Czech state may finally compensate forced sterilization victims
Czech public broadcaster ČT24 reported on 5 August that people who have been sterilized against their will in the Czech Republic may finally receive compensation. The Chamber of Deputies' Commission on the Family, Equal Opportunities and National Minorities has called on the Czech Health Ministry to do so, and the ministry has agreed with Czech MPs Pastuchová and Válková to submit the necessary bill to do so.
The Czech state expressed regret over the unwanted sterilizations 10 years ago but has yet to compensate all the victims. Forced sterilizations happened beginning in the 1960s and were not definitively stopped until the law was amended in 2012 to clearly define informed consent.
"We know, unfortunately, of some reports that the grounds [for the forced sterilizations] were ethnic, i.e., limiting the reproduction of the Romani population. However, there were also medical reasons; health care personnel believed a future pregnancy could harm the woman, that it might kill her, and decided to sterilize her without her consent," Czech Deputy Health Minister Radek Policar told ČT24.
Among the victims of these practices are Elena Gorolová and Radka Hančilová. Doctors cut the Fallopian tubes of both women at the beginning of the 1990s during the course of Cesarean deliveries without informing either of them beforehand that they would do so.
"My reaction was that I began to cry. I was 21 years old and I couldn't believe it was for life," ČT24 quoted Gorolová as describing the impact of being told she would never have children again.
Doctors had repeatedly offered sterilization to Hančilová, but she had disagreed with their proposal. "I refused it, but all the same I woke up from the anesthesia and I had been sterilized. They claimed it was because my scar tissue had been damaged," Hančilová said.
In her case, the hospital commission that was asked to approve of the request for sterilization after the fact also rejected it as unnecessary. The hospital later acknowledged that the surgery had been illegal.
By the time the hospital admitted its wrongdoing to Hančilová, however, the statute of limitations for compensation had expired. Lawyers for the injured parties and MPs have already prepared the bill that is necessary to debate possibly compensating the victims.
"We would be glad if this compensation mechanism were to be adopted by the Chamber of Deputies. The best would be if it were a bill from the legislators themselves," Monika Šimůnková, a human rights expert and lawyer, told Czech Television.
According to Šimůnková, who was Human Rights Commissioner from 2011-2013, if the bill is adopted, those applying for compensation will have to demonstrate to a commission that they were illegally sterilized. According to experts, there may be as many as 500 women and men able to do so.
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