CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights 

No 8 (42) 2006


table of contents:





Youth’s Voice - young people talk about their sexual and reproductive health and rights. ASTRA Youth, a network of Youth sexual and reproductive health and rights advocates in the CEE and Balkan regions, prepared a report on the status of RSH&R of young people. The report was launched during the International Conference organized by ASTRA and the Federation for Women and Family Planning. The meeting took place in Warsaw and focused on youth sexuality and sexuality education in the context of HIV/AIDS prevention. The countries covered by the report include Armenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Georgia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, Serbia and Montenegro, and Slovakia. The report is based on the surveys during which the respondents in these countries had been asked about their knowledge and practices on S&R rights, the role of parents, church and school in sex education and HIV/AIDS prevention. Apart from the statistics, each country report presents the information on the status of sexual education in school curricula. The countries overwhelmingly reported a severe lack of such programs in schools. Only 24% of all respondents answered that their school has sexual education lessons. 71.2% answered “no” to this question. This is reflected by the survey statistics concerning young people’s knowledge of sexuality issues. In Lithuania 20,8% of respondents think that HIV infection can be transmitted by mosquitoes and 43.4% of them believe that contraceptive pill protects against both: pregnancy and STIs, including HIV; 52% of Polish respondents and 73.6% of Lithuanian did not know that Chlamydia is an infection transmitted sexually; in Macedonia 39% of boys think that using two condoms will make sex safer; 61.2% of Georgian respondents and 38.8% of all participants do not know that it is possible for a women to become pregnant during menstruation. The lack of knowledge and reproductive health services results in risky sexual behaviors and high numbers of teenage pregnancies. For example in Lithuania and Armenia the birth rate for girls under the age of 20 is respectively 22 and 50 births per 1,000 compared to 5 births per 1,000 girls in the Netherlands and 6 per 1,000 in Sweden. Lack of knowledge contributes to the fact that the HIV/AIDS pandemic is growing rapidly in CEE region among young people, especially among girls. According to Giedrius Likatavicius from EuroHIV over 70% of HIV infections newly diagnosed in 2005 in Eatsren Europe is among young females aged 15-20.

The presentation of the report received broad media coverage. The information on its contents could be found in the main Polish newspapers, radio programs and main web portals.

The report of the conference is available at ASTRA website: http://www.astra.org.pl/news.php?id=132

Youth’s Voice, The report on S&RHR in the Central and Eastern Europe and Balkan Countries is available at:

Hard copies can be ordered at: info@astra.org.pl





Czech Republic: Reporting to CEDAW. In the concluding comments addressed to the Czech Republic after its third periodic report to CEDAW, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women expressed its concern about the 2005 report of the Czech Ombudsman regarding involuntary or coercive sterilization of Roma women and the lack of government urgent action to implement its recommendations. CEDAW called for adopting without delay the legislative measures with regard to sterilization, including the clear definition of informed consent. It also urges the government to implement measures of compensation to victims of involuntary or coercive sterilization and to provide redress to Roma women victims as well as to take actions to prevent such practices in the future.

Georgia: CEDAW on women’s health. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women considered during its 56th session the second and third combined report of Georgia. The Committee recommended the Georgian government inter alia that a broad framework for health services in line with its General Recommendation on women and health be put in place. The Committee requested the government of Georgia to include in the next report such information on women’s health as contraceptive prevalence rate, abortion rate and access to family planning services. It also requested information on marriages involving girls under 18.

Georgia: Law on domestic violence.
The Georgian new law on domestic violence, passed by the parliament in May, includes provisions which may prove to be an important tool to combat domestic violence. The law recognizes crimes committed within the family as crimes, not as disturbances. The law allows police to issue 24 hour restraining orders on the scene of the incidents. The victims are also provided with the right to appeal to administrative courts for protective orders that can last up to three months. Although both orders prohibit the abuser from contacting the victim they are not criminal sanctions. This may prove effective to defend the victims who often hesitate to criminalize the case. However, not all provisions of the new law will be implemented in nearest future. For example the funding for establishing shelters for victims of domestic violence has been delayed for 2008.


