Government to appeal
the European Court of Human Rights’ decision in the case of Tysiac v. Poland.
This information was announced on 19th June 2007 by the deputy prime minister Roman
Giertych. In March of this year, the court found that Poland had violated Article 8
(right to respect privacy and family life) of the European Convention for the Protection
of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Ms. Tysiac was denied access to
therapeutic abortion on medical grounds, even thought the pregnancy posed a serious threat
to her health and fell squarely within the bounds for legal abortion under the Polish
constitution. Upon receiving the decision, the Polish government appointed a special
intergovernmental committee to investigate the verdict. The Commission now
claims to have found procedural and substantive grounds for an appeal. Many lawyers
believe that the European Court of Human Rights will reject the appeal; Wanda Nowicka from
the Federation for Women and Family Planning expressed much regret that the government has
chosen to continue to battle against Alicia and other women in similarly devastating
situations, rather than focusing on providing support and care. In the meantime, radical
ultra-right wing anti-choice circles have announced that they are working on a legislative
proposal to once again attempt to introduce a total ban on abortion in Poland. It is still
not known if it will be presented in the form of a civic or a parliamentarian
initiative. Women’s organizations including the Federation are preparing a counterattack
and will not give up the fight for women’s rights.
Source: Federation for Women and Family Planning; by Reilly Anne Dempsey
ASTRA Youth YES Campaign launched! On 1st
June 2007, International Children’s Day, the ASTRA Youth delegation together with CESI:
Center for Education, Counselling and Research, organized a presentation for governmental
representatives, Croatian MPs, political stakeholders, NGOs and media. After an
introduction speech from Sanja Cesar of CESI, ASTRA Youth representatives explained why
there was an urgent need to develop the YES Campaign and elaborated on the alarming
situation of young people’s knowledge of sexual and reproductive health in the region by
referring to the findings of ASTRA Youth research conducted in 2006, along with other
On Saturday, 2nd of June 2007, ASTRA Youth and CESI organized a public street event to
promote the YES campaign and meet the young people that crowded to the city center.
Attendees included members of the Croatian Youth Net, the International Federation of
Medical Students’ Associations, and even a pair of jugglers! We had a stand with
materials such as t-shirts, condoms and leaflets, as well as peer educators who were
always ready to demonstrate proper condom use on a phantom penis. Anyone who could then
correctly do the same after watching the educator received a t-shirt as a reward. Within
about one hour we handed out nearly 100 t-shirts, while volunteers spoke with young people
on the streets and handed out leaflets with condoms attached. Promotional coasters were
given to people sitting in nearby cafes.
The reactions of young people and bystanders to our YES campaign were very enthusiastic.
We managed to collect many signatures under our manifesto and received positive,
supportive feedback. Young people liked the design of the materials and were especially
happy to receive condoms that were donated to ASTRA Youth for the purposes of this
campaign by the MTV Staying-Alive Foundation.
According to the World Bank, Central and Eastern Europe is
the fastest shrinking region. A report issued by the World Bank indicates
that former Soviet republics and Eastern Europe will be the oldest societies in the world
by the year 2025, bringing about potentially severe economic consequences. This is
largely a result of an extremely sharp decrease in fertility rates. At present, the median
age of the population in the region is 38 but will increase to 49 by 2050. It is also
estimated that the overall population will shrink by 24 million over the next two decades.
The percentage of elderly people (65 +) will also significantly increase. All in all,
these findings pose a considerable challenge to the region’s economic situation and will
require the establishment of new provisions to address these demographic trends.
Recommendations include speeding up economic transitions and reviewing pension funds as
well as health care systems. Moreover, productivity and labour market participation needs
to be increased.
The report is available at:
Source: CCMC PUSH Journal; 20/06/2007
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in cooperation with
the Council of Europe appoints experts to examine the situation of youth in nine countries
of the CEE region and Balkans. The overall aim of this initiative is to
evaluate national youth policies and programmes in light of striving to achieve the
Millennium Development Goals, with special attention paid to health issues, poverty
reduction, combating domestic violence, and promoting youth participation.. Experts will
also attempt to identify the most pressing specific issues for youth as well as assess
needs in order to adequately address them within the UNFPA framework. The investigation,
using the methodology and benchmarks developed by the Council of Europe, includes the
following countries: Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Estonia, Poland, Macedonia, Romania and Serbia.
The experts appointed by UNFPA will visit each country and meet with governmental
representatives and civil society representatives. The reports that will constitute the
final outcome of this investigation will likely be a very useful advocacy tool for NGOs
and other stakeholders.
Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner examined the
situation in Poland. Presented on the 20th of June in a Strasbourg
Memorandum on Poland is the outcome of an investigation that included the Commissioner’s
formal visit to Poland in December 2006. The document verifies how Poland implemented the
2002 recommendations formulated by the previous Human Rights Commissioner. It emphasized
that discrimination on a number of grounds remains a significant problem in the country
and calls for an urgent government response. One chapter is fully devoted to women and
reproductive rights, highlighting that the quality of Polish sexuality education is
seriously questioned by NGOs. The Commissioner also noted that access to legal abortion
for women in Poland is frequently hindered.
The memorandum further emphasizes the problem of overcrowded prisons and inefficiencies of
the judicial system. It is highly recommended that Poland establish an independent
body that will be responsible for investigations of police malpractice.
You can access the memorandum at:
POLAND: UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Paul
Hunt, paid informal visit to the country. In light of the recent political
pressure on women’s right to health and heated debates on safe abortion, the Federation
for Women and Family Planning invited Paul Hunt to speak on the right to health and sexual
and reproductive rights. Professor Hunt explained how human rights strengthen public
health in many ways, especially sexual and reproductive health. As the nexus between human
rights and public health, the right to health can make important contribution to health
programming and policies. Importantly, a human rights based approach to health
interrogates public health and asks the necessary awkward questions: are the voices of
girls and women being heard? Is the health program reaching the poor? What is
the impact of the industrial plant on the neighboring community? Is health care
accessible or is the government taking steps towards progressive realization of access to
health care? Is data being disaggregated? What are the maternal mortality rates?
Are health programs respectful of minority customs and cultures? Human rights
also require answers. If health outcomes are not improving, why? And what are
the authorities going to do about it? Human rights identify obstacles and take all
reasonable steps to overcome those obstacles and keep the community informed. Human
rights do not aim to blame and punish, but to find out what works and what doesn’t.
A human rights based approach to sexual and reproductive health includes such
elements as: entitlements to sexual and reproductive health care services, that are
accessible, acceptable, available, and of good quality, access to information about sexual
and reproductive health and rights, a wide range of services, spanning the life cycle from
family planning to emergency obstetric care to safe and accessible abortion, and
principles such as accountability, transparency, non-discrimination, privacy, and
Comments and questions from the panelists and audience covered topics of gender
discrimination in access to contraception and emergency contraception, issues such as
infertility, voluntary sterilization, and mental health, and, of course, safe and
accessible therapeutic abortion in Poland. Participants discussed how to utilize the
right to health to advocate and advance sexual and reproductive rights in the current
political climate in Poland.
Source: Federation for Women and Family Planning; by Reilly Anne Dempsey
RUSSIAN FEDERATION: Violation of the right to assembly at
the Gay Parade in Moscow. Human Rights Watch and the European Region of
the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA-Europe) are highly alarmed by the
violent attacks on peaceful gay pride demonstrators in Moscow in late May. Representatives
from both organizations witnessed the incident in Moscow and documented the blatant human
rights violations. According to their reports, police together with skinheads and counter
demonstrators attacked the Gay Pride participants. The police acted with unjustified
violence and failed to protect peaceful gay demonstrators against dangerous and armed
aggressors. Moreover, several organizers of Moscow’s lesbian and gay pride festival were
thrown in jail for as long as 24 hours, including Volker Beck, a member of the German
Bundestag, and Marco Cappato, a member of the European Parliament, with a European
More information is available in the Human Rights Watch/ILGA-Europe briefing paper at:
RUSSIA’S NORTH CAUCASUS: Dramatic rise in HIV/AIDS cases.
While exact numbers are not known, official registers show an extremely steep rise in HIV
infected individuals. In Chechnya, the number of HIV/AIDS cases has doubled and reached
the overwhelming number of 13.2 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 2006. What is especially
concerning in this context is the lack of HIV/AIDS treatment centers in this region. There
used to be one in the capital, Grozny, but it was unfortunately closed in 1994 due to the
lingering conflict in Chechnya. It is believed that intensified migration of fighters and
refugees has contributed to the spread of the virus in the north Caucasus. Another problem
that is not being adequately addressed now is the stigma linked to HIV-status.
