The Forced Sterilization of Romani Women in Slovakia and the Czech Republic
Eugenics is the belief that the human gene pool should be kept as clean as possible by eliminating disease and other genetic defects from the population. In some cases, such as with the Nazi's and U.S. government with America Indian tribes, this has meant an ethnic or racial cleansing, but that does not have to be the case. Many times throughout history cleansing has been used to sterilize people who were deemed hereditarily poor or they had family history of mental illness or retardation. In modern history, it would seem that such practices would have ended because people seem more enlightened now. Unfortunately, the practice has not ended, and in some cases it has been amplified. Some of the worst examples of modern eugenics programs have been those which forced people to be sterilized. In the Czech Republic and in Slovakia (as well as other eastern European countries such as Bulgaria), Roma women (popularly called gypsies) have endured this practice. This paper discusses how the women were sterilize, why it happened, and what the current picture is for the Romani populations in eastern Europe.
The primary reason that people have always faced eugenic practices is because, for some reason, they are undesirable. So, the countries that engage in the practice attempt to find solutions that will either ease or completely eradicate their population. As discussed above, this does not necessarily happen with a simple racial or ethnic reduction in mind, but often that is the case. The population that is considered undesirable by many in Eastern European countries is that of the Romani.
In history, even recent history, this group of people were known as gypsies, but they prefer, and are now referred to as the Romani, or Roma, people. Roma have been nomads throughout their history and they have often been known as drifters. The people became unpopular because they were thought to be thieves, beggars and chronically poor. The people themselves would counter with the fact that they are driven by unique music, the love of the outdoors, and that they are not thieves or beggars. The people have been targeted by many government programs that have sought to reduce their populations because they are thought to propagate at unnaturally high levels (Anca-Strauss). Both the Czech republic and Slovakia are ancestral homes for this population group, and they have remained there even though most of the Roma do not follow nomadic practices any more.
The desire of these eastern European governments has been to reduce these populations because they cost taxpayers an inordinate amount of money. There seem to be two reasons for this belief. First, in the Czech Republic the unemployment among the Roma has been as high as 68% (Anca-Strauss), and this means that the working people of the country have to provide taxes which support the Roma. The second reason for these programs is that at least in one part of Slovakia an official said that "The Roma in this district make up 14% of the population yet account for 46% of births" (Stojaspal). The official was statin that reports of how many Roma women have been forcibly sterilized is greatly over-exaggerated, but at the same time he seems to be trying to make people understand why the program would be going on if it was. Because of the high population growth and the economic costs of the people, there have, in the past, been such programs enforced in these two countries. However, the programs were supposed to have stopped in 1989 in Czechoslovakia. However, there have been reports of the practice continuing up until at least 2003.
A woman brought suit against the Slovakian government in European International court for what she says was a forced sterilization. The government claims that they received the woman's consent, and they were able to produce a document that had her signature on it (Stojaspal). The woman acknowledges that the signature is hers, but that she was coerced under duress to sign the document. She says that she was on the way to surgery when a nurse placed the paper and a pen in her hand saying…