The A.S. v. Hungary complaint was filed under the Optional Protocol to CEDAW on behalf of a Hungarian woman of Roma origin who was coercively sterilized in a public hospital. The complaint was filed jointly by the Budapest-based Legal Defense Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKI) and the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), and charges the Hungarian government with violating A.S.’s rights to appropriate health care, family planning information, and free and informed decision-making over the number and spacing of her children as guaranteed under CEDAW. In November 2005, the Center submitted supplementary information to the CEDAW Committee in support of A.S. v. Hungary. The Center’s submission provided information from UN treaty monitoring bodies and international health and medical organizations underscoring women’s rights to receive accurate information on sterilization and other family planning services, and to informed consent to health care. In September 2006, CEDAW ruled in favor of A.S.
Filing date: November 2005
Plaintiff(s): A.S., a Hungarian woman of Roma origin who was coercively sterilized in a public hospital.
Center Attorney(s): Christina Zampas and Roseanne Kross
Partners: European Roma Rights Center
Summary: While undergoing surgery in connection with a miscarriage in a public hospital in Hungary, A.S., a Hungarian woman of Roma origin, was asked to sign a statement of consent to a caesarean section. The statement contained a barely legible note using the Latin word for sterilization. Only after she was sterilized did A.S. discover that she had agreed to a procedure that would make her permanently infertile.
The Center filed an amicus brief in A.S. vs. Hungary, a case brought by the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) and the Budapest-based Legal Defense Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKI) on behalf of A.S. On August 29, 2006 the U.N. committee that monitors compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) found Hungary in violation of the Convention for its failure to protect A.S.’s reproductive rights.
The decision establishes that the failure to provide reproductive health information and to ensure that women provide their full and informed consent to be sterilized violates their most basic human rights. It marks the first time an international human rights tribunal has held a government accountable for failing to provide necessary information to a woman to enable her to give informed consent to a reproductive health procedure.