Croatia's legislation on forced sterilisation

Legislation about (forced) sterilisation

In Croatia, forced sterilisation is regulated by the Family Act (2015), the Health Act and the Law on Health Measures For the Realisation of the Right to Free Choice on giving Birth.

The latter provides in article 2 that to protect the health of the person, the right to freely consent to give birth can be limited. Provisions are also included in articles 10 and 11, stating that the sterilisation of persons over 35 years old without full legal capacity can be requested by their parents or guardian with the consent of the guardianship authority, thus authorising forced sterilisation without the consent of the concerned person.

In addition, article 260 of the Family Act provides that a decision on sterilisation of the ward (person under guardianship) is decided by the court in a non-contentious procedure at the request of a ward deprived of legal capacity in this area (health-related decisions) or their guardian. A decision by the court is not required if the protected person established a living will beforehand, and designated a trusted person to make medical decisions on their behalf in case of loss of capacity.

According to the Croatian Union of Association of Persons with disabilities, parents, guardians or doctors make decisions on sterilisation on behalf of the person with intellectual disabilities.

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities expressed concerns about such practices since the sterilisation of children and adults with disabilities is requested without their free and informed consent.

The Croatian Criminal Code does not include a specific offence of forced sterilisation. However, forced sterilisation of adults is punishable under the criminal offence of particularly serious bodily harm (Article 119). The punishment has been toughened by the Amendments to the Criminal Code from 2019.

Legal cases on the forced sterilisation of people with disabilities

The Croatian Supreme Court recently  authorised the sterilisation of a woman with psychological disabilities, considering that frequent pregnancies endangered her life.