CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights 

No 11 (55) 2007


table of contents:






Groups Charge Croatia is Endangering Lives of its Young People. On 10th October, a group of advocacy organizations filed the first human rights legal challenge to a faith- based sex-education program with roots in the United States. The Center for Reproductive Rights, Interights, and Centre for Education and Counseling of Women (CESI) submitted the complaint with the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) against Croatia for its sponsorship of a gender-biased and medically inaccurate program. The groups argue that Croatia is endangering the lives of its young people through misleading and inadequate sex education and is therefore, in breach of its obligations under a major international human rights treaty, the European Social Charter. Croatia has sponsored the extracurricular sex-education program Teen STAR for a decade and is now seeking to mandate a nearly identical program. Teen STAR (Sexuality Teaching in the context of Adult Responsibility) draws on Catholic teachings, promoting abstinence at the expense of other viable alternatives such as contraception. Its founder and international director, Dr. Hanna Klaus is based in Bethesda, Maryland. Dr. Klaus says that Teen STAR has been awarded a U.S. government PEPFAR grant. The complaint also calls on the Croatian government to train teachers to deliver appropriate and good quality sex education and to set up an oversight process to regulate, monitor and evaluate the school-based curriculum.

Source: CRR http://www.reproductiverights.org/pr_07_1010CroatiaSexEd.html


Decline in abortion rates in the region of Eastern Europe. According to the report recently released by the Guttmacher Institute (GI), there is a considerable drop in the number of terminations of pregnancy in Eastern Europe that significantly fuels the global decrease. Nevertheless, the regional rates remain among one of highest in the world. The global rate dropped from 46 million abortions in 1995 annually to 42 millions in 2003. During this eight years, we observe the following decline in the CEE region: from 90 terminations of pregnancy per 1000 women to 44, which accounts for almost 50% of improvement. The data presented in the report is based on the research that GI carried out in cooperation with World Health Organization (WHO). However, it needs to be emphasized that only official statistics were taken into account, which makes the results questionable in the case of countries, in which abortion is criminalized. For instance, in case of Poland, official statistics indicate a ridiculous and beyond any shadow of a doubt unrealistic number of circa 150 – 200 terminations of pregnancy per year. At the same time, reliable NGOs estimate that the real number of illegal and not always safe abortions in Poland might range from 80.000 to 200.000 annually.The most steep decline has been reported in case of Bulgaria. It amounts to almost 50%. Slighter drops were observed in such countries as Croatia, Latvia or the Czech Republic. The authors of the report ascribe the positive change to slowly increasing accessibility and usage of contraception in the Eastern Europe. The lowest abortion rates in the world are observed in western Europe, especially countries like the Netherlands, Belgium, as well as Scandinavian countries where there are comprehensive and compulsory sexuality education programmes incorporated into school curricula. Furthermore, those countries subsidize a wide range of contraceptives. The abortion rate for western Europe amounts to 12 per 1000 women, while in USA it is 21 terminations per 1000 women.                  

Source: Washington Times 19/10/2007

 ALBANIA: The situation of Roma population, especially Roma women worsens. The Roma population amounts to 95 thousand in Albania and is reaching about 9 million in the CEE region. As statistics indicate, the situation of this ethnic group has significantly deteriorated in Albania since the collapse of communism in 1991. Discrimination of Roma women is especially harmful. Child marriages and early motherhood have been always been inscribed in the Roma tradition but apparently nowadays the situation has worsened for young Roma women and girls. The average age of marriage has dropped considerably since the communist era and amounts to 15 year of age now. The average for non-Roma Albanian women is 23, and 18 for Roma men. Furthermore, the average age of Roma women at the time of the first childbirth has fallen too. It dropped from 19 before the year 1991 to less than 17 now. For Roma men it amounts to 21. Child marriage and early childbirth have a great impact on Roma women’s status in the society, and especially their access to education. The statistics here are equally alarming. According to the World Bank, the number of Roma children who have never attended school has drastically increased. This is the case for 57 percent of Roma women and 48 percent of men. The average number of years of education has also dropped for Roma women after Albania entered its transitional period from communism into democracy. It used to be 6.2 but has fallen to less than 4 now. Another area of discrimination against Roma women is in access to health care, including sexual and reproductive services. It is estimated that the rates of maternal and infant mortality are significantly higher among Roma than non-Roma Albanian society although there are no official statistics on that.      

