December 3, 2021

Czech Republic to compensate Roma women for forced sterilizations

The illegal procedures happened before and after Communism

Prague

The Czech Republic will compensate Roma (Gypsy) women who were forcibly sterilised both before and after the fall of Communism.

The Roma have always been a stigmatised minority — in the Czech Republic and in many other European countries. Under Communism, women were often sterilised after childbirth without their consent – and the practice continued until 2012. After years of campaigning for justice, the government has decided to award women who were unlawfully sterilised between 1966 and 2012 a grant of CZK 300,000 (US$14,000). About 400 women are expected to claim compensation – although thousands are believed to have been sterilised.

Barbora Černušáková, Amnesty International’s researcher on the Czech Republic, explained:

“Thousands of women, the majority of whom were Roma, were sterilized in the former Czechoslovakia. Women were coerced into signing consent forms, often while they were in labour or recovering from Caesarean sections. In many cases they were not told what they were agreeing to. This was a gross violation of their rights, including the right to be free from torture, or ill-treatment, and a shameful chapter in the country’s history.

Roma rights campaigner Elena Gorolova told The Lancet that compensation was not the central issue. “This was never about just the money; it was about recognition for what was done and making sure it doesn’t happen again—that women don’t have to go through what we did. Thankfully, now they shouldn’t,” she said.

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge

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