Vatican’s position on the use
of condoms: Is it going to be revised? Recently, the Pope Benedict XVI commissioned a
report on moral and scientific aspects of the use of condoms in the fight against
HIV/AIDS. Although this report will remain confidential, public opinion and key
stakeholders speculate a lot about the possible shift in the Vatican’s policy. At
present, the encyclical "Humanae Vitae" from 1968 is in force – unambiguously
and definitely banning condoms. The amendment of the existing encyclical is very much
awaited, especially in the context of the growing global AIDS epidemic.
Pontifical Council for Pastoral Health Care compiled a requested study on ethical and
scientific aspects of the use of condoms and their role in HIV prevention. A report was
then passed to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and was discussed at the
Vatican Conference on combatting HIV/AIDS. The contingent approval of the use of condoms
as a lesser evil will be limited only to married couples when one partner is HIV –
positive. Beyond any shadow of a doubt, marital faithfulness and sexual abstinence will
remain the main HIV prevention “means” in Vatican’s perspective.
The discussion on the use of condoms in the Vatican and the possible revision of Vatican’s
position in the expected papal document is revolutionary. Especially if we take into
account that just one year ago the Pope assured the upholding of the total ban on condoms
at the meeting with African bishops.
Catholics for Free Choice strongly advocates on behalf of lifting the ban on condoms. If
you would like to support them, please sign the letter to Pope Benedict XVI urging him to
approve the use of condoms:
women’s sterilization case examined by CEDAW Committee. The Committee concluded that Hungary has violated Ms Andrea
Szijjarto’s rights under a number of articles of the Convention on the Elimination of
all Forms of Discrimination against Women and urges the State to provide adequate
compensation. Ms Szijjarto was undergoing surgery in public hospital and she was asked to
consent to surgical procedure. At that time, the woman was in poor health and was unable
to make an informed choice. Moreover, the consent form she was asked to sign up was an
almost illegible handwritten note. In fact, it was a request of sterilization – a fact
which Ms Szijjarto was completely unaware of. As she claimed afterwards, she had not even
known what actually “sterilization” meant.
The CEDAW Committee concluded that state hospital authorities violated the woman’s right
to comprehensive information. It also condemned compulsory sterilization.
UN CEDAW Committee Case Document:
BULGARIA: The European Roma Information Office concerned about possible
denial of sexual and reproductive rights of Roma women. The office raised a protest against discriminatory provisions
that are developed in order to curb the fertility rates among minority groups. Recently,
Bulgarian Health Minister proposed very controversial legislation to reduce the fertility
rate of Roma population. The Minister of Health claims that he is concerned about the high
child mortality rate, which is one of the highest in Europe. In order to reduce it, birth
rates of Roma women have to be limited by law. The European Roma Information Office (ERIO)
strongly opposes this initiative, and argues that it is a pure violation of basic human
rights. Moreover, the proposal of governmental control over Roma women’s fertility
reveals nationalistic attitudes. This is a first step of the strategy aiming to solve
the largely debated issue of demographic crises in the Bulgarian society – as we
read in the ERIO’s official statement.
Source: European Roma Information Office
ESTONIA: Women are paid for giving birth. Estonian governmental policies to boost
fertility rate appeared to be successful. The total birth rate increased from 1,3 to 1,5
since 2004 when the government implemented the “mother’s salaries”. A couple of
years ago, United Nations reported that Estonia is one of the fastest aging populations.
The government promptly responded to this challenge. Employed women who have children are
paid their salaries up to 15 months after delivery. Even those mothers who have not been
employed receive a 200 USD stipend. This pro – family policy has already encouraged many
women to have a child. However, governmental efforts to increase fertility rate of
Estonian women would not be given up. To maintain Estonian current population, which is a
minimum plan, every women has to give at least two births in her life. Thus government
plans to develop new policy to further encourage women to become mothers. One of the ideas
is to provide extensive preabortion counseling in order to prevent women from terminating
POLAND: Limiting access to contraception by law. The political initiative to totally ban
abortion in Poland is now followed by the debate on contraception. Members of the
Parliamentarian Committee for Family and Women’s Rights (CFWR) are developing a National
Programme for Family Support (NPFS) that is due to be implemented in 2007. A proposal
submitted by ruling political parties – Law and Justice (PiS) in coalition with the
League of Polish Families (LPR) – incorporates the limitation on access to contraception
into the aforementioned NPFS.