Source: CCMC PUSH Journal 17/08/2007  

CZECH REPUBLIC: Unprecedented case – Woman files charges against hospital claiming it botched her sterilization. Woman underwent voluntary sterilization three years ago. She was a mother of two children and did not plan to have any more in her life. Thus, she and her partner decided that sterilization is the method of family planning that suits them best. Based in central Bohemia, Kutna Hora hospital, performed sterilization on the woman on her request. Shortly after the procedure the client got pregnant again and gave birth to a third, unplanned child. Now she accuses the doctors of botched sterilization. This is the first such case in the Czech Republic, where the majority of lawsuits concerned forced sterilization performed without women’s consent. The accusation is based on the right to privacy that is believed to be violated in that case, that is incorporated into Czech Constitution, namely in the Charter of the Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. The defense line of doctors refers to the same Charter of Constitution pointing at the child’s right to life and protection that is even entitled in the prenatal period.

Source: CCMC PUSH Journal 05/09/2007           

ITALY: Considers criminalization of prostitution The Italian interior minister, Giulio Amato, declared to Senate that the country requires ban on prostitution – that stays in stark contrast with the Council of Europe recently developed recommendations. He believes that the prohibition should have the form of penalizing clients. Furthermore, Amato proposed that the clients should be publicly shamed by sending official notifications to their families if they are caught red-handed. The initiative has been welcomed by the Vatican’s department on migrant issues (Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People) that recently released a document urging all nations to end prostitution which is, as the Vatican claims, a form of modern slavery regardless of whether it is believed to be voluntary or forced.    

The pontifical document can be accessed at: http://www.catholicculture.org/library/view.cfm?recnum=6529

Source: WUNRN 16/10/2007

KAZAKHSTAN: HIV transmission constantly on the rise. Kazakhstan Statistics Agency announced that the number of newly reported HIV cases has increased in the first six months of the year 2007 in comparison with last year’s statistics. Official data reflects a total growth from 958 to 1165 cases. It is presumed that reported growth in infection rates is linked to contaminated blood transfusions that mostly affected children. The increase of the reported new HIV cases in this group exceeded 50% (from 40 cases in July 2006 to 66 cases one year later).  

Source: Kaiser 21/09/2007

LITHUANIA: Turmoil around LGBTQI annual conference This year ILGA (International Lesbian and Gay Association) Europe meeting in Vilnius has been accompanied by a number of incidents provoked by the opponents of LGBTQI rights. ILGA Europe, which is a Brussels based organization, managed to unite 200 advocates from a wide variety of countries and backgrounds in Vilnius for one week-long event. Among other activities, a rally in the city was planned which was unfortunately prohibited by the mayor of Vilnius due to, as he claims, safety concerns. No alternative venue has been proposed for gathering and the organizers believe that Vilnius authorities just revealed institutional homophobia. Furthermore, ILGA’s conference participants were attacked with smoke bombs when sitting in the local bar. Immediate evacuation was not possible again because of security concerns. It is also important to highlight, that currently the Lithuanian parliament, the Sejmas, is discussing introduction of the law that will ban “homosexuality propaganda”.

Source: BBC News http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7063132.stm       

POLAND: Teenage illegal abortion ends up with imprisonment of the doctor The gynecologist who allegedly performed an abortion on a 16 year-old girl has been arrested and can be sentenced to prison for up to 3 years. Media report that the pregnant teenager was persuaded by her mother to undergo abortion. The girl’s boyfriend did not accept the decision and notified the police about the incident. During the interrogation, the 43-year old mother of the teenager confirmed to have paid for the termination of pregnancy the amount of approximately EUR 550. The public prosecutor’s office is being very repressive against the woman. It applied police supervision and property warranty to her. The woman might be also charged with complicity and imprisoned for up to 3 years since abortion is criminalized in Poland.

