Czech Court Rules in Favor of Roma Woman in Seminal Case on Coercive Sterilization
Thursday, November 17, 2005 4:25 PM

A Czech regional court in Ostava held Vitkovice Hospital, an Ostavian hospital, liable for the coercive sterilization of Helena Ferencikova, a Roma woman.  This case is significant because it is the first recognition by a court that the practice of coercive sterilization of a Roma woman took place.  The case is also important because it recognizes that a signature on a consent form for sterilization may not reflect a woman’s informed approval for the procedure.


Ferencikova was nineteen years old when she was sterilized.  She was in labor with her second son when the hospital staff gave her a form to sign.  She says that she did not understand what she was signing and was kept from seeking the advice of her husband.  The form gave written consent to sterilization.  The hospital claimed that it had Ferencikova’s health in mind when recommending the procedure.  They reasoned that Ferencikova had undergone two caesarean sections and another posed a risk to her health.  The Court found that the agreement on which the hospital relied was unqualified. 


Ferencikova’s case is not unique.  The Czech Public Defender of Rights is currently representing nearly seventy women, who like Ferencikova, insist that they did not provide informed consent to sterilization.  Many similar suits are anticipated to follow this one.


The Court did not award damages.  Instead, it ordered the hospital to address the complaint and apologize to Ferencikova.  The hospital intends to appeal the decision.


Compiled from:


Brian Kennety, Check Court Rules in First-ever Case Heard on “Coercive Sterilization, Radio Praha, November 11, 2005.


Sorry for Sterilization!, Dzeno Association, November 14, 2005.