The liberal Slovak opposition party Freedom and Solidarity (Svoboda a Solidarita – SaS) is proposing that the state should cover the cost of sterilizations for parents above the age of 35 who have more than three children. News server TVNOVINY.sk reports that the law they are designing could contribute toward reducing the „extremely high birth rates in Romani settlements“.
Lucia Nicholsonová, the former state secretary for the Slovak Labor Ministry, is behind the proposal. She considers covering the costs of sterilization to be a form of social benefit. In her view, many parents are having a problem saving up the EUR 300 – 500 that the surgery costs.
Nicholsonová also believes that if sterilizations were free of charge, parents of large families who currently have problems meeting the basic needs of their children would probably undergo the operation. The authors of the legislation warn that only a very narrow group of people would be permitted to take advantage of the subsidized sterilizations, because the average birth rate in Slovakia is only 1.4 children per woman.
The SaS proposal is based on voluntary participation. Slovakia has faced problems for many years over the fact that women in the former Czechoslovakia were forcibly deprived of their reproductive capacity during communism. This past June, Bratislava lost a case before the European Court of Human Rights regarding the illegal sterilization of a Romani woman that took place there in the year 2001.
Several hundreds of thousands of Romani people are estimated to live in Slovakia, which has a total population of 5.4 million. Experts disagree as to the precise number of Romani people there. Many Romani people live in settlements with unsuitable hygienic conditions and without electricity or running water. Most such settlements are in the east and the south of the country.
Czech Press Agency, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert