CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights 

No 8 (52) 2007


table of contents:







ASTRA Conference: Current issues and strategies on sexual and reproductive health and rights in Central and Eastern Europe, 14th July 2007, Warsaw, Poland. Bright and early on the 14th, representatives from ASTRA member organizations, ASTRA Advisory Board members, ASTRA Secretariat, and many other activists interested in the area of  sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in the Central and Eastern European region met at the Gromada Hotel and Conference Center for a one day conference.  The day opened with the premiere of ASTRA’s much anticipated documentary, Breaking the Silence. The film is powerful and moving, and covers a very wide range of issues in the region, including access to safe abortion, sexuality education, the rights and experiences of HIV+ women, quality of care for women, especially pregnant women, issues around virginity and stigma, and access to contraception.


After lunch, representatives from ASTRA Youth presented on their recent successful YES campaign launch in Zagreb, Croatia.  Drazen Pulijc, ASTRA Youth representative from the Croatian Youth Network, gave an overview of the battle over sexuality education in Croatia, highlighting ASTRA Youth’s decision to launch their campaign in Croatia.  The rest of the afternoon’s sessions were filled with presentations of “hot” topics.  To kick off the afternoon’s discussions, Vicky Claeys, Regional Director for Europe from the International Planned Parenthood Federation spoke on the political challenges to the realization of SRHR in Europe today.  She highlighted the political fears and perceptions which translate into challenges and opposition for advocates, especially declining populations, strong civil society, sexuality, migration, and security.   Vicky also examined how public support is critical to receive political commitment and therefore funding support, but that we may be facing problems with garnering widespread public support. Second, Christina Zampas, Legal Advisor for Europe for the Center for Reproductive Rights, presented her new paper on Reproductive Rights and Gender Equality: Fundamentals of Demographic Policies in Europe.  Christina highlighted that there is growing concern at the EU over ageing populations, declining birth rates, and migration.  Different countries have addressed the issues differently, but ASTRA’s concern is ensuring that SRHR are not restricted and are in fact protected in demography policies and programmes. Third, Rodica Comendant, coordinator of the International Consortium for Medical Abortion - ICMA (as well as ASTRA member from Reproductive Health Training Center in Moldova) presented the potential role of medical abortion in the process of making abortion safer worldwide and access to medical abortion in Eastern European countries. Fourth and finally, to close out the day, Magda Krzy¿anowska -   Mierzewska, Legal Counsel, Registry, from the European Court of Human Rights presented her paper written for ASTRA  “Why should Central and Eastern European Countries Ratify Protocol No. 12 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Anti-Discrimination Protocol)? How would the Ratification Enhance the Protection of Women’s Rights?”.

By Reilly Anne Dempsey     



BULGARIA: Research on Attitudes towards abortion and sexual debut of adolescents: Bulgarian Family Planning and Sexual Health Association (BFPA), ASTRA Network member organization, monitors the sexual and reproductive health and rights situation on both national and international levels. In order to address the specific needs and problems in Bulgaria, BFPA recently examined the attitudes of Bulgarian women in reproductive age (15-49) towards abortion and found out that the vast majority of respondents (81%) self-identified as pro-choice. Only 5% of study participants responded anti-choice orientation. Women who are for the right to safe and legal abortion in comparison with their anti-choice counterparts were more highly educated, reported higher incomes, and tended to use modern contraceptives. However, BFPA underscores that there is still a far-reaching need in Bulgaria to improve pre- and post-abortion counseling and that its role is constantly underestimated. Another study from BFPA examined the sexual debut of Bulgarian Youth. It turned out that the majority of respondents experienced their first intercourse at the age of 15 and 70% of subjects used condoms at sexual initiation. The survey also indicates that social status of participants has a direct impact on their knowledge, attitudes, skills and safer sex practices.  The studies were made possible thanks to the financial support of the IPPF.       


