CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights 

No 3 (37) 2006


table of contents:





Hearing on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Europe. European Parliament, 09 February 2006


Around 130 MEPs, representatives of the European Commission, World Health Organization, agencies and foundations, media and civil society attended the Hearing on the Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Europe which was organized on February 9 by ASTRA and the Polish Delegation in the Socialist Group of the European Parliament. The meeting aimed at drawing the European policy-makers' attention to EU commitments concerning reproductive and sexual rights and health and at addressing the key policy challenges in this field with special focus on Central and Eastern Europe. The list of the MEPs who spoke during the hearing includes: Józef Pinior who hosted and chaired the meeting (Member of Subcommittee of Human Rights), Marek Siwiec (Head of the Polish Delegation in PSE, Genowefa Grabowska (Member of Questors), Zita Gurmai (Chair of PES Women), Anne Van Lancker (Member of the Committee of Women's Rights and Gender Equality), Anna Maria Gomes (Vice-Chairwomen of the Subcommittee on Security and Defence) and Irena Belohorska (Subcommittee on Human Rights). For the first time the MEPs from Central and Eastern Europe, who spoke during the Hearing, outnumbered MEPs speakers from old Member States. The ASTRA members from eleven Central and Eastern European states gave a brief overview of the SRHR status in their countries. The speakers were advocating for the implementation of the internationally accepted reproductive health and rights standards in EU and raised the concerns about the growing opposition towards SRHR in Europe. They stressed that equality between women and men will not be achieved as long as women cannot enjoy their reproductive and sexual rights and that the EU should address the issue of SRHR as an  important  part of human rights because the observance of human rights is the foundation of EU.

During the Hearing ASTRA presented  the findings of its new report " Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Europe - Report to the European Union".

The participants of the Hearing worked out several recommendations for the European Commission and European Parliament. The list included the call for:

·         Implementation of the recommendations from the Report on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights issued by the European Parliament Committee on Women’s Rights and Equal Opportunities and approved by the European Parliament in 2002.

·         Using existing legal instruments to address sexual and reproductive health and rights issues, including the Charter on Fundamental Rights, gender equality directives and other standards, EU treaties, etc.

·         Ensuring that annual European Parliament country reports on human rights address sexual and reproductive health and rights issues.

ASTRA will continue its advocacy activities for reproductive and sexual health and rights

Source: www.astra.org.pl







Bulgaria: HIV/AIDS prevention campaign. Valentine's Day was the launch date of the second part of HIV/AIDS prevention campaign started by the Health Ministry on December 1. On this day mobile units offering free and anonymous tests were stationed in the university campuses in several larger towns of Bulgaria. During the campaign such tests are being also provided in the regular testing centers. The campaign is also addressed to substance abusers, prisoners and other vulnerable groups, It will run until 2008.
Sofia News Agency, Kaiser


Croatia: Women's human rights in NGO's reports. Two research on women's rights were accomplished this month by Croatian NGOs:

·         The study "Reality of women's sexual rights in Croatia" conducted by Women's Room was performed on a sample of 1491 women from the whole country. The questionnaire used during the research was divided into three parts: women's sexuality, sexual and reproductive health and sexual violence. The findings include the information on sexual rights awareness of women, on their reproductive health behavior, health problems, use of contraceptive methods, experience and myths concerning sexual violence. According to the study 66% of women do not use contraceptive methods during their first sexual intercourse; 45% of women (age 18-50) who have regular sexual life use some kind of contraception. The most popular method for preventing unwanted pregnancy is the condom (52%). The pill is being used by 18% respondents.

