Czech Republic: Hundreds of illegally sterilized women will probably be compensated
The victims of illegal sterilizations could be compensated as much as CZK 300 000 (EUR 10 000) in the coming years. Those who did not give their informed consent to such an operation prior to undergoing it would be eligible for compensation.
That is the content of a draft outline of a law arranging for their compensation. Czech Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) and the head of his Human Rights Section, Martina Štěpánková, announced the details to journalists today.
Štěpánková said several hundred persons might qualify for the compensation. "Eligibility will be determined by whether informed consent was actually given to the operation. In many cases a consent form was signed, but not until after the operation had been performed or even immediately during preparations for it to be performed. Sterilization is not considered a life-saving intervention. There are also cases in which it was performed during a Cesarean delivery or immediately after delivery, etc.," she said.
The CZK 300 000 sum would be received by everyone eligible. In 2004 the European Roma Rights Centre announced its suspicions that women were being forcibly sterilized in the Czech Republic, primarily Romani women.
Dozens of women then complained to the ombud and some also turned to the courts. The Czech Government Committee against Torture proposed introducing compensation for them in 2006.
In 2009 the Czech cabinet apologized for the illegal surgeries. The Government had originally planned to have a rubric ready for compensating the victims of illegal sterilizations by December 2014.
According to the updated plan, the Human Rights Minister will now submit it in April 2015. The law is supposed to be drafted by the end of 2015 so it can take effect in mid-2016.
According to estimates by the Czech Government Committee against Torture, as many as 1 000 women could be entitled to compensation. The minimum number of women who might be compensated is 59.
That is the number of cases the ombud previously sent to the Supreme State Prosecutor for action, who shelved them, claiming a lack of evidence. According to the planned legislation, a commission will evaluate applicants' eligibility for compensation.
Medical records, among other evidence, should be the basis for the eligibility decision. However, such records are missing in many cases.
Some victims were given a welfare payment of up to CZK 10 000 or a household appliance in exchange for undergoing the operation. "We consider the state's behavior at that time to have been amoral and reprehensible. This was all part of social policy, the decision was not just made by health care facilities," Štěpánková said.
Persons who voluntarily underwent sterilization after such benefits were awarded will not be eligible for compensation today. Several Romani women from the Group of Women Harmed by Forced Sterilization recently told the Czech News Agency that they had signed their consent to the operations under duress.
The women are also said to have had no idea what kind of surgery they were undergoing. Many of them also were told that it was just a temporary measure.
Irena Faková, a resident of the Chanov housing estate in Most, said social workers forced her to undergo sterilization 27 years ago, visiting her at home after she returned there from the maternity ward. They threatened to take her children into state care if she did not immediately return to the hospital.
She went back. After undergoing the surgery, she was paid CZK 5 000 by the state.
Today Minister Dienstbier says the law will cover more cases than just those of Romani women. Activists have previously pointed out that disabled persons have also become the victims of illegal sterilizations.
The Czech Government Human Rights Council first recommended the victims of illegal sterilizations be compensated in 2007. It made a second recommendation at the beginning of 2012 to the cabinet of former Prime Minister Petr Nečas (Civic Democratic Party - ODS), but his administration collapsed before it could review the proposal.
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