Hungary: Romani Woman to Be Compensated for Sterilization without Consent
Tuesday, March 10, 2009 4:12 PM

According to a 25 February 2009 article by AWID, more than eight years after a Romani woman was sterilized in a Hungarian hospital without her consent, Hungary’s State Secretary of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor on 24 February 2009 said that she “shall be compensated.”

On 2 January 2001, Ms. A.S., then 38 to 39 weeks pregnant, took an ambulance to a hospital when she went into labor accompanied by heavy bleeding. Upon examination at the hospital, the doctors informed her that the child had died and that she needed a caesarian section to remove the fetus. She signed many forms before the procedure, one of which included a handwritten section for sterilization, but they did not fully explain the procedure or its consequences to her. Ms. A.S. did not know she had been sterilized until later, and filed a complaint against the hospital on 15 October 2001. On 22 November 2002 a town court decision favored the hospital, despite finding some negligence on the doctors’ part. On her appeal, decided 12 May 2003, the county court agreed that the doctors were negligent for failing to get her full informed consent before the sterilization procedure, but held that Ms. A.S. had not proven that she had suffered a “lasting detriment,” and so she was not entitled to any compensation.

With the help of the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and the Legal Defense Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKI), Ms. A.S. filed a complaint against the Government of Hungary on 12 February 2004 under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (OP-CEDAW).

Ms. A.S. specifically alleged that Hungary had violated CEDAW Articles 10(h), 12, and 16, paragraph 1(e). The government argued that she had not exhausted all domestic remedies under Hungarian law, that she was not permanently disabled as a result of her sterilization, and that Hungary had not violated the CEDAW articles in question.

On 29 August 2006, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (the treaty body responsible for monitoring implementation of CEDAW) published its opinion on this case (PDF, 18 pages). The Committee found that the government had violated Ms. A.S.’s rights under Art. 10(h), 12 and 16, para. 1(e) of the Convention and recommended that she be compensated according to the gravity of the violations. The Committee also recommended certain practices to uphold women’s reproductive rights. As late as 2008, the government maintained that it would not compensate Ms. A.S., even after amending the Public Health Act to ensure informed consent before sterilization.

Human rights and women’s rights proponents applaud Hungary’s recent announcement to finally compensate Ms. A.S., although the government did not say how much it will compensate her. It is a sign that the government recognizes the importance of CEDAW, which Hungary signed and formally ratified on 6 June 1980 and 22 December 1980, respectively. Hungary also acceded to the Optional Protocol on 22 December 2000. ERRC and NEKI, who took Ms. A.S.’s case to the CEDAW Committee, will monitor the government’s plan for her compensation.

Full text links:

AWID article

CEDAW Committee’s opinion (PDF, 8 pages)

CEDAW Convention

Optional Protocol to CEDAW

ERRC shadow report to CEDAW Committee (PDF, 24 pages)

Compiled from:

Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), Hungary: Compensation to Coercively Sterilised Romani Woman (25 February 2009).

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Views in re: Communication No. 4/2004, CEDAW/C/36/D/4/2004 (29 August 2006) (PDF, 18 pages).

CEDAW, Concluding Comments of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Hungary, CEDAW/C/HUN/CO/6 (10 August 2007) (PDF, 8 pages).

European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), Written Comments of the European Roma Rights Centre Concerning Hungary, For Consideration by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women at its 39th Session, July 23-August 10, 2007 (no date, assumed 2007; last accessed 27 February 2009) (PDF, 24 pages).

United Nations, Treaty Collection, Status of Treaties, Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (last accessed 6 March 2009).