51. session of the CSW (Commission
on the Status of Women): Report of the UN Secretary-General urges to undertake actions to
end All Forms Of Discrimination And Violence Against The Girl Child report has been prepared for the
fifty-first session of the CSW that took place on the 26th Feb – 9th March 2007.
According to the CSW’s programme for 2007 – 2009, elimination of the discrimination
and violence against the girl child is a priority objective. Report of the UN Secretary
– General prepared especially for this reason examines the current situation of the girl
child globally and provides recommendations for the CSW to consider. What might be
important to notice is that the report recognizes the link between gender-based abuse,
violence against adolescent girls and the vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. It is also noted that
the pandemic reinforced gender inequalities “with women and girls bearing
disproportionate share of the burden, including care and support for those infected and
affected by the disease”.
The report with its conclusions and recommendations is available online at:
Draft resolutions of the CSW are available at: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/csw51/DraftResolutions.html
Astra Network examines the
situation in 8 countries of the CEE region regarding reproductive health
(RH) supplies. Report on the access to reproductive health
supplies is based on the survey that was carried out in the following countries: Albania,
Armenia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Hungary, Macedonia, Poland and Ukraine. The questionnaire
included questions regarding factual access to contraceptives, condoms, safe motherhood
supplies, as well as supplies required for safe abortion and HIV/AIDS prevention. The
report concludes that the situation in the CEE region as concerns reproductive health
supplies and services has to be recognized as poor. Among factors conducive to limited
accessibility of RH supplies, the following issues have been identified: lack of national
governments’ commitment to address reproductive and sexual health and rights relevantly,
low priority of reproductive health and rights in education, including lack of compulsory
and comprehensive sexuality education at schools. Thus contraceptive needs of women and
men remain unmet: access to condoms and hormonal pills is limited on economic, as well as
The realization of this project was possible thanks to the financial support of Population
Action International (PAI).
To get acquainted with the report go to: http://www.astra.org.pl/CEE_RH%20Supplies.pdf
Survey results are available here: http://www.astra.org.pl/articles.php?id=155
CROATIA: Government about to ban in vitro fertilization. Croatian
Ministry of Health is working on a project to totally ban in vitro fertilization in the
country, that will deny 200 thousands of infertile women the only chance to become
pregnant. The rates of couples which encounter difficulties in having their own child is
on the rise. At the moment they amount to 15 percent. Very often the only option they have
is in vitro fertilization. The government, supported by Roman Catholic Church which has a
high position in Croatia, will most probably change the 30-year-old law that permits in
vitro fertilization. By these means Croatia is following the example of Italy, which has
one of the most restrictive law concerning in vitro.
Source: Rzeczpospolita Daily 28/02/2007
ROMANIA: possible legalization of sex work.
The Romanian government believes that the legalization of sex work is the only method to
control the erotic sector, especially because in Romania many children, including even
11-year-olds, live from illegal prostitution. The prostitution of Romanian child drew
attention of pedophiles from all over Europe, who are coming to the country for those kind
of services. Another problem linked to the criminalization of sex work is an increasing
number of cases of trafficking in humans. This burning issue requires an immediate
response, thus the government is working now on the legalization of prostitution act. The
draft law is about to be ready within the month and will be put for social consultation.
The proposal to decriminalize sex work in order to control it and prevent trafficking is
strongly opposed by the Orthodox Church.
Source: Gazeta wyborcza Daily 01/03/2007
POLAND: Protection of dignity from the moment of conception
most probably incorporated into Polish Constitution. On Thursday, 1st
of March, Special Parliamentarian Committee that works on the proposal to amend the
Constitution in order to totally criminalize abortion, approved the amendment of article
30 in the Polish Constitution. Abovementioned constitutional article ensures the
protection of dignity and the Parliamentarian Committee reached a consensus to incorporate
the phrase from the moment of conception into it. The amendment was proposed by Dariusz
K³eczek, representative of the ruling party Law and Justice.
The political initiative to totally ban abortion in Poland proposed firstly by the League
of Polish Families is now gradually implemented. At present, approved by the
Parliamentarian Committee amendment of the Constitution will be voted in Sejm (Lower House
of Parliament). It might happen even in March. Since far right-wing political forces are
in majority, their support for total criminalization of abortion is most probable. Winners
of the last elections, Law and Justice, already declared their support.