Republic of Moldova: Increased focus on reproductive health needed.
During its 36th session the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women considered the combined second and third report of Moldova. In its concluding comments CEDAW recommended that the government increase efforts to improve women’s reproductive health. The Committee called in particular to increase the availability, accessibility and use of modern contraception in order to eliminate using abortion as a birth control method. The Committee also urged the State to ensure women’s access to safe abortion, in accordance with the legislation. It also encouraged the government to provide systematic sex education in schools including vocational training.


Poland: Attempts to further restrict anti-abortion law. The Polish Vice Prime Minister calls for the constitutional protection of unborn life. The initiative is a real threat of further restrictions to Polish anti-abortion law. The present law is already restrictive and proves to be even stricter in practice than on paper. Although it allows to terminate the pregnancy in certain circumstances, women entitled to abortion are almost always denied access to it. The initiative undertaken by Roman Giertych, the vice prime minister and the leader of ultra-conservative League of Polish Families (LPR) is a part of this party’s strategy to fully delegalize abortion. The LPR has already raised the issue of changing the law and banning abortion in cases which are now legal but their call proved unpopular in the society. The project to change the article 38 of the constitution is the party’s way to avoid the public discussion. The article 38 states that “The Republic of Poland shall ensure the legal protection of the life of every human being”. The LPR’s proposal is to add the phrase “from the moment of conception” at the end of the sentence. The changing of the constitution will deprive women of national legal instruments to protect their life and health, to terminate the pregnancy resulting from rape or other crime or when the fetus is seriously deformed. Marek Jurek, the speaker of Sejm (lower chamber of the Polish Parliament), has already declared that the project will be placed on Sejm’s agenda as soon as possible according to the Polish legal procedures. The Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning is collecting signatures against the LPR’s initiative in Poland and internationally. Until now we collected almost 200 international supporters including Adrienne Germain, International Women’s Health Coalition, Frances Kissling, Catholics for a Free Choice, and Ana Gomes, member of the European Parliament. If you would like to support the protest against total ban abortion in Poland, please sign up the Open Letter: http://www.federa.org.pl/signatures

More information at: http://www.federa.org.pl/?lang=2

Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning


Romania: According to information revealed by the police, the Romanian authorities are planning to legalize prostitution in order to help fight trafficking in women and sex slavery. According to the present law prostitution is a crime and can be punished by fines or three years in prison. However, sex workers mostly face fines which they rarely pay since most of them do not have legal income. The project to liberalize the law has the support of women’s rights groups and the Ministry of Health. It is opposed by the conservative Orthodox Church.
International Herald Tribune








Amnesty International: The debate on the stance on abortion. In reaction to the debate held within Amnesty International to decide whether the organization should support access to abortion in some cases such as rape or life threatening complications within the framework of human rights, the anti-abortion religious groups mobilize actions aimed at forcing the discussion to stop. The campaigners are threatening to pull away members and donations. The AI discussion is being held within the context of human rights and includes also the right to birth control. It is still at least a year until the final decision is to be taken. Depending on the outcomes of the discussion it may or may not be made during the international gathering in Mexico 2007.
Associated Press

Colombia: Church excommunicates for rape victim abortion. The Colombian Catholic Church excommunicated all persons involved in providing legal abortion to 11 year old girl who had been raped by her stepfather. The Church’s decision included the whole medical team, the girls parents as well as lawyers – judges and legislators – and politicians who were involved in the decision.

Netherlands: Donation for AIDS Research Institute. The public health minister of the Netherlands announced during the international conference AIDS Vaccine 2006, Amsterdam, that the state will allocate 166 million for creating the AIDS research institute. The initiative is supported by Dutch universities and pharmaceutical companies which declared willingness to make their contributions.
Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report

Gates Foundation donates for AIDS research. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced in July a 287 million USD donation for AIDS vaccine research and for establishing the international network working on the vaccine. 92 million USD will be used for creating laboratories aimed at enhancing cooperation among the researchers. 192 million USD will support projects on vaccines which would elicit antibodies that combat the HIV virus and stimulate a cellular response destroying the infected cells before the virus reproduces.
Los Angeles Times


Science: HIV prevention pill. Viread, the drug already used to treat AIDS, proved to be safe while used for HIV prevention. Although the study on animals suggest that the drug can prevent infection, more research has to be done in order to prove that it is also true when applied to people. The drug was tested on HIV negative women in Africa at high risk of infection within the study conducted by Family Health International. The women were randomly divided into two groups, one of which was given placebo. Women in both groups were given condoms and provided with counseling on prevention. Some researchers feared that there might be more infections than should be expected among women receiving placebo because they could feel protected against the virus. The concerns proved wrong – the number of infections were half of what had been expected. This could be the result of the counseling (using condoms and cutting the number of sex partners). The result of the study was revealed during the International AIDS Conference in Toronto.



