Activists: Doctors rude towards Roma women

Roma women living in Slovakia have reported discrimination, segregation and abuse connected with reproductive health services.

The Roma from segregated communities often face discrimination and segregation, illustrative stock photo. The Roma from segregated communities often face discrimination and segregation, illustrative stock photo. (Source: TASR)

Roma women living in Slovakia report discrimination, segregation and abuse when obtaining reproductive health services, according to a report from the Centre for Reproductive Rights and the Slovak organisation Centre for Civil and Human Rights (Poradňa), released on November 27.

The Centre, together with the field worker and Roma human rights monitor for Poradňa, Agáta Duchoňová, prepared a report in which Roma women talk about their problems.

The report, called Vakeras Zorales – Speaking Out: Roma Women’s Experiences in Reproductive Health Care in Slovakia, documents the personal stories of 38 Roma women from marginalised communities who reported discrimination and abuse in reproductive and maternal health care facilities in eastern Slovakia. The report also recommends systemic steps and measures the Slovak authorities should take to respect the human rights of Roma women, like implementing and investing adequate resources into appropriate programmes to improve Roma women’s access to quality services.

“Roma women should be treated with dignity and respect when seeking reproductive health care,” said Leah Hoctor, regional director for the Europe Program at the Centre for Reproductive Rights. “The Slovak government must take concrete steps to ensure that Roma women get the care they need free of gender and racial discrimination.”

What the report disclosed about the treatment of Roma women

Many of the women’s accounts in the report outline experiences of segregation in maternity care departments, racial harassment and humiliation, neglect, physical restraint and abuse during childbirth, and failures related to informed consent and decision-making with regard to medical treatment.

“For a long time Roma women have shared with us their personal stories of suffering reproductive rights abuses,” said Duchoňová. “Roma women often speak about humiliation, verbal abuse, lack of adequate health care and denial of information, even segregation in maternity wards. We believe that this report should receive attention from the public, and that the Slovak authorities should take effective measures towards meaningful change.”

An estimated 400,000 Roma live in Slovakia, comprising 7.45 percent of the country’s population.

Vakeras Zorales – Speaking Out is a joint publication of the Centre for Reproductive Rights and Poradňa. The report is based on interviews from October 24-27, 2016 conducted by the Centre and Poradňa. During the interviews, testimonies were collected from 38 Roma women living in four marginalised Roma communities in the districts of Spišská Nová Ves, Gelnica, and Prešov in eastern Slovakia. The women were interviewed about their experiences in reproductive health care facilities over the past five years.

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