Czech bill to compensate forcibly sterilized women passes second reading, as does bill to close institutions for children under three
A bill to compensate illegally sterilized women passed a second reading in the Czech Chamber of Deputies today. Amendments to the Health Services Act were also passed to help transform infant care facilities and replace them with care in family environments.
Closing the infant care faciltiies
"Today's session of the Chamber of Deputies pleases me not just as an MP, but especially as Human Rights Commissioner. I am very glad that we have managed to combine our forces to complete the second reading of the bill to compensate the victims of unauthorized sterilizations, people who were subjected to an irreversible interference with their lives," Czech MP Helena Válková told news server Romea.cz.
An amendment to the Health Service Act also passed its second reading, including two important proposals to replace infant care facilities with care in family environments. "The closure of infant care facilities has long been advocated by the Government's Committee on the Rights of the Child, and I am glad that we finally will become the kind of country that realizes children, especially during their first years of life, need the love and stability of a family above all, which infant care facilities are never able to replace," she said.
Hundreds of women
If the bill to compensate women who were sterilized without their consent is adopted in a third reading, the victims should receive a one-time compensation award of CZK 300 000 [EUR 11 660]. The practice of unlawfully-performed sterilizations on the territories of the Czech Republic and Slovakia has affected hundreds of women, especially Romani women.
Support for the bill has been expressed by Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights Monika Šimůnková. In her view, the law is the only opportunity for these women to get justice, as they are no longer able to sue due to statutes of limitations.
"Health care facilities performed these surgeries between 1966 and 2012 under the pretext that the consequence of not performing these surgeries would be an immediate risk to the health or life of the patient. Sterilization, however, is a surgery to prevent conception, it has nothing to do with a patient's health or life being threatened," Czech MP František Elfmark said during the debate in the lower house.
Compensation called into question
Compensation for these women and the illegality of these sterilizations was called into question during the debate by Czech MP Monika Jarošová from the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) movement of Tomio Okamura. "This law was addressed in the Committee on Petitions, where a guest was Dr Jan Nový, a member of the Czech Gynaecological and Obstetrical Association, who de facto confirmed my words that even back then it was not possible, after a delivery, to just sterilize somebody. The sterilizations, according to him, were never performed during classic deliveries, as some of the nonprofit organizations pressuring for this have said. According to them, it was as if sterilizations were being performed en masse on the operating tables, like on a conveyor belt. That is actually not how things worked, not even back then," Jarošová said.
"I don't understand, if there were women who actually were sterilized without their consent, why they didn't sue immediately and why they sometimes waited as long as 40 years. After such an amount of time it will be almost impossible to prove whether the doctors back then violated the legal regulations. By adopting this law we would be, among other matters, essentially confirming that in this country there was some sort of state-promoted, systemic, forced sterilizations, and that would open the door to other untrue speculations, that this continued even after 1989," Jarošová previously alleged.
In Czechoslovakia, guidelines on the performance of sterilizations were adopted in 1971 as part of the state's policy on this practice, and during the time those guidelines were in effect, Romani women were systematically sterilized throughout the country without giving their full and informed consent as a means of controlling the Romani birth rate. Those guidelines were revoked in 1993.
According to one of the victims of this practice, Elena Gorolová, who has long been fighting for compensation, the forced sterilizations did not end when the legal regulations were revoked, but continued for several years afterward, and the most recent case known to her of a Romani woman being given no choice but to undergo sterilization dates from 2007. The bill to compensate these women has been submitted by MPs Helena Válková, Jana Pastuchová, Lenka Dražilová, Pavla Golasowská, Markéta Pekarová Adamová, Karel Schwarzenberg, Marek Novák, Alena Gajdůšková and Eva Matyášová.