Source: Kaiser Network, 19/06/2007
USA: Man who intentionally infected women with HIV is now
sentenced for life. It is the second time the case
of Sean L. Sykes, diagnosed as HIV-positive in 1990, has been in court. Sykes had
already been sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1997, but went on parole after just 5
years. He is guilty of consciously concealing his HIV-status to his sexual partners and
having regular unprotected sexual intercourse. Freed at liberty, he continued infecting
women with HIV and this time has been sentenced for life. Sykes has been recognized as a
Presently, there is a similar case in Poland. The prosecutor’s office is investigating
the case of a man with refugee status who, aware of his HIV-status, repeatedly
refused to use a condom and infected several young women with HIV, exactly how many is
Source; Gazeta Wyborcza Daily; 14/06/2007
Vatican condemns Amnesty International (AI). Recently, Amnesty International, one of the most respected human rights
organizations worldwide, has broken its lingering silence on the abortion issue and
developed a position on a woman’s right to terminate pregnancy. Even though AI’s
recognition of the right to decide is of limited scope, this marks a landmark shift in the
organization’s policy (reported in a previous edition of the bulletin:
http://www.astra.org.pl/48_issue.htm). Although the organization recognizes a women’s
right to abortion as a human right, it continuously claims that it remains “neutral on
abortion”. The Vatican’s severe critique came quickly on the heels of the release of
the policy statement., accusing AI of promoting abortion and therefore promoting death..
Moreover, it urged all the Catholics to withdraw support and donations for Amnesty.
More information on AI’s position on abortion is available at:
Source: BBC News 14/06/2007
New data on international funding for combating HIV. Released just before the G8 Summit, a report of the Joint United Nations
Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) indicates that
global funding for fighting HIV/AIDS has generally increased, but still fails to reach
sufficient levels to cover estimated needs. The following sources of funding in low and
middle-income countries have been investigated: the G8, the European Commission, and
national governments. At present, the United States, the Netherlands, and the United
Kingdom remain the most significant government contributors.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel together with Development Minister Heidemarie
Wieczorek-Zeul stated that Germany will increase its Official Development Assistance (ODA)
by 14% in 2008.
More information is available at: http://www.kff.org/hivaids/upload/PressNote060507.pdf
The full report on “Financing the Response to AIDS in Low- and Middle- Income Countries:
International Assistance from the G8, European Commission and Other Donor Governments,
2006” is available at: http://www.kff.org/hivaids/upload/7347_03.pdf
First year of the new UN Human Rights Council (HRC)
reviewed at its 5th session. The United Nations body
replacing the previous Human Rights Commission aims to protect human rights around the
globe with its 47 members. They recently agreed in the adopted Presidential text to set up
rules introducing new obligations for member states. First, the universal periodic
review (UPR) mechanism has been established requiring scrutiny of human rights records.
There is an agreed principle that UPR must include a gender perspective and that NGOs
may also submit reports. North Korea, Cambodia and Sudan have been identified
as countries that need special scrutiny regarding their compliance with human rights. Cuba
and Belarus have been removed from this “black list”. Moreover, tools, agendas, and
working methods for the upcoming years have been adopted.
The next regular session of the Council will be held from 10th to 28th September 2007.
Source: BBC News 19/06/2007
Population Action International (PAI) launches new website.
You can visit it at www.populationaction.org
New Trojan condom advertisement that raised controversy.
Can be seen at: http://trojanevolve.com/
Sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people
– New resources. The Interagency Youth Working Group has launched new
website with resources on youth reproductive health and HIV/AIDS which might very valuable
and interesting for anyone concerned about this issues.
Available at: http://www.infoforhealth.org/youthwg/
Cervical Cancer Petition. Cervical cancer
could be virtually eliminated by effective prevention programmes. Solving the cervical
cancer problem in Europe is now a matter of implementing the proper public health
policies. The European Parliament Cervical Cancer Interest Group and the European Cervical
Cancer Association have therefore launched the “STOP Cervical Cancer Petition” calling
upon the European Parliament, the Commission, and national governments to work together to
implement these programmes without further delay. To sign the petition go to
Source: Karat News, June 2007
European Disability Forum (EDF) asks to support their
petition for the right of disabled women and men. EDF is a platform for
organizations representing 50 million disabled individuals in European member states. It
promotes, monitors, and protects fundamental freedoms and human rights of people with
disabilities through active involvement in policy development and implementation in the
The petition can be signed at: http://www.1million4disability.eu
UNFPA launches new report: State of the World Population 2007. The
subtitle of this important annual publication indicates the main area of concern which is
Unleashing the Potential of Urban Growth.
The electronic version of the report can be downloaded from: