Forced sterilization of a Roma woman without her full, prior and informed consent constitutes violation of her rights to access health care services, to information and advice on family planning and to decide freely on the number and spacing of her children.
1. A woman is not put in a position to make a voluntary decision and give her fully informed consent to be sterilized when she arrives at the hospital in a very poor state of health. The information and counselling received under stressful conditions do not meet the State party’s obligation to provide, through the hospital personnel, information and advice on family planning under article 10 (h) of the Convention.
2. Compulsory sterilization affects women’s physical and mental health. The sterilization surgery performed on the applicant without her full and informed consent must be considered to have permanently deprived her of her reproductive capacity, and, therefore, of her right to decide on the number and spacing of children.
(The applicant, a Hungarian woman of Roma origin, was asked to sign a statement of consent to a cesarean section that incorporated a barely legible note hand-written by the doctor using the Latin word for ‘sterilization’. The woman discovered only after the procedure that she had agreed to an intervention making her permanently infertile. The Committee found that, without ensuring that the applicant gave her fully informed consent, the state had been in breach of article 10 (h) CEDAW by failing to provide appropriate information and advice on family planning; article 12 CEDAW by discriminating against the applicant in her right to access to pregnancy-related health care services; and article 16(1) (e) CEDAW by failing to secure the woman's right to decide freely on the number and spacing of her children).