Human Rights Groups Call on Slovakia to Address Illegal Sterilization of Romani Women

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Amnesty International, Center for Reproductive Rights, European Roma Rights Center,Human Rights Watch, International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights
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Today, nine international human rights groups joined forces to urge Slovakia to conduct an impartial and adequate investigation of illegal sterilizations of Romani women. In a joint statement, the groups urged the Slovak government to address serious problems with authorities' current criminal investigation of the violations and conduct an investigation in a manner that respects the rule of law. The groups also recommend that the government form an independent commission of inquiry into allegations of illegal sterilization.

According to these groups, the criminal investigation has thus far reached hasty conclusions before investigating all relevant crimes in connection with sterilization, ignored key evidence - including absence of informed consent - and has created an intimidating atmosphere for victims that has tended to dissuade them from coming forward.

The organizations - Amnesty International, Center for Reproductive Rights, European Roma Rights Center, Human Rights Watch, International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, Konzorcium Urobme to, Ludia proti rasizmu, Poradòa pre obèianske a ludské práva and Slovenský helsinský výbor- are asking the government to:

  • Investigate all relevant crimes in connection with cases alleging illegal sterilization, including those violations related to the rights to health care, bodily integrity and reproductive self-determination

  • Prosecute those responsible for violations, including those involving the sterilization of minors without parental consent

  • Establish a commission independent of the criminal investigation to inquire into past and present sterilization practices

  • Launch a public awareness campaign to ensure the Romani community knows that criminal charges against the authors of Body and Soul will not be pursued

In January 2003, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Poradòa pre obèianske a åudské released a report documenting grave human rights violations in Slovakia's public hospitals. The report, Body and Soul: Forced Sterilization and Other Assaults on Roma Reproductive Freedom in Slovakia, contained 110 cases where women were forcibly or coercively sterilized, or had strong indications that they were sterilized, in addition to other serious reproductive rights violations.

Body and Soul is based on a fact-finding mission undertaken in eastern Slovakia in 2002. Romani women, non-Romani women, obstetricians, gynecologists, hospital administrators and government officials were interviewed for the report. Real names of the victims were not used in the report and will remain confidential. The practice of forced and coerced sterilization stems from a communist era policy targeting Romani women that provided monetary incentives to women to undergo sterilization. That policy was formally rescinded over a decade ago, and although monetary incentives are no longer given, the practice continues without full and informed consent of the patient.