The Czech government is compensating victims of forced sterilization
Romani women who have been fighting for almost two decades for apology and compensation have expressed their satisfaction. “Money cannot compensate for the loss of our ability to have children, the violation of our bodies, personal and family life”, says Elena Gorolová, a victim herself. “We were not respected neither as women nor mothers. We were used against our will by the state that pursued its own plans. Yet, we welcome this symbolic gesture”.
Victims can obtain compensation of 300 000 CZK. Romani women were the primary target of a eugenic practice that was documented from 1966 and widespread especially in the 1980s.
The issue was first brought to light by the Charter 77 human rights movement in 1978, and later by field studies conducted by Paul Öfner, Ruben Pellar, and Zbyněk Andrš in 1988. The ERRC and several Czech and Slovak NGOs took up the issue in 2003. In the same year, a self-support group of women was formed in the Czech city of Ostrava.
In 2005, the Czech Ombudsman Otakar Motejl made the first significant official report which states:
The Ombudsman is convinced that in the Czech Republic the problem of sexual sterilization carried out either with unacceptable motivation or illegally exists and that Czech society faces the task of coping with this fact…….it is clear that the debate on the causes, course and consequences of sexual sterilization carried out as a state-supported social measure or as an intervention that took place in circumstances unable to meet strict informed consent criteria should it should primarily have a place on parliamentary soil.
In 2005 Helena Ferenčíková sued an Ostrava hospital for involuntary sterilization. The district court ordered the hospital to apologize. However, no compensation was paid because of the statute of limitations. The case was finally resolved at the European Court of Human Rights in 2011 with a friendly settlement between Mrs Ferenčíková and The Czech Republic that involved financial compensation.
In 2009, the Czech government apologised to the women for the practice of forced sterilization.
In 2019, nine MPS across the political spectrum- from ruling parties and the opposition- submitted a draft law “on the provision of a lump sum to persons sterilized in violation of the law”
On 4 June 2021, the Czech parliament passed the law with 120 MPs voting for and 1 vote against. The law on compensating victims of illegal sterilization was passed by both houses of the Czech Parliament and signed by the President in 2021
We think that this is a historical act showing the maturity of the Czech nation, a desire to come to terms with the past, and even graciously apologizing to a very vulnerable group of women victims which is definitely a sign of great strength.
However, passing the law is only the first step. In order for it to become a true recognition of the wrongdoing a proper implementation is needed.
This statemement is prepared jointly by Vzájemné soužití o.p.s. – Living Together organisation in Czechia and ERGO Network.