CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights 

No 4(48) 2007


table of contents:




European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) recognizes the violations of human rights of Alicja Tysiac who won with the Polish Government. On the 20th of March the ECHR announced it’s verdict in favour of  Alicja Tysiac – a Polish woman who was denied access to abortion although the pregnancy posed a real threat to her health. The court decided that Poland has violated Article 8 (Right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Poland is urged to pay compensation to the woman.

Strasbourg’s decision coincides with the hot debate on access to abortion in Poland. There is a political initiative to change the Constitution by incorporating the phrase from the moment of conception into Article 38 on the right to life and Article 30 on the right to dignity, that will lead to further restrictions of the one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in Europe. Most probably, the Polish Parliament will vote on this amendment in April. It is difficult to gauge how Tysiac’s case will affect present political debate regarding constitutional change. Alicja Tysiac is a living example of the discriminatory nature of the existing law in the increasingly conservative Poland. The anti-abortion law is much more strict de facto than de jure. Tysiac’s example also illustrates the severe consequences of restrictive law that Polish women experience on the daily basis: their human rights are violated, as European Court of Human Rights’ verdict confirms.     

The victory of Alicja is not surprising for us” – said Wanda Nowicka, President of the Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning, organization that supported Alicja since 1999. “We knew from the very beginning that her rights have been violated. We are happy that the European Court of Human Rights agreed with us”.   

Moreover, Tysiac was supported by the following national and foreign organizations:  Interight, Center for Reproductive Rights and Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland). 

To read more about the winning applicant – Alicja Tysiac – visit our website: www.astra.org.pl  

Source: ReproNews, Federation for Women and Family Planning, Magdalena Pocheć







CYPRUS: Possible introduction of social welfare measures to increase fertility rate. As most European countries, the Cypriot government is concerned about the country’s fertility rate, which is too low to maintain the current population. The current rate amounts to 1.82 children per woman, but it should be increased up to at least 2.1, as the government claims. At the moment state authorities are considering and developing extra social welfare measures to encourage women to have more babies. Among most probable ideas is the extension of the maternal leave from 16 weeks to at least 18 weeks. Moreover, there is a proposal to pay extra money for those couples who have more than two children. The unanswered question remains on whether financial benefits are more effective than investing into creating children and family friendly facilities and services.
Source: Kaiser 


CZECH REPUBLIC: Forced sterilization of Roma women – New cases brought to light. The investigation conducted by the Czech Ombudsman confirms that sterilization of Roma women was common practice for curbing the fertility rate in the Roma community during and after the Communist period. Many victims reveal their stories now after so many years. But the practice does not seem to have been totally abandoned. There is a case of a Roma woman who was involuntarily sterilized in 2003. There is no reliable data on the scope of this malpractice. The problem of forced sterilization is common for post-communist central and eastern European countries. Similar abuse and violations of sexual and reproductive health and rights took place also in the neighboring Slovakia.  

To read more go to: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6409699.stm 

More information is also available at: http://www.reproductiverights.org/ww_europe.html#helsinki



CROATIA: Government about to implement fear-based and abstinence-only sexuality education in school curricula. The Croatian government developed medically inaccurate, ideological and full of misconceptions sexuality education programme that might be approved for primary and secondary schools in the next couple of weeks. This political initiative that puts young people at risk to be exposed to inaccurate information on sexual and reproductive health and rights faced strong opposition of national, regional and international civil society organizations. On the national level the coalition of NGOs, including Astra member organization CESI, has been established to defeat the implementation of this anti-choice, anti-LGBT and anti-family planning programme. The coalition is called Civil Coalition – Stop High Risk Sexual Education. The open letter to state authorities that the Coalition elaborated to urge them not to implement the curriculum and to develop comprehensive programmes gained support of a broad international scene. Sexual Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) also played a role in drawing international attention to the issue. Hopefully, voice of experts will be heard and young people would not be put at risk to become more vulnerable for teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases due to the lack of access to reliable, unbiased information – access which is actually their right safeguarded by International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is crucial to remind that both documents were ratified by Croatia.

More information is available at: http://www.zamirnet.hr/stoprso/indexen.html           



ESTONIA: Experts alarmed by the governments sustaining inactivity in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention. HIV prevalence is extremely high in Estonia, actually the highest in all EU Member States. According to UNAIDS (2006) prevalence rate accounts to 1.3%. Nevertheless the government fails to address this burning problem, that frustrates HIV/AIDS advocates. None of the political parties in Estonia has the issue of combating the disease high on the agenda, just as if this problem was not of government’s interest. Lack of concerns to stop the spread of HIV in Estonia is disturbing especially in the context of the particularly steep economic growth that the country is experiencing (up to 11%). Unfortunately, economic development does not coincide with the social one. Estonian NGOs condemn ruling politicians for lack of commitment to address social problems, including HIV pandemic.