Parliamentarians claim that the Polish family is endangered, because the birth rate
decreases every year. Thus they plan to restrict access to contraceptives, which stays in
stark contrast with NGOs efforts to make contraceptives more accessible.
Members of the CFWR argue that hormonal pills cause infertility so the access to them has
to be further restricted, although women in Poland can get oral contraceptives only by
prescription. Moreover, pills are not subsidized from the state budget, which creates an
economic barrier for many Polish women.
One of the priorities of the NPFS is to develop strategy to prevent women from using
hormonal pills. Firstly, parliamentarians propose to organize a social campaign to convey
a message of negative aspects of hormonal pills. There is also a proposal to mark oral
contraceptives with the note “harms your health”, as it is with cigarettes. Moreover,
there is a political will to put pressure on doctors to limit prescriptions on pills by
referring to the side effects that women might experience. Besides, some members of the
CFWR recommend even restricting access to condoms, claiming that condom use causes women’s
The Ministry of Health just announced that it will launch media campaign promoting natural
methods of family planning, that is planned to reach all the Polish schools. The target
group of this campaign are young people. No information on modern contraceptives,
including hormonal pills and condoms, will be provided. NGOs find this initiative
controversial and problematical, particularly in the context of HIV/AIDS prevention.
Anti-choice activists accuse Polish Federation for Women and Family
Planning. Lukasz Wrobel,
Polish well-known anti-choice activist notified the prosecutor office in Warsaw of the suspicion of committing a
crime by the Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning. According to
Wrobel, the Federation is involved in the international mafia of pharmacological drugs
smugglers. Wrobel claims, that as a result, hundreds of women and thousands of children
died in Poland. However, the details of the case have not been revealed.
Wrobel has been active in the anti-choice movement
before. He became well-recognized by organizing extremely the drastic “Choose Life”
exhibition which was presented in the streets of several Polish cities. In the exhibition,
the images of human fetuses were confronted with war victims children, as well as children
Recently Wrobel established a Monitoring
Center for Abortion Mafia (MCAF). Now he decided to combat what he calls ‘abortion
business’. The main aims of the MCAF is to collect all the information regarding
underground abortions: addresses of doctors performing abortions and names of people
involved in criminal activity within the abortion mafia. All the gathered data will be
then handed to the public prosecutor’s
The Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning has not received any official
notification from the public prosecutor’s office. “We only learnt about the complaint
from the media” – said Wanda Nowicka, president of the Polish Federation for Women and
Source: Polish ReproNews; Federation for Women and Family
WHO: First women at the position of Director General concerned
about women’s health. Executive board nominee,
Dr Margaret Chan from Hong Kong has been appointed for Director General of the World
Health Organization. Not only is she the first Chinese elected for such sa ignificant UN
post, but also the first women in the history of this agency at this position. Her term of
office will last until 2012 and it is expected that it will lead to a stronger commitment
of WHO to improve family planning and reproductive health. Experts believe that Chan’s
guidance creates a unique opportunity to prioritize sexual and reproductive health and
rights. Dr Chan has already declared that she will address specifically women’s health
problems and that efforts to combat HIV/AIDS are of high priority to her. –
Improvements in the health of the people of Africa and the health of women are key
indicators of the performance of WHO – claims newly elected Director General.
Margaret Chan is a former Director of Health in Hong Kong. She has worked for WHO since
2003. She had earlier been the top communicable disease official and the Representative of
the Director General for the Pandemic Influenza. Her appointment results from the sudden
death of the previous DG Lee Jong-wook in May, which happened two years before his term
More information available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2006/pr66/en/index.html
EU: Germany’s presidency might revive the debate on Christian Values. German chancellor, Angela Merkel, leader of the religious CDU
political party declares that she would like to reopen the discussion on the EU
constitution which brings us back to the debate on what constitutes European values.
Merkel is overtly in support of the Constitution and the incorporation of Christian values
into it, as she affirmed in August after the meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. This
standpoint receives considerable support from some prominent MEP’s. The special
committee has been already established to examine Christian values and the role they play
in European integration.
Germany will take over the EU’s presidency in January 2007. During its presidency, the
European Union will celebrate its 50th anniversary in Rome. This exceptional
event sets up a perfect opportunity to revive the issue of the European Constitution –
opportunity that will most likely be explored. It is anticipated that the special paper on
European Christian values, namely “Berlin Declaration” will be presented.
