CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights 

No 7 (51) 2007


table of contents:







Government to appeal   the European Court of Human Rights’ decision in the case of Tysiac v. Poland.   This information was announced on 19th June 2007 by the deputy prime minister Roman Giertych.  In March of this year, the court found that Poland had violated Article 8 (right to respect privacy and family life) of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.  Ms. Tysiac was denied access to therapeutic abortion on medical grounds, even thought the pregnancy posed a serious threat to her health and fell squarely within the bounds for legal abortion under the Polish constitution. Upon receiving the decision, the Polish government appointed a special intergovernmental committee to investigate the verdict.  The Commission now   claims to have found procedural and substantive grounds for an appeal. Many lawyers believe that the European Court of Human Rights will reject the appeal; Wanda Nowicka from the Federation for Women and Family Planning expressed much regret that the government has chosen to continue to battle against Alicia and other women in similarly devastating situations, rather than focusing on providing support and care. In the meantime, radical ultra-right wing anti-choice circles have announced that they are working on a legislative proposal to once again attempt to introduce a total ban on abortion in Poland. It is still not known if it will be  presented in the form of a civic or a parliamentarian initiative. Women’s organizations including the Federation are preparing a counterattack and will not give up the fight for women’s rights.   
Source: Federation for Women and Family Planning; by Reilly Anne Dempsey




