CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights 

No 12 (34) 2005


table of contents:







World AIDS Day. On the occasion of the 18th annual World Aids Day, held on 1st December, the UNAIDS issued a yearly report.
Jim Yong Kim, director of the HIV-AIDS Department of the World Health Organization recounted drear statistics — 3 million deaths in the past year alone, 5 million new infections this year, rising infection rates in nearly every part of the world and an admission that “good news is hard to find in the new U.N. report.”. 
One of the few reasons for good news is that antiretroviral drugs are now reaching more than 1 million people in low- and middle-income nations. The drugs are almost universally available to those with AIDS in the wealthiest nations and are becoming common in many other countries. According to the UNAIDS report the epidemics in Eastern Europe and Central Asia continue to grow and the number of people living with HIV in this region reached approximately 1.6 million in 2005, which means that it increased twenty times in less than ten years. What also needs to be highlighted here is that, generally, in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, HIV data reflects the situation only among those people who come into contact with HIV testing programmes. As a result, not enough is known about HIV prevalence among people who do not interact with the authorities and/or testing services. UNAIDS update: http://www.unaids.org/epi2005/doc/report_pdf.html


HIV is spreading across Ukraine and Russia faster then in African nations. As it is reported by Polish Press Agency (PAP)  people who become infected with the virus in those CEE countries do not fit the stereotype of an AIDS victim. They are often young, well educated, heterosexual members of middle class. In the poorest counties of Africa and Asia almost 36 millions of people are HIV positive. At the same time Russians, Poles, Ukrainians and Estonians could feel safe, as in their counties the pandemic was developing in the way typical for developed, industrialized countries: in was predominantly impacting specific social group, the most numerous was the group of intravenous drug users. This is why spread of HIV is so strong in Russia and Ukraine where the deep economic crisis of the 1990s led to the spread of drug dependence across the society. Drugs are available relatively cheap and easily available, including in Ukrainian and Russian prisons, where, it is predicted, several percent of inmates will develop AIDS soon. Increased number of sexual partners, connected with limited knowledge of ways of protecting oneself against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases also plays an important role here.


One of the statements produced on the occasion of the World AIDS Day 2005 which is particularly relevant to our region is the EU STATEMENT ON HIV PREVENTION FOR AN AIDS FREE GENERATION, in which the members of the European Union, reaffirm their commitment to tackle the AIDS pandemic in a comprehensive and integrated way consisting of prevention, treatment, care and research. More information on the content of the Statement available in ‘Global Update’ section.






11-12 November, 2005, Warsaw/Poland. Women and HIV/AIDS in CEE: Bringing Different Communities Together to Advance Common Goals”.  The conference was organised by the Open Society Institute and ASTRA Network. The main purpose was to facilitate future co-operation of diverse stake holders active in  HIV/AIDS prevention, NGOs working in the field of SRHR and groups addressing sex workers’ issues.

The conference established connections and an exchange of diverse perspectives between service providers and human right advocates. The participants expressed  the need for the exchange of information, and co-operation related to the development of programs ensuring education and services. The need for addressing HIV prevention within the context of SRHR was strongly stressed.  The participants highlighted, for example, the importance of including HIV/AIDS prevention in women's health services. Currently there is no co-operation between centres for HIV/AIDS and public health services. As a consequence women do not receive information which could help them to protect themselves from HIV or AIDS. Additionally, the need for more meetings, as this one organised by OSI and  ASTRA, was highlighted. Topics which such future meetings should cover were also specified. They included: 1) co-operation between governments and NGOs; 2) situation of women living with HIV/AIDS and those who are carrying for family members with HIV/AIDS; 3) protection of rights of persons living with HIV/AIDS; 4) prevention of HIV/AIDS among youth. Full report, conference presentations and other materials at: http://health.osf.lt/en/about/


Hungary: savings bonds for newborns. Hungary is planning to issue special tax-free savings bonds worth 40,000 forints (Euro160) to all babies born after December 31, 2005. The bonds will be kept in special bank accounts until the children turn 18. This measure is meant to encourage families to have more children. Parents may make additional deposits of up to 120,000 forints (Euro 480) a year into the tax-free accounts, with the government providing matching funds of up 6,000 forints (Euro 24) per year, or 12,000 forints (Euro 48) for families receiving welfare assistance. Additionally, needy children will receive two extra payments of 30,000 forints (Euro 120), one at the age of 7 and the other when they turn 14. Children whose parents deposit the legal maximum into their accounts each year are expected to have about 4.3 million forints (Euro 17,200) in their accounts by their 18th birthday. There are special plans for orphans or children in state care who will receive 12,000 forints (Euro 48) a year.

Source: Push Journal


Lithuania: stand against Catholic Bishop. A Lithuanian MP has been permitted to participate in a fact-finding mission to Peru and Brazil, co-organized by the Inter-European parliamentary Forum on Population and Development (IEPFPD) and the organization Catholics for a Free Choice, despite official demands from the Catholic Archbishop of Lithuania to stop her. The Lithuanian Parliament rejected a formal request from the Archbishop that the MP be denied leave of absence to take part in this fact-finding mission concerning the influence of the Catholic Church on women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. The Bishop claimed that this could damage the image of the Church. Through this the Archbishop attempted to exert the Church’s influence in Lithuania which was in conflict with article 14 of the Statutes of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania. The article guarantees all members of parliament the right of unlimited access to information and to visit any organization or institution. More information: www.iepfpd.org


26-27 November, 2006/Poland. Gay rights and Democracy. “Resuscitation of Democracy" marches were held in Poland, 26-27 November. This was a reaction to the peaceful demonstration against discrimination on the bases of sex, religion, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation, called the March of Equality planned for 19th of November (UNESCO International Day of Tolerance) in Poznan, being banned by local authorities. The decision of the authorities of Poznañ indicated that human rights are regularly challenged in Poland. Banning the event was in breach of freedom of assembly article 57 in the Polish Constitution and the right of individuals to freely express their views. The organizers of the Poznañ event decided to hold the March anyway, but the gathering was forcefully suppressed by the police who acted in s brutal and aggressive manner. The events in Poznañ met with strong disapproval among progressive circles (including gay and feminist activists, artists, Green Party, alterglobalists etc) but also among the representatives of mainstream society. The response to this obvious violation of fundamental rights was a series of manifestations in nine Polish cities during the weekend 26-27 of November 2005. This time, demonstrators were granted permission to assemble from local authorities. Contrary to the authorities’ concerns, the gatherings were peaceful. The manifestations were a symbolic expression of  solidarity with those who demonstrated in Poznañ a week earlier.
Magda Pocheæ / ReproNews of the Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning


Romania: Reproductive Health improvements. In Romania: access to reproductive health services is improving one district at a time. Clinics providing reproductive health services such as contraceptives and advice to women who until now could only rely on abortion as a form of family planning are established or upgraded and supplied in poor areas of Romania as part of "Support for Reproductive and Sexual Health in Romania", a project funded by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. The purpose of this project is to provide better reproductive and sexual health care services to women, men and adolescents. The project also increases the managerial and coordination capacity of the Ministry of Health and NGO partners participating in the project to design and implement integrated sexual and reproductive health services. By the end of March 2005, the project trained 65 family doctors in Teleorman District, along with 54 family nurses. As a consequence of the project the health indicators for the Teleorman District improved over the past four years. The abortion rate has dropped from 7,185 cases in 1999 to 2,892 in 2004. At the same time contraceptive use has increased (from 2,765 to 3,034 since 2002). The rate of sexually transmitted infections has also decreased, from 242 cases in 2000 to 163 cases in 2004. Full text: http://www.unfpa.org/news/news.cfm?ID=713


Russia: governments AIDS pledge. Russia pledges $107M in 2006 to increase efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. Russian government has stated that HIV/AIDS is now one of Russia's national priorities.

According to official figures, there are about 330,000 HIV-positive people in Russia, but some experts say those figures are probably only one-third of the actual number. Further, about 40,000 HIV-positive people in the country need antiretroviral treatment, but only about 5,000 receive it. The government's pledge would make treatment accessible to all who need it. On December 1, World AIDS Day an NGO Community of People Living with HIV/AIDS will start a public awareness campaign to thank the government for its decision.

Source: Keyser


Turkmenistan: Polygamy. Life for second wives in polygamous marriages in Turkmenistan is not easy. Often they are looked down on by relatives who refuse to recognize their children. Support from husbands is also often distinctly lacking, with husbands believing that their main obligations are to their first families. Turkmen president rejected a proposal to pass a law legalizing polygamy five years ago which means that only a man’s first wife is his spouse in the eyes of the state. But the practice of polygamy continues ‘underground’, with women’s crisis centers reporting that up to 40 % of calls now come from second and third wives who live without basic rights for themselves and their children. The practice was eliminated during the Soviet era but returned after the country regained its independence, particularly among the wealthy who consider having multiple wives as a status symbol. Full text: http://www.iwpr.net/?p=wpr&s=f&o=258107&apc_state=henpwpr


First EU, now Poland. The highly controversial exhibition „Life and Children in Europe” organized by the Polish fundamentalist party – League of Polish Families (LPR) – in the European Parliament in Strasburg on 16th November has been removed. Before the removal, however, there was a violent dispute between two socialist Members of the European Parliament and anti choice MEPs over an exhibition against abortion ‘Life and Children in Europe’. Among the controversial images that upset the socialist parliamentarians there was a picture of a child in a Nazi extermination camp and another child in a Albanian camp with the emotional slogan: ‘If a mother can kill her own child, how can one stop  men from killing each other?. After the row, Mr. GIERTYCH, the vice chair of the LPR organised a press conference calling for freedom of speech in the parliament and complaining about the censorship of the photo exhibition by the EP authorities. When an inquiry was made as to how this group obtained permission for the exhibit, it was found out that the LPR had provided misleading information in order to receive it. More then 500 leaders of religious and women’s rights and human rights groups delivered a collective statement to Josep Borrell-Fontelles, President of the European Parliament, to protest an exhibit comparing abortion to the Shoah that appeared with the approval of the relevant authorities at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.  The statement called on President Borrell-Fontelles to distance himself and the Parliament from the position of the extremists’ exhibition. To view a copy of the statement, please see: www.catholicsforchoice.org/new/pressrelease/epstatement.htm 

After the exhibition was removed from the EU parliament it was displayed at Polish Parliament as “the Banned exhibition”. Unfortunately for Poland the LPR’s anti-choice campaign is supported by the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) as the Speaker of Parliament from PiS agreed for the exhibition. Current Polish government is anti-choice, this is shown not only by the agreement for the exhibition to be shown in Polish Parliament but also by the Prime Minister appointing Special Adviser for the Protection of Life. There are plans for the exhibition to be shown throughout Poland in places such as primary and secondary schools, universities, local governments and parishes.
More info at ASTRA secretariat:








EU Statement on HIV Prevention. In an EU STATEMENT ON HIV PREVENTION FOR AN AIDS FREE GENERATION the members of the European Union, reaffirm their commitment to tackle all the global aspects of AIDS pandemic. They emphasize the particular need to address the HIV prevention gap, which left unchecked will undermine the whole AIDS response. The statement made a specific reference to the fact that while the issue is a global one, most new infections still occur in sub-Saharan Africa, but at the same time however, growing epidemics in Asia and Eastern Europe highlight the need for universal access to comprehensive AIDS programmes. The statement also pointed to the fact that some people, in particular women and girls, are disproportionately affected. The statement also expressed a firm belief that, to be successful, HIV prevention must utilize all approaches known to be effective including universal access to sexual and reproductive health information and services for women, men and young people, including people living with HIV and AIDS, to ensure that they have reliable access to essential sexual and reproductive health commodities including male and female condoms.
It is important to highlight that while US is not named the emphasis placed in the statement on fundamental importance of condoms, sex education 
and access to reproductive health services showed EU's opposition to the abstinence-focused agenda of the Bush administration.

You can read the statement at http://www.dfid.gov.uk/eupresidency2005/EU-statement-dec2005.pdf


Bush’s Gag Rule Expands. According to the Center for Health and Gender Equity, the Bush Administration "Breaks the Promise" by expanding Global Gag Rule to HIV funding. This will further undermine HIV Prevention efforts for women and girls. The Gag Rule, also known as the "Mexico City Policy," denies U.S. international family planning funding to foreign NGOs that provide safe abortion services, counselling, referral, or information on safe abortion, advocate for changes in abortion law in their own country, conduct research on the effects of unsafe abortion, or otherwise work on safe abortion issues. In August 2003, President Bush released an Executive Order specifically exempting U.S. global AIDS funds from gag rule restrictions. In expanding the Global Gag Rule to U.S. global AIDS funding on the eve of World AIDS Day, the Administration has broken its own written commitment not to subject global AIDS funds to these onerous restrictions. More info Jodi Jacobson; Center for Health and Gender Equity; tel. 301 270-1182 (office); 301 257-7897 (mobile).


