Česky English Deutsch Francais
PM expresses regret over Roma sterilization but activists say practice continues
24-11-2009 - Rob Cameron
Human rights campaigners won an important moral victory on Monday when the government of Jan Fischer expressed regret over the forced sterilization of women, almost all of them members of the country’s Roma minority. No reliable figures exist for the numbers of women sterilized, but what’s alarming is that according to human rights groups, the practice continues in isolated cases to this day.

Prime Minister Jan Fischer addressed a special news briefing on Monday in which he offered a formal expression of regret for those women – predominantly members of the Roma minority – who were sterilized either against their will or without proper consent. There would be no financial compensation, Mr Fischer added, explaining that such a move would be inappropriate amidst the economic crisis.

Michael Kocáb Figures are extremely hard to come by, but as human rights and minorities minister Michael Kocáb told journalists, a report into 80 such cases drawn up by the Czech ombudsman’s office suggested local authorities in the Communist period had embarked on what amounted to a programme of social engineering.

“To quote the ombudsman’s report – it would be a mistake to assume that measures taken by the pre-1989 authorities towards the Roma minority were implemented by chance as opposed to being coordinated. It’s true there is no mention in state reports from the 1970s of the need to regulate the birthrate among the Roma. However there are mentions of this in reports drawn up by local or regional state bodies from the same period, and they’re very interesting: for instance this, from Brno, 1970 – ‘we recommend health education programmes to reduce the birth rate and therefore restrict the unwanted growth of Roma families’.”

According to human rights groups Czechoslovak social services used a carrot and stick approach to encourage Roma women to become infertile. Either the authorities offered considerable financial incentives, or social workers threatened to take their existing children into care.

The practice was abandoned as state policy in 1991, but by no means has it disappeared. Helena Ferjenčíková says she was sterilized without proper consent during a caesarean section in 2001.

“I was in such pain, that I just signed it – who wouldn’t? Nobody explained to me – nobody told me – that I’d never be able to have children again.”

Rights groups are now trying to document all such cases. Gwendolyn Albert is a U.S.-born human rights activist.

“We know for a fact it’s still happening. One of those twenty cases that were discovered last year included allegations from the year 2007 and 2008. The case from 2007 was extremely disturbing, because it seemed to be a revival of old practice, whereby a social worker told a Romani mother, who already had three children and was living in a precarious situation, that if she didn’t agree to undergo sterilization, two of her children would be placed in state care. The woman tried to not undergo the operation; she would claim to be sick when the appointment was made for her and all of this sort of thing, but in the end, to keep her family together, she agreed to undergo it.”

Human rights groups have welcomed the government’s expression of regret, but say the state must now issue compensation to Romani women who were made infertile against their will and also introduce legal measures to ensure it never happens again.

Related articles
21.11.2018Roma social worker from Ostrava listed on BBC 100 Women listNews
18.08.2014Helsinki Committee’s work was only getting started when communism fell, says director Lucie RybováNews
01.08.2014Compensation for victims of forced sterilisation plannedNews
17.03.2010We have to stand up against coercive sterilizationNews
11.01.2010Human Rights Campaigners Target ‘Anti-Gypsyism’ In 2010News
08.01.2010Court confirms – and increases - historic first compensation for sterilization victimsNews
23.11.2009Government expresses regret for sterilisation of Roma womenNews
21.07.2009Czech-Romany relations hit low point, says government reportNews
18.04.2009Spokesperson for the Group of Women Harmed by Forced Sterilization travels to GenevaNews
All related articles
Format for printing
Send as e-mail

Also in section "News"
21.11.18  Roma social worker from Ostrava listed on BBC 100 Women list
12.10.18  Why are there so few Roma politicians?
17.09.18  Virtuoso pianist Tomáš Kačo: When I tell somebody I’m a Gypsy in the US, they’re excited about it
06.06.18  Study indicates ethnic hate is contagious
24.11.17  Council of Europe commissioner welcomes Lety pig farm deal
01.08.17  Culture minister: sale of Lety pig farm is “done deal”
26.07.17  Culture Minister says buyout of controversial pig farm at Lety only weeks away
13.07.17  Archaeologists map out precise contours of Nazi-era Lety concentration camp
26.06.17  Activists meet at Lety to keep pressure on government to remove controversial pig farm
08.12.16  Project aimed at fighting hate crime acquires fresh urgency in light of migrant crisis
Archive of the section

Most popular articles
2595901   26.02.00 Some Basic Information about the Roma Population in the Czech Republic
287172   27.01.05 The 'Devouring': A look at the Romani Holocaust
174530   26.02.00 The History and Origin of the Roma
137090   26.02.02 The Language of the Roma
102894   02.06.03 The Roma Holocaust
101637   13.06.00 The History of the Roma Minority in the Czech Republic
101042   26.02.00 The Traditional Family Life of the Czech Roma
87464   21.02.04 Extreme right activists demonstrate for skinhead in jail
86762    World famous Roma Personalities
73736    Photographs by Romani Children
Copyright © Český rozhlas / Czech Radio, 1997-2018
Vinohradská 12, 120 99 Praha 2, Czech Republic