Source: Kaiser 05/03/2007



KAZAKHSTAN: The case of children infected with HIV through blood transfusions in hospitals – Investigation reveals corruption and malpractice. The analysis of 100 cases of children diagnosed as HIV positive confirms that the mode of transmission of the virus was contaminated blood transfusion that victim children received in the national hospital in Shymkent. Public prosecutor's office levels accusations against 21 doctors. Moreover, parents’ testimonies reveal widespread corruption in the hospitals. It turned out that they had to bribe the medical staff so their children received transfusions. What is even more shocking and upsetting is that most of those transfusions might have been actually completely unnecessary. During the investigation, it was revealed that many doctors from CEE region and Central Asia very often recommend needless blood transfusions and by this malpractice potentially contribute to the spread of HIV. Low salaries of the medical staff in national hospitals in Kazakhstan definitely have an impact on the corruption and other malpractices including transfusions in cases of nonblood-related illnesses. The governmental response to this fatal scandal included dismissal of the Minister of Health. It has been also declared that infected children would receive adequate HIV treatment.

Source: Kaiser 20/03/2007  



POLAND: Government works on the Act banning promotion of homosexuality at schools. Well known for his homophobic, anti-choice and fundamentalist views – Roman Giertych, Minister of National Education and vice prime minister of Poland – expressed his concerns on the “promotion of homosexuality” at schools and declared that the Ministry would undertake actions to legally ban these practices. There will be no option to speak of homosexuality at schools even in the context of human rights. Alternatively, Giertych continues to publicly state that homosexuality is a pathology that requires treatment and ultimately a cure. There is a threat that homosexual teachers will be at risk of losing their jobs and definitely could not come out. The proposed ban of the promotion of homosexuality will encompass legal responsibility of school principals, who fail to prevent the bringing up of the topic of sexual orientation at their schools. They might be sentenced to a fine or even imprisonment. This absolutely scandalous initiative outraged the civil society and a number of respected national and international organizations and agencies, including Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International. European Commission and European Parliament are also shocked with this initiative and have declared they would keep an eye on the developments in Warsaw.      

More information available at: http://www.kampania.org.pl/english.php?start_from=0&ucat=&archive=&subaction=&id=&



RUSSIAN FEDERATION: The government addresses the problem of the declining population through combating mortal diseases including HIV/AIDS. The governmental response to the steeply declining population is a five-year plan with more than Euro 2 billion budget. Although some measures to boost the fertility rate are about to be introduced including additional financial benefits for couples with at least two children, the most burning problem remains the high mortality rate. It is especially alarming for men, whose life expectancy amounts to less than 60 years of age. Thus the government will focus equally on increasing childbirth and reducing the mortality rate. The latter one is disturbing especially due to mortal disease tolls such as cancer, tuberculosis and AIDS. Russian Federation is at the forefront of the HIV epidemic and urgent actions are necessary to curb the disease.

Source: CCMC PUSH Journal 23/02/2007


12 – 13.03. 2007 EU and Neighbouring countries: Conference on HIV/AIDS Partnership and Responsibility and Bremen Declaration. The conference was organized by the German EU Presidency since developing policy towards preventing and ending HIV has been identified as one of the objectives for this half a year long presidency. Angela Merkel, who opened the conference, urged the Member States to sustain and intensify European cooperation in combating HIV. Health Ministers from seven countries participated in the panel. The conference ended up with Bremen Declaration – a new obligations made by Member States for joint efforts to end HIV/AIDS, especially in Eastern Europe where the rates of new infections are the steepest in the world. Ulla Schmidt, German Health Minister, one of the initiator of the conference emphasized that “HIV does not stop at borders”.

The Declaration itself focuses on the universal access to prevention including sexuality education for young people. The Member States and Neighbouring Countries also pronounced the importance of cooperation in the field of ensuring access to treatment for everyone who needs it.   

Another important improvement resulting from the prioritization of combating HIV/AIDS pandemic by the EU German Presidency is the establishment of the monitoring system of the Dublin commitments in order to make Member States accountable.

Declaration is available at:




Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in Relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.  A groundbreaking set of principles on sexual orientation, gender identity, and international law is a landmark advance in the struggle for basic human rights as well as gender equality, Human Rights Watch and the Center for Women’s Global Leadership said today. The document, known as the Yogyakarta Principles after the city where it was adopted, was launched on 29th of March in Geneva by a group of 29 international human rights experts. The Yogyakarta Principles were developed in response to well-documented patterns of abuse around the globe. These abuses, perpetrated because of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, have affected millions. 

