Why is forced sterilisation still legal in the EU?

Why is forced sterilisation still legal in the EU?

Forced sterilisation of persons with disabilities is a pervasive abuse and a gross violation of their fundamental rights. Nevertheless, it is ongoing and widespread across Europe and worldwide.

Our report “Forced sterilisation of persons with disabilities in the European Union”, released today, reveals that at least 13 EU countries still authorise forced sterilisation. Due to this unacceptable situation, we are calling for the EU to insert a total ban on this practice in the upcoming legislation on combatting violence against women. 

The 13 EU countries in the “hall of shame” are:

  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  •  Czechia
  •  Cyprus
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • Hungary
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Malta
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
Map of Europe showing the status of forced sterilisation in EU Member States. There are four different categories identified with four different colours according to each status. The countries marked in red are those where forced sterilisation is allowed by law for some persons with disabilities. In total 14 countries: Portugal, Denmark, Czechia, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Malta, Estonia Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Cyprus. Three countries are identified with red and white stripes. Those are countries that forced sterilisation of minors allowed by law: Portugal, Czechia and Hungary. Nine countries are marked in green and are that forced sterilisation is not allowed by law for persons with disabilities: Ireland, Belgium, France, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and Poland. Finally, four countries are coloured in dark grey. These are those for which no information is available: Netherlands, Luxembourg, Romania and Greece
Map with the status of forced sterilisation in the EU Members States. Please note that the information for Austria has been updated. There is no legal possibility in the country to authorise forced sterilisation against a person’s will. 

Furthermore, three countries compound this with explicit authorisation to forcibly sterilise minors: Czechia, Hungary and Portugal.  In at least three others, it is a practice to include it as a requirement for admission to residential institutions: Belgium, France and Hungary. Sadly, admission to residential institutions is sometimes the only choice given to persons with disabilities. You can find more information on our webpage “Country overview”.

Ana Peláez Narváez, EDF’s Secretary-General and Vice-chair of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, said:  

 It is unconceivable that forced sterilisation, a practice that harmed countless people, is still legal. EU leaders like to say they are human rights champions – they must prove it by banning forced sterilisation now.

Pirkko Mahlmäki, Executive Committee member of EDF and former Executive Committee Member of the European Women’s Lobby, added:

 Forced sterilisation may amount to ill-treatment or even torture – it causes lifelong trauma and robs people of their right to decide over their own bodies and to start a family.

Our petition. Join us to #EndForcedSterilisation

We invite Europeans to sign our petition calling for a ban on forced sterilisation 

 We specifically call on the EU institutions to introduce a new article (6 bis) on the proposed Directive on combating violence against women. It should read:  

  1. “Member States shall ensure that the intentional conduct of performing surgery which has the purpose or effect of terminating a woman’s capacity to naturally reproduce without her prior and informed consent or understanding of the procedure is punishable as a criminal offence. 
  2. Member States shall ensure that the prior and informed consent of the woman to undergo through the surgery referred to in paragraph 1 cannot be replaced by the consent of a parent, legal guardian or court’s decision.”

Related links 

More information

Visit our dedicated page for more information. You will find the latest updates by EU country.

end forced sterilisation in the EU


Marine Uldry, EDF Senior Human Rights Officer