Validity Foundation - Mental Disability Advocacy Centre

Moldova: Validity calls on European Court of Human Rights to recognise forced abortion and sterilisation as torture

By Erzsébet Oláh 16th December 2021

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Validity has intervened before the European Court of Human Rights (“the Court”) in the case G.M. and others v. the Republic of Moldova. Our intervention highlights that forced sterilisation and forced abortion are forms of torture and ill-treatment, and constitute systemic discrimination against women with disabilities. We also explained that legal systems condone these acts by authorising guardianship and institutionalisation. 

The case concerns three women from a psychiatric institution who were raped and abused by the lead doctor of the institution. The same doctor then took part in a medical commission that decided that the women must end their pregnancies and undergo other interventions to make sure they could never become pregnant again. All three women wanted to have children and disagreed with the interventions, but the commission disregarded their preferences. 

Women with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities are among the last groups that can still be legally sterilised against their will or forced to abort their pregnancy. Because they are often deprived of legal capacity, their guardian or a specialised commission can make many decisions concerning their bodies, health, and family planning. Our lawyer, Šárka Dušková, explained: “It often occurs in institutions, because what happens behind their walls is invisible to the public. Women subjected to this kind of violence have no one to complain to, and if they do, their testimonies are often ignored or thought of as untrustworthy. 

In our intervention to the Court, we highlighted that forced sterilisation and forced abortion against women with disabilities are a continuation of eugenic policies pursued by many states in the previous century. These policies have targeted certain populations due to the prejudice and harmful stereotype that they do not have sufficient “parental capacity”. Roma, Indigenous, or disabled women have most often been victims of these policies. Some other groups of women have already obtained a level of recognition for these gross human rights violations. But women with disabilities still wait for a clear condemnation of these practices from an international court. You can read our third-party intervention here.