·         Report on Women's Human Rights in 2005 prepared by  Women's Network Croatia addresses such crucial areas for women's human rights as: institutional mechanisms, media, education, reproductive rights, job market, politics, violence, trafficking in women and armed conflicts. The authors of the report stressed that the most blatant violations of these rights can be found within educational system which does not provide sex education or gender equality education and accepts textbooks that are strongly gender biased. Due to the prices of abortion services in public hospitals and strong propaganda of pro-life organizations, abortion has moved to the sphere of gray economy. Concluding the chapter, the authors demanded that abortion should not be treated as profit-making procedure and the prices for these services should be the same in all healthcare institutions. They also called for changing the employment policy for gynecologists in institutions licensed for performing abortions to preclude hiring doctors who are conscientious objectors.
Source: Women's Room, Women's Network Croatia


Lithuania: The Committee of the Rights of the Child - concluding observations. In January the UN Committee of the Rights of the Child considered the second periodic report submitted by Lithuania and adopted after the concluding observations. Apart from other conclusions, the Committee recommended  that the state "strengthened its reproductive health education programs for adolescents in order to prevent adolescent pregnancy and the spread of HIV/AIDS and other STDs" and stressed that "such programs should provide access to sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning, contraception and adequate and comprehensive obstetric care and counseling".

Source: Family Planning and Sexual Health Association of Lithuania


Poland: Abortion case before European Court of Human Rights. On February 7 the European Court of Human Rights held a hearing on the case of Alicja Tysiąc v. Poland. Alicja Tysiąc was refused abortion although continuation of pregnancy could severely damage her eyesight. According to the Polish law, which allows abortion only in limited circumstances, a woman has the right to terminate the pregnancy if the pregnancy puts her health or life at risk. Alicja Tysiąc complained that the denial of access to abortion despite her health problems violated her right to respect for private life and the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment under the European Convention on Human Rights. Alicja's Tysiąc story is included into Contemporary Women's Hell. Polish Women's Stories (Le Femmes en Enfer. Histoires de Femmes Polonaises D'aujourd'hui).

Alicja Tysiąc is represented in the Court by Monika Gąsiorowska and Anna Wilkowska-Landowska who are advised by Interights. The case is also being supported by the Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning, Center for Reproductive Rights and Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland).

Source: http://www.federa.org.pl/?lang=2

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Last year the Polish population dropped by around 17,000 although the number of births was slightly higher than a year before. Since 1990 the birth rate in Poland decreased by one-third. The demographic trends have been among main reasons given for keeping in power restrictive anti-abortion law introduced in 1993.
Source: Federation for Women and Family Planning


Russia: population decline. During last 12 years Russian population dropped by 5,8 million people. Apart from low birth rate, it is the high male mortality that is responsible for the demographic decline. According to the Health Care and Social Development Minister, around 30% of men die before they reach retirement age. To stop the population drop Russian government is working on the program aimed at increasing life expectancy to 70 years (now 66 years), at encouraging couples to have more children and improving healthcare to decrease infant mortality. The government plans to allocate 24 billion rubles (715 m Euro) over the next 2 years to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.
Source: PUSH


Slovakia: The draft Treaty with Vatican rejected. On February 6 the Slovak Prime Minister officially rejected the draft treaty with Vatican which sanctioned a broadly defined right to conscientious objection on the basis of canon law in the area of health, education and employment. The Prime Minister's decision resulted in the withdrawal of the Christian Democratic Party from the governmental coalition and, as a consequence of that, in proclamation of a pre- term parliamentarian election date. The Slovakian pro choice NGO ensured that the lively public debates that proceeded the rejection of the draft were dominated by rational rather than emotional arguments.
Source: Adriana Lamackova, Jarmila Lajcakova, Pro Choice, Slovakia


Tajikistan: risk of HIV/AIDS epidemic. The United Nations and the International Monetary Fund warn Tajikistan of the HIV/AIDS epidemic which can develop in two years given the rapid spread of HIV infections. In their joint statement they stated that the spread is caused by the increase of the number of drug users, returning migrant workers and sex workers. At present Tajikistan is having lowest infection rate per capita in Central Asia. According to official data the number of HIV-positive people is 500, but the estimates are much higher and are between 6,000 and 8,000 people.
Source: Agence France-Press    