Source: http://www.tvn24.pl/; 15/10/2007         

RUSSIAN FEDERATION: Sexual abuse of children a huge issue for the country. Russia appears to be one of the major producers of child pornography in the world. Other cases of sexual exploitation of children are also burning problems including forced child prostitution and trafficking of minors. According to the Russian National Consultation on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, the post-Soviet country experiences an unprecedented rise of child abuse. In some regions of the country (especially St. Petersburg and northwestern Russia), sex tourism is flourishing. Sex services are aimed at neighboring Scandinavian countries and widely advertised on the internet. They include child pornographic publications and films, as well as prostitution. It needs to be highlighted that especially minors from the most disadvantaged groups are recruited by the sex business, which marginalizes and victimizes them even more. Most of them are migrants to big cities such as Moscow or St. Petersburg coming from provinces or previous Soviet republics. There is a common misconception among the clients of child prostitution that sex with children is safe in terms of HIV transmission, which makes minors more vulnerable for contracting the virus. As far as trafficking of children from Russia is concerned, it is believed that the Middle East is a major region of destination. Russia has ratified a number of international documents, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, but unfortunately, combatting the problem of sexual exploitation of children is not adequately prioritized on the country’s agenda. No national plan of action to counter this drama has been developed.        

To read more on the topic go to: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2007/08/09/006.html

Source: WUNRN 16/08/2007

SLOVAKIA: Conscience Clause Affairs Last month, the Slovakian Minister of Health declared that he was considering the amendment of the “conscientious objection” law, which allows medical professionals to refuse to perform certain services if they find them conflicting with their religious beliefs. The Conscience Clause is mostly exercised in cases of termination of pregnancy, in vitro fertilization or sterilization. The Minister’s proposal to abolish this law coincided with Pope Benedict XVI calls upon Slovakia to ratify a treaty that would enable the citizens to reject to perform any act that stays in conflict with Christian values. Experts say that the ratification of the act would open the possibility of refusing such diverse activities as teaching evolutionary theory in schools or working on Sundays. It is claimed that this kind of treaty favours the Christian majority in the country and does not promote the values of equality and tolerance. The Minister has eventually dropped the idea of abolishing the objection of conscience and decided to maintain the existing law. The Roman Catholic Church officials welcomed this decision, but did not give up the struggles to further strengthen this privilege.

Source: Kaiser 17/09/2007, 20/09/2007        


Reporting from London: Women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights on the agenda Invest in Women…it pays!  Over 1500 delegates, including ministers of health, leading experts, donors, and service providers came together in London from 18-20 October to address the worldwide crisis of maternal mortality.  Plenary sessions featured many prominent figures, such as Douglas Alexander, UK, Secretary of State for International Development, Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro of Tanzania, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mary Robinson of Ireland, Women Deliver Honorary Chair, President of Realizing Rights, former President of Ireland, and former United Nations Commissioner for human rights, Dr. Fred Sai of Ghana, Advisor to the President of Ghana on Population, Reproductive Health, and HIV/AIDS, Geeta Rao Gupta, President of the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), based in Washington, D.C., Dr. Margaret Chan of the People’s Republic of China, Director-General of the World Health Organization, and Dr. Richard Horton of England, Editor-in-Chief, The Lancet.   The conference was an international call to awareness, marking the twentieth anniversary of the Safe Motherhood Initiative.  Over 300 speakers came to share knowledge, expertise, and personal stories.  The conference was also a springboard for the launching of many new initiatives and collaborations.   Closed meetings for ministerial delegations gave high level officials a productive space to discuss governmental strategies for meeting the MDGs and reducing maternal mortality.  The conference also spurred many donors to announce huge increases in funding to maternal health efforts, notably including L100 million from the UK (given to UNFPA) and L11 million from the MacArthur Foundation (for Pathfinder programmes in India and Nigeria).  Please visit http://www.womendeliver.org/ for more information, online resources, and press releases. 

