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CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights

No 10 (66) 2008

table of contents:

burning issue

NGOs express concerns regarding human rights review process of the UN Human Rights Council. During the Ninth Session of the Human Rights Council of the UN held in Geneva on September 8-23, members of the Sexual Rights Initiative took a position on ongoing process of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) - the new UN mechanism of assessing the status of the implementation of human rights globally. During the debate of the Council concerning the UPR the SRI representative delivered a statement expressing concern regarding the insufficient treatment of issues of reproductive rights and reproductive health, including maternal mortality, within the universal periodic review (UPR) process thus far. "Even though civil society has consistently reported on these issues for the UPR, and they have been included in the Summary of Stakeholders contributions prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner, States under review and Council Members and Observers have failed to address them appropriately. This is in stark contrast to the seriousness of these rights violations throughout the world, where, for example, each year over 500,000 women die and millions suffer permanent disabilities from pregnancy-related causes. Only 22% of the States under Review mentioned reproductive rights while presenting their national reports in the first session of the UPR. For the Second Round, the percentage fell even further: to 17%. In terms of Member/Observer States, only 9 in the First Session and 7 in the Second Session raised these issues in their interaction with States under Review. These low figures are a concern, and we are also worried about this trend of decreasing interest in these issues from one UPR Round to the next. What is also very striking is that although the international community has made many commitments in the area of adolescent sexuality and reproductive health education, this issue has never been raised in the context of the UPR." In conclusion the SRI urged the States address reproductive rights in review process.

Source: Wanda Nowicka

regional updates

ASTRA position on the draft non-discrimination directive. ASTRA Network issued a statement on the occasion of the first meeting of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumers Affairs Council of the EU (EPSCO) held in Luxemburg on October 2.In its letter to the EU Ministers, ASTRA expresses appreciation for role played in promoting appropriate anti-discrimination policy and assessing implementation of its principles in the European Union. While noting certain progress in the field of discrimination eradication and prevention, ASTRA highlights the lingering problem of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Furthermore, women's sexual and reproductive rights are still not respected sufficiently and, in several of the EU Member States, even repressed and/or denied. ASTRA expresses its concern with the new anti-discriminatory directive including provisions that might have negative impact on the prevention of gender discrimination related to reproductive health issues and may seriously delay the achievement of gender equality in Europe. "We believe that negative references to reproductive rights included in the draft of the directive should be removed."

More information is available at: ASTRA

ASTRA Comments to DG SANCO on priorities for annual Work Plan 2009. ASTRA has called upon the EU Directorate General for Public Health and Consumers Protection to include women's sexual and reproductive health and rights in the area of work in the upcoming year 2009. ASTRA believes that these issues should have a prominent place in DG Sanco's Work Plan 2009.

To see the full document go to: ASTRA

BELARUS: Government pronounces opinion on the legalization of sex work. Recently, the senior official of Belarusian Ministry of Interior – Uladzimir Yemyalyanaw – has expressed the Ministry’s position on the sex work industry. The stance of Ministry is conservative and does not show intention of legalizing the erotic sector in the country. First of all, a close co-worker of the Minister stated that, in his opinion, international experience had shown that legalization of prostitution did not contribute to elimination of the most burning problems linked to issues like forced prostitution, prostitution among minors, or trafficking of women. In the Ministry’s view, the legalization has the opposite effects as it leads to emergence of escort agencies and other sex service facilities. Legal access to those services allegedly fuels organized crime and increase in numbers of trafficked victims, as well as an influx of illegal migration – according to what Yemyalyanaw said. The governmental official also suggested that as a result of contingent legalization of prostitution, Belarus which is currently perceived as a country of origin, would become a country of destination of trafficking. In conclusion, Yemyalyanaw confirmed that Belarus would keep the existing law that criminalizes sex work.

Source: Belaruskie Noviny

To read more go to: Belaruskie Noviny

CZECH REPUBLIC: Action to improve maternity care services. Despite some satisfactory statistics and attempts to provide best services to women regarding obstetrics, there are still many misconceptions that hinder access to safe and comprehensive maternity care. According to women’s groups, main problems in this field could be summarized as following: disobeying existing legislation in terms of disrespect of rights of women who are giving birth, disrespect of rights of both parents who are lawful guardians of the child after the birth, and disrespect towards the recent findings of scientific research on birth and mother-child relationship summarized in recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International MotherBaby Childbirth Initiative, IMBCI, especially in terms of distortion of the process of normal birth and the important relationship between mother and child. The problem also concerns providing incomplete and misguided information, as well as discrimination of the profession of midwife despite the fact that scientific research considers a midwife’s care the most effective during the process of normal birth. The list of burning issues includes also liquidating small maternity hospitals which usually offer “domestic” type of care. Although large hospitals, dreaded by many women, do not have capacity to satisfy current demand and are overfilled, smaller facilities are being closed down. A number of women’s rights organizations have undertaken joint action to exert pressure on policy makers to introduce real institutional and systemic changes. The petition is calling on those who are responsible for setting up maternity care in the Czech Republic to start dealing with the situation immediately.