CZECH REPUBLIC: UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) recognizes lingering discrimination against women and urges Member State to undertake action. In the most recent Concluding Comments on the Czech Republic, the UNHRC noted with regret that the State Party has not adopted any form of anti-discrimination legislation while discrimination against Roma population, women, and migrants remains a grave social problem. The UNHRC expressed its concern over forced sterilization, especially as regards Roma women. It has been emphasized that compensation mechanisms are not in place.. Furthermore, the UNHRC urges the government to initiate criminal proceedings against alleged perpetrators and “ensure fully informed consent in all proposed cases of sterilization and take the necessary measures to prevent involuntary or coercive sterilization in the future, including written consent forms printed in the Roma language, and explanation of the nature of the proposed medical procedure by a person competent in the patient’s language”. The Committee is also concerned about the lack of any progress in women’s participation in public life and urges the State Party to take firm, positive, and coordinated measures to increase the participation of women in the public sector. Finally, the UNHRC recommends that the Czech Republic reinforce its measures to combat trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of women and children, especially by establishing the prevention and rehabilitation programmes for the victims.

Full text of the Concluding Comments is available at: http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/index.htm      


MACEDONIA: Roma women’s community in Europe calls for action to cancel annual beauty pageant. Miss Roma International 2007, scheduled for 25th August in Skopije, faces strong opposition from the Roma Women’s Network in Serbia and the International Roma Women’s Network (IRWN). An open letter from the Roma beauty pageant opponents urges the organizers to call off the event, stating that “beauty contests are nothing but the perpetration of a centuries-old history where women are at the sole service of men". In that same way, Miss Roma undermines all the efforts and struggles to empower Roma women, whose suffering from prejudices and poverty lingers. Furthermore, women’s right activists accuse the organizers (TV BTR Nacional, a Roma TV station in Skopje, Macedonia) of promoting racist concept of beauty.

Protest against Miss Roma International can be supported at: http://advocacynet.org/page/home          


POLAND: Police arrested couple who provided illegal abortive pills. The police had been  observing the accused for a long time and finally intervened when the 40 year-old defendant was about to see a woman who needed a clandestine medical abortion on 12th of July. Furthermore, the police has found other women aged 20-25 who were previous patients of the accused couple and can provide evidence against the arrested. Now the prosecutor’s office will press charges against the couple and the punishment could be up to 3 years of detention. The police stated that the accused have been providing abortive pills to women for at least 3 years and hundreds of women have induced abortions with their help.    

Source: Gazeta Wyborcza Daily, 13/07/2007  


Romanian "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" will be screened in French high school. After heated debate, the French government finally decided that a movie on clandestine abortion during a communistic era in Romania, directed by Cristian Mungiu and awarded with Palme d'Or at the Cannes film festival, can be presented to French youth, At first, "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" was thought too difficult for high-school pupils, but the government changed its position after the national film classification board stated it suitable for all ages. It seems that abortion will be discussed with young people in France without taboo.

Source: CCMC PUSH Journal 25/07/2007



EU: Portuguese Presidency announces priorities. The top issue for Portugal is legal and illegal migration (“Global Approach to Migration”), but also deepening the strategic partnership with countries such as Ukraine, China and India. One of the core priority areas for this presidency is also to further stabilize the Western Balkans and reinforce a European perspective in this part of Europe. Portugal will also work more on cohesion by paying special attention to the outermost countries. During Portugal’s governance, the European Union will celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the European Employment Strategy (EES) and will encourage debate on the issue. As far as gender equality is concerned, Portuguese leaders feel very strongly about the need to facilitate reconciliation of family and professional life.   Although Portugal does not list HIV/AIDS as its primary priority, it is important to emphasize that in the German conclusions one of paragraphs is fully dedicated to HIV/AIDS. It is underscored that the pandemic “remains a matter of serious concern” and that “action to tackle the global HIV/AIDS pandemic should include broad based prevention programmes, training of health care personnel, awareness raising in all groups of society and tackling the cost of treatment”. Furthermore, member states are encouraged to provide political leadership in combating HIV.
Link to the Portuguese Presidency website: http://www.eu2007.pt           


4th IAS (International Aids Community) Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention took place on 22 – 25 July 2007 in Sydney, Australia. The overall aim of the conference was to bring together HIV experts from around the globe – both researchers and clinicians - to discuss the latest developments in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention (e.g. vaccine), treatment and care and to indicate directions of further research. Extensively discussed issues included: International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, International Antiretroviral Treatment Guidelines and Microbicides. The experts discussed new drug targets and elaborated on cases of innate immunity. The conference also expanded on the feminization of the disease, female-controlled HIV prevention methods, and the distinctiveness of the pathogenesis and treatment particular to women. During the conference the Director of the World Bank’s Global HIV/AIDS Programme, Debrework Zewdie, expressed his concerns regarding the importance of allocating resources to research. The conference concluded with the Sydney Declaration that calls for allocating 10% of all resources dedicated to HIV programming for research towards optimizing interventions and health outcomes. During the conference, a global initiative to combat the spread of HIV in the increasingly marginalized population of men who have sex with men in the developing world has been launched.

