European Court of HR ruling: Slovakia: Forced Sterilization of Roma Women

Many thanks to Andy Sprung,  Research Assistant in our International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program for summarizing this recent decision for Reprohealthlaw blog subscribers.  Andy is now engaged in his third year of LL.B. studies at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law.

I.G. AND OTHERS v. SLOVAKIA [2012]

The European Court of Human Rights reaffirms that the involuntary sterilization of Roma Women is a human rights violation in contravention of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) and Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

On November 13, 2012, the European Court of Human Rights issued its latest judgment in a series of cases dealing with the involuntary sterilization of Roma women.  The court unanimously found that two applicants were the victims of coerced sterilization in violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) and Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights. 

The applicants were sterilized while undergoing caesarean sections at a public hospital.  While in the hospital, each applicant was asked to sign a document.  They were told the document was required for delivery by caesarean section, and it was not until years later, during an investigation, that the applicants learned that the documents were actually requests for sterilization.  Additionally, the two applicants were legally minors at the time of the procedure, and the hospital also failed to obtain the consent of their legal guardians.

The Court followed the reasoning from its two recent decisions on the same subject: V.C. v. Slovakia (2011) and N.B. v. Slovakia (2012). Finding that the sterilizations were not life-saving medical interventions and that they were performed without the requisite informed consent, the court held that this treatment was incompatible with the requirement of respect for human freedom and dignity, and amounted to degrading treatment. Additionally, the Court found that State had failed in its positive obligation to protect the reproductive health of women of Roma origin, and that it did not comply with its Article 3 obligation to conduct a prompt and reasonable investigation.

The I.G. and Others v. Slovakia (2012) decision is online  here.

The V.C. v. Slovakia (2011) decision is online here.

The N.B. v. Slovakia (2012) decision is online here.

Press Release from The Centre for Reproductive Rights is online here.

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