EP Working Group on Separation of Religion and Politics strongly opposes the
enshrinement of Christian values into the core European values. France with its struggle
to separate religion from state might back up this position. Contingent inclusion of
Christian values into EU framework will affect all the legislation and policies; and in
that sense jeopardize sexual and reproductive rights. Thus the efforts undertaken by
Merkel and her supporters concern SRHR advocates, whose agenda is failed to be adequately
recognized by Vatican as a fundamental human rights issue.
FEMM pronounces its opinion on the Commission Communication to the
European Parliament and the Council on combating HIV/AIDS within the European Union and in
the neighbouring countries, 2006 – 2009. Parliamentary
Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) reviews European policy towards
the eradication of HIV/AIDS from gender perspective. In the opinion submitted by the Vice
- Chairwomen of FEMM, Zita Gurmai from the Socialist Group (PSE), the Committee urges to
recognize that women and girls are becoming a particularly vulnerable group, as according
to UNAIDS. Thus every policy to combat HIV/AIDS has to take girls and women into account
and special measures targeted at women have to be developed. FEMM’s opinion identifies
discrimination against women, feminization of poverty, violence including rape and
trafficking as factors affecting susceptibility to become infected with HIV. The opinion
pronounces the importance of comprehensive and compulsory sexuality education in the fight
against HIV/AIDS. FEMM also urges to guarantee women’s participation in developing
policy towards HIV/AIDS.
Full text of the opinion available at: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2004_2009/documents/pa/631/631323/631323en.pdf
EU: European Parliament’s Resolution on AIDS. On 30th of November, the European Parliament adopted a
resolution on HIV/AIDS with regard to, among others, the Commission Communication to
the European Parliament and the Council on combating HIV/AIDS within the European Union
and in the neighbouring countries 2006 – 2009 of 15th December 2005, the
United Nations’ commitment to provide universal access to prevention treatment
and care by 2010, as well as the theme of the World Aids Day 2006 Accountability: stop
AIDS, Keep the promise. The resolution examines the issue extensively and links to
sexual and reproductive health comprehensively. In point 6, it states that eradication of
all forms of violence against women that favors the spread of AIDS is of great importance.
The resolution urges also for the increased funding of condom supplies. Finally, it
appeals to the newly elected US Congress to give up the ‘global gag rule’ introduced
by president Bush that cuts all the US funding to NGOs that advocate for the access to
legal and safe abortion.
of the resolution available at: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?language=EN&pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+MOTION+B6-2006-0623+0+DOC+PDF+V0//EN
United Nations: Joint Statement on the protection of migrant women. On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence
against Women (25th November) United Nations released a statement that urges
States to protect migrant women, regardless of their immigrant legal status, from violence
and other forms of exploitation, including trafficking. Data indicates that migrant women,
who often leave their home countries to improve the quality of their lives, are especially
vulnerable to experience violence. According to the CEDAW Committee, violence is strongly
linked to discrimination and migrant women experience double discrimination: on the basis
of sex and origin. The UN appeals to State Parties to recognize this specific status of
migrant women and guarantee the protection of their women’s human rights. The migration
of women grows in numbers and importance and the challenges have to be immediately
addressed. For instance, countries of destination do not protect women from certain
traditional practices recognized as violating human rights such as female genital
mutilation, forced marriages or honour crimes. Moreover, the statement pinpoints
particular legal provisions that should be identified as discriminatory to migrant women.
For example, there are instances of woman’s fertility being controlled by forcing her to
terminate a pregnancy.
The joint statement has been
issued by Ms. Louise Arbour (UN High Commissioner for Human Rights), Ms. Yakin Ertürk
(Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Violence against Women)
and Mr. Jorge Bustamante (Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on the Human
Rights of Migrants).
Nicaragua: Total ban on abortion. A law which bans abortion even when the pregnancy inevitably threatens a woman’s
life has been passed in the Nicaraguan Congress and signed by the president Enrique
Bolanos. No one voted against the new law, although one third of parliamentarians were not
present during the voting.
Beforehand, it was admissible to terminate pregnancy if at least three doctors certified
independently that it would save the woman’s life. In Nicaragua, women undergoing
abortion and those who enabled them access to illegal service are penalized for, on
average, 6 years of imprisonment. The president proposed to increase the prison sentence
to at least 10 up to 30 years.
Latin America in general remains one of the most restrictive regions regarding access to
legal and safe abortion. Cuba is the only exception. Abortion is available here on demand
in first trimester. Nicaragua is the third country in the region with a total ban on
abortion – next to Chile and El Salvador.
RIGHTS ON THE AGENDA
Global Report on Sexual Violence in
Conflict: The Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) is
coordinating the work on this report. The main objective is to present a relevant overview
of sexual violence, including rape in conflict and crisis situations, as well as share
best practices in security sector. DCAF welcomes NGOs at other stakeholders contributions.
More information available at: http://www.dcaf.ch/allianceDARC/_publications.cfm?navsub1=29&navsub2=2&n
The European Feminist Forum (EFF): Call for Affinity Groups EEF is a space
for discussion and development of the Feministic agenda that responds to the challenges
posed by contemporary Europe that is living through a phase of rapid change. The
initiative to launch renewed feminist political engagement in all of Europe requires
affinity groups – non hierarchical, open and participatory. The affinity groups findings
set the agenda for EFF in the future planned to take place in a Central European country
Deadline for application: 15 December 2006
More information available at: http://www.un-instraw.org/revista/hypermail/alltickers/fr/0880.html
International Conference on Actions to Strengthen Linkages between Sexual
and Reproductive Health and HIV/AIDS 4-8
February, 2007 Mumbai, India.
There are two main objectives of the conference. Firstly, to review global and
region-specific research that has contributed to understanding the synergies between
sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS. Secondly, to identify successful approaches
and challenges from case studies and to highlight outstanding research gaps. During the
conference, the recommendations on specific policy and programmatic actions that could
strengthen the linkages in order to better respond to the needs and realities of people
living with HIV will be elaborated.
For further information please go to:
EU Health Minister's Conference on
HIV/AIDS: Partnership and
Responsibility - Together against HIV/ AIDS; 12-13 March 2007, Bremen, Germany.
HIV/AIDS prevention and the situation in Eastern Europe – a region at the
forefront of AIDS epidemic – will be the main focus of the conference that will take
place during the German EU presidency. The NGOs participation in this ministerial meeting
is welcomed (4 – 5 NGO representatives per country) and their role in the fight against
HIV/AIDS will be broadly discussed. It is anticipated that the conference will end up with
“Bremen Declaration” that will be presented to European Council.
Source: Nina Wepler
LGBT Intergroup that advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender fundamental
human rights in the European Parliament launched its new website at the parliamentary
session in November. Website provides visitors with latest developments of the LGBT
agenda. It includes resources and extensive information on Intergroup’s activities. LGBT
activists from all over the world are welcomed to share news. Furthermore, the new website
enables visitors to directly contact the parliamentarian LGBT Intergroup.
LGBT Intergroup is one of the twenty four Intergroups registered in the European
Parliament. Nearly 100 MEP’s are members of this community.
Resolution on immigrant women The resolution on immigrant women and the role they play in
the European Union has been passed in the European Parliament by the vast majority of
votes. The resolution specifies the problem of twofold discrimination that migrant women
experience and their greater vulnerability to all forms of violence and abuses. It also
highlights the necessity of gender perspective on the phenomenon on migration. Moreover,
the resolution recognizes the need to provide free of charge sexual and reproductive
health services for migrant women.
Text of the resolution: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?Type=TA&Reference=P6-TA-2006-0437&language=EN
UNAIDS/WHO 2006 AIDS Epidemic Update: The annual report on global AIDS epidemic
extensively examines the new developments of the epidemic trends. Globally, the epidemic
continues to grow. HIV prevention programmes have to be adapted to changing national
epidemics in order to be effective. Thus the developments of AIDS epidemics must be
constantly monitored on the national levels so the vulnerable groups are identified and
the preventative programmes adequately targeted at those people who are particularly
exposed to HIV.
UNAIDS/WHO 2006 AIDS Epidemic Update is available at:
UNFPA State of World Population 2006: A passage to hope: women and
international migration. In this
publication the issue of migrant women is widely elaborated. Women account for the
majority of people who migrate. The report examines their status and how ethnic origin
contributes to gender based discrimination. This publication raises questions about State’s
immigration policies and certain provisions that appear to be discriminatory for women. It
also pinpoints the problem of lack of cultural sensitivity when dealing with
World Bank: World
Development Report 2007 (WDR 2007) Every
year, the World Bank issues its World Development Report. This year the title is “Development
and Next Generation”. The main focus of the WDR 2007 is put on young people aged 12 –
24. Investing in this largest ever human capital will contribute significantly to
reduction of poverty and acceleration of economic growth.
WDR 2007 examines sexual and reproductive health and rights in Chapter 5 Growing up
healthy and by this means becomes a new advocacy tool at the disposal. The issue of
access to legal and safe abortion is also raised in the report.