Body and Soul: Forced Sterilization and Other Assaults on Roma Reproductive Freedom in Slovakia


Zampas, Christina, et al. “Body and Soul: Forced Sterilization and Other Assaults on Roma Reproductive Freedom in Slovakia.” 2003. New York: Center for Reproductive Rights.

Authors: Christina Zampas, Ina Zoon, Sneha Barot, Barbora Bukovska

Annotation: “In late 2002, the Center for Reproductive Rights in collaboration with Poradňa pre občianske a I’udské práva (Centre for Civil and Human Rights, hereinafter Poradňa), a Slovak human rights organization, and Ina Zoon, an expert consultant on minority rights issues, conducted a human rights fact-finding mission involving in-depth private interviews with more than 230 women in almost 40 Romani settlements throughout eastern Slovakia, the region with the highest concentration of Roma, on topics including sterilization practices, treatment by health-care professionals in maternal health-care facilities and access to reproductive health-care information. We also interviewed Slovak hospital directors, doctors, nurses, patients, government officials, activists, and non-governmental organizations regarding these same issues. Our research has uncovered widespread violations of Romani women’s human rights, specifically reproductive rights, in eastern Slovakia that include the following: • coerced and forced sterilization; • misinformation in reproductive health matters; • racially discriminatory access to health-care resources and treatment; • physical and verbal abuse by medical providers; and • denial of access to medical records. Slovakia is scheduled to become a member state of the European Union (EU) in 2004. This membership confers economic benefits as well as political and social responsibilities on members in accordance with the aquis, the EU’s legal framework. Overshadowing this historic moment, however, is the Slovak government’s continued denial of the human rights of minority Romani women. Discrimination against the Roma is historically based, stretching back several centuries. In modern times, persecution of the Roma was enforced under the Nazi regime through, among other things, a policy of forced sterilization. This practice was continued during communist times in Czechoslovakia, when Romani women were specifically targeted for sterilization through government laws and programs that provided monetary incentives and condoned misinformation and coercion. The Slovak government claims these programs were dismantled following the fall of communism in 1989. However, our fact-finding reveals that serious human rights violations continue despite the official change in the most obviously problematic law. Indeed, our fact-finding clearly indicates that discrimination against Romani women remains deeply and disturbingly entrenched in Slovak society. Government officials and health-care providers today openly condone attitudes and practices that violate the bodily integrity, health rights and human dignity of Romani women in need of reproductive health-care services. Romani women are particularly vulnerable to multiple forms of discrimination because they bear the double burden of both race and gender stereotypes.” (Zampas et al. 2003, 14)

Topics: Gender, Women, Health, Reproductive Health, Humanitarian Assistance, Rights, Human Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Europe, Central Europe Countries: Slovakia

Year: 2003

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