Women’s voice must be heard in Poland: Marches of
Women’s Solidarity co-organized by the Federation for Women and Family Planning. Every
year, the Polish women’s movement and civil society celebrate International Women’s
Day on streets of big cities. In Warsaw, 1,5 thousand people joined the manifestation to
present their solidarity with women who are being constantly discriminated against in
Poland. This year, the main theme of the march was of course the right of women to
decide on the number and spacing of their children. People who joined the manifestation
strongly oppose the political initiative to totally ban abortion in Poland that will have
fatal consequences for many Polish women. Lead by women’s movement most prominent
activists, including Wanda Nowicka, Kazimiera Szczuka and Katarzyna Bratkowska, the
demonstrators went through the centre of Warsaw and stopped in front of the Sejm (Lower
House of Parliament) to make sure that their voices are heard by politicians.
Portuguese voted ‘YES’ in a referendum
for legal abortion. About
59 percent of respondents declared they are for the decriminalization of abortion on
request performed in a health public institution up to 10 weeks of pregnancy. The
referendum itself is not legally binding due to insufficient voter turnout. Now the
liberalization of the law will be voted in the Parliament, as the Prime Minister Jose
Socrates affirms. Since the Socialist party which supports legal abortion is in majority,
there is a great chance that the society’s voice pronounced in the referendum will be
reflected in the change of strict anti-abortion law in Portugal.
It seems that the time to celebrate has come for the pro-choice movement, especially
because the restrictive anti-abortion law has proved its inefficiency a number of times. A
recent case of a young woman’s death due to Misoprostol overdose confirms that illegal
abortion poses a real threat to women’s health and life. A women struggled to induce
miscarriage by using Misoprostol that has uterotonic and cervical-ripening features but
she lacked access to information on how to use this drug in a safe and proper way. Instead
of 4 pills, she took 60 and that resulted in her death.
It seems that now only Ireland and Malta will keep its anti-choice legislation. In Poland
however, we even face a dangerous backlash. There is a political initiative to amend the
Constitution in order to further restrict anti-abortion law and totally ban
Last minute news! Portugal legalized abortion.
On 8th of March 2007, the Portuguese parliament voted for the
legalization of abortion on demand up to ten weeks of pregnancy and performed in public
hospitals. The amendment of the existing restrictive anti-abortion law was strongly
supported by the ruling Socialist party and all left-wing parties, including the Greens.
Astra Network would like to congratulate to Portugal. We believe that the recognition of
the woman’s indispensable right to decide freely about the number and spacing of
children is the best gift for the International Women’s Day.
Global access to female condom
needed now claims the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE). In a press release the organization argues that
women can’t wait for new HIV Prevention Methods. CHANGE calls on UN agencies, major
foundations and bilateral aid programs such as PEPFAR (Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS
Relief) to immediately increase funding for female condoms that effectively protect not
only against unintended pregnancy but most importantly against HIV. The distribution of
this new reproductive health technology is especially important in developing countries
heavily affected by HIV/AIDS pandemic. At the moment price restricts the use of female
condoms – they cost ten times as much as male version. Providing an unrestricted access
to this HIV prevention method for women is required now, especially in the context of the
fact that women rank to most vulnerable group. They make up half of those infected with
HIV worldwide and more than 60 percent of those infected in sub-Saharan Africa.
EU: Civilization at war in Europe - Booklet by Maciej Giertych,
Polish member of European Parliament condemned for its anti-Semitism. Written by Maciej Giertych, a 32-page booklet has highly
controversial content that stays in conflict with basic rules of the European Union. This
extreme right-wing politician and religious fundamentalist claims that Jews are a
detriment to Europe and directly refers to racial theories. Maciej Giertych is known from
his extreme standpoints. He is an architect of many upsetting and shocking initiatives at
the European level, including urges to all member states to totally ban abortion and
euthanasia in Europe, not to mention his homophobic obsession and struggles to defeat the
teaching of Darwin’s evolution theory at schools. This dangerous booklet has been
condemned by all political parties of the European Parliament. It seems obvious that it is
unacceptable for any MEP to present such highly controversial views, especially as the
booklet was issued with the European Parliament’s logo. The author of Civilization at
War in Europe beyond any shadow of a doubt will be punished by the European Union for
undertaking this intolerable action. The Polish government has also officially disapproved
of Giertych’s publication.
Maciej Giertych is the father of Polish Minister of National Education, Roman Giertych
(see below) who is also a leader of League of Polish Familes – political party that
stays in the ruling coalition in Poland. Both are very dangerous top politicians in Poland
with ambitions of making European policies consistent with radical
EU: Meeting of Education Ministers disrupted by
Polish vice prime minister – Roman Giertych.
