CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights 

No 2 (24) 2005


table of contents:


Burning Issue - Approaching the Beijing +10.

Women’s organisations around the world, including organizations and networks from CEE/CIS region are preparing for their participation in the UN
Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) Session or so called Beijing +10 which will take place in New York from 28th  of February till 11th of
March. Women’s organizations have a lot of hopes associated with the meeting, regarding diversity of issues including reproductive rights and
economic situation of women.
Beside the meeting which will take place in New York other associated events are planned around the world. One of them being the Global Week of Action-Beijing and Beyond, a project designed to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women. All organizations are invited to join women around the world in endorsing Beijing and Beyond during the week of March 1-8, 2005.  Beijing and Beyond will be taken on locally, nationally, regionally and globally during the time that the 2005 (CSW) session in New York is reviewing government implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) as part of the official "Beijing +10" review.
As an endorser, you simply agree to initiate or collaborate on at least one action during the Week of Action.  The organizers will send you message soon giving you information about how to send us details about your events so we can post them in a calendar on our soon-to-be-launched website: www.beijingandbeyond.org
To become an endorsing organization, please respond to: endorse@beijingandbeyond.org 

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Regional Updates



Romania : egg ‘donations’. Women in Romania are increasingly deciding to donate their eggs to infertile women from other, wealthier countries including the United Kingdom . Women donors can earn up to £150 for donating their eggs, which for many women is an equivalent of a monthly wage. As far as UK women are concerned this gives them access to eggs quicker then if the relied of egg donation in their own country. While the Romanian donor women are motivated not only by the financial gain but also by the ability to help women who cannot otherwise have a children, the phenomenon is causing some ethical questions, including concerns that it may lead to exploitation of Romanian women for their eggs. For full text article go to: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4118625.stm

Source: BBC


Kazakhstan : Maternal Mortality. During the last decade the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), in collaboration with the Kazakh government, attempted to reduce the level of maternal mortality in Kazakhstan . Unfortunately this did not lead to any significant improvements.

There had been a some decline in Kazakhstan 's maternal mortality rate over the past few years (60.9 in 2000, 48.6 in 2001, and 51.8 in 2002), but the figures are still a concern.  

According to a UN country report, the main factors contributing to maternal mortality are the poor health and poor nutrition of women. This leads to complications during pregnancy and births. Sixty percent of Kazakh deliveries were with complications. Kazakh government believes that 40 percent of all maternal deaths could been prevented by improving access to quality healthcare.

This year UNICEF will provide some means to help the government to have better standards for women coming to maternity wards.

The need to retrain most of the country's gynecologists and nutritionists has been singled out as one of the tasks which need to be undertaken to improve the situation. Placing greater emphasis on prevention should be one of the elements of this retraining.

Source: Push Journal


Russia :  HIV/AIDS. According to a study by two American researchers the number of Russians with HIV/AIDS is probably at least three times the official figure of 300,000. The researchers claim that many doctors are bribed not to classify the patient's illness as one of the illnesses that carry a stigma.

The study says that if authorities want to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS they need to be more aggressive with drug therapy, prevention and education. According to the authors of the study due to the fact that the epidemic is impacting predominantly young people inaction on the behalf of the leaders of the country the consequences will be devastating to the society, to family formation, to the labour force,  and the growth of the Gross Domestic Product. The fact that over 80 percent Russian HIV/AIDS victims are under 30 years makes it very different to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in North America and Western Europe , where great majority of the victims are over 30.


Chemicals and Women and Reproductive Health. The link between use of Chemicals in every day product and women's health including reproductive health is the focus of the involvement of women's NGOs from  the EU
including new CEE EU states. These groups are lobbing for the adopting of REACH (Registration, Authorization and Evaluation of Chemicals) by the EU parliament and the Council of Ministers which represents the member states. In addition, women's groups have advocated for a strengthening of the current draft. For more information on the impact of chemicals on women's health go to 

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Global Updates


Bishops and Condoms: A Global disagreement. Spanish Catholic bishops' conference publicly acknowledging use of condoms in the fight to
prevent HIV/AIDS open a global feud among the seniors of the Catholic Church.  After a meeting with the Health Minister Elena Salgad on Tuesday, 18 January, the bishops' conference secretary general P. Juan Antonio Martínez Camino told reporters that condoms are part of the integral global prevention of AIDS. Soon after this statement was made, Spanish Catholic Church issued a statement emphasizing the fact that the bishop’s statement “must be understood in the context of Catholic doctrine, which holds that use of condoms is immoral sexual conduct.” This was a consequence by the pressure exercised by the Vatican itself. This however did not lead to the silencing of the issue.  Very soon Catholic Bishops in England and Catholic Bishops in Belgium expressed made a statement that while 37 years ago Catholic Church prohibited its followers from using condoms to avoid pregnancy, using of condos to prevent spread of HIV/AIDS is justified. This statement however is very much against the teaching of the Pope John Paul II would. The most remarkable element of the debate was a recent statement made by a Vatican bishop Georges Cottier who stated that condoms should be considered to be justifiable if used to prevent spread of AIDS in poor countries. Let us hope that this debate will lead to the changes in the teaching of the Catholic Church which still remains both: extremely influential in many countries and effectively blind to the nature of the HIV epidemics.


