Czech Republic's legislation on forced sterilisation
The Czech Republic has an important track record of forced sterilisation of Roma women and women with disabilities: in Czechoslovakia, a Public Decree on Sterilisation adopted in 1972 enabled public authorities to take steps to encourage the sterilisation of Romani women and women with disabilities placed in psychiatric institutions, to control birth-rate. So far, there is no research or data on the number of victims of such practice.
Legislation about (forced) sterilisation
In the Czech Republic, both the Civil Code and the Health Care Act contain provisions for the forced sterilisation of persons with disabilities.
Under these legal texts, guardians of persons with disabilities are allowed to give their consent to the sterilisation of the person concerned, without their free and informed consent. Forced sterilisation is thus allowed by law.
In May 2015, in its concluding observations on the initial report of the Czech Republic, the CRPD Committee recommended the State abolish this practice, amend the aforementioned acts accordingly and provide remedies to the victims.
In response to these recommendations, the Ministry of Health stated that under Act No. 373/2011 Coll. on specific medical services (entered into force in April 2012), sterilisations are performed with the written informed consent of the patient.
Regarding patients with limited legal capacity, the Czech Republic argued that sterilisation can be performed due to medical reasons and with the fulfilment of three conditions:
- The patient’s custodian approval
- A positive statement of an expert committee
- The approval of a relevant court
The opinion of the patient is sought regarding the statement of the expert committee. If the patient is considered as not able to express such an opinion, the expert committee mentions this fact in the proposal submitted to the court. The patient is informed about the medical intervention, its effects, and possible risks before the performance of the sterilisation. There is a 7-14 days period between the provision of information and the surgery to ensure sufficient time for consideration and informed consent of the patient.
A similar procedure applies to the sterilisation of minors for health reasons.
Regarding the recommendation to amend the Civil code and offer a remedy, the Czech Republic considered that such amendments are not necessary, since victims of forced sterilisation could use the general action as guaranteed in the civil law regulations and the remedy provided.
As such, victims can bring compensation claims in case of coercive or non-consensual sterilisations within three years from the time of sterilisation occurred (meaning that many claims are dismissed since many victims discover that they underwent sterilisation years after the surgery…)
Despite recommendations of the CEDAW to extend the time limit or ensure that it begins from the time of discovery of the sterilisation, the Czech Republic did not implement this recommendation. However, in 2021, the President of the Czech Republic signed a bill into law providing for the compensation of women sterilised without their consent from 1966 to 2012.