Great Britain: Fight against sexually transmitted diseases. The British government is concerned by the steady increase of STIs and is going to invest millions of pounds into funding free home-testing kits which are to be distributed in supermarkets, barber shops and petrol stations. The testing kit can then be sent in for a result, which in turn can be texted to mobile phones along with the information on where to receive treatment. The Department of Health believes that using new technologies will lead to a decrease of STIs. At present there are almost 700,000 new diagnosis a year. The diagnosis of chlamydia, the most common infection and a major contributor to infertility, has risen by 217% since 1995. Apart from the home-testing kit campaign the Department of Health is lobbying the Treasury to have VAT removed from the condoms.
Source: PUSH  


Great Britain: £3 million for Global Safe Abortion Programme. The UK Government will give £3 million for providing safe abortion services in developing countries. The problem of unsafe abortion has been neglected for at least five years as a result of the US funding ban anti-abortion policy (Global Gag Rule). According to WHO, 70,000 deaths (13% of maternal deaths worldwide) are due to unsafe abortions. The International Planned Parenthood Federation estimates that this year 19 million women will die or suffer from injury or illness because of unsafe abortions. The UK funds enable IPPF to set Global Safe Abortion Programme which will not only help to improve access to safe services but also "to support other partners that have had to cut back on reproductive health services because of the impact of global gag rule".  The  Programme was announced on the same day as the publication of the new IPPF report "Death and Denial: Unsafe Abortion and Poverty".


EU Commission about demographic challenge. According to the report of the EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Joaquin Almunia, the age-structure of EU population will significantly change by the 2050. The working-age population will fall by 48 million comparing to that of 2010 while the over-65 population will rise by 58 million during the same period. The report says that aging of the population will strongly influence the annual average GDP growth rate which is projected to decrease from 2,4% in 2004-2010 period to 1,2% in 2031- 2050. The EU report pointed to raising the retirement age and restraining future public spending as effective measures to meet the demographic challenge.


EU: New roadmap for gender equality. European Commission published a new gender equality roadmap which outlines 21 specific activities aimed at fighting gender inequality in EU over the next five years. The Commission activities that are proposed in 'Roadmap for equality between men and women 2006-10' include helping set up a new €50 million European institute for gender equality, reviewing all existing EU gender equality law, increasing awareness of gender inequality, ensuring gender equality is considered in all policies and pressing for better statistics. The roadmap aims to, inter alia, tackle the pay gap between men and women, support better work/life balance, eliminate violence and trafficking, support gender budgeting and promote gender equality both within and outside the EU.

The document does not address the issues regarding reproductive and sexual health and rights although the Ministers of Gender Equality of EU member states admitted that gender equality will not be achieved without guaranteeing women's sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Sources: Gender Equality Roadmap available at:

Eurostat News Release: http://epp.eurostat.cec.eu.int/pls/portal/docs/PAGE/PGP_PRD_CAT_PREREL/PGE_CAT_PREREL_YEAR_2006/PGE_CAT_PREREL

Declaration of the Conference of Ministers of Gender Equality:


EU Parliament: Reproductive rights on the agenda. The GUE/NGL Group in the European Parliament organized the hearing "Reproductive Health and Sexual Education" which took place on International Women's Day, March 8, in the European Parliament. The purpose of the conference was to evaluate the situation in the area of SRHR in the European Union, to contribute to a joint discussion in the struggle for accessible, available, affordable and of high quality sexual and reproductive health-care services as well as to find next steps in defending women's right to choose which is being challenged by the increase of anti-choice measures and movements in several Member States. The Swedish GUE/NGL MEP Eva-Britt Svensson said that only by working together things can be changed. A declaration adopted during the hearing calls for greater respect for sexual and reproductive rights and for comprehensive sexual education, easy access to information, family planning, safe abortion and the abolition of restrictive clauses on reproductive rights in the legislation of all EU member states. The declaration is available at: http://www.guengl.org/showPage.jsp?ID=2315&AREA=27&HIGH=1

