CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights 

No 3 (25) 2005


table of contents:


Burning Issue 

Beijing +10


The 49th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women on Review and Appraisal of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA ) was held in New York UN Headquarters from 27 February till 11 March 2005. The session brought together ministers from numerous countries and thousands of women from all over the world. The first week of the conference was mainly dedicated to the adoption of the declaration reaffirming the BPfA.  
The BPfA was adopted ten years ago in 1995 during the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing , by representatives from 184 governments in presence of and collaboration with  women from nearly 2,500 nongovernmental organizations from the whole world. Platform for Action among other important issues recognized that sexual and reproductive health and rights are key to the achievement of women’s empowerment, their human rights and gender equality.

After hot negotiations under the pressure of progressive government and houndreds of women groups the US government withdrew their amendment to a Declaration of inserting language of so called “new rights” in order to restrict abortion rights which if adopted would seriously undermine the achievements made by international community in Beijing
On Friday March the 6th the Declaration was adopted without any reservations. Luxembourg 's Minister for Equal Opportunities, speaking on behalf of the EU at a plenary session, said its members support "a full, unequivocal and universal reaffirmation". 
As Ms. Kyung-wha Kang, Chairperson of the CSW stated on 4 March 2005:  “The delegates who are returning home after today, including the many ministers who have stayed throughout the week for the adoption of the Declaration, will be able to take this positive reaffirmation back to their constituencies and celebrate International Women’s Day next Tuesday at home.”

The second week of the CSW was focused on a number of special resolutions. On Friday the Commission  approved 10 resolutions. 1. Gender Mainstreaming in National Policies and Programmes; Trafficking; 3. Women’s Economic Advancement; 4. Integrating a gender perspective in post-disaster relief, particularly in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster; 5. INSTRAW; 6. Women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS; 7. Indigenous Women; 8. Special Rapporteur on Laws that discriminate against women; 9. The situation and assistance to Palestinian Women; 10. The situation of women and girls in Afghanistan

The UN conference was accompanied by extremely numerous side events organized by NGOs, UN Agencies and governments. 
The adoption of the Declaration reaffirming Beijing at 10 was a significant success of progressive governments and international women’s movement.  
Wanda Nowicka


Declaration adopted by the CSW at its forty-ninth session

We, the representatives of Governments (…);

1. Reaffirm the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly;

2. Welcome the progress made thus far towards achieving gender equality, stress that challenges and obstacles remain in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, and, in this regard, pledge to undertake further action to ensure their full and accelerated implementation;

3. Emphasize that the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action is essential to achieving the internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration,1 and stress the need to ensure the integration of a gender perspective in the high-level plenary meeting on the review of the Millennium Declaration;

4. Recognize that the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the fulfilment of the obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women are mutually reinforcing in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women;

5. Call upon the United Nations system, international and regional organizations, all sectors of civil society, including non-governmental organizations, as well as all women and men, to fully commit themselves and to intensify their contributions to the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly.


New York , 28 February 2005 – Kofi Annan’s remarks at the opening of the session of the Commission on the Status of Women Marking Beijing + 10 (fragments): “Ten years ago, women gathered in Beijing and took a giant step forward. As a result, the world recognized explicitly that gender equality is critical to the development and peace of every nation.
Ten years on, women are not only more aware of their rights: they are more able to exercise them. If we are to change the historical legacy that puts women at a disadvantage in most societies, we must implement what we have learnt on a larger scale.
We must take specific, targeted action on a number of fronts. The report of the Millennium Project Task Force on Education and Gender Equality outlines seven strategic priorities for doing just that.
They represent seven specific investments and policies that can be applied readily over the coming decade, on a scale large enough to make a real difference. 
First, strengthen girl's access to secondary as well as primary education. Education holds the key to unlocking most of the obstacles facing girls and women ­ from being forced into early marriage, to vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and other diseases.

Second, guarantee sexual and reproductive health and rights. How can we achieve real equality when half a million women die of pregnancy-related causes every year ­ causes that are entirely preventable?

Third, invest in infrastructure to reduce women's and girls' time burdens. What are the prospects for girls and women who are forced to spend half of every day gathering water, fuel and other necessities for their families?
Fourth, guarantee women's and girls' property and inheritance rights. How can women climb out of poverty without access to land and housing? And without that security, how can they protect themselves against the impact of HIV/AIDS? 
The same goes for the fifth priority -- eliminating gender inequality in employment. And a good job is also a woman's best protection against falling prey to trafficking.
Sixth, increase women's share of seats in national parliaments and local government. Equality of opportunity in policy-making is not only a human right; it is a prerequisite for good governance.
And seventh, redouble efforts to combat violence against girls and women. That means leadership in showing, by example, that when it comes to violence against women and girls, there are no grounds for tolerance and no tolerable excuses.”


Human Rights and Beijing + 10. Some comments: 

Charlotte Bunch, Center for Women’s Global Leadership. Despite some efforts to weaken the gains of the 1990’s in the first week of the B10 review, the BPFA was affirmed and remains a building block in the interpretation of the meaning of human rights from the perspective of women’s lives. 
The US and some other governments said that they wanted it made clear  that the BPFA does not create ‘new rights.’  But what women have gained throughout the past two decades is a growing body of work interpreting human rights from the perspective of women’s lives.  These are not ‘new rights’ per se, but they are the application to women’s lives of the same human rights spelled out in the Universal Declaration for Human Rights – to freedom of speech and assembly, to freedom from torture and degrading treatment in all spheres, to food, shelter, meaningful work, etc.     
So while these are not ‘new rights’ in the legal sense, nevertheless, we should be clear about understanding what the US is trying to do in terms of pushing back the interpretation of women’s rights as human rights.  CEDAW, the BPfA and a number of other documents and interpretations made by human rights bodies over the past decade do spell out what it means to realize the human rights of women, and we must not let them be turned back.   These are vital tools in the women’s rights struggle. The reaction against them must be understood as a threat to women’s human rights precisely because we have begun to expand the understanding of human rights from a feminist perspective.

Brigitta Jaksa, Habeas Corpus, Hungary, ASTRA member. The frustration about human rights advocacy nowadays includes the pressure to define and redefine human rights as discourse all over the world is shifted by groups abusing human rights of women.
I never thought ever before that I will be put into a position where I have to differentiate between
real human rights of women and those human rights of (?) that are claimed by pro life groups, mostly encouraged by the US government. This is a discourse where concepts like the human rights of women (as agreed before in documents like the CEDAW and the Beijing Platform for Action) are turned upside down and blurred to the extent where anything can be a human right if we call it that.(…)



We, representatives of national, regional and global civil society organizations and networks applaud the unequivocal and unanimous support by all the governments to the full reaffirmation of the Beijing Platform for action at the 49th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
We call upon governments while reaffirming the Beijing Platform and preparing for the Millennium Summit in September 2005, to prevent the fragmentation of the overall human development agenda. Specifically, we note that the realization of the Millennium Declaration and of the Millennium Development Goals depends upon the empowerment of all women, the attainment of gender equality and the acknowledgement of women’s rights. This requires full implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, the CEDAW, UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and other recognized international human rights instruments. 
Sustainable development, global security, respect for human rights, and a world free from poverty, violence, racial and all other forms of discrimination – are integral parts of ONE AGENDA. None of these can be fulfilled in isolation. None of these can be fulfilled unless sufficient resources are made available, not just pledged.  None of these can be fulfilled without the full respect for women’s rights and also a genuine participation of civil society.
We call on your political will to bring the spirit of the 49th CSW session to the Millennium Summit and to ensure that the ONE AGENDA approach defines the outcome of the Summit .  Make the Millennium Summit REAL.

NB.  Most of the position papers and statements at the Conference from the CEE/CIS region made strong references to the reproductive and health rights of women. See for example www.eurosur.org/wide/UN/WIDE_CSW05.pdf;  www.karat.org

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At the European Union: 

Ministerial Declaration adopted on the Conference of Ministers of Gender Equality European Union Ministers, Luxembourg , 4 February 2005.

We, the Ministers of the 25 EU Member States responsible for gender equality policy participating in the European Ministerial Conference held in Luxembourg on 4 February 2005 in the context of the Beijing + 10 Review of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of the 23rd session of the General Assembly 2000;(…)
Reaffirm our strong support for and commitment to the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women, the Beijing + 5 Political Declaration and Outcome Document of the twenty-third Special Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, as well as the agreed conclusions adopted at the sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women since Beijing; (…)
Emphasise that gender equality can not be achieved without guaranteeing women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, and reaffirm that expanding access to sexual and reproductive health information and health services are essential for achieving the Beijing Platform for Action, the Cairo Programme of Action and the Millennium Development Goals; (…)”
The full text is available on ASTRA website: http://www.astra.org.pl/ministerial_dec.htm

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Regional Updates 

Czech Republic : Czechs Prefer Condoms. According to a poll conducted between last March and September by the Median polling institute condoms are the most used contraceptive in Czech Republic followed by hormonal pills. Czechs believe that it is the woman who should. Other methods of contraception are much less popular. They include hormonal injections, IUDs and mechanical contraceptives for women such as the femidom female condoms and pessary. The pool fund that 53 percent of Czechs are of the view that it is the woman who should ensure contraception. The view is opposed by 46 percent of those polled. 
Source: Push Journal

Poland : no change to abortion law. Despite hopes of all people concerned as well as efforts of numerous women's NGOs, individual women, men and some politicians there will not be changes to the law regulating reproductive rights (including abortion) in Poland . Under current law, abortion is banned except in cases of rape, incest, when the fetus is deformed or when the woman's health is in danger. Under the law, a woman who gets an illegal abortion is not punished, but the person providing the abortion (for example doctor), or person who ‘assists’ the woman in getting an abortion (e.g person telling her when she can get it, taxi driver knowingly driving her there) can face up to two years in prison. Women's groups allege that the law, which contributed to a reduction in the number of legal registered abortions in Poland from 135 564 in 1985 to 124 in 2001, has led to as many as 200,000 illegal abortions annually. A draft bill was to be discussed by the parliament on February 15th. The Draft Law on Responsible Parenthood addressed diverse issues related to reproductive rights. One of the issues covered was access to abortion. If the bill was passed pregnancy up to 12 weeks could be terminated on demand. This would mean fundamental change for many Polish women forced to undergo costly illegal abortions or go on with unwanted pregnancy. However in the vote MPs decided not even to discuss the bill (let alone to pass it); 183 MPs wanted to consider the draft bill, 199 were against it, and 7 did not vote on the issue. Fundamental Right wing parties (League of Polish Families and Law and Justice) were strongly opposing the bill, which was prepared by the Alliance of Democratic Left. In the period leading to the vote if the bill was going to be discussed League of Polish Families sent hundreds of tiny dolls meant to look like a 10-week-old fetus to fellow legislators and reporters. The dolls came in a box that said, "Your life also began at conception." The Catholic Church sent lawmakers a letter saying the changes "would be a crime against the nation, especially in light of the very low birth rate."  

Lithuania : opposition to medical abortion. Lithuanian Ministry of Health opposes to legalization of medical abortion. While currently medical abortion is not legal in Lithuania . According to the opinion poll conducted in 2004, 63% of the population was in favour of a legalization of medical abortion in Lithuania . Additionally, a small scale survey conducted among women coming to hospital for an abortion showed that 85% of them (200 women responded to the survey) would choose a medical abortion if it was legal.
The results of these two surveys together with an appeal from several women's organizations and the WHO recommendations regarding medical abortion were sent to the Ministry of Health with the request to legalize medical abortion. Unfortunately, the answer from the Ministry of Health was negative. 
For more information, please contact Esmeralda Kuliesyte, at lithfpa@takas.lt

Russia : Gender Equality. According to the Russian representative’s statement at the 49th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York . The economic growth in Russia in the recent years affected positively the position of women, provided conditions for increasing their employment rate, minimal and average salaries, birth allowances and allowances for children. He noted that the improvement to the position of women is connected to the implementation by Russia of the Beijing Platform of Action. The national plan of actions for 2001-2005 is the main document that is aimed at the improvement of the position of women in Russia and the achievement of equality of sexes, Bereznoi recalled. Additionally gender aspects are included in state programmes including those addressing health care. In context of issues that Astra is focusing on (reproductive rights) this is particularly important.
Source: Push Journal

Slovakia : Women's Machinery. Slovak NGOs urged Slovak government to reverse its decision to erode women’s machinery in the country. One of the efforts in this area included writing a letter (date 8th of March 2005) which was signed by numerous women’s organizations participating in the United Nations 49th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women for the 10-Year Review of the Implementation of the Beijing Platform signed a letter addressed to Slovak Prime Minister. The letter express their deep concerned upon learning that the Slovak Department for Equal Opportunities and Antidiscrimination in the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Family was replaced by a new Department for Family and Gender Policies. The signatures of the letter believed that sole institutional mechanism dealing explicitly with the gender equality in Slovakia will thus disappear. They also believed that the replacement was an attempt to limit the gender equality agenda and to diminish equal opportunities and antidiscrimination issues from the overall agenda of the Ministry without the establishment of new satisfactory mechanisms. Further they expressed their disappointment that that this decision was made at the moment when Slovakia , together with other governments, reaffirmed the principles set forth in the Beijing Platform for Action, one of which obligates state parties to establish and empower an independent governmental body on gender equality.   

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Global Updates


Early Motherhood May Shorten A Woman's Life. A study of childbirth and longevity conducted in Finland has revealed that women who become mothers early in life tend to die younger. The study has found a correlation between the age at which a woman had her first child, the number of children she had, and the age at which she died. The scientists behind the study believe the findings indicate that women who delay starting a family and have fewer children may have a natural tendency to live longer than women who become mothers at a young age. No trade-off in longevity was found for fatherhood. 
Source: Push Journal

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Reproductive Rights on the Agenda 

Open Letter to Anna Zaborska. On February 24th Open Letter has been sent to Ms. Anna Záborská, Chair of the Women's Committee of the European Parliament signed by ASTRA members and many other NGOs and individuals. In the letter signatories, as the international community working on sexual and reproductive health and rights and aiming for the full implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Cairo Programme of Action, expressed its appreciation of the commitment to gender equality of the European Union expressed in the Ministerial Declaration of the Conference of Ministers of Gender Equality, Luxembourg, February 4, 2005. This Declaration emphasises "that gender equality cannot be achieved without guaranteeing women's sexual and reproductive health and rights, and reaffirm that expanding access to sexual and reproductive health information and health services are essential for achieving the Beijing Platform for Action, the Cairo Programme of Action and the Millennium Development Goals". At the same time the letter underlined the fact that the situation, even within the European Union, does not comply with this Declaration or with other adopted agreements. The letter then went on to describe the situation in Poland , Lithuania and Slovakia . Further, it stated that ten years after the Fourth Women's Global Conference in Beijing it is a time to evaluate the fulfilment of the Beijing Platform for Action and take appropriate actions and measures to ensure the commitment of member states to international conventions. It urged Ms Záborská to address sexual and reproductive health and rights in the European Union, more specifically in the context of the Women's Committee, and to take urgent action particularly on the cases listed above. The letter available at: http://www.astra.org.pl/zaborska.htm  

Change of the definition of death. Vatican has taken some serious steps to change the definition of death in the light of the belief that current generally accepted definition (so called Harvard definition) is ‘inappropriate for the Church. If Vatican succeeds this has can detrimental impact on the Sexual and Reproductive Rights around the world.  

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Upcoming Events 

10th International Women’s Health Meeting. The 10th International Women and Health Meeting: Health Rights, Women's Lives: Challenges & Strategies for Movement Building will take place on September 21-25, 2005, in New Delhi , India . The International Women and Health Meeting (IWHM) has its roots in the global women's movement and includes a wide range of organizations, networks, and grassroots women's groups. The 10th IWHM will mark nearly two and a half decades of global feminist solidarity on issues that impinge on the health and well being of women. The current context  of global economic restructuring and liberalization of markets, increasing, militarisation, growing fundamentalisms of values causes, re-emergence of population policies, adoption of developmental models that are playing havoc with the environment calls for urgent action by civil society including feminist groups. The 10th IWHM seeks to highlight resistance to such politics and related policies as issues of significance to women's health. One of the Focal Themes will be Reproductive and Sexual Health Rights. More information convenorsecretariat@10iwhmindia.org; www.10iwhmindia.org  

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Links and Publications

Call for contributions. After the success of the "Brüste kriegen" (Getting Breasts) anthology, its author Sarah Diehl is planning a new anthology on the issue of abortion. She also wants to address reproduction technologies and the relation or (disappearing) borders between technologies and human bodies. She hopes to collect subjective experiences from women and men, theoretical texts, information about the situation abroad, interviews with political activists, doctors, etc. She's looking for authors to write short stories from a subjective perspective (although it's not important whether the writer has had an abortion themselves). She is also looking for people to carry out interviews, and to write texts about abortion in particular historical or cultural, and related settings. If you are would like to make a contribution of would like more information please write to Sarah at no.desire@web.de 

Woman-centered postabortion care: Reference manual.  Herrick, Jeannine, Katherine Turner, Teresa McInerney and Laura Castleman. (English, Spanish, Portuguese). This manual serves as a learner’s guide for a state-of-the-art curriculum that includes is designed to prepare health-care workers to provide high-quality PAC services. The manual covers all aspects of PAC, including the guiding principles of woman-centered care, counseling and contraceptive services, and performing uterine evacuation with the Ipas MVA Plus(tm) and EasyGrip® cannulae.
Single copies of these publications are available at no charge to developing-country nationals; the price for others is $10 US a copy.

Processing Ipas MVA Plus(tm) Aspirators and Ipas EasyGrip® Cannulae. 2004. Designed to hang on the wall in health facilities, this instrument-processing wallchart presents an easy to read, step-by-step guide to the appropriate methods for cleaning and sterilizing or high-level disinfecting Ipas MVA Plus(tm) aspirators and Ipas EasyGrip(r) cannulae.  Single copies of this publication  are available at no charge to developing-country nationals; the price for others is $3 US a copy. 

Planning for a sustainable supply of manual vacuum aspiration instruments: A guide for program managers. Abernathy, Marian. (English, Spanish forthcoming)  Designed for use in conjunction with other resources on scaling up abortion care, this guide fills a gap by focusing specifically on issues related to developing and maintaining a sustainable supply of MVA instruments at service-delivery points that have trained providers. Useful for trainers, health-system administrators, logistics personnel and distributors of medical products as well as program managers, the guide covers the global mandate to “train and equip” providers, outlines the five steps to sustainability and includes case studies from around the world.

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