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Slovakian government apologises for forced sterilisations of Roma women

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By Euronews  with DPA
A girl stands outside of a house in a poor Roma settlement near Banska Bystrica, Slovakia.
A girl stands outside of a house in a poor Roma settlement near Banska Bystrica, Slovakia.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Petr David Josek, File

Slovakia's government has officially apologised for the forced sterilisation of thousands of Roma women.

The ruling coalition condemned decades of human rights violations against issued an apology to those affected.

According to the Slovakian government, forced sterilisations were carried out between 1966 and 1989 to limit the number of Roma minority children.

But Andrea Bučková -- the government official for the Roma community -- said the practice had continued even after Slovakia adopted protective measures in 1991.

"The estimated number of women who have undergone sterilisation is in the thousands," Bučková said in a statement.

It was not until 2004 that Slovakia passed laws to validate the consent of women who were illegally pressured into sterilisation.

The Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, has welcomed the apology as "a first important step".

"I now look forward to quick progress on an accessible & effective compensation mechanism," Mijatović said on Twitter.

Human rights organisations had for years been demanding that Slovakia admit to systematic human rights violations and compensate the victims.

"What the previous regime was capable of in relation to Roma women is unacceptable," Bučková said on Wednesday.

"Regulating the population of any minority or group is comparable to the methods of the Nazi regimes and is a gross violation of the human rights and personal integrity of every person," she added.

"[On] the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women ... this apology is also a positive expression of the Slovakian government that it is really addressing this issue."

The Roma minority -- which make up one-fifth of Slovakia's population -- have long suffered racism and discrimination in Central and Eastern Europe.

In September, Pope Francis visited communities in Slovakia and acknowledged that Roma had long been subject to "prejudice and harsh judgments".