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Roma rights organisation accuses Czech Republic of coercive sterilisation of Roma women
15-09-2004 - Pavla Horakova

The European Roma Rights Center, an international organisation monitoring the situation of Romany minorities in Europe has expressed concern over alleged abuse of human rights in the Czech Republic. It is calling on the office of the Czech ombudsman to investigate alleged cases of coercive sterilisation of Roma women carried out in the Czech Republic.

The European Roma Rights Center says it has evidence of several cases of coercive sterilisation of Roma women, carried out in the 1990s - the most recent one only three years ago.

The Budapest-based center says that last year its investigators got in touch with women in North Bohemia who told them they had been sterilised by doctors without giving their consent.

Jan Jarab is the Czech government's commissioner for human rights.

"The European Roma Rights Center has been making that claim for two years, the claim being that the Czech Republic somehow tolerates involuntary sterilisation in Roma women. Now that is not true. I cannot say if there has or has not been an individual case of an involuntary sterilisation in a Roma or non-Roma woman, because first there would have to be an individual plaintiff and it would have to be investigated and then if the authorities tried not to investigate them or cover them up, then you could say that the Czech Republic tolerates such a phenomenon."

Jan Jarab The Roma minority has a significantly higher birth rate than the rest of the Czech Republic's population. In the communist era, between the years 1959 and 1990, some Roma women were sterilised as part of the state programme of birth control. There is evidence of some 300 cases from that period and some reports suggest that Roma women even received financial rewards from the state for agreeing to sterilisation.

Currently, under Czech law, women can undergo sterilisation only if they have four children (or three if the woman is over 35 years of age) or in a case when a new pregnancy would be a threat to the woman's life. But in all cases the operation will be carried out only if the woman makes an explicit requirement.

At this stage, little information is available about the latest disturbing allegations, and with the Czech ombudsman about to begin investigation, neither the Roma Rights Center, nor the office of the ombudsman are releasing further details.

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