The full text of the Yogyakarta Principles, along with supporting materials, can be found online at www.yogyakartaprinciples.org

Source: Cynthia Rothschild, ISSRC listserve 30/03/2007 


UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and UNAIDS issue joint policy brief: HIV and Refugees. In their policy brief issued in early March, the above mentioned UN agencies urge all national governments to include refugees in HIV/AIDS policies. This embraces access to prevention which is significantly limited at the moment but also requires equal access for refugees and residents to HIV/AIDS treatment and all related services as well as counseling. Refugees are almost invisible in policies on combating HIV/AIDS in vast majority of countries. But they are equally vulnerable to infection, or even more in danger due to the lack of governmental prevention programmes targeted at this group. Thus UNHCR and UNAIDS aim to sensitize governments in this issue. Another burning problem emphasized in brief is stigma that refugees experience due to the misconception that they are responsible for HIV spread in host countries. The brief also provides recommendations for governments, international partners and civil society to address the spread of HIV among refugees, as well as the effect the disease has on the host population.

It is also expected that UNHCR and UNAIDS will issue a joint policy brief on HIV and IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons: people who seek safety elsewhere within their own country due to well-founded fear of persecution). 

Current brief can be accessed via: http://data.unaids.org/pub/BriefingNote/2007/Policy_Brief_Refugees.pdf 



Gender Equality Statement at the Fourth Session of the 4th UN Human Rights Council. A number of countries during the March session of the UN Human Rights Council made the statement on gender integration of the council:

“Our countries place the highest importance on the promotion of gender equality and the rights of women and girls. We are longstanding supporters of the importance of mainstreaming a gender perspective into the work of the United Nations - The promotion of gender equality and the rights of women and girls is essential to the achievement of our collectively agreed goals for peace and security, development and, also, human rights.

Gender mainstreaming is a long-term process and requires our constant attention and commitment. We therefore welcome the initiative taken by the UN High-Level Panel on System-Wide Coherence to assess the question of gender mainstreaming and make recommendations for improvements. The Secretary- General and Deputy Secretary-General have recently spoken to encourage member States to take up this important issue and ensure that the UN system is fully effective.

It is the view of our delegations that the Human Rights Council must be at the forefront of the efforts in the United Nations to promote gender equality and the rights of women and girls, and to respond to these calls. It is time for a renewal of our efforts, and the institution-building phase of the Human Rights Council provides us with an invaluable opportunity. We will need all of us to work harder to ensure that gender mainstreaming is understood and fully integrated into our human rights work. It is about ensuring the full implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Convention on the Eliminations of All Forms of Discrimination. It is about ensuring that women’s perspectives and needs as well as men’s are systematically considered. And, it is about ensuring that human rights issues that disproportionately affect women and girls are fully addressed. (…)


Statement of the Sexual Health Initiative on conscientious objection. During the 4th HRC session the NGOs working within the Sexual Rights Initiative addressed the HRC with the problem of conscientious objection: “In many countries, very often religious arguments are used to limit access to reproductive health care services such as abortion and contraception.   Based on “conscientious objection”, doctors are able to deny reproductive health services on religious grounds; this greatly limits access to these services that only women need.  Doctors who are gatekeepers of the health care system use this power to refuse women services to which they are entitled, while at the same time very often ignoring their obligation to refer women to medical practitioners that will provide this service.”

The Sexual Rights Initiative is comprised of  CREA (India), Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice (Netherlands), ACPD (Canada), and INCRESE (Nigeria) in collaboration with other partner NGOs, including the Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning is promoting sexual rights at the Human Rights Council.


Pope Benedict XVI appeals to Catholic politicians and legislators to reject all the laws that are “against human nature” including abortion. In the apostolic exhortation called Sacramentum Caritatis, the pope urges Catholics to oppose abortion, euthanasia and homosexual relationships – the laws that Benedict believes are against human nature and Catholic teaching. Published on 13th of March the papal document seems to be a continuation of  the traditional and conservative encyclical Humanae Vitae of Pope Paul VI. No matter how arguable it is in the context of the common concept of distinction between church and state, Benedict XVI urges politicians with Catholic beliefs to protect religious values. Although  Sacramentum Caritatis is meant to have a general scope it suits the political situation in some countries, especially Poland, where ultra-right wing and fundamentalist political parties are undertaking initiatives to totally ban abortion by referring to Pope John Paul II will in this matter.   


Amnesty International (AI) develops its position on abortion. After long history of remaining silent on the women’s right to make choices on her own bodies, the Amnesty International UK members finally developed apparent statement on abortion. Although the position on women’s right to terminate pregnancy is of limited scope, this is a landmark shift in the organization’s policy. AI declared that it will support the efforts to decriminalize abortion worldwide and recognized “legal, safe and accessible abortion subject to reasonable limitations” as human rights. However, this the largest nongovernmental organizations in the world working on human rights states that it “will remain neutral on abortion”- of course on the one that is performed on demand. The debate on abortion within AI is a part of the broader discussion of sexual and reproductive health and rights that has been taking place in the organization for some time now.   








