The sterilisation of Roma or gypsy women against their will - a practice that was relatively common in former communist Czechoslovakia - is continuing today.

 

According to Al Jazeera's Tessa Parry Wingfield, many Roma women forcibly sterilised immediately after giving birth suffer the consequences of being made barren without their consent.

 

Iveta was sterilised against her will at the age of 19 after the birth of her daughter Christina.

After her foced operation, Iveta now lives with the knowledge she can no longer have children

She now lives with the knowledge that she can no longer have children.

"Nobody asked me. They just did it," Iveta says.

 

Forgiving the doctors who are responsible have never been easy.


Iveta says: "I probably shouldn't say it, but I would shoot him".

 
The shadow of the old Communist regime in the Czech

Republic lingers on.

 

Forced sterilisation of Roma women was common then – a deliberate attempt to control their numbers.

 

Dreadful practice

 

But many Roma women claim the practice has continued - blighting the lives of some of the most deprived people in the country.

 

The affected women are so poor that they can’t even afford to travel 30 km to attend victim support meetings.

 

It is in these meetings that anger and emotions spill out. 

Helen Ferencikova sought legal redress for her sterilisation

 

One of the victims says she feels like a tree that can no longer bear fruit as many of the sterilised women face stigma and rejection from their husbands.

 

Helen Ferencikova was the first Roma woman to get recognition from the courts that she was operated on without proper consent.

 

Ferencikova, who was in labour when she was given forms to sign, said: "I could not read it because I was in great pain. I thought I could certainly trust the doctors that they would not give me something to sign like that."

 

Change needed

 

The doctor who performed the operation, however, denies any wrongdoing.


"The only thing she had to say was no and no operation would have happened," says Dr Marion Mantic.

 

Mantic admits though that procedures had to change.

 

Women are now given more time to consider before accepting or refusing sterilisation, he says.

 

He, however, says that many women complain, seeking financial compensation. 

 

The health ministry admits there have been mistakes in the past but is unapologetic.

Source: Al Jazeera