Speech delivered by Giertych, Polish Minister of National Education at the EU meeting in
Heidelberg gave rise to scandal. Generally, Giertych urged the Member States to oppose and
end the ‘homosexual propaganda’ at schools in Europe. The Minister believes that
homosexuality is a pathology that cannot be presented in a neutral way in schools but as a
deviation from the natural norm – in other words Giertych is strongly against presenting
the topic from the human rights perspective that among others struggles to eliminate
discrimination based on sexual orientation. He stated that Poland is a country that will
always guard Christian values. In his passionate speech, Giertych confused everyone by the
urge to ban abortion in every member state because, as he believes, it is a new form of
killing millions of people a year. He also called for the criminalization of the
‘promotion of homosexuality’ – affirming that the views he expressed are the
official standpoints of the Polish government. The government did not officially respond
to Giertych’s speech.
6th February: How we celebrated International Day of
Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting? In
their statement on the International Day Against Female Genital Mutilation, United Nations
Population Fund calls for stronger government commitment to fund and implement programmes
to prevent the practice. In the press release issued by the European Commission we
read that since a long time, the European Commission has made a priority of this in
its political dialogue with the developing countries.
Although much efforts has been made to totally eliminate this harmful for women practice,
together with banning it by law, unfortunately it still remains an unbroken tradition in
some countries, although we can observe a reduction in prevalence of FGM/C in such a
countries like Kenya, Nigeria or Ethiopia.
Another important but not much acknowledged issue is that some studies show that women
harmed by FGM/C are more vulnerable for contracting HIV.
Join the online petition to end FGM/C launched by The French "Gender in
Action" network (le réseau "Genre en action") and Equilibres &
Reminder: 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.
Hearing at the European Union on International
Women’s Day. The title of the Hearing scheduled
for 8th of March is 1957 - 2007: the European Union and the advancement of women. Women
building the Future of Europe. It is organized by the EP Committee on Women’s Rights and
Gender Equality, which was established in 1984. During this special hearing the history of
achieving gender equality and empowering women within the European framework will be
presented. After elaborating past developments, the second part will focus on future
goals. Lisbon strategy, women on the labour market, migrant women, as well as ageing
society and demographics will be definitely on the agenda.
When and where?
8 March 2007, 9.00-12.00,
European Parliament, Room PHS 3C50, rue Wiertz, Brussels
More information available at: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/comparl/femm/womensday/2007/default_en.htm
Call for abstracts: Conference on Social Inclusion
and Health – Crossing the borders held in Sofia, Bulgaria. Organized by Correlation Network and supported by a number of
international agencies, including Dutch Ministry of Health and Open Society Institute and
the Bulgarian Health Ministry, the conference will be held in Sofia in September 2007. The
conference will cover a lot of issues in the field of social inclusion and health,
research and models of good practice and in particular how to influence policies and to
let voices heard. Abstract can be submitted online.
Learn more about this event at: http://www.correlation-net.org/sofia_conference/index.html
Ipas issues a new brochure Manual Vacuum
Aspirations: an Essential and Innovative Reproductive Health Commodity. This publication gives a brief account of Manual
Vacuum Aspirators (MVA) as a recommended instrument by World Health Organization and its
importance for women’s health. There are two important assumptions that lay behind this
brochure: first of all, maternal deaths caused by limited access to safe and legal
abortion are a public health issue; and secondly incorporation of MVA that is low-cost,
simple and innovative reproductive health commodity into the public health system is of
key significance. The message it conveys is addressed especially to public sector
officials as well as the donor community, including Ministry of Health, state and
municipal officials, UNFPA, UNICEF, World Bank, and other UN representatives, as well as
international reproductive health NGOs and group advocating about reproductive health
The Ipas brochure is available at: www.ipas.org/publications/en/RHMVA_E07_en.pdf
Manual Obstacles and
Opportunities – Overcoming the opposition to sexual and reproductive health and rights
published by IPPF.
The IPPF Opposition Manual aims to provide arguments, tactics and strategies to defeat
sexual and reproductive health and rights opponents. Since the opposition, including
current US administration, hierarchies of various religious entities and numerous
ultra-right wing and anti-choice fundamentalist organizations are growing in strength,
this manual appears just in time to give hints to pro-choice activists on how to deal with
Excerpts from this publication can be found online: http://www.ippf.org/NR/rdonlyres/08E7D92A-9FF6-4190-84D4-E82219D6A004/0/opp.pdf
WHO: The State of the World’s
Children 2007 Women and Children – A Double Dividend of Gender Equality. This publication examines the link between the
status of women in society, as well as private life and children’s well-being and
safety. In the foreword, Kofi A. Annan, previous Secretary – General of the United
Nations states that discrimination against women of all ages deprives the world’s
children – all of them, not just the half who are girls – of the chance to reach their
potential. The conveyed message is that gender inequality is not only harmful for women,
but also negatively affects children. Thus women’s advancement is high on the UNICEF’s
(United Nations Children’s Fund) agenda.
The report is available at: http://www.unicef.org/sowc07/docs/sowc07.pdf