Gels to protect women from AIDS. A new microbicide against HIV is being tested by women in Africa. The tests are part of a trial with 10,000 women across Africa. Microbicides are virus-killing gels applied vaginally before sex. They are seen by many AIDS experts as a key to stopping new infections. This could offer women an HIV-prevention method that they control, and one they do not have to inform their partners about. Full text: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20051128.wxaids28/BNStory/International


Chile: morning after pill. Chile, where abortion is illegal, supreme Court authorized the sale and use of the morning-after pill. The 5-0 vote upheld a decision by the Santiago Court of Appeals, which had turned down a request by a conservative group called Ages to ban the pill. The Catholic Church has also strongly opposed the use of the pill. After the court decision the pill can be sold at drug stores with doctor prescription.

Source: Push Journal


Portugal: referendum on abortion. Portugal's Parliament agreed to hold a referendum on decriminalizing abortion during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. The Socialist Party and extreme Left Bloc wanted the referendum held on November 27th, while the Social Democrat Party believed the vote should be delayed until after the 2006 presidential election. An opinion poll showed 56% of Portuguese want the referendum take place between nationwide municipal polls on October 9 and presidential elections in January. Prime Minister José Socrates, who supports legalized abortion, said his government would propose a referendum for next September.
More info available on






Legal UN ruling on abortion. The United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) decided its first abortion case, Karen Llontoy v. Peru. The decision establishes that denying access to legal abortion violates women’s most basic human rights. This is the first time an international human rights body has held a government accountable for failing to ensure access to legal abortion. The case was brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights in partnership with the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights (CLADEM) and the Counseling Center for the Defense of Women’s Rights (DEMUS) on behalf of Karen Llontoy, a a 17-year-old Peruvian woman who was forced by state officials to carry a fatally impaired foetus to term. The pregnancy severely compromised her physical and psychological health. Abortion is legal in Peru for therapeutic reasons, however, because Peru failed to adopt clear regulations, women are often denied the procedure by the health officials. More information: DIONNE SCOTT, 917-637-3649 DSCOTT@REPRORIGHTS.ORG






International Conference on Sexual Health. A two-day conference organised by World Population Foundation and Youth Incentives. At this conference, World Population Foundation and Youth Incentives want to tackle the taboo and discuss sexuality: what is sexuality, which norms and values surround it, how do people value their own sexuality and why is openness so important? Participants will have the opportunity to develop skills needed for discussing sexuality with specific target groups. Attention will be given to include sexuality in their own programmes and policies. The conference will be free of charge. More information on the conference will follow later this year. You can pre-register by sending an e-mail to mailto:office@wpf.org; http://www.wpf.org/; http://www.youthincentives.org/







New website. NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief – Geneva. The organisation aims at protecting and promoting the freedom of religion or belief through the United Nation’s mechanisms and instruments as well as at supporting and coordinating activities of Non-Governmental Organisations so as to help to uphold UN standards and to implement its programmes in this field it’s website is http://www.congo.cx.la/


Link: Frequently asked questions. Frequently asked questions related to infection and mifepristone abortion http://www.gynuity.org/news.html#q5 then; click on the link entitled "New Resources Available about Fatal Infection and Mifepristone Medical Abortion"


Documentary: access to reproductive health. A documentary on the lack of access of reproductive health care to women in the USA Deep South can be viewed on line at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/clinic/view/






Latest publications by Reproductive Rights:

Making Abortion Safe, Legal and Accessible: A Toolkit for Action http://www.reproductiverights.org/pub_toolkit_for_action.html.

Pregnant Women Living with HIV/AIDS: Protecting Human Rights in Programs to Prevent Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV http://www.reproductiverights.org/pdf/pub_bp_HIV.pdf

The Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa: An Instrument for Advancing Reproductive and Sexual Rights http://www.reproductiverights.org/pdf/pub_bp_africa.pdf

Surviving Pregnancy and Childbirth: An International Human Right http://www.reproductiverights.org/pdf/pub_bp_surviving_0105.pdf.  

Abortion Magazine. Ipas Launches A — The Abortion Magazine. The debut Fall/Winter 2005 issue focuses on the sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescents, now the world’s largest age group. Articles include interviews with Mexican and Nigerian advocates; a story about sexual education programs in the United States; and a piece about why girls choose unsafe abortion. Its available on line at www.ipas.org