CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights 

No 6 (50) 2007


table of contents:





Women on Waves (WoW): A new cruise of the abortion ship on the agenda. The Dutch abortion clinic performing medical abortions on international waters, thus governed by the national law of whichever flag is flown, recently renewed its license allowing Dr. Rebecca Gomberts and her team to arrange a new cruise. In the last three years Women on Waves, an organization advocating for safe and legal abortion, visited several European countries with restrictive laws refusing women’s rights to decide over their bodies. In 2003, the abortion ship visited Poland, and a year after it reached Portugal, a country that notably has since liberalized its restrictive abortion law. Now Women on Waves plans to visit Poland again and Catholic Malta (for the first time). In both countries they will face anti-choice opposition that strongly condemns the initiative.   Regrettably, the new license from the Dutch Government contains a special clause that requires that WoW can only perform medical abortion if it reaches a cooperation agreement with a hospital in the country off whose shore it is operating, which could present significant difficulties in Malta.  In Poland, the Minister of Naval Economy stated that he would not allow the ship to enter the Polish territory of the sea.              







LITHUANIA: Intended Gay Parade called off. Previously granted permission for a parade planned for 25th of May 2007 has been retracted by municipal authorities in Lithuania. The official reason was a threat from opponents of the parade found published on internet. The parade was a part of the larger campaign “Yes for diversity, no for discrimination” under the auspices of the European Union. The EU presented its concerns about these unfortunate circumstances, stating that the “municipal authorities’ decision confirms how much still needs to be done to counter discrimination against minority groups.”
Source: PAP      
MOLDOVA: Human Rights Watch (HRW) claims rights violations of LGBT community – In a letter to the President of Moldova from 8th May 2007, one of the most respected human rights organizations – HRW – appealed to state authorities to respect domestic and international law regarding sexual minorities. HRW identified a recent ban on an LGBT Rights Demonstration as a blatant abuse. The demonstration was scheduled to take place in the capital Chisinau but was cancelled by local authorities in April 2007, just as in the years 2005 and 2006. The official reason for the prohibition of the LGBT demonstration was that it promotes homosexuality and is an instance of the current attack on morality.  The demonstration was to be a part of the “All different – All Equal Campaign” of the Council of Europe and European Commission.
LGBT rights advocates in Moldova have filed a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg for the ban on the demonstration in 2005. Recently, Strasbourg ruled that ban on the Gay Parade in Warsaw, Poland, issued by then city President, Lech Kaczynski (currently president of the country), unlawful. This verdict bodes well for the Moldovan LGBT advocates’ case.    
To read HRW’s letter: http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/05/07/moldov15861.htm
ROMANIA: Illegal abortion issues surface at the Cannes Film Festival – Young director awarded with Palme d’Or. Romanian director of the winning “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” – Cristian Mungiu – depicts the consequences of legal ban on abortion. The story takes us back to late ‘80ies in Romania under the Nicolae Ceausescu’s dictatorship. The film is about two female students, Otilia and Gabita, who face an overwhelming problem: Gabita’s unwanted pregnancy. This young woman seeks illegal termination, which turns out to be a very dramatic and difficult issue.
To read more about this news, please visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/28/movies/28prix.html
RUSSIAN FEDERATION: Continuous increase in HIV/AIDS rates. Devastating new figures were presented on 15th May 2007 at a press conference in Moscow by top Russian AIDS specialist Vadim Pokrovsky, head of federal AIDS centre.  The pandemic in Russia has reached an overwhelming 1.3 million infections. As of today, the AIDS death toll amounts to nearly 17,000 and is continuing to spread at an alarming rate.  The most vulnerable population remains injection drug users, but heterosexual transmission is becoming more and more frequent. Russia is also seeing progressive feminization of the pandemic – 44% of the newly-reported cases in 2006 were women. Yet in some regions, one out of every ten men is HIV-positive. AIDS is also unusually widespread in the wealthier regions of the country. Every day about 100 people find out they are HIV-positive. While the government increased funding for combating HIV/AIDS, still most of it is allocated for treatment purposes with no proper prevention programmes.  The continued increase in new cases raises serious questions about the effectiveness of such a policy.
Source: Reuters 15/05/2007     