Tax to fight HIV/AIDS. French President Jacques Chirac's during his speech at World Economic Forum in Davos , Switzerland , proposed to introduce a global tax on international financial transactions to raise $10 billion annually to fight HIV/AIDS. Many politicians and investors reacted very coolly to this proposal. Chirac also proposed that a small tax be added to the cost of every airline ticket (three billion of airline tickets are sold each year). Chirac said that the funding could be raised without hampering markets and could be used to provide antiretroviral treatment to more HIV-positive people in developing countries, support HIV prevention campaigns and contribute to research on an HIV/AIDS vaccine. He called on leaders from Britain , Canada , France , Germany , Italy , Japan , Russia and the United States to debate his proposals at the G8 summit in Scotland in July. The Bush administration reacted with "deep skepticism" about Chirac's proposal. Tony Blair also said it is important to "be clear" that the "overall purpose is to raise the aid commitment to Africa ". Multibillionaire Bill Gates, who founded of Microsoft questioned how long Chirac's plan might take to be implemented and that during this time millions of lives will be lost.
Source: www.keisernetwork.org


World Turning a Blind Eye to HIV/AIDS epidemic. It has been argued that while being very willing to help those affected by the December 2004 tsunami the world has turned a blind eye to the HIV/AIDS. While each month 191,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa die from AIDS-related diseases many Europeans and Americans to some extend believe that people suffering in Africa are somehow to blame for their illness or that their situation is so bad that they cannot be helped. This is despite the fact that the majority of new HIV infections are among married, monogamous women. Source: www.keysernetwork.org


HIV/AIDS not Addressed Adequately. According to the Survey released by World Economic Forum businesses worldwide are falling behind in the fight against HIV/AIDS and leaving a "black hole" in health care and education. According to the survey of nearly 9,000 corporate leaders in 104 countries, more than 70% have no HIV/AIDS strategy.  Only 7% have formal written policies. This is despite that approximately 14,000 people contract HIV each day and that this may cripple economies and decimate work forces in the future. To see the full text of the report go to: http://www.weforum.org/site/homepublic.nsf/Content/Global+Health+Initiative%5CGHI+Global+Business+Survey

Source: World Economic Forum


Bush Administration Pledges for Global HIV/AIDS. For detail polemics on if Bushes Admistraiotion has or has not met its pledges for global HIV/AIDS go to http://www.kaisernetwork.org/daily_reports/rep_index.cfm?DR_ID=27842


Tsunami and Sexual and Reproductive Health. Marie Stopes International has draft letter to the EU ministers requesting to add sexual and reproductive health supplies and services to their emergency packages when dealing with disasters such as the Tsunami. ASTRA has signed this letter. The letter pointed to the fact that local health care infrastructure has literally been washed away in many of the affected communities, creating huge problems for women in particular. This includes women who are pregnant or facing complications of pregnancy, including trauma-induced miscarriages. The letter also pointed out that children, and girls in particular, are very vulnerable targets for violence and trafficking and need special attention in the development of humanitarian aid.


Male Contraceptive Pill. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts are expected to announce a licensing deal with Norwegian biotech company SpermaTech aimed at developing a male contraceptive pill using a new technique that immobilizes sperm and in theory prevents them from fertilizing an egg. The researchers believe that "turning off" sperm's tails might prevent them from fertilizing an egg. Researchers from the University of Massachusetts and SpermaTech will now test the theory on humans and conduct other lab work to create a male pill. Unfortunately process could take up to 10 years. The resulting contraceptive, however, is likely to have few side effects, be easy to take and would be a reversible form of contraception. The existence of alternative methods of birth control is exceedingly important, particularly methods that men can use and where the responsibility for contraception becomes a shared responsibility of the couple, rather then exclusively responsibility of the woman. Reproductive health specialists say that a male birth control pill could lead to a new era of sexual relations and bring new issues of trust and power but could also bring a potential increase in sexually transmitted diseases if men stop using condoms.
Source: www.keisernetwork.org  

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Reproductive Rights on the Agenda



Limited impact of Abstinence-only Sex Education. While in many countries of our region quality sex education is often replaced by pseudo-education focusing on abstinence as a form of prevention against unwanted pregnancy and STDs, more evidence is available indication that this is not the most effective method. For example a research conducted in US state of Texas , and funded by Texas Department of Health shows that abstinence-only sex education programs have had "little impact" on Texas teenagers' behavior. Five abstinence-only sex education programs at more than 24 schools across Texas were examined. The study found that 23% of ninth-grade girls reported having had sexual intercourse before they received abstinence education, a percentage below the national average. However, the study found that 28% of the same girls reported having had sexual intercourse after receiving abstinence education, a percentage that is "closer to that of their peers across the state". In addition, the study found that the percentage of ninth-grade boys reporting having had sexual intercourse remained unchanged before and after abstinence education. The percentage of 10th grade boys reporting sexual activity "jumped" from 24% to 39% after participating in abstinence education.

