Elena Gorolová on forced sterilizations: We seek compensation, nobody will ever restore our motherhood
"The financial compensation we seek is not everything. You can't buy your own child, you can't acquire what you've lost - the option of motherhood," Elena Gorolová, who has been fighting for 11 years for compensation for women who have been improperly sterilized in the former Czechoslovakia and Czech Republic, told news server iDNES.cz last week.
She herself is one of the survivors of this treatment - at the age of 21 she was forcibly sterilized by a doctor at a maternity hospital in the Vítkovice quarter of Ostrava, the country's third-largest city, during the birth of her second son. Her "consent" to the procedure was obtained by asking her to sign papers while she was in labor, without anybody providing her an explanation of what it would entail.
"I didn't study what I was signing - when you're in pain like that it's all the same to you what else is happening, you just pick up the pen and sign when they ask you to," she told the paper. In 2004 she was one of 80 women who contacted then-ombudsperson Otakar Motejl and asked him to investigate.
For 50 of those complaints the ombudsperson was able to prove that the sterilization procedures had not been lawful. According to Gorolová, however, the number of women whom the situation concerns is much higher, as 150 women have already turned to her for assistance with their own cases since then.
She sees progress during the last 11 years in the fact that today the survivors of forced sterilization are appearing in public and telling their stories. Ten years ago they convened a demonstration in front of the Fifejdy Hospital in Ostrava, where many of them were forcibly sterilized by doctors during the course of delivery.
"I met with the staff of the hospitals, I discussed what happened with them. Sometimes they told me that they had never performed any sterilizations illegally, in other places they admitted that it happened, that they had instructions to limit the birth of Romani children," she said.
Gorolová considers it important that the approach toward the performance of sterilization today has changed, as has the legislation regulating it. "Today a woman must given absolutely clear informed consent and she gets time to think about it. In 2009, under Prime Minister Fischer and Human Rights Minister Kocáb, the Czech Government finally apologized to us. That is a certain satisfaction for us, but it's not enough," she said.
Last October the Government rejected a proposal by Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier according to which each woman harmed by forced sterilization would receive compensation in the amount of CZK 300 000 (EUR 11 000). Not only Romani women have been forcibly sterilized.
Non-Romani women have sometimes contacted Gorolová about their own cases, but according to her, when the non-Romani women realized there were only Romani women in the group she works with, most of them did not want to join. "I would be very glad if they would join us, because it could only help us all," she said.
Tomorrow, 9 June, Gorolová and four other women will be telling their stories through a theater performance called "Stories That (Never) Began" at Cooltour in Ostrava. The performance begins at 18:30, admission is by voluntary donation.
- Czech Republic: Romani women forced to undergo sterilization tell their stories through theater
- 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
- Slovakia internationally criticized for forced sterilization, police impunity for brutality against Roma, position on refugee reception and segregated education
- Compensation for victims of forced sterilization raised at OSCE event on Roma
- 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 Helsinki Committee, Human Rights Minister draft law to compensate forced sterilization victims
- Slovakia loses another forced sterilization case in Strasbourg
- European Court for Human Rights condemns Slovakia for forced sterilization of Romani woman
- Roma activists discuss Czech Police, forced sterilization with US Embassy representatives
- Slovak Constitutional Court awards compensation to Roma for 13-year court case - but the discrimination sued over still has no final ruling
- Czech state may finally compensate forced sterilization victims
- Elena Gorolová: Some of the forced sterilization victims have died, but we are still fighting for compensation
- USA: Four-month-old Romani boy is youngest child to be separated from his parents at the border with Mexico
- Elena Gorolová, who campaigns for compensation for forced sterilization, featured on Czech talk show
- Commentary: Czech Republic, Slovakia must compensate the victims of forced sterilization while they are still alive
- LIVE BROADCAST WEDNESDAY 27 MARCH: Last sessions of the Council of Europe's 7th International Roma Women's Conference
- LIVE BROADCAST TUESDAY 26 MARCH: Council of Europe holds the 7th International Roma Women's Conference
- VIDEO: Roma Week in the European Parliament continues with a conference about antigypsyism
- Slovakia: Romani women giving birth allege they are subjected to physical violence, racism in hospitals
- Elena Gorolová: I was shocked to be included among the BBC's 100 inspirational women of 2018
- Romani activist Elena Gorolová is one of 100 Inspiring Women on the BBC's list for 2018