Just days after Women Deliver, Marie Stopes International hosted the first ever Global Safe Abortion Conference, also held in London.  700+ participants gathered at this monumental event, confronting both international and national issues associated with abortion, focusing on rights, access, advocacy and funding, marking the 40th anniversary of the UK’s 1947 Abortion Act.  Politicians, advocates, lawyers, doctors, journalists, and many many others took a stand to fight for access to safe abortions to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of women who die each year due to complications from unsafe abortion.  The conference was an incredible success, gathering much positive attention from both the media and politicians, as well as providing activists a forum for strategic planning, forming partnerships, and learning about new and innovative technical subjects.   Speakers included Liz Maguire, President, Ipas, Dr Akinrinola Bankole, Director of International Research, Guttmacher Institute, Bert Koenders, Minister for Development Cooperation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Jon O’Brien, President, Catholics for a Free Choice, Lord David Steel, Architect of 1967 Abortion Act, Christine McCafferty MP, Chair of All Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health, Barbara Hewson, Celebrated Abortion Rights and Ethics Barrister, and Prof. Malcolm Potts, Population and Family Planning, University of California, Berkeley.  Wanda Nowicka played a prominent role at this conference, leading several panels and participating in many key discussions. ASTRA board member Daniela Draghici (Romania) and member Rodica Comendant also participated as panellists.  Please visit http://www.globalsafeabortion.org/ for more information. 

by Reilly Anne Dempsey

Council of Europe: Convention on Action to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings enters into force on 1st February 2008. It must be preceded by ratifications in at least 10 countries, the last one will be Cyprus. During the General Assembly, it has been urged that all Member States ratified the Convention as soon as possible in order to make it an effective, far-reaching legal instrument. It is also highlighted that the Convention is open for non-European countries and aims to have global scope. The main features of it include: compulsory assistance measures and a recovery and reflection period of at least 30 days for the victims of trafficking, the possibility to deliver residence permits to victims not only on the basis of cooperation with law enforcement authorities, but also on humanitarian grounds; the possibility to criminalize “the clients”; a non-punishment clause for the victims of trafficking; and finally a strengthened international cooperation system and an independent monitoring mechanism, GRETA, which will monitor the proper implementation of the Convention by the Parties. During the General Assembly, it has been also highlighted that trafficking is often linked to forced prostitution. In order to combat this hot issue, the Council of Europe recommends that member states ban child prostitution under their national laws and refrain from criminalizing voluntary prostitution.   

Full information on the Convention is available at: http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/Commun/QueVoulezVous.asp?NT=197&CM=8&DF=&CL=ENG




UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of countries. The UPR mechanism is a new innovation in the UN human rights system, under which each UN member state will be reviewed periodically - at this stage every 4 years - on its human rights record. 48 countries will be reviewed each year, starting in 2008. The review will be carried out by a working group composed of members of the HRC that will meet three times per year for two weeks and will be facilitated by groups of three States members of the HRC which will act as Rapporteurs appointed by the HRC. First UPR Countries are: Bahrain, Ecuador, Tunisia, Morocco, Indonesia, Finland, United Kingdom, India, Brazil, Philippines, Algeria, Poland, Netherlands, South Africa, Czech Republic and Argentina.

NGOs are encouraged to submit their reports to UPRsubmissions@ohchr.org. The deadline for the submissions is 20th of November 2007. The reports should not exceed 5 pages.

More instructions on reports is available at: http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/upr/noteNGO_041007.htm



52nd session of The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) to be held in New York, USA from 25 February to 7 March 2008 The Commission will focus on the thematic issue of 'Financing for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women'. The online registration to participate will be open until Friday, 28 December 2007.

More information is available at: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw.

The 4th World Youth Congress, Quebec, Canada, 10-21 August  2008 The 4th World Youth Congress will bring 600 of the world's most dynamic young activists in the field of sustainable development to Quebec from 120 different countries. The congress offers a unique opportunity to meet and work alongside young people who are really doing things and going places. This event sets a new standard for international youth events, and will be the largest and most inspirational gathering of its kind for young people taking place anywhere in the world in 2008. Delegates will join forces with young Canadians to undertake hands-on community action projects across Quebec, and will help shape international policy by documenting and showing governments what young people are doing to achieve the MDGs. The first World Youth Congress coined the term, Youth-led Development. Each subsequent Congress has worked to mainstream YLD in the development community. It is the only International Youth Gathering to focus on this issue.