The content of the petition along with the list of its signatories is available at:Normalni Porod

CZECH REPUBLIC: Protest against government’s management of EU Structural Fund. Czech Women’s Lobby Platform objects to the governments practice of reviewing grant applications of Structural Funds. The group requests an investigation into the content and the footnote of the No. 26 E.U. grant competition announcement for the area 3.4. Equal Opportunities of Men and Women on the Labor Market and Reconciling Family and Professional Life (OP LZZ) published by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs on August 25, 2008. The request concerns specifically the footnote in the grant qualifications section that states: “Note: Projects may not be of political nature and must not promote any political or ideological aims, including feminist or masculinist ideologies." The open letter has been sent to the relevant ministry and it mainly claims that the abovementioned footnote is unacceptable as it is directly contradicting the principles and rules of European Union financing policies.

To see the full version of the letter go to: NEWW

TURKMENISTAN: UNDP’s (United Nations Development Programme) involvement in promotion of gender equality in family life. UNDP is currently running a project titled “Gender Mainstreaming in Policy Making in Turkmenistan” that assists the Government of Turkmenistan in developing gender sensitive policies and eradication of lingering harmful gender stereotypes in the country. Other UNDP’s activities include facilitating the preparation of the shadow CEDAW report and revision of the National Action Plan. Recently, UNDP has organized a training for multipliers. It was concerned mostly with the psychology of family life and addressed the issues of violence against women, and gender roles’ impact on family. The course participants got acquainted with the main concepts of gender violence, its consequences, overview of legal acts of Turkmenistan on women’s rights and interactive means of conducting trainings. Furthermore, thanks to the support of the United Nations, the establishment of Resource Centers was feasible in Turkmenistan. The objective of the centers is to strengthen the dynamic of women’s social life and to provide women with different types of assistance and counseling. Resource Centers promote education for women, increase their knowledge of political, legal and economic issues and create favorable conditions for development of their business activity. Through these centers, women can also discover and develop their professional capacity, launch creative initiatives, and protect their rights and freedom. All these activities are intended to regulate various issues related to labour, family and non-discrimination of women.

For more information go to: UNDP

Paris conference on the right to abortion called the governments on better laws and policies. 250 participants from 25 countries took part in the conference "The right to abortion: What is at stake for women in Europe?" organized by the French Movement for Family Planning on September 19-20 in Paris. The conference focused on the right to abortion in countries which are members of European Union. The conference was included in the official program of the French Presidency (with support of the minister of health, youth and sports). During the meeting different kinds of obstacles for implementing abortion rights and strategies to promote these rights were discussed. The participants had the opportunity to hear from the countries with restrictive legislation (Ireland, Poland) as well as from the countries with liberal legislation (France, Belgium). At the end of the meeting, the participants unanimously adopted a declaration urging the states to improve laws and policies regulating abortion in Europe.

Source: Wanda Nowicka


Bush’s Administration denies contraceptive supplies to prominent and respected family planning organization. Marie Stopes International (MSI) is a leading sexual and reproductive health and rights organization that is currently operating in 43 countries. Through its activities, in 2007 alone, MSI programs protected 12.5 million couples from unwanted pregnancy and thus prevented around 1-1,5 million abortions. MSI’s contribution to the promotion of family planning is indispensable according to experts in the field, including the Guttmacher Institute. Thus the latest action of USAID (The United States Agency for International Development) hindering MSI’s work has shocked SRHR circles. Recently, USAID has instructed its staff to force governments in several African countries to discontinue the provision of US-funded contraceptive commodities to MSI. MSI chief executive Dana Hovig stated that this will seriously disrupt MSI’s family planning programs in at least six African countries Ghana, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe - including one where the organization delivers 25% of all family planning services nationally. Women in these countries will be left with few options other than abortion, the majority of which will be unsafe and will likely result in their death or disability. This highly controversial step has been regarded as entirely political. Further, it is based on ridiculous assumptions. Assistant Administrator for Global Health of USAID, Kent Hill, said the action was necessary because MSI works with the Chinese Government, whom the US State Department accuses of coercive abortion and involuntary sterilizations. This argument was also used against UNFPA when Bush’s administration withdrew its funding for this agency.

Source: Information is based on MSI’s press release.

