Czech Republic: Romani women forced to undergo sterilization tell their stories through theater
A theatrical production called "Stories That (Never) Began" ("Příběhy, které (ne)začaly") telling the stories of several women who were forced to undergo sterilization will be created at the Cooltour multifunctional space in Ostrava next week. Women who have survived such abuses will create the performance under the direction of theatrical professionals.
The premiere will be on the evening of Thursday, 9 June. Kateřina Červená of the League of Human Rights, the main organizer of the event, informed the Czech News Agency of the upcoming performance.
"We are working with five Romani women between the ages of 50 and 60 from the towns of Krnov and Ostrava. Some were forcibly sterilized prior to 1989, others in the 1990s," Červená said.
All of the women will meet in Ostrava to discuss their life stories over the course of one week. On the basis of those authentic testimonies, the performance will be created under the direction of theatrical producers Petra Drahanská and Simona Trávničková.
"Nothing about this has been planned in advance. There is no script, all of it will arise as improvisation," Červená said.
One of the performers will be Elena Gorolová. "I am really looking forward to this. At this moment I cannot imagine what the performance will be like," she told the Czech News Agency.
Gorolová said she was disappointed by the number of women who ultimately are available to participate. "There should be more of us. It's a pity it can't be managed. Some of the women have work obligations, others are too ill. I was looking forward to there being more of us involved," she said.
Červená said it is not yet clear which story the performance will portray during this first staging. No reprises are planned yet.
"We want to wait and see how the premiere turns out. Then we will decide," she said.
The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) first raised the suspicion that primarily Romani women were being forcibly sterilized in the Czech Republic in 2004. Dozens of women then applied to the ombudsperson for assistance and several also sued in court.
The Czech Government's Committee against Torture first proposed financial compensation for the women in 2006. The Czech Government's Human Rights Council received a proposal to compensate the women in 2007.
Two years later the cabinet expressed regret over the illegally-performed sterilizations. According to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, however, a mere apology is not sufficient redress.
A bill drafted by the Human Rights Minister to compensate the survivors of these harms was not adopted last autumn, when other ministers in the cabinet rejected it. "The Government has not reviewed the proposal to compensate these women since then. The efforts of the five women involved in this project are aimed in that direction as well. Through this performance we want to convince the Government to address the issue of compensation again," Červená said.
There are no precise statistics in the Czech Republic about how many women may have been subjected to forced sterilization. Červená estimates that there probably have been hundreds.
The issue of forced sterilization was revisited on Wednesday, 1 June in Prague during a daylong conference convened by the OSCE. MEP Soraya Post of Sweden opened the conference with an emotional remembrance of her own mother's experience of such obstetric violence.
On the issue of forced sterilization, Post told news server Romea.cz she hoped the conference, attended by experts from all over Europe and including local survivors of forced sterilization, would reinvigorate efforts to address the issue: “I hope they will have more energy to address the question, to share good practices, to get inspired, get new ideas and strategies on how to deal with this.” The refusal to address the forced sterilization of Roma is part of a larger context, she explained.
“It’s one symptom of antigypsyism, along with segregated schools, unemployment, hate speech and hate crime, and politicians who use Roma before elections to get votes,” the MEP said. “The Roma are kept in a socially excluded environment to justify how they are treated,” she asserted, adding that the larger society is “causing the failures, and then blaming the Roma for the failures.”
According to the MEP, this process of blaming the victim serves to legitimize anti-Roma sentiment. “It’s a way for decent people to still feel decent,” when expressing racism toward Roma, she said.
When it comes to expressing hatred of Roma, Post told Romea.cz that "There is no shame.” While people might feel bad about expressing other hateful attitudes, “when it comes to Roma, they don’t have to feel shame.”
- OSCE/ODIHR Event to Focus on Justice and Redress to Roma Victims of Forced Sterilization in the Czech Republic
- UN Committee tells Czech Republic: Compensate victims of forced sterilization and punish those responsible
- Czech Government to answer questions about illegal sterilizations, mostly of Romani women, from UN Committee tomorrow
- Slovakia internationally criticized for forced sterilization, police impunity for brutality against Roma, position on refugee reception and segregated education
- Gwendolyn Albert: The long train ride to justice for forcibly sterilized women
- Compensation for victims of forced sterilization raised at OSCE event on Roma
- Czech Government rejects bill to compensate victims of illegal sterilizations
- Czech Human Rights Minister proposes illegally sterilized women receive CZK 300 000 compensation
- Czech Republic: Victims of illegal sterilizations could receive CZK 300 000 in compensation
- Czech Government should have forced sterilization compensation plan outlined in six months
- Czech Govt tells UN that law to compensate forced sterilization will be ready in one year
- Gwendolyn Albert: Seven UN agencies issue joint statement on stopping forced, coercive, and involuntary sterilization
- Czech hospitals refuse medical records to women sterilized against their will
- Czech Helsinki Committee, Human Rights Minister draft law to compensate forced sterilization victims
- European Court pressuring Czech Govt to compensate Romani women sterilized without their consent
- More than 3 000 people assembled to celebrate World Roma Day in Ostrava, Czech Republic - footage of performances here
- Romani refugees segregated in a Czech center and discriminated against, Regional Governor accuses them of theft, police say no such crimes have been reported
- How to apply for compensation for illegally performed sterilization in the Czech Republic
- Elena Gorolová: Czech state compensation for illegal sterilizations is more of a gesture, it will never make up for the children we couldn't have
- US Embassy to the Czech Republic expresses appreciation to activists who fought for compensation for illegally sterilized people
- Slovak Government apologizes for illegal sterilizations, lawyer and Plenipotentiary for the Romani Community say compensation must follow
- Czech appeals court upholds sentences against married non-Romani couple who assaulted Romani children, compensation for mental anguish still has to be sued for separately
- Romanian town must finally compensate some members of a forcibly evicted Romani community
- Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights discusses compensation procedure for forced sterilizations in interview for ROMEA TV
- Czech mobile vaccination teams revisit socially excluded localities where COVID-19 disinformation has had more of an impact
- Czech President signs law to compensate the victims of illegal sterilizations
- Czech mobile vaccination teams visit excluded localities in Ostrava-Přívoz, Regional Authority working with Romani NGOs on outreach