Science: Infant death risk and voluntary C-sections. According to a study published in the journal Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care infant and neonatal mortality rates are higher with voluntary Caesarean sections than vaginal birth. The researchers, who examined the data on live births and infant deaths in the US during the years 1998-2001, aimed at estimating the risk of death for neonates and infants related to C-section performed without medical indications. The study showed that the mortality rate was 1,77 per 1,000 infants delivered via voluntary C-section. According to the data the rate for 1,000 infants delivered vaginally was 0.62. The researchers believe that one of the reasons for the increased risk in case of birth by C-section may be related to hormones promoting lung functioning that are being released during vaginal delivery.

Kaiser Daily Women’s Health Policy


DUREX: Condoms for teenagers. The Durex Company launched new condoms, which are supposed to better address the needs of young people, between 13 and 16 ears of age, and help them to avoid unwanted pregnancies and STIs. The condoms are 3 mm narrower than normal ones and are designed to be easier to roll on and off. They are already available in Germany and according to Durex will be also on sale in Great Britain.


The XVI International AIDS Conference (13-18 August, Toronto, Canada) closed with the call of scientists, clinicians, policymakers, people living with HIV/AIDS, community leaders and caregivers for urgent steps to deliver universal access to proven prevention strategies, HIV care and treatment. More information including programme information, abstracts, rapporteur and scientific summaries, presentations from key sessions, are available at: www.aids2006.org
Personal impressions of XVI International AIDS Conference Youth participant: "As a happy scholarship winner I attended the XVI International AIDS Conference, held on August 13-18 in Toronto, Canada. I was also invited by the Toronto Youth Force to participate in the Youth Pre-Conference, which gathered over 200 young people from around the globe.

The Pre-Conference was an energetic event, which included lectures on main issues in the field, such as AIDS policy, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, and research methods, as well as workshops on youth-adult partnerships, media and communications and peer education.

The main conference brought together more than 20,000 delegates. What I found very positive was that the programme included many meetings on women’s issues, placing them on the frontline of HIV/AIDS response. Global leaders, such as Bill Clinton and Bill Gates spoke about the importance of research on microbicides. Once introduced, these products would become a major tool in preventing the spread of the AIDS pandemic among women. “A woman should never need her partner's permission to save her own life,” said Gates, whose foundation has recently donated 500 mln USD to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.

The discussion on the role of media in the fight against AIDS opened my eyes to new opportunities of spreading basic knowledge through incorporating information on different aspects of the disease into programme formats, such as TV series or competitions. It also made me realize than the media in Poland are way behind their counterparts in western Europe or North America in this respect.

The best workshop of the conference I participated in was definitely that organized by the liberal catholic organization from the US – Catholics for Free Choice. They gave us some great tips on how to have public discussions with religious conservatives opposing the idea of using condoms for protection against HIV. The media tend to focus on radical and populist views and to prevent that, we need to make every effort possible to lead, not follow the debate and merely respond to questions and accusations. We should focus on our central message, not let ourselves be disturbed by personal attacks and – remember - never forget to make the final strong point in the debate!"

