Romani Women Subject to Forced Sterilization in Slovakia

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Rights Violated by Health Care System
Primary Content

New York, NY – Romani women are being coerced or forced to undergo sterilization procedures in eastern Slovakia’s government-run health facilities, according to a new report released today by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Poradna pre obcianske a ludské práva, in collaboration with Ina Zoon. Two hundred and thirty in-depth interviews were held with Romani women in 40 settlements in eastern Slovakia. The investigative report documents grave human rights violations against Romani women in Slovakia, including about 110 cases where women were forcibly or coercively sterilized, or had strong indications that they had been sterilized. The report also documents extensive racism and verbal and physical abuse towards Romani women in public hospitals, including the denial of patient access to their own medical records and segregation in patients’ rooms, maternity wards, restrooms and dining facilities.

Agata, 28, from Svinia Talks about being Coercively Sterilized
"Doctors came and brought me to the operating room [for a C-section] and there they gave me anesthesia. When I was falling asleep, a nurse came and took my hand in hers and with it she signed something. I do not know what it was. I could not check because I cannot read, I only know how to sign my name. When I left the hospital, I was only told that I would not have any more children…I was so healthy before, but now I have pain all the time. Lots of infections…"

"These egregious practices violate fundamental human rights and the Slovak government must publicly acknowledge these violations, conduct an investigation and prosecute those responsible," said Christina Zampas, legal adviser for Europe for the Center for Reproductive Rights. "The rights to health, bodily integrity, self-determination and non-discrimination are protected by both international and national law, it is the Slovak government’s duty to protect and fulfill the human rights of all of its citizens, especially the most vulnerable," added Zampas.

Alexandra from Richnava Talks about Racial Segregation in Slovakia’s Public Hospitals
"In Krompachy hospital, there are separate rooms for Roma—there are three Gypsy rooms, one shower and one toilet for us while white women have their own toilets. White women can go to the dining room but Roma cannot eat there. In Gypsy room, there is not even a dust bin. It is like in a concentration camp there."

"The Slovak maternal health system discriminates against Romani women in almost every respect," said Barbora Bukovská, Executive Director of Poradna pre obcianske a ludské práva. "It is unacceptable that this is happening in the very heart of Europe, it has been happening throughout the transition period and continues. We urge the Slovak government to swiftly end these practices," added Ina Zoon, a consultant on the report.

The report, titled Body and Soul: Forced Sterilization and Other Assaults on Roma Reproductive Freedom in Slovakia, makes several recommendations to the Slovak government on ways to address these violations. The report 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.

The practice of forced sterilization stems from a racist policy instituted under the communist regime that provided monetary incentives to women to undergo sterilization – a policy that targeted Romani women. That policy was formally rescinded over a decade ago but unfortunately lives on. As a future member state of the European Union, Slovakia has committed itself to the "rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities," as required by the political criteria for joining the European Union.

Center for Reproductive Rights is a nonprofit, legal advocacy organization that promotes and defends the reproductive rights of women worldwide. Founded in 1992 (as the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy), the Center has used international human rights law to advance the reproductive freedom of women and has strengthened reproductive health laws and policies across the globe by working with more than 50 organizations in 44 nations including countries in Africa, Asia, East Central Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Centre for Civil and Human Rights (Poradna pre obcianske a ludské práva) is a nonprofit organization engaged in advocacy and strategic litigation on discrimination against Roma in the Slovak Republic. The priorities of Poradna are to implement projects focusing on social and economic rights with special emphasis on the Romani minority in general and Romani women in particular. Contact info: Kováèska 28, 040 75 Košice. Tel./Fax: +421-55-670 9518, +421-908-695 531.