You can read more about that in the previous edition of ASTRA bulletin at:63' ASTRA Bulletin

For more information contact: Diana Thomas

APA (American Psychological Association) provides new data on the upshots of abortion. The highly respected APA has published evidence-based position statement elaborating psychological dimensions of abortion. Comprehensive research indicates that voluntary abortion does not have any negative psychological consequences for women. Contrary to anti-choice circles’ discourse, termination of unwanted pregnancy does not lead to emotional crisis of the woman undergoing the service. APA states that such statements are not confirmed by scientific studies. However, it is true that in some limited cases abortion might have negative emotional consequences but only when it is a forced and involuntary service. Nevertheless, the consequences of numerous abortions are not well known and it is hard to estimate its real impact on women as no comprehensive data has been gathered until now. Scientists from APA also stated that women undergoing very late abortions, due to fatal or serious damage of fetus, might experience similar symptoms to women who had a miscarriage. Newest data provided by APA shed a new light on the ongoing debate and are questioning (mis)information promoted by David Ferguson from Christchurch school of Medicine from New Zealand in this regard.

To view the report go to:www.apa.org

Global online forum for Reproductive Aid. ReProductive Aid is currently hosting an online discussion and global video conference about ways to increase funding for sexual and reproductive health (SRH) in the new aid environment. Guided by a Steering Committee of leading civil society representatives from Africa, Asia and Europe, ReProductive Aid launched an internet-based global community of civil society representatives networking, learning, sharing experiences and strategizing effective ways to address SRH in the new development of “aid architecture". The forum was launched as a response to the most current challenges faced by the SRHR movement. In recent years, the distribution of development aid provided by donors has been changed. SRH organizations have difficulties with accessing this new “aid architecture”, what results in stagnating and declining provision of family planning and RH aid. The guiding question is: “How can civil society organizations - in their roles of advocates, service providers and policy/implementation watchdogs - actively influence donors at country level to increase resources for SRH services?”.

To access the forum you need to register at:www.ibpinitia tive.org

upcoming events

Second Global Youth Leadership Conference, Toronto, Ontario, October 17-19, 2008 This full-day event aims to stimulate new thinking on how young people are affected by a range of global and transnational processes which influence their identity, leadership, and education.

More information is available at:AYFTAFRICA

Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) Regional Consultation Meeting (RCM), Cape Town, South Africa, November 11-13, 2008 This meeting aims to strengthen the relationships between WGNRR members in Africa and other regions. The goal is to use these networks to bring reproductive and sexual health and rights to the forefront of the global development agenda, especially with regards to women and conflict.

For more information go to:WGNRR

The AWID International Forum on Women's Rights and Development: The Power of Movements, Cape Town, South Africa, November 14-17, 2008 Organized by the Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID), the forum brings together women's rights leaders and activists from around the world to strategize, network, celebrate, and learn in an atmosphere that fosters deep discussions and sustained personal and professional growth. The Forum is open to anyone who works in women's rights, international development, and social justice.

To register and for more information go to:AWID

Autonomous Feminist Women’s Gathering, Vienna, Austria, April 9-14, 2009 At the beginning of 2008, about 70 women and lesbians from different countries, from both autonomous feminist and mixed backgrounds, came together at Freiburg, Germany. In the end it was clear to all who had participated: the time had been too short, the interest in each other too strong - there was a wish for further gatherings. The aim of the gathering of 2009 is to meet feminist women and lesbians from different countries who are involved in struggles against sexism, racism, homophobia, capitalism, fascism and patriarchy. It is aimed as an exchange on radical-feminist theory and practices and a discussion of perspectives and possibilities of action. The gathering is self-organized, which means that all participants are asked to contribute actively. This can happen in various ways: by preparing workshops, actions and discussions, by sharing our skills, by taking part in discussions, by translating, cooking, cleaning etc. The women who took part in the Freiburg gathering would like to continue dealing with topics such as: The her-story of the women’s movement and present-day patriarchy, Feminist counter-public, Breaks, continuities and common grounds between radical feminism and queer feminism. Another idea is to take up again the topics discussed at the recent gathering in Italy: Violence against women, Hetero-sexism, Racism, Precariousness and Economy, etc.

Elaborated information available at:Feminist Gathering

Grant Opportunities for Central and Eastern European Civil Society Organizations (CSOs)Trust for Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe (www.ceetrust.org) announced a thematic call for proposals titled “Agenda for Modern Societies”. Organizations are invited to submit cross-sectoral projects that address the issues and challenges of modern age. The objective is to promote development of knowledge and practical tools addressing essential challenges to governance with a special focus on the regional dimension of Poland. The proposed projects should link up to one of the following issues: Rule of law, Transparency, Accountability of the state/responsiveness, Civic Participation, Social inclusion and Effectiveness of public institutions. The deadline for submitting letter of intent is November, 3.

Detailed information is available at:CEETRUST


Now on shelves: Sexuality, Health and Human Rights (Routledge, London and New York, August 2008) This ground breaking work provides a critical analysis of shifting theoretical perspectives and activist strategies regarding sexual politics and their larger geopolitical context in the twenty-first century. Long in the making, the book surveys the "Global 'Sex' Wars" in the shadow of both religious resurgence and political conservatism; new research agendas in the face of biomedical discourses and HIV/AIDS; and "The Promises and Limits of Sexual Rights," both from within international LGBTQI and feminist human rights activism and beyond.

To preview or purchase this position go to:ROUTLEDGE