Source: Kaiser Network


Portugal: Abortion Referendum. Portugal 's opposition Socialists have promised to hold a referendum to make its strict abortion laws more liberal. The referendum will take place if the Socialist will wing the coming elections. In Portugal abortion is banned except in case of danger to the life or health of the mother, a malformed fetus or rape. A referendum on the issue was held in 1998. The referendum was characterized by low voter turnout, but still it narrowly defeated a proposal to allow abortion on demand up to 10 weeks of pregnancy. The country’s Family Planning Association has estimated annually  20,000 to 40,000 illegal abortions are performed in the country.

Source: Push Journal

China: abortion of female fetuses. The Chinese government is taking measures to strengthen current laws banning selective abortion of female fetuses in order to correct the country's imbalance in the ratio of boys to girls. This imbalance is partly due to the country's one-child-per-family policy. According to the latest Chinese government’s statistics, 119 boys are born in the country for every 100 girls. In the rest of the world 106 boys are born for every 100 girls. Sex-selective abortion is already banned in China but still it continues to take place. According to some demographers, correcting the imbalance in China's male-to-female ratio will be difficult due to cultural reasons, where in some social groups and geographic localities boys are seen as more ‘valuable’ then girls. Inheritance laws also make boys more valuable to their families than girls. Source: www.keysernetwork.org  

Rights of the Disabled and Abortion. United Nation diplomats are drafting an international treaty on the rights of the disabled debated a possibility of banning the abortion of fetuses with disabilities.

The debate of diplomats on the issue was extremly emotional. It resulted in diplomats deferring action on the ban because it was too controversial.

The United Nations (news - websites) has been writing a treaty addressing the rights of the world's 600 million disabled since 2001. It is possible that it will be completed by the end of 2006 and ratified by enough governments to take force in 2009 at the latest.

Source: United Nations (Reuters)

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Upcoming Events


Conference: 'Demographic challenges for social cohesion'. Council of Europe Conference on 'Demographic challenges for social cohesion', will take place in  Strasbourg , 7 -8 April 2005. The Conference will provide a timely occasion to exchange ideas, experiences and good practices on the issue of demographic challenges for social cohesion. For more details and to access conference documentation please go to.  http://www.coe.int/Population <http://www.coe.int/Population . If you would like to register for this Conference, please send application form (available at the above websites) to the organizers: ruth.goodwin@coe.int.



Conference: Women's Health Rights. A conference “Health Rights, Women’s Lives: Challenges and Strategies for Movement Building . 10th International Women and Health Meeting  will be held in 21 – 25 of September 2005 in New Delhi , India . The aim of the conference will be address the issue of women’s health as a fundamental right. It will provide forum for discussion issues and the challenges that they pose for working towards operationalizing health, it will also enable diverse range of participants to network, strategize. More information of the conference will be available in next issues of Astra Bulletin.

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Call for Proposals


European Commission's 2005 Public Health programme announced a call for proposals. The deadline for applications is 14 April 2005 and details can be found here: http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/health/ph_programme/howtoapply/call_for_propal_en.htm).

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Funding Opportunity


An opportunity exists to host the Secretariat for the Sexual Violence Research Initiatives.  SVRI aims to create a network of experienced and committed researchers, policymakers, activists and donors who will work together to make progress towards redressing the many gaps in knowledge on sexual violence.  Institutions in low- and middle-income countries are particularly invited to apply. Deadline for proposals:  17:00 CET, 21 February 2005. More information: www.globalforumhealth.org/FilesUpld/91.pdf

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Links and Publications


New-Look website. Pro-Choice Public Education Project (PEP) website has a new look, and renovations are now complete. Visit www.protectchoice.org to see newly updated content, images and


New IPAS Publications:

 Ensuring women’s access to safe abortion: Essential strategies for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  By Hessini, Leila. January 2005.
This flyer examines the global abortion situation within the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG) framework and reveals how the elimination of unsafe abortion can help achieve the MDGs while promoting social and economic justice, human rights and public health. The publication is available in English and Spanish and you can access it at: http://www.ipas.org/publications/en/MDGFLY_E05_en.pdf


Achieving ICPD commitments for abortion care in Latin America : The unfinished agenda. Relying on results from an extensive survey of key stakeholders in Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico, Nicaragua and Uruguay, this report concludes that political, economic and social forces-especially conservative religious forces-in Latin America have significantly impeded the implementation of the holistic reproductive and health rights recommendations that were made at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo ten years ago.


Source: IPAS



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