For more information visit: http://www.wyc2008.qc.ca/index.php?rand=1765684279

Lesbian Lives conference entitled 'Writing Lesbian Culture: Theories and Praxis’, to be held in Dublin, Ireland, 15-16 February 2008 at the University College Confirmed speakers this year include Kate Bornstein and Barbara Carrellas. The organizers announced a call for papers which can be submitted to Dr. Mary McAuliffe, Leslie Sherlock, Kate Antosik Parsons.

To visit the website of the University College go to: www.ucd.ie/werrc

Conference on Reproductive Health in Emergencies to be held in Munyonyo, Kampala, Uganda on 18-20 June 2008 The conference will bring together a wide range of actors from the fields of RH in emergencies, reproductive health, humanitarian assistance and development to contribute to the expansion of comprehensive RH services in crisis settings. We invite you to participate in this important dialogue and help to ensure that refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) receive the comprehensive RH care to which they are entitled. The abstract submission deadline passes on 31st of January 2008.

More information is available at: http://www.raiseinitiative.org/conference/    

LOVA International Conference on Ethnographies of Gender and Globalization to be held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 3-4 July 2008 With this conference LOVA wishes to create a forum for anthropologists, social scientists and other experts who study the interweaving of gender and globalization from an ethnographical perspective. How do women and men understand globalization and how do they experience globalization processes in their everyday lives? What are the challenges they face and what opportunities open up to them?  How does globalization confirm and reconstruct existing gender and other social inequalities? Does it have a potential for the empowerment of women and men and their social mobility or not? How does globalization influence constructions of femininity and masculinity and how do these constructions in turn give direction to processes of globalization? LOVA invites social science scholars to participate in this international conference by presenting their research in an individual paper or panel. We particularly encourage participants to submit audio-visuals and other alternative ways of presenting their research. Participants may register through sending individual paper or panel proposals to http://us.f371.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=LOVAnetwork@hotmail.com before February 1, 2008. A number of papers will be selected for publication.



Reproductive rights in Poland - results of the anti-abortion law   Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning has released a new report which depicts the SRHR situation in Poland. The publication is the outcome of the larger monitoring project financed by the European Commission. The main findings of the report preceded by comprehensive research indicate that the existing anti-abortion law is much more strict de jure than de facto. Abortion tourism (mostly to neigbouring Germany and the Czech Republic) and underground are well developed and illegal abortion services easily available. The study shows that there is rising interest in pharmacological abortion among women seeking clandestine abortion.

The report is available in Polish and can be downloaded from: http://www.federa.org.pl/monitoring/federa_raport.PDF

New IPAS publication: Europe region evidence-based clinical update No. 1: Emergency contraception This four-page brochure discusses the basic facts about emergency contraception for clinicians in Europe. Topics of discussion include emergency contraception’s effectiveness, how and when it should be used, emergency contraception’s potential side effects and its availability throughout Europe.
Available online at: http://www.ipas.org/Publications/asset_upload_file433_3149.pdf              

A measure of survival: Calculating Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Risk A report released in London on October 18 by Population Action International in conjunction with the global women’s health conference “Women Deliver” ranks 130 countries worldwide according to sexual and reproductive risk—illustrating the harsh reality of being a poor woman in a poor country. It documents the continuing stark disparities in reproductive risk between wealthy countries and poor ones.  Niger, Chad, Mali, Yemen and Ethiopia are among the countries where women are at the highest sexual and reproductive health risk.

The ranking of countries is available at: http://www.populationaction.org/Publications/Reports/Measure_of_Survival/rri.shtml

The publication can be downloaded from: http://www.populationaction.org/Publications/Reports/Measure_of_Survival/Summary.shtml