Roma Women Win Justice at European Court of Human Rights

Today, the European Court of Human Rights found that Slovakia had violated the human rights of eight Roma women who had been denied information about their reproductive health.  

The women in the case, K.H. and Others v. Slovakia, were unable to get pregnant after delivering children via C-section.  Suspecting that they may have been sterilized without their consent during their hospital stays, the women and their legal representatives from the Centre for Civil and Human Rights sought access to their medical records on multiple occasions.  

But hospital staff either turned them away or told them that they would have to copy the voluminous files by hand since there was no justifiable reason to provide photocopies.  Attempts to find redress through the Slovak courts failed.

In its ruling, the European Court of Human Rights holds that the refusal to provide photocopies of medical records, violated the women’s right to private and family life.  The court also recognized that information about their reproductive health status was essential to the women’s moral and physical integrity, as well as to their ability to effectively seek redress before the courts.

In 2002 the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Centre for Civil and Human Rights released a fact-finding report, Body and Soul: Forced Sterilization and Other Assaults on Roma Reproductive Freedom that exposed the widespread coerced sterilization of Roma women in Slovakia.  K.H. and Others v. Slovakia arose out of this report, which documents how the women in the case and others have been denied access to their medical records.  

Read the decision from the European Court of Human Rights >
Read the press release from the European Court of Human Rights >