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Women Subjected to Forced Sterilizations in Slovakia

A new report reveals that Romani women in Eastern Slovakia have been subjected to undergo approximately 110 forced sterilizations in government healthcare facilities. The report was released by the Center for Reproductive Rights (formerly the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy) and the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Kosice, a Slovakian organization.

Entitled “Body and Soul: Forced Sterilization and Other Assaults on Roma Reproductive Freedom,” the report is based on 230 interviews carried out in 40 Eastern Slovakian Roma settlements, commonly known as Gypsy settlements. “Slovak health care providers throughout Eastern Slovakia are complicit in the illegal and unethical practice of sterilizing Romani women without their informed consent,” the report states. “Physical and verbal abuse driven by racial hatred taints the Slovak health care system.”

Among the poorest Gypsies in Slovakia, having as many children as possible is viewed as a woman’s duty. Women commonly have half a dozen or more children by the time they reach their late twenties, the New York Times reports. “They took me into the room, and I don’t know what they did,” Maria, a Gypsy woman, told the Times. “They told me to sign this paper. Now, what I have is not normal.” According to her lawyer, the piece of paper Maria signed was a notation that stated that the patient requested sterilization, the Times reports.

The report states that “clear and consistent” patterns have been found which show that doctors and nurses in eastern Slovakia are “complicit in the illegal and unethical practice of sterilizing Romany women without obtaining their consent.” The report’s investigators state that Gypsy women were forced to deliver by Caesarean section much more than ethnic Slovaks. They also found that Gypsy women were often given second-rate care and were put into segregated wards. Gypsy women say that since the report’s release, they have been subject to harassment by the police for speaking to news organizations. The authors of the report have had their records subpoenaed and have been interrogated and threatened with criminal charges, Women’s Enews reports.

Sources:

New York Times 2/28/03; WomenÕs Enews 3/4/03; Center for Reproductive Rights report

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