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April 12, 2021

 

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Is Czech compensation for forced sterilizations in sight?

19.12.2020 9:37
Gwendolyn Albert (PHOTO: Petr Zewlakk Vrabec)
Gwendolyn Albert (PHOTO: Petr Zewlakk Vrabec)

Regular readers of Romano vod'i and the Romea.cz news server will be aware that women who have been sterilized without their informed choice and consent, many of them Romani, have been fighting since 2005 for the Czech state to compensate them. This year has seen them come closer to that goal than ever before.

A bill currently exists in the lower house that would institute a procedure through which to make such claims for compensation. It has been waiting for a first reading for more than a year, and to remind lawmakers of its importance, the small coalition of volunteers who have been advocating for its adoption recently organized an open letter and petition that garnered a great deal of support, especially from those who care about how human rights are upheld here in the Czech Republic. The Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe contacted the Czech legislature to reiterate support for these women being compensated as well. By the time this commentary is published we will know whether that effort has succeeded or experienced yet another setback.

The women themselves have been a crucial part of this advocacy, demonstrating in September outside of a hospital in Ostrava, presenting the petition to Czech MP Helena Válková (ANO) in Prague, and later visiting Czech Finance Minister Alena Schillerová (ANO) to explain their situations to her and ask for her support, which they received. They have also been sending letters to various lawmakers and to the Prime Minister seeking his support as well, to which they have received positive responses.

Of course, those of us in civil society are not privy to the discussions within the various parties regarding how they plan to approach this bill as an issue, politically. The media has not yet seen fit to investigate that question, probably because the COVID-19 pandemic is literally depriving not just other issues, but our fellow human beings, of oxygen here.

The fact is that most of the victims of these human rights abuses fall into the category of those older people who are most at risk during these unprecedented times, which makes it all the more imperative that the bill be passed as soon as possible, before any more victims pass away without ever getting justice. Even if this law were to pass in record time, it will also take time to institute the procedure itself.

More disturbingly, some of the women involved in seeking compensation for having been sterilized without their informed choice and consent in the past have recently reported to us that they have heard of even more recent instances of forced sterilization among members of their extended families. If those alleging such treatment manage to secure legal representation and sue before the statute of limitations elapses in their cases (three years) we may yet see this issue ruled on again by the Czech courts. The bigger question, of course, is whether this serious human rights abuse has once again been committed and if so, what is the medical profession going to do about that?

Those who are interested in the history of how such human rights abuses came to be committed throughout the former Czechoslovakia and present-day Czech Republic and Slovakia can look forward to a special edition of Romano džaniben dedicated to this issue, slated to be released by the end of this strangest of years. In the meantime, it is very important that we continue to press for redress for all the victims as a matter of priority. When a wrong is committed, there must be clear acknowledgment of that wrong and redress for it must be made. That is the most important part of the justice these women are seeking.

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forced sterilization, novela, odškodnění, RV 11/2020



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