To support this declaration, sign up at: http://www.iasociety.org/Default.aspx?pageId=63
More information about the conference is available at: http://www.ias2007.org  


Plan UK depicts the bleak picture of the situation for girls and young women worldwide. Plan, one of the largest child-centred community 
development organizations, calls for action on girls’ rights abuses. According to the report on the State of the World's Girls 2007, young women aged
15-19 account for 50% of victims of sexual assault worldwide. Furthermore, there is evidence that birth complications and unsafe abortions are 
the leading causes of death for young women from this age group. The report also highlights girls’ vulnerability to the HIV pandemic. Two thirds 
of 15-19 year olds newly infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa are female and the increase in the number of HIV positive women is especially steep.
At the moment, 7.3 million young women are living with HIV/AIDS (in comparison with 4.3 million men). Young women also account for 75% per cent
of the population that lives on less than one dollar a day. According to Plan, gender inequality contributes mostly to the listed burning problems 
and jeopardizes achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Thus plan UK launched a massive worldwide campaign to improve the situation
of young women that will last for the upcoming ten years. Moreover, the organization, supported by several NGOs including the World Association of Girl
Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), will monitor the lives of 125 baby girls living in nine developing countries as part of a cohort study on girl's rights 
and gender discrimination. 
More information about this initiative is available at: http://www.plan-uk.org/newsroom/latestnews/girlsreport/     
To download report go to: http://www.plan-uk.org/becauseiamagirl/download/ 
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) alert about the rise in price of antiretroviral treatment. According to the newest MSF report "Untangling the Web
of Price Reduction", there is a huge discrepancy between the accessibility of second-line antiretroviral treatment and the newer, less-toxic first-line 
combination recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).  While the price of the first constantly decreases, the latter’s cost might increase as
much as 500 percent (from US$99 to up to US$487) due to lack of market competition. The outcome will be that  the best treatment will not be available for
patients from developing countries while it is largely accessible in the developed world.     
The report can be accessed at:
PHILIPPINES: Arrests due to illegal abortion. Five employees of the medical clinic that performed legally banned abortions in the Catholic Philippines were
arrested after the police raid the clinic in Manila. The official information indicates that women who were there just about to undergo curettage were rescued
from the medical malpractice. The prosecutors office will now press charges against doctors illegally performing terminations of pregnancy. It is not apparent
if the clinic offered to women seeking clandestine abortions a safe procedure and whether the conditions were sanitary.  It is again obvious that bans on abortion
put women’s health and life at risk.
Source: CCMC PUSH Journal 02/07/2007          



CROATIA: Building European Communication Capacity Project. B.a.B.e. (Be active. Be emancipated), ASTRA Network member organization, is launching an initiative in partnership with the Netherlands-based World Population Foundation (WPF) with support of UNFPA to strengthen communication capacity among European nongovernmental organizations advocating for sexual and reproductive health and rights. Special attention will be paid to the organizations from the new EU member states, as well as non–EU European countries. EuroNGOs will also play a role in the project by hosting the web pages to make the initiative more visible for target audiences. An educational seminar will be held in Dubrovnik, Croatia, from September 21 till September 23, 2007. Experts will demonstrate how to use the internet in the most effective way for dissemination of important information on SRHR, which techniques are the most appropriate and efficient while developing campaigns, and other related topics. For more information, visit www.babe.hr or write to mihalea.jovic@babe.hr.     


Conference on “Financing & Action for Global Health”, 13 and 14 September 2007, London. Organized by Action for Global Health, the conference “aims to catalyze action on global health. It will address key issues in health systems strengthening in developing countries such as ensuring human resources for health, gender and health, and research and development for new tools and technologies; providing an opportunity to hear the latest in policy, practice and research from both and international and developing country perspective.” 


International Symposium about Misoprostol and Mifepristone in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Valencia (Spain), 4-5 October 2007.

