Slovak Government apologizes for illegal sterilizations, lawyer and Plenipotentiary for the Romani Community say compensation must follow
The Government of Slovakia has apologized for the illegal sterilizations of women. A resolution to that effect has been adopted by the cabinet of Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger.
Unlike the Czech Republic, Slovakia has yet to adopt a law on compensating such women, who frequently come from the Romani minority and were sterilized without their informed consent not just during communist rule when the country was still part of Czechoslovakia, but also in subsequent years under democratic rule in a sovereign state. The Slovak Government declaration states that it apologizes for the unlawfully performed sterilizations of Romani women and condemns the violation of their human rights.
"The practice of the previous regime from 1966 to 1989 related to the reproductive behavior of women from socially disadvantaged environments is assessed by the Government as unacceptable. The Government condemns the performance of sterilizations as a means of regulating the birth rate of socially vulnerable layers of society, which was undertaken especially among Romani women," the accompanying material to the resolution reads.
Heger's cabinet also said the fact that Romani people in particular were also sterilized unlawfully between 1990 and 2004, including after Slovak independence in 1993, is regrettable. Bratislava has lost several cases before the European Court of Human Rights in association with Romani women's illegal sterilizations and the injured parties have been awarded compensation by those judgments.
The cases lost in Strasbourg involved doctors, for example, not securing the necessary consent to the procedure or failing to make sure the woman comprehended the consequences of such surgery before it was performed. "It's good the Government has said it is sorry to us. I myself had to adopt two children. I had just one child of my own and my husband wanted more, but I was unable to give him any after they forcibly sterilized me. Right now it is important that they also compensate us, even though no money will ever make up for the fact that they destroyed our lives," one woman who was illegally sterilized in Slovakia said in response to the apology.
Vanda Durbáková, the lawyer who has assisted women in Slovakia with bringing these human rights violations to the domestic and international courts, said that "After this apology by the Government, the next essential move must follow, and that is the adoption of a law facilitating the compensation of all women harmed. The fact is that no compensation for this damage will ever redress the suffering caused by the unlawful sterilizations of the women who have been harmed, it can just ameliorate their suffering a bit. The forced sterilization of Romani women in Slovakia was performed for decades with impunity. It is high time Slovakia once and for all comes to terms with this shameful chapter of its history properly."
Slovak Government Plenipotentiary for the Romani Community Andrea Bučková commented as follows: "What the previous regime was capable of in relation to Romani women is unacceptable. Regulating the population of any minority or group is comparable to the methods of the Nazi regime and is a gross violation of a person's human rights and integrity. It is exceedingly astounding that such practices happened between 1990 and 2004."
"I am quite glad the Government has condemned these sterilizations and apologized to the women who underwent them. However, there is another step to take now, and that is their compensation. I believe this will happen soon, similar to the way it is happening in the Czech Republic where women sterilized unlawfully have been awarded one-time compensation," the Plenipotentiary said.
The debate on drafting a compensation law in Slovakia began some time ago. The chair of the Human Rights and National Minorities Committee in the National Assembly, MP Peter Pollák, said this summer that about 200 women could be compensated for having been illegally sterilized.
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