IRELAND: High court rules that 17-year-old Miss D can undergo abortion in the Great Britain. Miss D learned in the 18th week of pregnancy that the fetus is seriously impaired, suffering from a very rare disease – anencephaly – a condition where the front part of the brain is damaged. The life expectancy of the baby, if born, is less than three days. In Ireland, abortion is only performed when the pregnancy threatens the women’s life and this ban on voluntary abortion is incorporated into the Constitution. However, Miss D won her court battle after the Irish Republic’s Health Service issued an order preventing her from traveling to Britain.  She is now granted the right to travel to terminate her pregnancy; under the letter of law, the government cannot prevent anyone from going abroad. The case provoked a heated debate in Ireland on the restrictive anti-abortion law sanctioned by the Constitution.  The last time a similar problem occurred in Ireland was in 1992 when the supreme court allowed a 14-year-old rape victim to terminate pregnancy in Great Britain.

Detailed information on Miss D’s case is to be found at The Safe and Legal Abortion Rights Campaign blog at: http://safeandlegal.blogspot.com/      
Contraception with no periods. A new hormonal pill that halts women’s periods enters the US market in July after it gained Food and Drug Administration approval. This is a steady low dose of two traditionally used hormones (ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel) in a daily dosage. Called Lybrel, this is the first contraceptive pill approved by medical authorities that completely eliminates monthly periods. Before Lybrel, women could take Depo Provera (hormone injection) or Seasonale (reduces periods to four times a year), or simply refrain from the one week break in traditional pills to eliminate periods. Though not widely known, there is no medical or physical reason to have a period. Pills were originally designed with the break for light shedding of the uterine wall for women’s peace of mind, not for physiological reasons. There are no significant side effects of not shedding and skipping periods. While at the beginning of usage, a few women may experience benign side effects, namely unscheduled bleeding and spotting, similar inconveniences are also reported by women using conventional hormonal pills. Although some experts do claim that Lybrel could make it difficult for a woman to discover that she is pregnant, as a missed period tends to be the first sign of pregnancy.   The company that developed Lybrel – Wyeth – confirmed that it is considering entering Polish market with their new birth-control pill, raising groundless opposition from the Polish Parliament. The vice-president of the Parliamentary Health Committee, Joanna Szczypinska, stated that she will undertake efforts to prevent Polish women access to Lybrel.
Source: CCMC PUSH 23/05/2007         
Report from the World Congress of Families in Warsaw, Poland, 11-13 May 2007. Surprisingly, this big meeting of the world’s most conservative and antichoice organizations and figureheads did not attract much media attention here in Poland. The two awaited speakers of the congress – President Lech Kaczynski and Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, did not appear in person and sent their representatives instead. The politicians traditionally recognized as faces of Poland’s far-right movement – Minister of Education Roman Giertych, former Parliament speaker Marek Jurek and League of Polish Families MP (who is notorious for offending homosexuals in his public appearances), Wojciech Wierzejski - all dutifully came, perhaps because they needed a confidence boost after being pushed aside to the margins of politics.  The League of Polish Families is a minority coalition partner without any real influence, which was clearly seen after the failed attempt to amend the Polish Constitution to include the provision on protection of life from conception to natural death. Somewhat embarrassingly, the Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz accepted the invitation to give the opening address. 
One of the most outrageous discussions at the congress was a panel on threats to traditional marriage as a union of man and woman. Another unusual debate concerned the role of mothers at home and their chances for a professional career. Jill Savage, founder of “professional moms” movement “Hearts at Home," tried to prove that a woman who has children in her twenties and is done bringing them up by the age of 40-45 will still have plenty of time to pursue her career.  
The congress audience was noticeably homogenous - almost all attendees were white and I noticed only one African American speaker. There were many families with small children walking around the halls as if to stress the real message of the event. 
By Anka Grzywacz, who participated in the WCF on behalf of the Catholics for Free Choice 

Council of Europe: Women harmed by forced sterilization launches exhibition in Strasbourg. A photographic exposition organized by Czech civic organization “Life together” accompanied the 23rd meeting of the Committee of Experts on Roma and Travellers on 21 – 22 May 2007. Their aim is to remind the international audience that the attitude of most high Czech government officials and politicians towards the problem of involuntary sterilisation remains dismissive.   This is despite the fact that the Public Defender of Rights (the Ombudsman) clearly expressed his opinion on the matter in December 2005: “The Public Defender of Rights believes that the problem of sexual sterilisation carried out in the Czech Republic, either with improper motivation or illegally, exists, and that Czech society stands before the task of coming to terms with this fact.”
Source: WUNRN  
United Nations: New data on maternal mortality presented at the International Day of the Midwife. Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, an executive director at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) appeals to all governments worldwide to place reproductive health high on their political agendas. The latest data from UNFPA indicates that maternal mortality and deaths of newborns resulting from obstetric complications cost more lives than tolls of AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis combined. Universal access to skilled care at birth and availability of emergency obstetric care is crucial to reducing maternal mortality, which now amounts to nearly 530,000 deaths per year. Moreover, annually 4 million newborns do not survive and 10 million women suffer from serious injuries resulting from unsafe childbirth, including obstetric fistula.
Source: CCMC PUSH 17/05/2007           






