Ombudsman receives 68 complaints about sterilisation

Prague, 19. 5. 2005 (CTK)

The Czech Ombudmsan's office has received 68 complaints about sterilisation, mainly from Romany women, which are now being assessed by the Health Ministry's commission of experts, Ombudmsan Otakar Motejl said on BBC radio today.

The commission has checked more than a half of the cases. After the check is completed, Motejl will draw up a summary report. Its first version could appear in June, he said. The commission, whose establishment Motejl initiated, is also to say whether the cases of sterilisation were in harmony with law and medical ethics.

Motejl said he had expected hundreds of complaints. "Many women realise that at the moment I start dealing with it, the matter becomes public, more or less," Motejl said. Many women may have been discouraged by fear of their partners' reaction.

Sixty-four of the complainants are Romanies, Motejl said. "It can be judged that the affected women come from the intellectually worse-equipped part of society, which could have been somehow handicapped in communicating with the bodies involved," Motejl said.

"By no means can this low figure be used to draw any conclusions about the system, concept, or racial subtext aimed at a sort of almost genocidal solution to the Romany population problem," Motejl said.

According to him, it is impossible to solve similar cases with the aid of law only, since ethic is necessary as well. "The paternalist concept of medical services is outdated in a certain sense. We'll have to quickly realise the European civilisation standard where the doctor is not the absolute and only authority deciding on the life and death," Motejl said.

Suspicions concerning sterilisation of women in the Czech Republic surfaced last autumn when the European Centre for Romany Rights came up with them. The centre said that in some cases, the women either did not agreed with the sterilisation or did so in emergency or under the threat that they would be otherwise stripped of social allowances.