For Gypsies, Eugenics is a Modern Problem / Czech Practice Dates to Soviet Era

By Mindy Kay Bricker
PRAGUE ( — Gypsy women who say they were sterilized against their will by Czech doctors were heartened last December when a government investigator released a study that largely vindicated their claims.
Six months later, however, advocates for Gypsies — known more formally as Roma — say the practice is continuing, and are dismayed by what they consider only token steps by Czech officials to stop it. “There’s been basically dead silence at the level of elites,” said Claude Cahn, program director of the European Roma Rights Center, an advocacy group based in Budapest. Officials at the Health Ministry acknowledge the problem, but have not taken responsibility. “[Sterilization] was by no means a national policy, but errors [were] committed by individual medical facilities,” said Jaroslav Strof, the Health Ministry’s director of healthcare and pharmacy, in an e-mailed statement. Yet the Czech government’s independent ombudsman, Otakar Motejl, released a detailed report last year charging that “potentially problematic” sterilizations of Roma women have been public knowledge for more than 15 years.