Meeting with Paul Hunt, Warsaw, Poland 12th June 2007. Federation for Women and Family Planning is organizing a conference on the right to health with the participation of the special guest – professor Paul Hunt – UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health. Professor Hunt will speak on the right to health in the context of international human rights standards and will respond to questions on the right to health of women, including pregnant women. The right to health of pregnant women has been recently questioned during the constitutional debate in Poland.
The meeting is organized in cooperation with the Center for Reproductive Rights.
For more information: info@astra.org.pl     
7th Congress of the European society of Gynecology, 10 October 2007, Paris, France. One of the covered topics will be “Cervical cancer in Europe: screening controversies. Anti HPV vaccination”
Detailed information is available at: www.seg-web.org/conseg/  
Call for applications for Second Women’s Human Rights Training Institute 2007 – 2009, Bulgaria. The previous edition of this initiative took place in 2004 – 2006. The overall goal is to strengthen the ability of lawyers from Central and Eastern Europe, the Baltic states and the Caucasus to litigate cases concerning women’s human rights, particularly, violence against women, sexual and reproductive health and rights and employment discrimination, at the national, regional and international levels through the development of feminist legal analysis and litigation skills, cross-border cooperation, and networking. It s a two-year programme that consists of four-part series of workshops bringing together the same group of fifteen participants over the course of the training. It is organized by The Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation (BGRF), the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) and the Network of East-West Women (NEWW).
For more information, please contact: Genoveva Tisheva, Director, Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation,  bgrf@fastbg.net and office@bgrf.org; tel./fax: +359 2 963 53 57    
Young women’s overcoming violence leadership and empowerment training. Organized by Ecumenical Network for Youth Action (ENYA), the seminar will take place in Prague, Czech Republic from June 18 – 24, 2007. Twenty-four young women (aged 18 – 32) from Eastern Europe and CIS countries can participate.
To apply please contact organizers at: cejenya@mbox.vol.cz








State of the World’s Mothers Report 2007. Savings the lives of children under 5 years of age is the focus of this year’s report on the World’s Mothers. This publication elaborates on the direct link between the well-being of mothers and their children. The status of women determines chances survival of their children and empowerment of women improves the quality of life of the youngest generation. Each year, over 10 million children under 5 die unnecessarily due to preventable causes, the majority of which take place in the poorest countries. This report investigates investments in health care and nutrition that make a difference to children and proposes proven, low-cost solutions that could save a many of these young lives.
The annual report on the different issues that impact mothers and their children is an initiative of Save the Children, an organization that advocates for families and children.                
The report can be downloaded at: http://www.savethechildren.org/publications/mothers/2007/SOWM-2007-final.pdf

Because I’m a girl: State of the World’s Girls 2007. This report presents an overview of the situation of girls worldwide and provides statistics highlighting the scale of problems in access to education, childhood malnutrition, unsafe abortions and birth complications of teenage pregnancies.
The report is available at: http://www.plan-international.org/pdfs/becauseiamagirl.pdf 

Global Monitoring Report 2007. The 2007 Global Monitoring Report examines the responsibilities and accountability of donor countries, developing countries, and international financial institutions to support the attainment of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), as agreed by 189 countries in 2000.   The report monitors recent performance against the MDG targets, and can be purchased at:

Online Kit on European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and Gender. This handbook is a part of KARAT’s East-East Project on ”Building Capacity of NGOs from Eastern European Neighboring Countries on monitoring gender equality standards in the process of European integration”. The kit examines the ENP from gender and civil society perspectives in an easy to understand manner. It also provides short gender focused summaries of the main documents as well as the links to all EU and national strategy papers, regulations, reports and action plans relevant for Eastern Neighbours of EU.   
To access the online kit go to: http://www.karat.org/enp.html