ASTRA Youth YES Campaign launched! On 1st June 2007, International Children’s Day, the ASTRA Youth delegation together with CESI: Center for Education, Counselling and Research, organized a presentation for governmental representatives, Croatian MPs, political stakeholders, NGOs and media. After an introduction speech from Sanja Cesar of CESI, ASTRA Youth representatives explained why there was an urgent need to develop the YES Campaign and elaborated on the alarming situation of young people’s knowledge of sexual and reproductive health in the region by referring to the findings of ASTRA Youth research conducted in 2006, along with other compelling evidence. 
On Saturday, 2nd of June 2007, ASTRA Youth and CESI organized a public street event to promote the YES campaign and meet the young people that crowded to the city center. Attendees included members of the Croatian Youth Net, the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations, and even a pair of jugglers! We had a stand with materials such as  t-shirts, condoms and leaflets, as well as peer educators who were always ready to demonstrate proper condom use on a phantom penis. Anyone who could then correctly do the same after watching the educator received a t-shirt as a reward. Within about one hour we handed out nearly 100 t-shirts, while volunteers spoke with young people on the streets and handed out leaflets with condoms attached. Promotional coasters were given to people sitting in nearby cafes.     
The reactions of young people and bystanders to our YES campaign were very enthusiastic. We managed to collect many signatures under our manifesto and received positive, supportive feedback. Young people liked the design of the materials and were especially happy to receive condoms that were donated to ASTRA Youth for the purposes of this campaign by the MTV Staying-Alive Foundation.
According to the World Bank, Central and Eastern Europe is the fastest shrinking region. A report issued by the World Bank indicates that former Soviet republics and Eastern Europe will be the oldest societies in the world by the year 2025, bringing about potentially  severe economic consequences. This is largely a result of an extremely sharp decrease in fertility rates. At present, the median age of the population in the region is 38 but will increase to 49 by 2050. It is also estimated that the overall population will shrink by 24 million over the next two decades. The percentage of elderly people (65 +) will also significantly increase. All in all, these findings pose a considerable challenge to the region’s economic situation and will require the establishment of new provisions to address these demographic trends. Recommendations include speeding up economic transitions and reviewing pension funds as well as health care systems. Moreover, productivity and labour market participation needs to be increased. 
The report is available at: http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/ECAEXT/0,,contentMDK:21378474~pagePK:146736~piPK:146830~theSitePK:258599,
Source: CCMC PUSH Journal; 20/06/2007
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in cooperation with the Council of Europe appoints experts to examine the situation of youth in nine countries of the CEE region and Balkans. The overall aim of this initiative is to evaluate national youth policies and programmes in light of striving to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, with special attention paid to  health issues, poverty reduction, combating domestic violence, and promoting youth participation.. Experts will also attempt to identify the most pressing specific issues for youth as well as assess needs in order to adequately address them within the UNFPA framework. The investigation, using the methodology and benchmarks developed by the Council of Europe, includes the following countries: Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Estonia, Poland, Macedonia, Romania and Serbia. The experts appointed by UNFPA will visit each country and meet with governmental representatives and civil society representatives. The reports that will constitute the final outcome of this investigation will likely be a very useful advocacy tool for NGOs and other stakeholders.         
Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner examined the situation in Poland. Presented on the 20th of June in a Strasbourg Memorandum on Poland is the outcome of an investigation that included the Commissioner’s formal visit to Poland in December 2006. The document verifies how Poland implemented the 2002 recommendations formulated by the previous Human Rights Commissioner. It emphasized that discrimination on a number of grounds remains a significant problem in the country and calls for an urgent government response. One chapter is fully devoted to women and reproductive rights, highlighting that the quality of Polish sexuality education is seriously questioned by NGOs. The Commissioner also noted that access to legal abortion for women in Poland is frequently hindered.
The memorandum further emphasizes the problem of overcrowded prisons and inefficiencies of the judicial system.  It is highly recommended that Poland establish an independent body that will be responsible for investigations of police malpractice. 
You can access the memorandum at: https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?id=1155005&BackColorInternet=FEC65B&BackColorIntranet=FEC65B&BackColorLogged=FFC679#P465_79790
POLAND: UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Paul Hunt, paid informal visit to the country. In light of the recent political pressure on women’s right to health and heated debates on safe abortion, the Federation for Women and Family Planning invited Paul Hunt to speak on the right to health and sexual and reproductive rights. Professor Hunt explained how human rights strengthen public health in many ways, especially sexual and reproductive health. As the nexus between human rights and public health, the right to health can make important contribution to health programming and policies.  Importantly, a human rights based approach to health interrogates public health and asks the necessary awkward questions: are the voices of girls and women being heard?  Is the health program reaching the poor?  What is the impact of the industrial plant on the neighboring community?  Is health care accessible or is the government taking steps towards progressive realization of access to health care? Is data being disaggregated?  What are the maternal mortality rates?   Are health programs respectful of minority customs and cultures?  Human rights also require answers.  If health outcomes are not improving, why?  And what are the authorities going to do about it?  Human rights identify obstacles and take all reasonable steps to overcome those obstacles and keep the community informed.  Human rights do not aim to blame and punish, but to find out what works and what doesn’t.   A human rights based approach to sexual and reproductive health includes such   elements as: entitlements to sexual and reproductive health care services, that are accessible, acceptable, available, and of good quality, access to information about sexual and reproductive health and rights, a wide range of services, spanning the life cycle from family planning to emergency obstetric care to safe and accessible abortion, and principles such as accountability, transparency, non-discrimination, privacy, and autonomy.
Comments and questions from the panelists and audience covered topics of gender discrimination in access to contraception and emergency contraception, issues such as infertility, voluntary sterilization, and mental health, and, of course, safe and accessible therapeutic abortion in Poland.  Participants discussed how to utilize the right to health to advocate and advance sexual and reproductive rights in the current political climate in Poland. 
Source: Federation for Women and Family Planning; by Reilly Anne Dempsey
RUSSIAN FEDERATION: Violation of the right to assembly at the Gay Parade in Moscow. Human Rights Watch and the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA-Europe) are highly alarmed by the violent attacks on peaceful gay pride demonstrators in Moscow in late May. Representatives from both organizations witnessed the incident in Moscow and documented the blatant human rights violations. According to their reports, police together with skinheads and counter demonstrators attacked the Gay Pride participants. The police acted with unjustified violence and failed to protect peaceful gay demonstrators against dangerous and armed aggressors. Moreover, several organizers of Moscow’s lesbian and gay pride festival were thrown in jail for as long as 24 hours, including Volker Beck, a member of the German Bundestag, and Marco Cappato, a member of the European Parliament, with a European Parliament staffer.          
More information is available in the Human Rights Watch/ILGA-Europe briefing paper at:
RUSSIA’S NORTH CAUCASUS: Dramatic rise in HIV/AIDS cases. While exact numbers are not known, official registers show an extremely steep rise in HIV infected individuals. In Chechnya, the number of HIV/AIDS cases has doubled and reached the overwhelming number of 13.2 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 2006. What is especially concerning in this context is the lack of HIV/AIDS treatment centers in this region. There used to be one in the capital, Grozny, but it was unfortunately closed in 1994 due to the lingering conflict in Chechnya. It is believed that intensified migration of fighters and refugees has contributed to the spread of the virus in the north Caucasus. Another problem that is not being adequately addressed now is the stigma linked to HIV-status.
Source: Kaiser Network, 19/06/2007        




USA: Man who intentionally infected women with HIV is now sentenced for life. It is the second time the case of Sean L. Sykes, diagnosed as HIV-positive in 1990, has been  in court. Sykes had already been sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1997, but went on parole after just 5 years. He is guilty of consciously concealing his HIV-status to his sexual partners and having regular unprotected sexual intercourse. Freed at liberty, he continued infecting women with HIV and this time has been sentenced for life. Sykes has been recognized as a dangerous criminal.
Presently, there is a similar case in Poland. The prosecutor’s office is investigating the case of a man with refugee status who,  aware of his HIV-status, repeatedly refused to use a condom and infected several young women with HIV, exactly how many is still unknown.  
Source; Gazeta Wyborcza Daily; 14/06/2007
Vatican condemns Amnesty International (AI). Recently, Amnesty International, one of the most respected human rights organizations worldwide, has broken its lingering silence on the abortion issue and developed a position on a woman’s right to terminate pregnancy. Even though AI’s recognition of the right to decide is of limited scope, this marks a landmark shift in the organization’s policy (reported in a previous edition of the bulletin: http://www.astra.org.pl/48_issue.htm). Although the organization recognizes a women’s right to abortion as a human right, it continuously claims that it remains “neutral on abortion”. The Vatican’s severe critique came quickly on the heels of the release of the policy statement., accusing AI of promoting abortion and therefore promoting death.. Moreover, it urged all the Catholics to withdraw support and donations for Amnesty. 
More information on AI’s position on abortion is available at: http://www.ippf.org/en/News/Intl+news/Amnesty+International+unveils+policy+on+abortion.htm
Source: BBC News 14/06/2007
New data on international funding for combating HIV. Released just before the G8 Summit, a report of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) indicates that global funding for fighting HIV/AIDS has generally increased, but still fails to reach sufficient levels to cover estimated needs. The following sources of funding in low and middle-income countries have been investigated: the G8, the European Commission, and national governments. At present, the United States, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom remain the most significant government contributors. 
German Chancellor Angela Merkel together with Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul stated that Germany will increase its Official Development Assistance (ODA) by 14% in 2008.   
More information is available at: http://www.kff.org/hivaids/upload/PressNote060507.pdf
The full report on “Financing the Response to AIDS in Low- and Middle- Income Countries: International Assistance from the G8, European Commission and Other Donor Governments, 2006” is available at: http://www.kff.org/hivaids/upload/7347_03.pdf     

First year of the new UN Human Rights Council (HRC) reviewed at its 5th session. The United Nations body replacing the previous Human Rights Commission aims to protect human rights around the globe with its 47 members. They recently agreed in the adopted Presidential text to set up   rules introducing new obligations for member states. First, the universal periodic review (UPR) mechanism has been established requiring scrutiny of human rights records. There is an agreed principle that UPR must include a gender perspective and that NGOs   may also submit  reports. North Korea, Cambodia and Sudan have been identified as countries that need special scrutiny regarding their compliance with human rights. Cuba and Belarus have been removed from this “black list”. Moreover, tools, agendas, and working methods for the upcoming years have been adopted.  
The next regular session of the Council will be held from 10th to 28th September 2007.
Source: BBC News 19/06/2007       






Population Action International (PAI) launches new website.         
You can visit it at www.populationaction.org 
New Trojan condom advertisement that raised controversy.           
Can be seen at: http://trojanevolve.com/  
Sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people – New resources. The Interagency Youth Working Group has launched new website with resources on youth reproductive health and HIV/AIDS which might very valuable and interesting for anyone concerned about this issues.     
Available at: http://www.infoforhealth.org/youthwg/  
Cervical Cancer Petition. Cervical cancer could be virtually eliminated by effective prevention programmes. Solving the cervical cancer problem in Europe is now a matter of implementing the proper public health policies. The European Parliament Cervical Cancer Interest Group and the European Cervical Cancer Association have therefore launched the “STOP Cervical Cancer Petition” calling upon the European Parliament, the Commission, and national governments to work together to implement these programmes without further delay. To sign the petition go to www.cervicalcancerpetition.eu
Source: Karat News, June 2007     
European Disability Forum (EDF) asks to support their petition for the right of disabled women and men. EDF is a platform for organizations representing 50 million disabled individuals in European member states. It promotes, monitors, and protects fundamental freedoms and human rights of people with disabilities through active involvement in policy development and implementation in the European Union. 
The petition can be signed at: http://www.1million4disability.eu






UNFPA launches new report: State of the World Population 2007. The subtitle of this important annual publication indicates the main area of concern which is Unleashing the Potential of Urban Growth.
The electronic version of the report can be downloaded from: http://www.unfpa.org/swp/2007/presskit/pdf/sowp2007_eng.pdf