Czech MPs support bill to compensate illegally sterilized women
The bill to compensate women who have been sterilized unlawfully was supported during its first reading by members of the Czech lower house today. It will now move into committee.
MPs from the governing ANO and Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) parties had submitted the bill along with opposition members from the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) and TOP 09. Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Helena Válková, who is also an MP for ANO, asked that the bill be given a preferential reading today.
The bill has also been supported by Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights, Monika Šimůnková, who previously called on MPs to adopt it. In her view it is the only opportunity for the women who have been harmed in this way to access justice, as bringing their cases to court would not be likely to result in compensation awards.
The statute of limitations on financial compensation for non-pecuniary damage is just three years. The vast majority of victims of these forced sterilizations would not be eligible for compensation without special treatment from a judge, therefore.
"Compensating the victims of these unlawful sterilizations would resolve these very serious human rights abuses and at the same time would be a clear signal to society that similar eugenic monstrosities in our society will never be repeated. Hundreds of people who were sterilized without their informed consent since 1966 remain without any reparations in the Czech Republic. Many of those who were sterilized before 1989 died without ever being compensated," said Czech MP Pavla Golasowská (KDU-ČSL) during the floor debate.
Czech MP Monika Jarošová ("Freedom and Direct Democracy - SPD") cast doubt on both the reality of the practice and the need to compensate any such victims, on the other hand. In her view it would be difficult to ascertain today whether the surgeries were actually performed without the patient's free and informed consent, or whether some women chose the surgery as birth control and are dishonestly alleging today that they were forced into it.
"I don't understand, if there are women who actually were sterilized without their consent, why they did not sue right away and sometimes waited as long as 40 years to complain. After that long a time it will be almost impossible to prove whether the doctors back then behaved in breach of legal regulations. By adopting this law we would, among other things, essentially confirm that in our country there has been state-sponsored, systemic enforceent of forced sterilization, and it would open the door to the other untrue speculations that this also continued even after 1989," Jarošová said.
If the bill is eventually adopted, the victims would be able to apply for a one-off compensation payment of CZK 300 000 [EUR 11 000]. The practice of sterilizations performed unlawfully on the territories of the former Czechoslovakia and present-day Czech Republic and Slovakia have affected hundreds if not thousands of women since the 1960s, especially Romani women.
State policy in Czechoslovakia fully regulated the practice in 1971 when a directive on the performance of such sterilizations was adopted. Romani women and others where indeed systematically sterilized without their full and informed consent as a way of controlling their birth rate, as was reported by the Czech Public Defender of Rights in his 2005 report on the issue.
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