To learn more about this event check up the programme at: https://poczta3.zigzag.pl/download2.php?cmd=down&fname=UHJvZ3JhbWEgaW5nbOlzLnBkZg%3D%3D&tmp=%7B46ab95763d9b0-46ab95763f8ed-1185650038%7D&down=&ctype=application%2Fpdf  


EuroNGOs 2007 Conference and Membership Meeting ‘Engaging the South in ICPD Advocacy’, 11-12 October 2007 in Lisbon, Portugal.

Among others, the Global Fund and SRHR, EU development policy & practice EU Funding Mechanisms will be discussed.  Registration is free of charge for EuroNGOs members, youth and invited observers.

More information is available at: http://www.eurongos.org/Default.aspx?ID=1571    


Women Deliver conference: 18-20 October, London: Women Deliver is a landmark global conference that will focus on creating political will to save the lives and improve the health of women, mothers and newborn babies around the world. It will be held October 18-20, 2007, at the ExCel Centre in London.  Key Issues at WOMEN DELIVER: maternal and newborn health, sexual and reproductive health and rights, girls' education, gender equality, women's economic status, violence against women , reducing poverty, combatting HIV/AIDS, and involving youth.  Earlybird registration: before 14th September.  Please visit http://www.womendeliver.org for more information. 


Global Safe Abortion: 23-24 October, London: The Marie Stopes International Global Conference on Safe Abortion, in association with Ipas and Abortion Rights, will confront both international and national issues associated with abortion, focusing on rights, access, advocacy and funding.   The conference will build consensus and momentum around international efforts to reduce the unacceptable toll on women’s health and lives caused by unsafe abortion, through increasing access to safe services, recognising women’s right to self determination and encouraging legal reform.  Earlybird registration: before 31st August.  Please visit http://www.globalsafeabortion.org/ for more information. 


European Development Days, 7-9 November 2007, Lisbon, Portugal. The second round of the European Development Days will be hosted by the EU Portuguese Presidency. This year’s major theme is “Climate change and Development Cooperation”. The overall aim of this initiative is to bring together different stakeholders, including governmental and nongovernmental representatives to discuss how the climate change affects development aid.   

More information available at: http://www.eudevdays.eu /




Sex and Gender: Caucasian women journalists cover the topic. ASTRA highly recommends the 5th volume of CaucAsia magazine, fully devoted to sex/gender issues. Issued primarily in Russian (available also in English), CaucAsia is an international information-analytical electronic magazine of the GenderMediaCaucasus Journalists' Association and CaucAsia Gender Journalists' Network. In this recommended issue, eight authors from: Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, the Russian Federation and USA depict the gender issues in their local communities, with many references to testimonials. You will find there a story of a woman who was raised as if she had been a boy in order to protect her from a patriarchic culture, an article on “autosexism”, and the challenge of being “second gender”.       

The magazine is available online at: http://www.gmc.ge/images/PDF/Kavkazia2007-5E.pdf


Advocates for Youth released a fact sheet highlighting the sexual and reproductive health and rights of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). “Adolescents: Missing from Programmes for the world’s OVC” indicates that most of the programmes targeted at OVC lack a concern that most orphans are teenagers (aged 12-17) and thus have specific needs, different from other children, and those needs are not currently being addressed. Advocates for Youth aim to sensitize policy makers to this fact and urge them to recognize these needs, including those linked to sexual and reproductive health and rights. As orphans and vulnerable children approach sexual maturation, they are at increased risk of HIV.  This is true especially for young women, who are obviously more vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation due to discrimination reinforced by social status.  “Clearly, policies and programs must recognize the developmental differences between children and adolescents. In order to succeed in the battle against the HIV epidemic, communities, NGOs, and governments must arm the world’s orphaned and vulnerable adolescents with the information, services, and support they need to make a healthy transition to productive adulthood”.    

Full version of the fact sheet can be accessed at: http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/factsheet/fsorphans.pdf    


An evolving partnership: The Global Fund and Civil Society in the Fight against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Published by the Global Fund, the report emphasizes the importance of cooperation with civil society, as well as highlighting the necessity for multi-stakeholder participation in the Global Fund strategy planning and implementation as key to success. It is also a guide for NGOs on how to influence the Global Fund. The report elaborates on the role that civil society plays in advocacy and resource mobilization, and also describes its participation on the board and in governance of Global Fund. One chapter depicts how the Global Fund secretariat can possibly cooperate with NGOs.

The report can be downloaded at: http://www.theglobalfund.org/en/files/publications/civilsociety/AnEvolvingPartnership_en.pdf