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CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights

No 8 (64) 2008

table of contents:

burning issue

Northern Ireland: landmark abortion consultation paper. A public consultation on the right to abortion is now being held in Northern Ireland. The legal battle over this issue started seven years ago but only for the first time is the public now being asked to take a position. The consultation started on July, 17 and will last for 10 weeks. In the United Kingdom, abortion was decriminalized over 40 years ago. The law there is much more liberal than the one in Northern Ireland, where only women whose physical or mental health is seriously jeopardized by pregnancy can access termination. Fetal abnormality is not recognized as ground for abortion unlike in England, Scotland or Wales. In United Kingdom, the 1967 Abortion Act made termination accessible up to 24th week of pregnancy. The law does not apply to women from Northern Ireland who also are not entitled to NHS abortion in England (provided by the National Health System). There has been a lot of confusion around the legal provisions and unequal status of women from United Kingdom and northern Ireland. Thus, the Department of Health of northern Ireland has released guidelines that stipulate the legal position on abortion. This important document is now put under review of the public opinion. The guidelines basically restate the existing law and the whole document does not call for any amendments. The principal objective of this initiative is to provide clear guidelines for women and medical facilities on how to proceed in case of possible termination. It states that two doctors have to confirm that pregnancy might lead to serious and irreversible harm to the woman to make access to abortion legal. The assessment of the risk is very problematic, especially in regards to the psychological well being of the woman which can be damaged by an unwanted pregnancy. If the procedure is not followed according to the guidelines, then the service must be viewed as a criminal offence that might ultimately end up with imprisonment. The governmental document also reaffirms doctors' right to refuse to perform abortion by referring to conscience clause though it also recognizes that there are no clear provisions at place to secure women's access to legal and safe service in such cases. The guidelines for example stipulate that in urgent cases the service must be provided to women no matter what religious or moral concerns the doctor might have. In other cases, the woman must be directed to another doctor who will perform abortion. The existing restrictive anti-abortion law in Northern Ireland gravely limits women's right to decide freely about the number and spacing of children. According to official data, about 75 terminations are performed annually. This number by no means reflects the real situation. Abortion tourism is flourishing. It is estimated that each year more than 1300 women travel to the United Kingdom to undergo abortion. Other popular destinations are Barcelona and Amsterdam.

Source: The PUSH Journal, 18/07/2008

regional updates

AZERBAIJAN: Government's efforts to boost population growth. Recent implementation of the pro-family policy is now yielding results and measurable outcomes. Lawmakers in the unrecognized republic of Nagorny Karabakh have introduced incentives for couples to get married and reproduce. The provisions were pledged during the presidential election last summer by the winning Bako Saakian who assured that the economic support would be delivered to young families. Last January, the government introduced an allowance for newlywed couples amounting about USD 1000 (300,000 drams). It may seem to have encouraged some couples to legalize their unions. In the first three months of 2008, 714 marriages were recorded a figure considerably higher than in previous years. Marriage register office reports that about 20-25 applications were received each day. However, the main idea of the government behind the introduction of the allowance is to address the demographic trends in the country. It is claimed that the war of 1991-4 upset the demographic balance amongst the population. Official estimates indicate that at least 3,150 Karabakh Armenians died in the conflict. An alarming number of people also emigrated from the county. According to official data the population amounts to 137,700 but some experts claim that this figure is purposely inflated by the government. Because of the war, many people did not establish families due to a variety of reasons, including economic status. The average salary is USD 82 - far too low to provide for a family and having children is still an expensive undertaking. Many women stay unmarried which stays in stark contrast with the cultural imperatives of this traditional society. This obviously also affects the fertility rate. However, there is still too early to assess the impact of newly introduced allowance on demographic trends.

More information is available at: www.iwpr.net

CZECH REPUBLIC: Entitlement to abortion for foreign women. Currently, as the Czech Parliament is conducting a reform of the national health system, abortion law is also discussed. Czech Family Planning Association (FPA) reports that the parliament is considering an amendment of the law so it includes possibility of performing abortion in the Czech Republic for foreign women. According to the existing law adopted in 1986 and then amended in 1992, only women with Czech nationality are entitled to the service in the country. Experts claim that there is a chance for the adoption of the new law but it will not happen overnight. The issue will be rather extensively debated and we cannot expect it to gain the momentum in the nearest future. Nevertheless, it already raised strong protest among anti-choice movement, not only in the Czech Republic but also in such countries as Poland. The amended law will obviously create new abortion tourism opportunities, especially for the neighbouring Poland, where women are denied access to termination on demand. The possible new abortion act will make it legal for women from all over the world to undergo abortion in Czech Republic until the 12th week of pregnancy. Press spokesperson of the Czech Ministry of Health confirms that nothing is sure for now but the proposal might be put for voting in early autumn and can possibly enter into force in January 2009. The Polish pro-choice movement strongly supports this initiative as it will provide access for Polish women to legal and safe services and will not force them to jeopardize their health and life in the abortion underground in Poland.

Source: Instynkt, nr 24/VII, June 2008, Lidove Nowiny, 03.06.2008, Lidove Noviny, 11.04.2008

CZECH REPUBLIC: Lesbian and Gay march attacked by ultra-right wings. On 28th of June, a peaceful demonstration of sexual minorities was planned to take place in Brno, the capital of the country. It was the first initiative of that kind in Czech Republic. Before, only marches to commemorate AIDS victims were organized. The parade was disturbed by aggressive counter-demonstrators representing radical right wing circles, including members of nationalistic party. The opponents did not have permission to organize a demonstration and gathered illegally. The march had to be delayed by an hour and the police had to bring back peace. Opponents were acting in an aggressive way throwing eggs, firecrackers and provoking peacefully oriented participants of lesbian and gay parade. The route of the march had to be shortened due to security concerns and demonstrators walked under escort of the police. On the way back, the parade was attacked once more - this time with tear gas. According to the Czech gay's rights activists, over 500 people participated in the march, including the minister of ethnical minorities - Dżamil Stehlikov. Media reported that police arrested 15 counter-demonstrators who initiated fights.

Source: Rzeczpospolita Daily, 28/07/2008

POLAND: Voluntary HIV testing on the rise. At the launch of the holiday campaign Come back without HIV National AIDS Center reported a twofold rise in HIV testing since 2006. This is good news that shows a remarkable growth of awareness in the Polish society. Nevertheless, it also tells that Poles, especially young people, engage in risky sexual behaviours that urge them to undergo testing. In 2006, 13,500 individuals checked in anonymously to determine their HIV status. This year's figure is twice as big. According to National AIDS Center the increas in testing is linked to awareness-raising campaigns. The media play a huge role here as well. For instance, two months ago, when the media publicized news that even every third sex worker might be HIV positive, testing points became crowded overnight. People who volunteer for testing are mostly young people aged 20-25, heterosexual, mainly students and those with freelance professions. There are also more and more women - every a third of all clients. Forty percent of clients report that the main reason for testing is unprotected sexual intercourse.

Source: Metro Daily; 26/06/2008

RUSSIAN FEDERATION: Alarming scope of domestic violence.According to official data, 14.000 women die each year as a result of domestic violence - that is one woman every hour. Nevertheless, it has to be highlighted that only a small percentage of cases is disclosed. Though the figure is extremely alarming, violence against women has not been recognized by state authorities as a serious crisis situation. In comparison, in the USA, which has twice the population of the Russian Federation, the toll of domestic violence is 10 times lower. There is not enough action being taken to combat the problem and domestic violence is not adequately recognized as a criminal offence even by the police. Victims have no one to turn to. In Moscow (10 million inhabitants) there is not even one shelter for battered women. In the entire country, there are only 20 shelters that are run by the government. This is far too few and there is urgent need to provide more facilities, where victims of domestic violence together with their children could seek help. The Russian legal system does not provide any protection as there are no provisions that criminalize domestic violence. The police, even if willing to help, have no legal mandate to intervene until the injuries are really severe or when it is too late - murder occurs.

Source: The PUSH Journal, 18/07/2008

SERBIA: Anti-trafficking campaign "Naked Facts". Naked Facts is the fifth edition of the anti-trafficking campaign conducted by Serbian nongovernmental organization Astra (not to be confused with ASTRA Network). The campaign seeks to remind both the general public and government authorities that trafficking in human beings is still a serious problem in Serbia, a fact often forgotten in a society increasingly tolerant to violence and human rights violation. During six years of work, from March 2002 until March 2008, Astra SOS Hotline received more than 7,500 calls, the majority of which were directly linked to human trafficking, i.e. to providing assistance to human trafficking survivors during the phase of emergency protection and care and later, throughout the process of recovery and reintegration. So far, Astra has worked with 264 trafficking victims, mostly females, 40% of whom were children, i.e. persons younger than 18. All of them were provided assistance during longer or shorter periods, both through field actions and within Astra Daily Center, which, as reintegration program that was launched in January 2007. Serbia is the country of origin, transit and destination, i.e. exploitation of trafficking victims, very often all at the same time. Namely, internal trafficking has been on the rise, the kind of trafficking in which victims are sold from one town to another, without crossing the state border. Sexual exploitation is still a dominating form of exploitation in Serbia, but we must not neglect child trafficking for forced begging and trafficking in men for labor exploitation. Campaign Naked Facts is supported by OSCE Mission to Serbia and ADA - Austrian Development Cooperation.

Source and more information: ASTRA

UZBEKISTAN: Young activists trained by UNFPA on the theater-based method. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has conducted a training for peer educators in Uzbekistan on July 14 - 19. The five-day workshop was delivered to young people from different provinces and various backgrounds; and it focused on theater-based techniques of peer education. The objective was to create a pool of trainers/multipliers who would have capacity to conduct youth-friendly interactive workshops addressing sexual and reproductive health and rights. There was especially strong focus on HIV prevention and gender equality. Trained educators are now ready to disseminate important messages on healthy lifestyles among their peers in local contexts.

More information is available at:UZREPORT


EU: Adoption of annual report on human rights. European Parliament adopted in plenary the report on human rights in the world in 2007. It has been prepared by Italian MEP - rapporteur Marco Cappato. The report examines the compliance with human rights but also evaluates the EU's efforts to promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law through its policies. The report has been preceded by consultations with civil society organizations (CSOs). The organization named No Peace Without Justice was very much involved in the process. Among others, the report calls upon the Council and the Commission to further promote the ratification of Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). It has also strong wording on children's rights, especially in terms of armed conflicts and sexual violence. There is also a recognition of women's human rights violation.

More information is available at:www.neww.org.pl

USA: International Family Planning Assistance. The approval of the fiscal year 2009 foreign assistance budget has an impact on the millions of women living in developing countries. The amount pledged to meet their needs has been significantly increased. It is the largest budget for reproductive health ever managed by the U.S. amounting to USD 600 million. It has increased by 28 percent since 2007 and what is even more striking it is over 80 percent larger than Bush requested. According to Population Action International (PAI), the need to invest in family planning has never been greater and thus the organization welcomes the adoption of foreign assistance bill by the House of Representatives. The current budget overcomes previous trend of constant decline in providing funding for international reproductive health programmes by the U.S. Most of the budget will be spent within the bilateral agreements that are managed by the USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development). Additionally, USD 60 million will be pledged for UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) that has been denied access to funding by Bush''s administration since 2002.

For further information read PAI's press release that is available at:PAI

upcoming events

XVII International AIDS Conference, Mexico City, August, 3-8, 2008. This is one of the most prominent events about the HIV/AIDS pandemic organized by International AIDS Society (IAS). It will be held for the first time in Latin America. The full programme of the conference is now available online at: http://www.aids2008.org/Pag/PAG.aspx We would like to draw your attention to one of the sessions which involves IPPF, WHO, UNFPA, GNP+, ICW and Ipas. The meeting is called Sex and Sensibility and will be focused on sexual and reproductive health needs of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). It will be held on Thursday, August, 7. The panel discussion will include the topic of unwanted pregnancy and abortion services for HIV-positive women.

Full information about the conference is available at: www.aids2008.org

Symposium on Women and HIV, Mexico City, August, 2, 2008. Open Society Institute (OSI) is organizing a symposium titled Strategies for Change: Breaking Barriers to HIV Prevention, Treatment and Care for Women. It will feature a series of moderated discussions with HIV activists, women's advocates, and health experts on innovative empowerment, legal, economic, and health services strategies for a more "woman-friendly" response to HIV. The symposium will draw attention to efforts to meet the needs of a broad range of women, including sex workers, drug users and women living with HIV, and to support their engagement in the development and implementation of the policies and programs that affect their lives. The disproportionate impact of the AIDS pandemic on women and girls is clear. The additional barriers faced by women and girls in obtaining appropriate services and care - including stigma and discrimination, violence, lack of information, and poverty - have been well documented. Yet effective strategies to address these barriers and the underlying factors contributing to them have received less attention.

For more information you can contact Dr Iqbal Shah

or Dr Balaiah Donta


Factsheet on the criminalization of HIV. A factsheet on the criminalization of HIV was developed in partnership by the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the World AIDS Campaign (WAC), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and Living Positively, a project of the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS (GYCA). The idea to develop this resource arose at the Youth Campaigning Consultation which the World AIDS Campaign held in January 2008, where youth participants came together and identified key priorities and areas where support was needed. It was noted that a resource on the criminalization of HIV, which was accessible and clear, was much needed, and thus we are glad to be able to share this today. The factsheet is available in English, French in Spanish.

For electronic or hard version contact Claudia Ahumada

The abortion magazine, volume 4.Issued by IPAS, the summer edition of the abortion magazine focuses on medical abortion. Articles include an overview by Traci Baird, an examination of Uruguay's harm reduction approach to abortion care, as well as an interview with Danielle Hassoun, part of the original team that conducted clinical trials for RU-486 in the 1980s.

It can be accessed at: The abortion magazine, volume 4

Addressing unsafe abortion: A commitment to saving women's lives. Addressing unsafe abortion: A commitment to saving women's lives IPAS has just issued a second edition of their publication. More than ten years after the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, unsafe abortion continues to be a major public-health and women's rights issue. After summarizing the global problem of unsafe abortion, this two-page factsheet outlines the recommendations that have been made to address this problem, the approaches used to implement these recommendations, and the regressive policies that have undermined them, including the far-reaching global gag rule that was reinstated by President George W. Bush in 2001.

Electronic version can be downloaded at: Factsheet

Triple Jeopardy: Female Adolescence, Sexual Violence, and HIV/AIDS. New publication of IWHC addresses the particular vulnerability of young women to sexual violence and HIV infection. This factsheet is the latest in the IWHC's series on Young Adolescents' Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, which uses evidence about the sexual and reproductive knowledge and behaviors of 10- to 14-year-olds around the world to argue for more responsive programs and policies.

Electronic version can be downloaded at:Factsheet

The entire series can be viewed at:www.iwhc.org


Safe and legal in Ireland abortion rights campaign. We strongly encourage you to check out this important pro-choice initiative in Northern Ireland. You can access its blog at: www.safeandlegal.blogspot.com

Youth Coalition launches new website. We are pleased to announce the launch of our newly re-designed website. With a fresh look and feel, www.youthcoalition.org is attractive, engaging and more user-friendly than ever! Visit the Youth Coalition online and explore the various publications, find out more about the work of Youth Coalition, and get to know their members, staff and alumni. To see the new website go to:www.youthcoalition.org