Elena Gorolová, spokeswoman for the illegally sterilized, calls on Czech MPs to support first reading of bill to compensate them
Elena Gorolová, the Romani community member who is the spokeswoman for the Group of Women Harmed by Forced Sterilization, has called on members of the Czech Chamber of Deputies to schedule a first reading of a bill to provide financial compensation to those who have been illegally sterilized and to adopt it; several votes have been previously held in recent months on scheduling a first reading, none of which have succeeded yet. The bill to compensate those who have been sterilized unlawfully has been waiting to be read in the lower house for more than one year.
According to Gorolová, this week is one of the last opportunities for the bill to be discussed during this legislative session. "There are more than 200 of us, and this is not just about Romani women," she says in a video recording that has been posted online.
"I would be glad if the compensation of the illegally sterilized women could finally happen," Gorolová says in the video. In October, Czech Finance Minister Alena Schillerová (ANO) met with several women who had been sterilized without their informed consent and expressed her support for compensating them.
The bill is also supported by Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights Monika Šimůnková, who also previously asked MPs to read it and support its adoption. She is also of the opinion that adopting this legislation is the only opportunity today for women who have been subjected to this treatment to get justice, as there is no longer any point to their turning to the courts because of the statute of limitations on such compensation.
The first Czech Public Defender of Rights, Otakar Motejl, brought attention to this injustice, publishing a report in 2005 describing cases of women being sterilized either completely without their consent or signing papers under circumstances that meant their "consent" to the surgery was neither genuine nor informed. To this day most of these women have never been compensated, many grapple with serious health problems, and some passed away without ever seeing justice.
Because of the statute of limitations on their compensation, there is no point to bringing such cases to court. "The draft legislation is the last opportunity for the state to at least somewhat address this injustice after 20 years," the Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights said in her previous press release.
"Sterilizations without informed consent are one of the worst violations of personal integrity ever to have been committed by the state. I would therefore like to ask lawmakers to undertake a first reading of this bill during the current legislative session," Šimůnková said last year.
"These women deserve justice," the Deputy Public Defender of Rights has insisted. In the former Czechoslovakia, the practice of sterilizations was regulated in 1971 on the basis of the adoption of guidelines on the performance of such surgeries and state policy was formed on that basis.
While those guidelines were in effect, in practice Romani women were systematically sterilized without their full and informed consent as a means of controlling the birth rate of children born to Romani mothers. A decree incentivizing such sterilizations was then revoked in 1993 after the breakup of Czechoslovakia into two separate states.
Gorolová and others have reported that the forced sterilizations did not end with the revocation of those regulations, but continued for several years thereafter, and the most recent case of a Romani women being sterilized without her freely-given consent reportedly dates from 2007. The Czech Government of Prime Minister Jan Fischer expressed regret for these practices in 2009.
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