‘I was really scared’: Czech trans woman on the reality of forced sterilisation

A trans woman who was sterilised in Czechia has praised a high court decision that ruled forced sterilisation is unlawful.

Czech transgender citizens who want to change their legal gender are required to be sterilised and to undergo gender-affirming surgery under civil codes dating back to at least 2012.

However, following the decision by the Czech Republic Constitution court earlier this month, which found the law to be a “violation of human dignity,” the requirement is to be changed in favour of a medical diagnosis.

The change has been welcomed by human rights groups, activists and members of the trans community, including those who have already been forced to undergo the invasive surgery.

A Czech couple during a Pride event in Prague.
There’s more for LGBTQ+ people in the Czech Republic to celebrate now. (Getty)

Alexandra Tomanová, a trans woman living in Czechia, known as the Czech Republic in Britain, told PinkNews of her ordeal after she was sterilised in 2022 when she wanted to legally change her gender marker.

“I woke up one afternoon, 10 days after the surgery, in a pool of blood, in a pool of pus, and it was all just so I could change a letter in my ID,” she says.

Aged 22 at the time, she “didn’t really see a reason” to undergo the procedure, but felt compelled to so she could live as herself in the central and eastern European nation.

Two years on, she says: “To be perfectly honest, [I was] really scared. There [are] a lot of issues that can happen to you. A lot of people are… talking about the fact that this was my choice and yes, I picked it, but it wasn’t really a choice for me because it was either that or not living.”

Tomanová said the decision to repeal the law is “extremely helpful” for the trans community.

“It felt, very, very warm in my heart,” she says. “All these people will have another option and it will be much simpler [for] them. I’m angry that it took so long.”

Which European countries still have forced sterilisation for trans people?

Trans advocacy network Transgender Europe notes that Latvia, Romania, Cyprus and Slovakia now remain the only EU member states where sterilisation to allow a change in gender markers is commonplace.

The process of surgical sterilisation is complex and involves a hysterectomy for transgender men, and the removal of testes of trans women. Complications and infections, including blood clots, inflammation and haemorrhages, are common following the procedure.

A person sits on a hospital bed looking out a window.
Alexandra Tomanová was bed-ridden for two months following the surgery. (Getty)

Tomanová was bed-ridden for two months due to an infection. “It was the biggest pain I [have] experienced in my entire life. It was insane to be perfectly honest and I can only be thankful to my family for taking care of me,” she says.

“I was glad if I could go to pee, if I could go to the toilet. I was happy if I could [brush my] teeth. Basic human stuff.”

While she agrees that no one should have to face forced sterilisation merely for a gender marker on legal documents, she doesn’t regret undergoing the surgery.

“I have a simple life philosophy: I do not take things back. Everything made me come to this point for a reason,” she explains.

Czech government given until 2025 to change law

The Constitutional Court has given the government until 2025 to change the law following the 13-2 legal ruling.

As well as calls for the law to be scrapped, experts warned that waiting lists for the surgery were increasingly long. Viktor Heumann, the co-founder of the Czech rights group Transparent, told PinkNews that, typically, only 300 people are seen each year.

“Not all trans people want to, or can, undergo surgery intervention that is irreversible just to change one gender marker,” he went on to say. “There’s lots to amend or remedy. We very recently had a vote in parliament on equal marriage that didn’t go through. There was just the change of the adoption rights which was a big let-down.

“We are taking very small steps towards equality. However, we are happy for this progress because, for instance, in Slovakia and neighbouring countries, there’s regress.”