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January 20, 2022



Romani women call on Czech MPs to take the first step toward compensating forcibly, illegally sterilized persons, 150 figures support them

11.9.2020 18:15
Ten Romani women demonstrated on 11 September 2020 in Ostrava calling for the adoption of a bill to compensate the victims of forced sterilizations in the Czech Republic and former Czechoslovakia. (PHOTO:  Kumar Vishwanathan)
Ten Romani women demonstrated on 11 September 2020 in Ostrava calling for the adoption of a bill to compensate the victims of forced sterilizations in the Czech Republic and former Czechoslovakia. (PHOTO: Kumar Vishwanathan)

Ten Romani women assembled today in front of the Municipal Hospital in Ostrava, Czech Republic to draw attention to the issue of compensationg for forced sterilizations. The women wanted to express how urgent it is that a law be adopted to compensate those who have been sterilized without their informed choice and consent.

Elena Gorolová, a Romani woman who was sterilized without her informed choice and consent in 1990, spoke to the media during the event. Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights Monika Šimůnková also called for the women who have been forcibly sterilized to be compensated.

Almost 150 figures also signed an open letter to MPs calling for the bill on compensation to be scheduled for a first reading. Speaking at the assembly, Gorolová reminded the press that the women have been fighting for their rights for almost two decades.

"The main reason for today's meeting is to call for the law to go to the Chamber of Deputies, because it should have been discussed long ago. We want the MPs to take action and for this compensation to actually happen, because it has been many years that the women have been fighting and nothing is being done," Gorolová said.

Gorolová also reminded the media that the bill was submitted almost a year ago and that the women have been waiting all this time for it to be read. She has been bringing together women who were forcibly sterilized since 2006.

The Romani community member was subjected to the unwanted surgery herself. In 1988 she gave birth by Caesarean section to her first little boy, and the complicated delivery of her second son again ended up being performed by Caesarean as well.

"At that moment they brought me two papers. I didn't read them at all, I signed them and didn't give it another thought because I was in enormous pain - I was in the delivery room and I just wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible," she recalled.

Gorolová only learned that one of the papers she had signed was for her sterilization when it was too late. To this day she has not come to terms with the fact that doctors decided to end her fertility without explaining to her what was happening.

Today she has two sons, but she has always longed for a daughter. "I really wanted a little girl, and at the time that I had my two sons I was still living with my mother, and I wanted to have the experience of bringing a child home to my own apartment, to her crib, to a home where I would be the mother. It bothers me to this day, and that is why I am fighting for all the other women [to whom this happened]," she said.

In 2003 the women contacted the office of the Public Defender of Rights through NGOs, and that office issued a Final Statement on the issue in 2005 finding that most of the cases of the sterilizations that the Public Defender reviewed had been performed unlawfully. In the year 2009, the women received an expression of regret from then-Czech PM Jan Fischer and Czech Human Rights Minister Michael Kocáb.

"He apologized to us, but it's not enough. The women deserve compensation, I believe it's appropriate," Gorolová said.

In her view, the women know they will never have children again and that monetary compensation will not change that situation, as many of them are already aging and ill. "The finances would aid us with healing. They apologized to us, but these women deserve financial compensation," Gorolová said, who is in contact with roughly 200 women who have suffered this treatment.

Today the Deputy Public Defender of Rights, Monika Šimůnková, reminded the public that it was not until the year 2012 that new legislation was adopted regarding informed consent to guarantee that similar violations of personal integrity will no longer happen. "By doing so, reform was ensured for the future. However, as far as the victims themselves are concerned, there is still a big debt we owe them, and it is possible to pay that debt, at least in part, by adopting this law," said the Deputy Public Defender of Rights, who has long been involved with this subject.

Last year a bill to compensate those who have been illegally sterilized was drafted and submitted to the lower house by a group of MPs. It has yet to advance to a first reading.

"MPs currently have what is probably the last opportunity during this Parliament to take advantage of the chance for the Czech Republic to provide redress in the form of claims for compensation as has been done, for example, in Sweden. We should not waste this opportunity," the Deputy Public Defender of Rights said.

An open letter calling on MPs to put the bill on the agenda for a first reading was signed by almost 150 figures, including former Czech Public Defender of RIghts Anna Šabatová and former Constitutional Court Justice Eliška Wagnerová. "We are convinced that given the age and state of health of some of these victims it is no longer possible to delay their compensation. For that reason, we are contacting you, given that this legislative session is coming to an end, and asking that you do all you can to definitely put a first reading of this law on the agenda of the Chamber of Deputies," reads the open letter, according to which this would mean the MPs would be taking the first step toward compensating the victims of these illegal sterilizations.

ryz, ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Anna Šabatová, Demonstrace, Eliška Wagnerová, forced sterilization, Monika Šimůnková, odškodnění, Ostrava, women


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