CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights 

No 10 (44) 2006


table of contents:




Vatican’s position on the use of condoms: Is it going to be revised? Recently, the Pope Benedict XVI commissioned a report on moral and scientific aspects of the use of condoms in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Although this report will remain confidential, public opinion and key stakeholders speculate a lot about the possible shift in the Vatican’s policy. At present, the encyclical "Humanae Vitae" from 1968 is in force – unambiguously and definitely banning condoms. The amendment of the existing encyclical is very much awaited, especially in the context of the growing global AIDS epidemic.
Pontifical Council for Pastoral Health Care compiled a requested study on ethical and scientific aspects of the use of condoms and their role in HIV prevention. A report was then passed to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and was discussed at the Vatican Conference on combatting HIV/AIDS. The contingent approval of the use of condoms as a lesser evil will be limited only to married couples when one partner is HIV – positive. Beyond any shadow of a doubt, marital faithfulness and sexual abstinence will remain the main HIV prevention “means” in Vatican’s perspective.
The discussion on the use of condoms in the Vatican and the possible revision of Vatican’s position in the expected papal document is revolutionary. Especially if we take into account that just one year ago the Pope assured the upholding of the total ban on condoms at the meeting with African bishops.
Catholics for Free Choice strongly advocates on behalf of lifting the ban on condoms. If you would like to support them, please sign the letter to Pope Benedict XVI urging him to approve the use of condoms:







HUNGARY: Roma women’s sterilization case examined by CEDAW Committee. The Committee concluded that Hungary has violated Ms Andrea Szijjarto’s rights under a number of articles of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women and urges the State to provide adequate compensation. Ms Szijjarto was undergoing surgery in public hospital and she was asked to consent to surgical procedure. At that time, the woman was in poor health and was unable to make an informed choice. Moreover, the consent form she was asked to sign up was an almost illegible handwritten note. In fact, it was a request of sterilization – a fact which Ms Szijjarto was completely unaware of. As she claimed afterwards, she had not even known what actually “sterilization” meant.
The CEDAW Committee concluded that state hospital authorities violated the woman’s right to comprehensive information. It also condemned compulsory sterilization.
UN CEDAW Committee Case Document:


BULGARIA: The European Roma Information Office concerned about possible denial of sexual and reproductive rights of Roma women. The office raised a protest against discriminatory provisions that are developed in order to curb the fertility rates among minority groups. Recently, Bulgarian Health Minister proposed very controversial legislation to reduce the fertility rate of Roma population. The Minister of Health claims that he is concerned about the high child mortality rate, which is one of the highest in Europe. In order to reduce it, birth rates of Roma women have to be limited by law. The European Roma Information Office (ERIO) strongly opposes this initiative, and argues that it is a pure violation of basic human rights. Moreover, the proposal of governmental control over Roma women’s fertility reveals nationalistic attitudes. This is a first step of the strategy aiming to solve the largely debated issue of demographic crises in the Bulgarian society – as we read in the ERIO’s official statement.
Source: European Roma Information Office

ESTONIA: Women are paid for giving birth. Estonian governmental policies to boost fertility rate appeared to be successful. The total birth rate increased from 1,3 to 1,5 since 2004 when the government implemented the “mother’s salaries”. A couple of years ago, United Nations reported that Estonia is one of the fastest aging populations. The government promptly responded to this challenge. Employed women who have children are paid their salaries up to 15 months after delivery. Even those mothers who have not been employed receive a 200 USD stipend. This pro – family policy has already encouraged many women to have a child. However, governmental efforts to increase fertility rate of Estonian women would not be given up. To maintain Estonian current population, which is a minimum plan, every women has to give at least two births in her life. Thus government plans to develop new policy to further encourage women to become mothers. One of the ideas is to provide extensive preabortion counseling in order to prevent women from terminating pregnancy.

