz.  

Those who were subjected to such surgery between 1 July 1966 and 31 March 2012 and who never gave informed consent to it should be eligible for compensation. Those for whom consent to the operation was given by a guardian should also receive compensation.

"The proposed special law establishes rules that will aid victims who have been unable to access compensation through the courts or any other way," the authors of the proposal said. They also pointed out that not all of the sterilizations performed in the country during that time violated then-applicable regulations and were illegal.

In 2004, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) came forward with suspicions that primarily Romani women were being forcibly sterilized in the Czech Republic. Dozens of women then complained to the ombud and some also turned to the courts.  

The Czech Government's Committee against Torture proposed compensating the victims of these violations in 2006. The Czech Government expressed regret for the illegal surgeries in 2009.

The Czech Republic has been criticized by international organizations for failing to compensate the people whose human rights the state did not adequately protect in this matter. The compensation proposal covers a period of almost 46 years, determined by the time during which the Public Health Law was in force prior to new norms being adopted.  

Illegal sterilization is defined as a sterilization which a person does not freely decide to undergo. According to the authors of the proposal it is not essential whether what was behind this "lack of freedom" was persuasion, pressure, the promise of release from an institution, the promise of a welfare payment, the provision of imprecise information about the repercussions of the surgery, or threats to remove children from the family unless the patient consented to the surgery.    

It is not clear how many people might receive compensation - in 1989 alone, welfare payments in exchange for sterilization were paid to 803 people, 419 of whom were Romani women, according to a report prepared for the Government. The costs of compensating the victims are estimated at anywhere between tens of millions and hundreds of millions of Czech crowns. 

bau, ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Jiří Dienstbier, odškodnění, sterilizace, zákon



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