At the same time the UEN Group and EPL-ED Group organized the conference "Reproductive Rights? Evidence Before Ideology". The meeting was hosted by the conservative, anti-choice Polish MEP Konrad Szymański and aimed at undermining women's human rights and international standards of SRHR. The meeting was attended by around 30 people. One of its main points was that "Reproductive Health is an euphemism for abortion and birth control" and should be deleted form Parliamentarian dictionary. The organization of such an event on International Women's Day can be seen as provocative and highly inappropriate. 
Source: ASTRA


Italy: Supreme court about sexual abuse of non-virgin. Italian Supreme Court ruled that sexual abuse is a less severe crime when the victim is not a virgin. The decision of the court shocked public opinion and was condemned by women's groups, members of the parliament and UNICEF. It referred to the case of a middle-aged man who had been convicted to three years and four months in prison for forcing his 14 year old stepdaughter to have oral sex with him. He appealed against the sentence arguing that the girl had previous sexual experience. The court agreed and decided  that the girl's sexual activity made her personality much more developed than one would expect in a girl her age.
Feminist Daily News Wire


Turkey: Honor killings. According to the Turkish Parliamentary Investigation Commission, 1091 murders known as honor killings were committed in Turkey during the last 5 years. The commission worked out the report which covers the reasons of violence against women and recommends ways to prevent it. The report states that in most cases the crimes are committed by women's husbands, fathers and brothers.
Source: PUSH


USA: South Dakota bans abortion. On February 22 the South Dakota Senate passed the bill which outlaws abortions in the state except for those which are performed to save the life of the woman. The bill has to be approved once more by the House due to slight language amendments introduced by the Senate. The anti-choice Governor  has already declared that he will sign it into law although in 2004 he vetoed the similar bill due to concerns that the legal challenges the new law would face could lead to weakening the existing restrictions. As a consequence of the abortion ban, the Women's Medical Fund and other pro-choice groups and abortion-rights activists called for pro-choice Americans to boycott tourism in South Dakota. At present, the bill banning abortion with no exception for rape, incest or women's health protection is being considered by the House of Mississippi. Its Governor said  that if the bill is accepted he will approve it. Mississippi is the state with one of the highest infant mortality and poverty rates in USA and the highest teen birth rate.
Source: Feminist Majority Foundation








Call for signatures. A group of women's activists from different backgrounds (including HIV/AIDS community, sexual and reproductive health and rights, human rights and women's rights groups), concerned by the failure of global response to HIV/AIDS pandemic, issued a statement "With Women Worldwide – A Compact to End HIV/IDS". The goal of the initiative is to strengthen the policy on preventing and combating the HIV/AIDS. It aims at contributing to discussions and decisions that occur at the UN Review of its 2001 Declaration of Commitment on AIDS and to the upcoming HIV/AIDS UNGASS Review. The organizers of the initiative ask for support and signing the statement till the end of March. With Women Worldwide – A Compact to End HIV/IDS is available in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish at: http://www.iwhc.org/withwomenworldwide 


Call for support. The European Women's Lobby, together with ASTRA, International Planned Parenthood Federation Europe and Catholics for Free Choice, kindly ask for your support to call on the members of the European Parliament to sign the written declaration 0079/2005 on women's rights to self determination, adequate sex education and family planning. This Declaration has to be signed by at least 50% of all members of the EP BEFORE 12 MARCH 2006.
find the letter that will be send to all MEPS. It can be used as a model letter send to your own MEPs.
The list of national members of the European Parliament are available at:


International conference “What About Sex?”. The conference, jointly organised by World Population Foundation (WPF) and Rutgers Nisso Groep, will deal with sex and sexual health and how to incorporate this in policies and programmes. The conference is meant for policymakers, field staff, NGO-representatives and youth organisations who have to deal with sexuality issues in their work. It will take place in Utrecht, Netherlands, on 6-7 March. 


