Austria's legislation on forced sterilisation

Legislation about (forced) sterilisation

Provisions on forced sterilisation are provided both under the Austrian Criminal Code, the Strafgesetzbuch, and the Austrian Civil Code.

In the Stragesetzbuch, article § 90 paragraph 2 states that sterilisation performed by a doctor on a person with their consent is not illegal, if either the person has already reached the age of twenty-five, or the procedure is not contrary to good morals for other reasons. In other words, without consent, sterilisation is illegal.

In that sense, article §83 and following of the same Code provide that forced sterilisation falls under the definition of bodily harm. When resulting in infertility, it is considered an aggravated form of deliberate bodily harm. As a consequence, any forced sterilisation is punishable by up to fifteen years of imprisonment. In these cases, consent is not relevant, and forcing a victim to give consent meets the legal definition of severe coercion.

On the same line, a person with an adult representative may not be sterilized without their consent. Under section 255 of the Austrian Civil Code, introduced by the Erwachsenenschutzgesetz (adult protection law about supported decision-making and representation), if a person with an adult representative consents to undergo a sterilisation, the representative may only agree to the sterilisation under certain circumstances. The representative may only agree if the person represented is “threatened with permanent physical suffering, danger to life, a serious damage to health, or severe pain”. Additionally to one of these reasons, the sterilisation needs a specific approval by a court.

For minors, any medical intervention resulting in permanent sterilisation is prohibited by law under section 163 of the Civil Code, which was introduced with the Parents and Child Amendment Act 2001.

Data related to the matter

While data seems not to be available, Austria admitted in its first report to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities organisations “ claimed that the number of sterilised women of fertile age is still ‘too high”. Nevertheless, no data nor statistics were provided in this sense.