Parliamentary commission reopens discussion on compensating women for forced sterilisation

Illustrative photo: Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

Between 1966 and 2012, many women were involuntarily sterilised in Czech and Czechoslovak hospitals. The government has since apologised for the practice and discussed compensating the victims. However, no definite solution has yet been established. On Tuesday, selected MP’s and government representatives held a special meeting that looked into the problem.

Elena Gorolová,  photo: archive of European Institute for Gender Equality
Monika Gorolová, was just 22-years-old when she was involuntarily sterilised at a Czech hospital, while having an abortion. She told her story to Czech Radio in 2015.

“I went to an abortion, because we had a small flat and I could not afford a third child. I was lying on the bed and they were taking me to the operation room and then they suddenly stopped. They brought me some paper and told me to sign it.

“I then went to sleep and, when I woke up, the chief doctor was standing above me. He said: ‘We have sterilised you.’ I didn’t understand, so I asked him to explain and he said: ‘We have done a procedure that ensures you will not have children again.’ I started crying uncontrollably.”

Her story is similar to that of many other women who were often, although not exclusively, of Roma descent.

There are no exact numbers available on the amount of involuntary sterilisation victims. In 2005, 87 women complained about sterilisation, but the Ministry of Health believes the number to be larger.

Elena Gorolová (not to be mistaken with her namesake Monika Gorolová), was also sterilised, during a second caesarean delivery. She became an activist and was honoured by the BBC last year, being placed on its 100 inspiring and influential women list. She says she knows around 200 women who were affected.

Successive Czech governments have looked into the issue. In 2009, Prime Minister Jan Fischer formerly expressed regret over the practice and, in 2015, a compensation bill was proposed by the then Minister for Human Rights Jiří Dienstbier.

The bill counted on compensating those women who gave consent under pressure or during birth as well as underage victims and those in another limited capacity.

However, the proposal was dismissed by the rest of the cabinet a few months later, with other ministries arguing that the government apology was sufficient and that victims should apply for compensation through the court system.

But this often leads to dragged out court cases, for which the concerned women lack the necessary funds and documentation.

Illustrative photo: Pixabay,  CC0 Public Domain
After nearly four years of limbo, the issue was reopened on Tuesday morning through a sitting of the Chamber of Deputies’ Permanent Commission on Family Issues, Equal Opportunities and Minorities.

It included the government’s Human Rights Commissioner Dr. Helena Válková, as well as the former commissioner who looked into the problem in 2015 and representatives from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Justice.

While the case is still far from being solved, there are signs of hope for the victims, says human rights activist Gwendolyn Albert, who has been covering the sterilisation case for many years.

“The good thing about the commission today was that they unanimously voted to ask the Czech Health Ministry to take up the issue of how to compensate the women who were sterilised without prior consent and the ministry is inclined to do so. They expressed their understanding of the issue.”

Monika Gorolová was interviewed in 2015 by Czech Radio’s Radiožurnál. You can find the story where she is originally cited here: