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CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights

No 6 (62) 2008

table of contents:

burning issue

LITHUANIA: Threat of unprecedented backlash in family policy. The Lithuanian Parliament is considering the redefinition of ‘family’ which can considerably affect the country’s policies on the family. There is an idea to limit the term to only traditional models exclusively, that is only to marriages of a woman and a man and their children. So family policies will no longer be relevant and applicable to single mothers, grandparents raising grandchildren as well as other alternative family models which will be relegated to second-class status. This political initiative(State Family Political Concept) is especially dangerous in light of the fact that the model of family has significantly changed in Lithuania in recent years. Currently, there are increasingly fewer people who follow the traditional pattern of establishing families. For example, in 2005 two thirds of children were born to unmarried couples. Furthermore, the divorce rate is on the rise (similarly to other countries) and it has to be expected that there will be more and more single parents in the future, out of which 98 percent are women who will be most affected if the new law proposal is adopted. The new concept of the family could be used to prevent nontraditional family forms from receiving the same level of government assistance and from benefiting from government programmes developed to support the family. This bill, the first of its kind in Europe, has been applauded as a breakthrough by the Catholic Church and conservative politicians. Nevertheless, the Legal Department of the Lithuanian Parliament provided comments on the draft Family Policy Conception which gives hope that the conservative document will be changed. The final discussion and voting will take place on 3rd of June.

Source: Esmeralda Kuliestyle, Family Planning and Sexual Health Association

regional updates

University in Exile Award for Wanda Nowicka. On May 16th Wanda Nowicka – Polish feminist and human rights activist - received the prestigious University in Exile Award granted by the New School University in New York. The University-In-Exile Award was established to commemorate the distinctive heritage of The New School and to recognize individuals and groups whose actions, public service, or writing have helped advance the cause of democracy and human rights. Nowicka received the Award in recognition of her engagement in the struggle for women’s reproductive rights, both, in Poland and on the international arena. She is a co-founder of ASTRA – Central and Eastern European Women’s Network for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. During the Commencement Ceremony New School President Bob Kerrey stated: “In a long tradition, The New School has honored justice fighters in adversarial relationships with their repressive governments, and we have a special and treasured history of such support to Polish dissidents. We are proud to honor you for what you do at home and how you carry that work out into the world. For your dedication to increased freedom for women; to human, sexual, and reproductive rights; and to the growth of democratic institutions, it is The New School’s great honor to bestow upon you its University in Exile Award." During the Commencement the President also conferred honorary degrees on sociologist Zygmunt Bauman; urban strategist Majora Carter, theater director Elizabeth LeCompte; and management educator Henry Mintzberg. Last year the University in Exile Award was granted to Shirin Ebadi - 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner. The New School is notorious for undertaking an unusual rescue mission in 1933. It established a University-In-Exile as a refuge for scholars who were being driven out of their positions by Europe’s new fascist governments. For reasons of religion, nationality, and political ideology, the governments of Europe persecuted many of their most distinguished minds. During that period of barbarism, The New School rescued over 170 scholars and their families. In the past faculty members included Bertrand Russell, Hannah Arendt, Erich Fromm, Jacques Derrida.

To learn more visit ASTRA’s website at: ASTRA

ASTRA’s participation in the Conference on RMA (Resource Mobilization Project), Campala, Uganda, April, 24 – 25. On behalf of ASTRA Network, Evgenia Koulikova took part in a conference organized by Population Action International (PAI) in connection with the project reproductive health supplies that involved 8 ASTRA countries and organizations. At the meeting around 15 participants were present, most of them were representatives of Uganda, but also from the USA, New Zealand, Brussels and Russia. All participants were from different regional and global NGO networks. Also, representatives from UNFPA and the reproductive Health Supplies Coalition had been invited as examples of global strategies in the area of supplies that had a governmental participation. All participants made small presentations about their work and experience. Evgenia talked about ASTRA and ASTRA Youth. One of the biggest topics was "The mechanisms for stakeholders to communicate and share ideas to sustain coordinated advocacy efforts". The discussion was mostly about the situation in Uganda but all opinions from different places were very welcome. The participants agreed that access to condoms might be crucial in preventing HIV infections. They talked about why Reproductive Health Supplies are vital to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and why RHS are crucial in reducing poverty, which is a real problem in Uganda. On the second day of the meeting participants visited National Medical Stores. The meeting was very successful, informative and well prepared.

More information is available at: ASTRA

If you have further questions regarding this conference, please contact ASTRA secretariat at: ASTRA Secretariat

POLAND: New research on attitudes towards sexuality education. A poll carried out by CBOS (Public Opinion Research Center) in April 2008 indicates that two thirds of Polish pupils and students believe that comprehensive sexuality education cover, among other issues, the topics of intimate relations and contraception. Research on “Attitudes and sexual behaviours of young Poles” also shows that youth rely on unreliable sources when seeking information on sexuality. It turns out that 55 percent of respondents learn about sex and relations from their peers. Almost 45 percent of young people look to the internet for this kind of information and only 35 percent are taught about sex-related issues at school. However, over half of subjects claimed that the knowledge they gained at school was insufficient. At the same time, young people stated that limited access to information on contraception is a primary cause of early unwanted pregnancies. The research was conducted within the framework of the campaign on planned parenthood. As the poll clearly shows: young people would like to have scientifically based, unbiased and comprehensive sexuality education at school. Nevertheless, the government does not make any effort to fulfill youth’s expectations.

Source: Rzeczpospolita Daily, 20/05/2008

SWEDEN: Evaluation of sex work policy. The unusual Swedish law on sex work that penalizes buyers of sex services will now be evaluated as the country appointed a special investigator who will research the actual effects of these controversial provisions. The existing law – the so called Sex Purchase Law – was adopted in 1999 and since then it has been drawing international attention. Thus the Swedish Minister of Justice, Beatrice Ask, decided to give it more in-depth attention. The evaluation will be finalized in 2010. Ask is a proponent of the current law, as she believes that prostitution is a phenomenon that should be eliminated. The country is interested in to what extent the penalization of clients (with a fine or up to six months of imprisonment) is effective in this sense. The research results might be useful for countries, including Norway, which are considering the introduction of similar provisions.

More information is available at: IHT.COM

UNITED KINGDOM (UK): Proposal to cut time limit on abortion turned down. Recently there was a series of proposals to amend the abortion law in the UK and to reduce the time limits (from 24 weeks to 22 or even 12) when abortion can be legally performed. In the voting that took place on the 21st of May, the proposed amendments were rejected by members of parliament (MPs). The closest vote, on the 22-week limit, was defeated by 304 to 233 votes. This was a first discussion in the British Parliament over the abortion bill since 1990, when the time limit was cut from 28 to 24 weeks. The existing law has been supported by the prime minister, Gordon Brown (Labour Party) as well as Liberal Democrats. However, Brown offered Labour MPs a free vote on the issue, as a matter of conscience. Most of his cabinet voted in favor of keeping the present bill. The minister of health, Dawn Primarolo, also insisted there is no need to change the time limit. The proponents of the amendment (Tory) claimed that termination of pregnancy cannot be performed if there is a chance of viability of the fetus outside of the womb and thus a reduction in time limit is needed. However, there is no clear scientific support for the opinion that a 24-week-old fetus should be considered a premature baby that has any chance of survival. Nevertheless, All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group stated that they would continue their efforts to limit women’s access to abortion.

Source: BBC, 21/05/2008

More information is available at: BBC News

UK: No need for father to perform in vitro fertilization (IVF). Shortly before voting on the amendments to the abortion bill, the British Parliament rejected the proposed provision that requires the presence of the father as a condition for a woman to access IVF treatment. 292 MPs voted against the need for the father’s presence and 217 voted in favour of this conservative view. The existing law requires that clinics that provide this kind of service consider the “welfare” of a child before fertilizing women. It does not necessarily mean that there must be a father-to-be and MPs have voiced that in the voting again. The Parliament also opposed a further bid to ensure there is a "father or a male role model" before fertility treatment, by 290 votes to 222. Tory representatives have supported this initiative as they found father figure to be crucial for proper development of children – a view that does not meet confirmation in the comprehensive research but is a pure expression of traditional standpoints. The rejection of this proposal has important implications as it also allows lesbian couples to undergo IVF, which would not be possible if the regressive provision was adopted. Nevertheless, it is not that unproblematic as it seems, as even now some clinics still require that their patients live in at least a two-year-long heterosexual relationship before IVF is performed. The minister of health, Dawn Primarolo, clearly stated that the discrimination against same-sex couples seeking IVF treatment is not acceptable.

More information is available at: BBC News

Source: BBC, 20/05/2008

RUSSIAN FEDERATION: Ongoing feminization of HIV/AIDS pandemic. Today the HIV/AIDS pandemic has a woman’s face. At the very beginning the virus predominantly spread among males, but this has reversed, though the wrong presumption that young women are safe remains vivid among the society. The main mode of transmission has also changed. Years ago, intravenous drug users were most vulnerable to transmission but now HIV spreads via heterosexual intercourse (86 percent of all cases). Out of the 415,000 people infected with AIDS in Russia today, 135,000 of them are women – that is 32 percent – according to the latest figures from the Federal Consumer Protection Service. Women are also more vulnerable for infection due to biological grounds. Equally prompt feminization of the disease is also the case of Moldova, as well as many African countries. In Moscow, the capital, the situation is particularly alarming. Out of the 28,000 cases of HIV registered as of January 2008, more than half were women. Furthermore, most of them are young women aged 20 to 29. Most of them found out about their HIV status through blood tests undergone as a part of prenatal testing. The feminization of the disease has serious consequences and we might presume that there will be more and more children living with HIV/AIDS.

More information is available at: Moscow Times

Source: The Moscow Times


Council of Europe (CoE): Sets out principles of genetic testing. On 7th of May The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted an Additional Protocol to the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine concerning Genetic Testing for Health Purposes. This is a response of the CoE to the genetic testing development that is crucial for progress in the field of human health. The additional protocol draws legal rules and touches on ethical aspects of the applications of genetic testing. It specifies the quality of genetic services, prior information and consent and genetic counselling. It specifies the conditions in which tests may be carried out on persons not able to consent.

Full text of the protocol is available at: protocol

Council of Europe (CoE): calls upon governments to protect children against sexual abuse. Council of Europe urges all its member states to speed up the process of adoption of the Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse. It also offers assistance in the ratification by holding regional conferences, the first of which took place in Denmark on May 21 – 22 with the participation of the country’s Minister of Justice - Lene Espersen. The Convention was adopted at the 28th Conference of European Ministers of Justice, held in Lanzarote (Spain) on 25 and 26 October 2007. Since then it has been adopted by 28 out of all 47 member states of the CoE. It is the fist international treaty fully devoted to the problem of sexual abuses against children. It is worth to remember that the Council of Europe has decided to give priority to the promotion of children’s rights and the protection of children from violence, through its “Building a Europe for and with children” (2006-2008) programme.

Full text of the Convention is available at: convention

UNICEF: Monitoring child mortality in the developing world. Reducing child mortality (below 5 years of age) by two-thirds by 2015 is one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). UN Children’s agency UNIFEM puts this goal in the focus of its work. Recently, new data has been provided, which indicates which countries with high infant mortality (mainly from the developing world) had a chance to realize this goal. It is said that considerable progress has been made – according to UNICEF, 129 countries are on a good track to reach MDG 4. Almost one-third of the 50 least developed countries (LDCs) have reduced child mortality rates by 40 percent or more since 1990. But still, each year almost 10 million children die before their fifth birthday. It has to be highlighted that most of these deaths are preventable. Nevertheless, it is for the first time in this century that the figure has dropped below 10 million. UNIFEM concludes that MDGs are an effective tool to curb infant mortality and the main focus should be put on poverty reduction, which is crucial for all the goals set up to be achieved by 2015.

More information is available at: IPS News

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT: Evaluation of Aid effectiveness. On 22nd of May, the European Parliament voted on the report draft by Johan Van Hecke MEP on ‘the Follow-up to the Paris Declaration of 2005 on Aid Effectiveness’. The report has been jointly prepared by the European Parliamentary Working Group on reproductive health, HIV/AIDS and development and civil society.

The full text of the report is available at: report

upcoming events

Workshop on working with the media for HIV-positive young people, Mexico City. The workshop is a joint initiative of the World Aids Campaign and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and will take place on the occasion of the International AIDS Conference 2008 in Mexico City. The training will be held on Wednesday 30 July 2008. A maximum of 25 young people will participate in this training, which will provide participants with support in identifying what their message/s as positive young leaders are, as well as share tips on how to work with the media. Applicants from all regions, genders and backgrounds are encouraged to apply. Deadline for application is June, 12.

For more information you can contact campaign

Applications should be sent to: World Aids Campaign

Workshop on advocacy in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights, Budapest, Hungary, July, 15 – 17 The workshop will concentrate on the basics of SRHR advocacy strategizing (2 days) and on international (EU and national aspects) advocacy (1 day). The detailed agenda will be circulated shortly. It is open to Small Grant Facility grantees and EuroNGOs member organisations in the European Union.

For more information contact Jibek at: Jibek


Sex work, violence and HIV – new guide available. International HIV/AIDS Alliance presents a new guide that issue the challenges involved in ensuring that violence is addressed in HIV programmes, gives a detailed understanding of violence in relation to sex work and challenges some common assumptions. The guide also provides examples from real programmes that illustrate ways in which HIV and AIDS projects can help reduce the incidence of violence against sex workers and provide support to those who experience violence. This guide is primarily for organisations implementing HIV and AIDS projects with sex workers and for organizations providing funding and technical support to these projects. It aims to help organizations understand and assess the importance of taking violence into account, and to help design and carry out activities to prevent and deal with violence against sex workers. It is hoped that the discussions and examples presented will help these organizations to know what questions to ask, what issues to look for, and how to make projects more effective by responding better to the needs of sex workers.

You can download an electronic copy at: Aids Alliance

New report on the anti-choice Catholic movement. As a part of its Opposition Notes series, Catholics for Choice releases a new report: “The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights: Neither Religious Nor Civil.” It examines the work of the U.S.-based ultraconservative Catholic League and its ongoing attempts to silence anybody who raises any criticism of the Catholic church—whether justified or not—by accusing all who dare to complain of anti-Catholicism. According to an annual report put out by the League, the number of examples of anti-Catholicism grew from 140 in 1995 to 320 in 2006, yet the only thing that seems to have actually increased is the League’s definition of what constitutes anti-Catholic activity. Outlining how Catholic League president Bill Donohue seeks to bully every opponent into submission, the report shows how his organization relies on manufacturing controversy about any critic of the Catholic church, the Vatican and the church’s many controversial policies in order to attract the attention of a seemingly ever-pliant media.

For the full text go to: Catholics for choice



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Amnesty International (AI) looks into future. Amnesty International is in the process of reviewing and developing its human rights strategies and activist tactics for the coming years. You are invited to fill in questionnaire available on the abovementioned website. Your contribution is important especially in light of the fact that AI is still developing its position on abortion and you might be willing to provide feedback on that particular AI policy.