40th Session of the UN Commission on Population and Development (CPD), 9 – 13 April 2007. The priority theme for this year’s session is: ‘The changing age structures of populations and their implications for development’. The discussion of the follow-up actions of recommendations worked out at ICPD is on the agenda. The topic of the changing age structure and how it is experienced on the national level will be also raised.                      

The agenda of the session can be downloaded from: http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N06/657/49/PDF/N0665749.pdf?OpenElement



Youth-friendly initiative – Summer school on human rights in Croatia. Balkan Human Rights Network announces its Human Rights School for Future Decision Makers, taking place in Dubrovnik, Croatia in the period from 27 May until 10 June, 2007. The Summer School is open to all successful postgraduate or final year students of law, international relations, political sciences, economics, or young parliamentarians, government officials and officials of political parties, as well as young persons involved in the work of NGOs and media are encouraged to submit their applications. Eligible candidates must be coming from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

For the application procedure please download the application form from:




EuroNGOs workshop on Communication and Advocacy Linking the Silent Majority. The workshop will take place Tuesday 8th May, 2007, 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. at the IBIS Hotel, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, The Netherlands. It is hosted by the World Population Foundation. The overall aim of this workshop is to build competence and to find new ways to multiply our voices as stakeholders at a broader public level in order to advocate for SRHR in relation to the ICPD Programme of Action/MDGs.



Women Deliver Conference, London 18-20 October 2007. The major aim of the conference is to bring together the development and health community to discuss women’s health, safe pregnancy and childbirth. During the event the possible improvement in the field will be widely elaborated and ways to achieve greater and faster progress assesed. The conference theme “Invest in Women- It Pays”, addresses the critical links between the health of women, mothers, and newborns and the economic, political, and social health of nations.

For more details and registration go to: http://www.womendeliver.org/







Call for proposals: Women & Multiple Discrimination. Open Society Institute informs about themes for the year 2007 of their Women’s Program. Defending the rights of women facing multiple discrimination, Promoting women’s rights in transitional justice contexts and institutions and New Voices and New Visions for 21st century women’s movement are on the table. Organizations working on minority women’s issues can submit their proposals. Deadline for applying is 15th of May 2007. 



EU Gender Watch. Deadline for the applications for the New Member States for capacity building training enabling the participation in the EU Gender Watch project has been extended until the 1st of June. Organizers and coordinators of this event – NEWW and UNIFEM are looking for 15 women from CEE/CIS, still two more experts in the field of gender issues and development are needed.

Detailed information is available at: http://www.neww.org.pl/en.php/news/news/1.html?&nw=2457&re=4







UNAIDS: report on the country level work of UNAIDS. This publication examines the country-level work of UNAIDS in 2005 and early 2006. It is particularly focused on the progress of achieving universal access to prevention and treatment. The report also brings up the problem of stigma. Specific examples from the country level are to be found there. 

The publication can be accessed at:




New publication of the Sexual Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS): Who’s Who at World Congress of Families IV The Natural Family, Social Belonging and the Future of Nations Warsaw, Poland May 11–13, 2007. This report provides a comprehensive overview of the upcoming huge event that the opposition is organizing – World Congress of Families IV (WCF). The WCF itself brings together many United States and International organizations whose work focuses on denying sexual and reproductive health and rights by pushing a radical right-wing, anti-choice, and "pro-family" agenda. The report provides detailed information about the mission, areas of focus, and key leadership of the organizations involved. 



Reproductive Health and Sexual Education: Publication of the GUE/NGL (European United Left/Nordic Green Left), European Parliamentary Group. This report is a follow up of last year’s International Women’s Day (8th of March 2006), during which the conference was held. It gathered GUE/NGL members and many other members of the European Parliament as well as women’s leaders from NGOs. At this day, the hearing organized by GUE/NGL also took place and ended up with the declaration that calls for greater respect for sexual and reproductive health and rights and recognition of the particular importance of sexuality education. Access to reliable information and to family planning together with access to legal and safe abortion is also raised. The publication reports on the hearing and it outcomes but also provides additional and more detailed comments of the MEPs.

To read more about the hearing visit: http://www.guengl.eu/showPage.jsp?ID=2369&ISSUE=1

The electronic version of the publication is available at: http://www.guengl.eu/showPage.jsp?ID=148



European Commission issues European handbook on equality data. The publication elaborates on all forms of discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual identity and orientation.

This handbook is available in electronic version at: