Czech Republic: Violence against women with disabilities and high rates of institutionalisation must be tackled

MDAC and Forum for Human Rights (FORUM) have submitted information to the UN Committee responsible for women’s rights calling for concerted action to tackle multiple forms of discrimination faced by women with disabilities in the Czech Republic. The report provides evidence on the prevalence of violence, high rates of long-term institutionalisation, denial of inclusive education and legal restrictions on autonomy.


Ms. Lenka Ritterová, speaking about abuse in Czech psychiatry, 2014. (c) MDAC.Ms. Lenka Ritterová, speaking about abuse in Czech psychiatry, Prague, June 2014. © MDAC.

In 1993, the Czech Republic ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Convention). The Convention, which has the status of binding international law, requires governments to end all forms of discrimination against women in society, which it defines as “any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex” which denies women the opportunity to enjoy and exercise their human rights.

MDAC and FORUM’s report to the UN point out that the Czech Republic maintains very high rates of institutionalisation of women with disabilities, where they are at far higher risk of experiencing specific forms of violence. According to the European Parliament, 80% of women with disabilities in institutions are exposed to violence from people around them – with the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women claiming that “forced institutionalisation itself constitutes a form of violence.” Yet national efforts to shift from institutionalisation towards the development of community services has been sorely lacking. In 2014, MDAC and our partners at the League of Human Rights (Liga) in the Czech Republic published a major report investigating abuse and coercive practices in Czech psychiatric institutions. The investigation showed that women with disabilities were disproportionately likely to be placed in caged beds (what the Czech Government refers to as 'netted' or 'protective' beds) at Kosmonosy psychiatric hospital, as well as other forms of restrictive practice. You can read the full report here.

The report to the UN also calls for urgent action on the issue of forced sterilisation against women with disabilities in the Czech Republic, drawing attention to the country’s historic ‘population control’ measures from the 1970s. To date there has been no systematic study to identify victims of this policy, or hold perpetrators to account.

Continuing MDAC’s focus on the problem of educational segregation, the submission to the UN calls for an end to discriminatory placement of girls with disabilities into special schools and segregated classrooms due to their impairments. The report calls on the Czech Government to follow previous recommendations of the CEDAW Committee to “give priority to inclusive education of children with disabilities, including children with intellectual and psycho-social disabilities.”

Last year, a similar recommendation was made by the UN’s disability rights committee, urging the Czech Republic to “incorporate inclusive education as the guiding principle of the education system and ensure the admission of children with disabilities in mainstream schools”, in line with Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

The report also takes aim at discriminatory legislation in the Czech Republic which denies them some fundamental decision-making rights including the right to marry, and right to make decisions on healthcare. The CEDAW Committee will review the Czech Republic’s implementation of the Convention between the 15th February to 4th March this year, and it is hoped that this report will assist the Committee in reaching their conclusions.

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