Symposium “Family Planning and AIDS Policy in the International Community”. The meeting sponsored by the Journal of International Law and Policy and held on March 3, 2006, was a dialogue on the interaction and power imbalance between the developed and developing world as it plays out in family planning and AIDS policies. The panel discussions focused on (1) gag rules and unsafe abortions; (2) power and money; (3) developing countries reinforcement of power imbalances. More information at: http://www.law.ucdavis.edu/jilp/symposium/symposium_2006.htm







International Anti-Homophobia Meeting. Kaos GL is organizing an International Anti-Homophobia Week in Ankara, Turkey, from May 17th till May 21st, 206. The organizers invite lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders as well as heterosexual individuals to join the activities during this week. You are invited. If you can't attend the meeting personally, we would appreciate it if you could share with us your information, experiences, ideas, concerns and suggestions. More information available at: http://news.kaosgl.com/item/2006/2/3/international-anti-homophobia-meeting-in-ankara-turkey-may-17-21-2006


Symposium on Reproductive Health and Rights. The Swedish Society of Medicine and the Swedish Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology are organizing on 6-7 April 2006 the international symposium Reproductive Health and Rights - Abortion, Contraception and Society. The purpose of the symposium is to highlight several important areas within RSH, to present new research on contraception and abortion and to discuss hurdles to RSH, particularly the impact of media on accessibility and availability of such methods. More information at: http://www2.svls.se/ronden2/default.cse?myurl=http://www2.svls.se/berzelius/6120.cs&logotype=ronden&cssfile=rondenNavigering&undefined


Call for papers. The IUSSP Panel on Gender and Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies are organizing the International Seminar on "Gender and Access in South Asia” which will take place in Dhaka, Bangladesh, November 2006. The deadline for submission of abstracts is. 15 April 2006. The seminar will focus on the following aspects of gender inequalities in South Asia: (1) Access to public services such as health care and education; (2) Access to opportunities such as employment and credit; and, (3) Access to Public Institutions and Public Spaces such as political participation and leadership, legal protection, religious institutions and freedom from sexual harassment in accessing public spaces and transportation systems. A full announcement and description of this seminar is available at: http://www.iussp.org/Activities/gender/call06.php






Full Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking, for the UN Human Rights Commission 2006, is attached: http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/chr/docs/62chr/ecn4-2006-62.doc  

One of the few online resources for reproductive rights information in Arabic launched by the Center for Reproductive 
Rights: http://www.reproductiverights.org/arabic_aboutus.html 





UNAIDS/WHO AIDS Epidemic Update: December 2005. The annual AIDS epidemic update reports on the latest developments in the global AIDS epidemic. With maps and regional summaries, the 2005 edition provides the most recent estimates of the epidemic’s scope and human toll, explores new trends in the epidemic’s evolution, and features a special section on HIV prevention. The pdf. version available at: http://www.unaids.org/epi/2005/doc/report.asp


HIV/AIDS in Europe. Moving from death sentence to chronic disease management. Edited by S. Matic, J. V. Lazarus, M. C. Donoghoe, World Health Organization, 2006. This book tells the story of HIV/AIDS in Europe from a broad variety of perspectives: biomedical, social, cultural, economic and political. The authors are leading experts from across the Region and include both the infected and the affected, be they doctors or former drug users, United Nations employees or gay men, public health researchers or community activists. They describe how, from the first documented cases in 1981 to the present era of antiretroviral management, controlling the human immunodeficiency virus in Europe has proven elusive. The full text of the book available at: http://www.euro.who.int/eprise/main/WHO/Progs/SHA/20051114_1


Death and Denial. Unsafe Abortion and Poverty, International Planned Parenthood Federation, January 2006. The report offers an overview of the current situation regarding unsafe abortion around the world. Report available at: http://www.ippf.org/ContentController.aspx?ID=13100


Grandmothers promote maternal and child health: the role of indigenous knowledge systems' managers, J. Aubel, World Bank, IK Notes on 
Indigenous Knowledge and Practices, 89 February 2006; Available online at: http://www.worldbank.org/afr/ik/iknotes.htm