Compensation for victims of forced sterilisation planned

Photo: Czech Government

Plans are afoot to compensate thousands of Czech women, many from the Roma minority, sterilised against their will between the early 1970s and the early 1990s. Lidové noviny reported on Friday that victims could receive up to CZK 150,000 each under legislation being prepared by the human rights minister and an NGO, the Czech Helsinki Committee. I asked the latter’s director Lucie Rybová how many victims were likely to benefit from the scheme, if it is approved.

“It really depends if all of the victims – especially Roma, but also people who are mentally handicapped and people who are in institutions or have been in institutions – are approached. That would mean a big, big public campaign.

“But this is not a question right now. No-one, no ministry is at present planning to carry out such a campaign…

“It depends whether the victims will be approached, how they will be approached, who will approach them, and also the way they will be treated, because these are really sensitive issues.”

Will the victims have to prove that they were sterilised against their will? That could be off-putting to some women – it could be very difficult to do.

“Yes, at least there must be evidence that there was sterilisation. There is a new proposal that asks the government to ask the Ministry of Health to preserve the evidence; the law is that records must be kept for 30 years and we don’t want the evidence to be destroyed.

“Another problem is that we have cases where, because of flooding, some health records disappeared. At least, that’s what the hospitals say.

“We know for sure about cases where victims say they were forcibly sterilised but there is no health record. So we would like the law to somehow treat this situation. It’s not the problem of the patient or the victim – it’s the problem of the system.”

The figure that’s being spoken about in today’s newspaper is a maximum of CZK 150,000. Is that an adequate amount of money, considering what these women have been through?

Lucie Rybová,  photo: Czech Helsinki Committee
“I personally think that sum should be three or four times higher, let’s say CZK 600,000 or 700,000. I was just thinking today, we are speaking about several years of trauma, several years of suffering, partnership problems.

“If you divide this kind of money by years, it’s nothing. And if you see the numbers received in compensation by victims in other countries, I think it should be much, much higher.”