POLAND: Limiting access to contraception by law. The political initiative to totally ban abortion in Poland is now followed by the debate on contraception. Members of the Parliamentarian Committee for Family and Women’s Rights (CFWR) are developing a National Programme for Family Support (NPFS) that is due to be implemented in 2007. A proposal submitted by ruling political parties – Law and Justice (PiS) in coalition with the League of Polish Families (LPR) – incorporates the limitation on access to contraception into the aforementioned NPFS.
Parliamentarians claim that the Polish family is endangered, because the birth rate decreases every year. Thus they plan to restrict access to contraceptives, which stays in stark contrast with NGOs efforts to make contraceptives more accessible.
Members of the CFWR argue that hormonal pills cause infertility so the access to them has to be further restricted, although women in Poland can get oral contraceptives only by prescription. Moreover, pills are not subsidized from the state budget, which creates an economic barrier for many Polish women.
One of the priorities of the NPFS is to develop strategy to prevent women from using hormonal pills. Firstly, parliamentarians propose to organize a social campaign to convey a message of negative aspects of hormonal pills. There is also a proposal to mark oral contraceptives with the note “harms your health”, as it is with cigarettes. Moreover, there is a political will to put pressure on doctors to limit prescriptions on pills by referring to the side effects that women might experience. Besides, some members of the CFWR recommend even restricting access to condoms, claiming that condom use causes women’s infertility.
The Ministry of Health just announced that it will launch media campaign promoting natural methods of family planning, that is planned to reach all the Polish schools. The target group of this campaign are young people. No information on modern contraceptives, including hormonal pills and condoms, will be provided. NGOs find this initiative controversial and problematical, particularly in the context of HIV/AIDS prevention.





Anti-choice activists accuse Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning. Lukasz Wrobel, Polish well-known anti-choice activist notified the prosecutor office in Warsaw of the suspicion of committing a crime by the Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning. According to Wrobel, the Federation is involved in the international mafia of pharmacological drugs smugglers. Wrobel claims, that as a result, hundreds of women and thousands of children died in Poland. However, the details of the case have not been revealed.
Wrobel has been active in the anti-choice movement before. He became well-recognized by organizing extremely the drastic “Choose Life” exhibition which was presented in the streets of several Polish cities. In the exhibition, the images of human fetuses were confronted with war victims children, as well as children of Holocaust.
Recently Wrobel established a Monitoring Center for Abortion Mafia (MCAF). Now he decided to combat what he calls ‘abortion business’. The main aims of the MCAF is to collect all the information regarding underground abortions: addresses of doctors performing abortions and names of people involved in criminal activity within the abortion mafia. All the gathered data will be then handed to the public prosecutor’s office.
The Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning has not received any official notification from the public prosecutor’s office. “We only learnt about the complaint from the media” – said Wanda Nowicka, president of the Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning.
Source: Polish ReproNews; Federation for Women and Family Planning




WHO: First women at the position of Director General concerned about women’s health. Executive board nominee, Dr Margaret Chan from Hong Kong has been appointed for Director General of the World Health Organization. Not only is she the first Chinese elected for such sa ignificant UN post, but also the first women in the history of this agency at this position. Her term of office will last until 2012 and it is expected that it will lead to a stronger commitment of WHO to improve family planning and reproductive health. Experts believe that Chan’s guidance creates a unique opportunity to prioritize sexual and reproductive health and rights. Dr Chan has already declared that she will address specifically women’s health problems and that efforts to combat HIV/AIDS are of high priority to her. – Improvements in the health of the people of Africa and the health of women are key indicators of the performance of WHO – claims newly elected Director General.
Margaret Chan is a former Director of Health in Hong Kong. She has worked for WHO since 2003. She had earlier been the top communicable disease official and the Representative of the Director General for the Pandemic Influenza. Her appointment results from the sudden death of the previous DG Lee Jong-wook in May, which happened two years before his term formally ended.
More information available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2006/pr66/en/index.html

EU: Germany’s presidency might revive the debate on Christian Values. German chancellor, Angela Merkel, leader of the religious CDU political party declares that she would like to reopen the discussion on the EU constitution which brings us back to the debate on what constitutes European values. Merkel is overtly in support of the Constitution and the incorporation of Christian values into it, as she affirmed in August after the meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. This standpoint receives considerable support from some prominent MEP’s. The special committee has been already established to examine Christian values and the role they play in European integration.
Germany will take over the EU’s presidency in January 2007. During its presidency, the European Union will celebrate its 50th anniversary in Rome. This exceptional event sets up a perfect opportunity to revive the issue of the European Constitution – opportunity that will most likely be explored. It is anticipated that the special paper on European Christian values, namely “Berlin Declaration” will be presented.
EP Working Group on Separation of Religion and Politics strongly opposes the enshrinement of Christian values into the core European values. France with its struggle to separate religion from state might back up this position. Contingent inclusion of Christian values into EU framework will affect all the legislation and policies; and in that sense jeopardize sexual and reproductive rights. Thus the efforts undertaken by Merkel and her supporters concern SRHR advocates, whose agenda is failed to be adequately recognized by Vatican as a fundamental human rights issue.

FEMM pronounces its opinion on the Commission Communication to the European Parliament and the Council on combating HIV/AIDS within the European Union and in the neighbouring countries, 2006 – 2009. Parliamentary Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) reviews European policy towards the eradication of HIV/AIDS from gender perspective. In the opinion submitted by the Vice - Chairwomen of FEMM, Zita Gurmai from the Socialist Group (PSE), the Committee urges to recognize that women and girls are becoming a particularly vulnerable group, as according to UNAIDS. Thus every policy to combat HIV/AIDS has to take girls and women into account and special measures targeted at women have to be developed. FEMM’s opinion identifies discrimination against women, feminization of poverty, violence including rape and trafficking as factors affecting susceptibility to become infected with HIV. The opinion pronounces the importance of comprehensive and compulsory sexuality education in the fight against HIV/AIDS. FEMM also urges to guarantee women’s participation in developing policy towards HIV/AIDS.
Full text of the opinion available at: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2004_2009/documents/pa/631/631323/631323en.pdf


EU: European Parliament’s Resolution on AIDS. On 30th of November, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on HIV/AIDS with regard to, among others, the Commission Communication to the European Parliament and the Council on combating HIV/AIDS within the European Union and in the neighbouring countries 2006 – 2009 of 15th December 2005, the United Nations’ commitment to provide universal access to prevention treatment and care by 2010, as well as the theme of the World Aids Day 2006 Accountability: stop AIDS, Keep the promise. The resolution examines the issue extensively and links to sexual and reproductive health comprehensively. In point 6, it states that eradication of all forms of violence against women that favors the spread of AIDS is of great importance. The resolution urges also for the increased funding of condom supplies. Finally, it appeals to the newly elected US Congress to give up the ‘global gag rule’ introduced by president Bush that cuts all the US funding to NGOs that advocate for the access to legal and safe abortion.

Full text of the resolution available at: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?language=EN&pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+MOTION+B6-2006-0623+0+DOC+PDF+V0//EN


United Nations: Joint Statement on the protection of migrant women. On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) United Nations released a statement that urges States to protect migrant women, regardless of their immigrant legal status, from violence and other forms of exploitation, including trafficking. Data indicates that migrant women, who often leave their home countries to improve the quality of their lives, are especially vulnerable to experience violence. According to the CEDAW Committee, violence is strongly linked to discrimination and migrant women experience double discrimination: on the basis of sex and origin. The UN appeals to State Parties to recognize this specific status of migrant women and guarantee the protection of their women’s human rights. The migration of women grows in numbers and importance and the challenges have to be immediately addressed. For instance, countries of destination do not protect women from certain traditional practices recognized as violating human rights such as female genital mutilation, forced marriages or honour crimes. Moreover, the statement pinpoints particular legal provisions that should be identified as discriminatory to migrant women. For example, there are instances of woman’s fertility being controlled by forcing her to terminate a pregnancy.
The joint statement has been issued by Ms. Louise Arbour (UN High Commissioner for Human Rights), Ms. Yakin Ertürk (Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Violence against Women) and Mr. Jorge Bustamante (Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on the Human Rights of Migrants).

Nicaragua: Total ban on abortion. A law which bans abortion even when the pregnancy inevitably threatens a woman’s life has been passed in the Nicaraguan Congress and signed by the president Enrique Bolanos. No one voted against the new law, although one third of parliamentarians were not present during the voting.
Beforehand, it was admissible to terminate pregnancy if at least three doctors certified independently that it would save the woman’s life. In Nicaragua, women undergoing abortion and those who enabled them access to illegal service are penalized for, on average, 6 years of imprisonment. The president proposed to increase the prison sentence to at least 10 up to 30 years.
Latin America in general remains one of the most restrictive regions regarding access to legal and safe abortion. Cuba is the only exception. Abortion is available here on demand in first trimester. Nicaragua is the third country in the region with a total ban on abortion – next to Chile and El Salvador.



Global Report on Sexual Violence in Conflict: The Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) is coordinating the work on this report. The main objective is to present a relevant overview of sexual violence, including rape in conflict and crisis situations, as well as share best practices in security sector. DCAF welcomes NGOs at other stakeholders contributions.
More information available at: http://www.dcaf.ch/allianceDARC/_publications.cfm?navsub1=29&navsub2=2&n

The European Feminist Forum (EFF): Call for Affinity Groups EEF is a space for discussion and development of the Feministic agenda that responds to the challenges posed by contemporary Europe that is living through a phase of rapid change. The initiative to launch renewed feminist political engagement in all of Europe requires affinity groups – non hierarchical, open and participatory. The affinity groups findings set the agenda for EFF in the future planned to take place in a Central European country September 2007.
Deadline for application: 15 December 2006
More information available at: http://www.un-instraw.org/revista/hypermail/alltickers/fr/0880.html









International Conference on Actions to Strengthen Linkages between Sexual and Reproductive Health and HIV/AIDS 4-8 February, 2007 Mumbai, India.
There are two main objectives of the conference. Firstly, to review global and region-specific research that has contributed to understanding the synergies between sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS. Secondly, to identify successful approaches and challenges from case studies and to highlight outstanding research gaps. During the conference, the recommendations on specific policy and programmatic actions that could strengthen the linkages in order to better respond to the needs and realities of people living with HIV will be elaborated.
For further information please go to:

EU Health Minister's Conference on HIV/AIDS: Partnership and Responsibility - Together against HIV/ AIDS; 12-13 March 2007, Bremen, Germany.
HIV/AIDS prevention and the situation in Eastern Europe – a region at the forefront of AIDS epidemic – will be the main focus of the conference that will take place during the German EU presidency. The NGOs participation in this ministerial meeting is welcomed (4 – 5 NGO representatives per country) and their role in the fight against HIV/AIDS will be broadly discussed. It is anticipated that the conference will end up with “Bremen Declaration” that will be presented to European Council.
Source: Nina Wepler









http://www.lgbt-ep.eu - LGBT Intergroup that advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender fundamental human rights in the European Parliament launched its new website at the parliamentary session in November. Website provides visitors with latest developments of the LGBT agenda. It includes resources and extensive information on Intergroup’s activities. LGBT activists from all over the world are welcomed to share news. Furthermore, the new website enables visitors to directly contact the parliamentarian LGBT Intergroup.
LGBT Intergroup is one of the twenty four Intergroups registered in the European Parliament. Nearly 100 MEP’s are members of this community.

EU: EP Resolution on immigrant women The resolution on immigrant women and the role they play in the European Union has been passed in the European Parliament by the vast majority of votes. The resolution specifies the problem of twofold discrimination that migrant women experience and their greater vulnerability to all forms of violence and abuses. It also highlights the necessity of gender perspective on the phenomenon on migration. Moreover, the resolution recognizes the need to provide free of charge sexual and reproductive health services for migrant women.
Text of the resolution: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?Type=TA&Reference=P6-TA-2006-0437&language=EN









UNAIDS/WHO 2006 AIDS Epidemic Update: The annual report on global AIDS epidemic extensively examines the new developments of the epidemic trends. Globally, the epidemic continues to grow. HIV prevention programmes have to be adapted to changing national epidemics in order to be effective. Thus the developments of AIDS epidemics must be constantly monitored on the national levels so the vulnerable groups are identified and the preventative programmes adequately targeted at those people who are particularly exposed to HIV.
UNAIDS/WHO 2006 AIDS Epidemic Update is available at:

UNFPA State of World Population 2006: A passage to hope: women and international migration. In this publication the issue of migrant women is widely elaborated. Women account for the majority of people who migrate. The report examines their status and how ethnic origin contributes to gender based discrimination. This publication raises questions about State’s immigration policies and certain provisions that appear to be discriminatory for women. It also pinpoints the problem of lack of cultural sensitivity when dealing with discrimination.

World Bank: World Development Report 2007 (WDR 2007)
Every year, the World Bank issues its World Development Report. This year the title is “Development and Next Generation”. The main focus of the WDR 2007 is put on young people aged 12 – 24. Investing in this largest ever human capital will contribute significantly to reduction of poverty and acceleration of economic growth.
WDR 2007 examines sexual and reproductive health and rights in Chapter 5 Growing up healthy and by this means becomes a new advocacy tool at the disposal. The issue of access to legal and safe abortion is also raised in the report.