Anna Grzywacz







The 7th Congress of FIAPAC. International Federation of Professional Abortion and Contraception Associates organizes its 7th annual congress, “Freedom and rights in reproductive heath”. The conference will take place on 13/14 October 2006 in Rome, Italy. The preliminary program of the meeting is available at: http://www.fiapac.org/e/RomePrelProgr2.html


The seminar of AIDS Action Europe and STI AIDS Netherlands. The second seminar ‘Monitoring and evaluation’ organized within the project ‘European Partners in Action on AIDS’ will take place on November 23-25 the Seminar in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The event will be hosted by STI AIDS Netherlands (www.soaaids.nl). The seminar is organized for European NGOs that work in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention and care. This includes community groups and professional organizations.
More information at: http://www.aidsactioneurope.org/









Reproductive Health Matters – call for papers. Reproductive Health Matters 15(30) November 2007 invites submission on “Maternal mortality and morbidity: is pregnancy getting safer for women?” The deadline for submission is 1 May 2007. More information on the guidelines of submission at: www.rhmjournal.org.uk

2nd International Conference on HIV Treatment Adherence – call for abstracts. International Association of Physicians for AIDS Care (JIAPAC) invites submissions on the wide range of topics defined at: http://www.iapac.org/home.asp?pid=8295 . The deadline for abstract submission is October 15, 2006. More information on the conference available at: http://www.iapac.org/home.asp?pid=7973





The new website of the Women's Center in Tibilisi, Georgia: http://www.womancenter.org.ge/








Preventing unsafe abortion and the consequences: priorities for research and action, Guttmacher Institute, 2006, now available for download at: www.guttmacher.org/pubs/2006/07/10/PreventingUnsafeAbortion.pdf

Review of the System of Special Procedures by the Human Rights Council: What Challenges for the Mandate on Human Rights Defenders? The briefing kit for human rights defenders produced by International Service for Human Rights. The kit clarifies what specific opportunities and challenges lie ahead in the coming months and throughout the first year of operation of the new Council with regard to the special procedures in general, and in particular to the mandate on human rights defenders. It provides information on how human rights defenders’ issues have been dealt with so far within the UN and presents some options to human rights defenders and their organizations for their lobbying efforts at the national level.
The publication is available at ISHR's website and can be downloaded at:

Anti-Trafficking Peer Education Manual – the manual jointly prepared by Astra–Anti trafficking action and Red Cross of Serbia is now available in English. This edition of the manual is slightly changed comparing to the Serbian version, i.e. it is modified for all readers, no matter which country they live or work in. The manual is available at: http://www.astra.org.yu/en/pdf/istrazivanje6.pdf

Linking Sexual and Reproductive Health and HIV/AIDS, An annotated inventory. Publication issued by WHO, UNAIDS, IPPF, UNFPA. The publication contributes to strengthening linkages between HIV/AIDS and SRH programmes by providing access to relevant programming tools for fostering such linkages and pointing out gap areas where tools need to be developed. It reviews tools that link HIV/AIDS with SRH programmes (sexual health, maternal health, family planning and STI management) and conversely, that link SRH with HIV/AIDS programmes (prevention, treatment, care and support). The inventory is not intended to be exhaustive, and should be viewed as a 'living document' that will be updated as new tools become available. This inventory is complementary to "Sexual and Reproductive Health & HIV/AIDS: A Framework for Priority Linkages" published in October 2005 by WHO, UNFPA, UNAIDS and IPPF. The publication is available at:

A Passage to Hope. Women and International Migration. State of World Population 2006. The report published by UNFPA examines the impact of female labour migration on source and destination countries, the female migrants contribution to the budgets of their families and communities in home countries and discusses the benefits of globalization as well as it dark sides. The report is available at http://www.unfpa.org/swp/swpmain.htm

Ending Child Marriage: A Guide for Global Policy Action. A publication by IPPF and UNFPA published in July 2006 is part of a wider advocacy strategy to raise awareness on child marriage and its effects on communities. It is also part of the wider initiative on preventing HIV infection, particularly among adolescent girls, which is led by the United Nations Global Coalition on Women and AIDS, with the support of UNFPA, IPPF and Young Positives. It aims to stimulate decision-makers worldwide, in particular government policy-makers, donors, and international development agencies, to take all necessary measures to end this violation of rights. The publication outlines this global problem and the reasons why child marriage persists, assesses how it contravenes many international human rights standards, and then provides policy and programmatic recommendations. It will assist organizations to accelerate action and advocate for an end to this practice. The publication is available in English at: http://www.unfpa.org/publications/detail.cfm?ID=310&filterListType

Strengthening Resistance: Confronting Violence Against Women and HIV/AIDS – the Center for Women’s Global Leadership new report, August 2006. More information available at: http://www.cwgl.rutgers.edu/globalcenter/whatsnew.html