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August 15, 2018
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Czech NGOs report to UN that Government refuses to compensate women sterilized without informed consent

12.4.2017 7:01
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The Czech Women's Lobby, Czech Helsinki Committee and the League of Human Rights have warned the United Nations that the Czech Government has decided not to compensate women who have been sterilized without their informed consent. The state of midwifery and obstetrics in the country remains unsatisfactory, according to the NGOs.

This November the Czech Republic will undergo a review of how it protects and secures human rights as part of the United Nations' Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, which regularly takes place every four years. The Czech Women's Lobby, in collaboration with other organizations, has sent the UN its comments on the still-unresolved question of compensation for women sterilized without their informed consent and has also described deficiencies in the provision of care to women during pregnancy, delivery and the first six weeks post-parturition with an emphasis on the fact that women are not allowed to freely choose how they will give birth and where.

The UPR is a specifc mechanism consisting of dialogue among the member states of the United Nations and an assessment of how human rights are upheld in each state. The outcome of the process is a set of recommendations to improve the promotion and protection of human rights in each state.

The member states are all equal during the review and are able to freely ask questions, comment on the facts, and share their recommendations. This year marks the third time the Czech Republic will be the subject of review.

In October 2012 the Czech Republic received a total of 136 recommendations, of which the Government accepted 129 (listed here under "Matrices of Recommendations") and pledged to take steps to fulfill them. The Government must now, by August, send the UN its own report about how it has fulfilled those recommendations.

Non-governmental, non-profit organizations were able to send their own standpoints on the degree to which the Government has fulfilled the previous recommendations by 30 March of this year. One of the recommendations that the Czech Government received last time - and then also pledged to fulfill - was that of compensating women who have been illegally sterilized.

That recommendation has not been fulfilled:  In October 2015 the Government rejected a draft law on compensation that was submitted by the then-Human Rights Minister. Another previous UPR recommendation to the Czech Republic concerned arranging for women to be able to freely choose how and where they will give birth.

That recommendation has not been reflected upon by the Government in the interim. For that reason, the Czech Women's Lobby is once again reminding the UN that it is not allowed in the Czech Republic for women to give birth with a midwife, that the existence of birthing facilities that are not hospitals is not allowed, and that unnecessary obstacles exist for women who want to give birth in their own homes.

The NGOs also warned that doctors are not acquiring women's informed consent to various medical procedures, that harmful practices such as routine episiotomies are in use, that the process of childbirth is excessively medicalized, that mothers are separated from their newborns in hospitals, and that there is an absence of data about the care being provided in health care facilities, as well as an absence of quality control. The provision of obstetric care continues to contravene World Health Organization recommendations, but the state is disclaiming its responsibility for that fact.

The standpoints sent by the Czech Helsinki Committee, the Czech Women's Lobby and the League of Human Rights last week refer to the fact that those who have been harmed by being sterilized without their informed consent have not yet been compensated by the Czech Government, which means the state has failed to fulfill its pledge. The Czech Republic has also not taken any measures that would lead to an expansion of birthing mothers' options for delivery or an improvement to the quality of obstetric care.

brf, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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