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CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights

No 11 (67) 2008

table of contents:

burning issue

SPAIN: Valencia welcomes Women on Waves. Women on Waves visited Valencia, Spain at the invitation of over 30 pro-choice organizations. The organization was welcomed by over 200 demonstrators awaiting the ship. The Catholic anti-abortion rights groups failed to fulfill their promise to prevent the ship from entering the harbor. In the morning of October the 17th three women with unwanted pregnancy embarked on the Women on Waves ship to sail to the high, free seas. The ship was accompanied by three other boats filled with press representatives. After 7 hours the ship returned into the harbor safely and the women went home. In international waters the ship operates under Dutch law, according to which women with unwanted pregnancies can take the abortion pill free of charge and without the permission of a psychiatrist that is required by Spanish law. Women on Waves works to guarantee the right to objective sexual education, availability of contraceptives and legal and safe abortion services. In countries where abortion is illegal, Women on Waves along with local supporters call attention to the dire situation of women due to illegal and unsafe abortions. So far, the ship has visited Poland, Ireland and Portugal.

To learn more visit Women on Waves’ website at: Women on Waves

regional updates

KYRGYZSTAN: new data on LGBT. Human Rights Watch breaks the silence on LGBT communities in Kyrgyzstan. Recently released report titled “These Everyday Humiliations. Violence Against Lesbians, Bisexual Women and Transgender Men in Kyrgyzstan” reveals the everyday tragedy of those people. Violence towards these people is present on many levels, forced marriages, beatings, physical and psychological abuse go hand in hand with absolute indifference of the government. Kyrgyzstan lesbians or bisexual women are often victims of forced „treatment” which in this case means rape, aiming to “cure” them of their orientation. “You will never have the green light here. It would happen in America, or somewhere else in the West, but not here… You will have to keep hiding in basements with all your business… You say, “We are afraid because they beat us.” For instance, I would also beat them.” is the government’s reaction quoted by the report.

More information available on the Human Rights Watch website:Human Rights Watch

LITHUANIA: About to vote on the one of the strictest anti-abortion law in Europe.The proposed bill called the Draft Act of the Republic of Lithuania on the Protection of Human Life in the Prenatal Stage will be soon put upon the vote by the newly elected Parliament. If it is passed, Lithuania would introduce in fact total ban of abortion as the act does not allow for termination of pregnancy even when the fetus is fatally impaired. The proposed law is a result of the long term anti-choice efforts to restrict women’s right to freely decide over their own bodies. The bill reflects extremely conservative, ultra-right wing discourse referring to the right of the child when speaking about early pregnancy. The current law in Lithuania is pretty liberal and guarantees access to legal abortion for women for any reason up to 12th week of pregnancy. According to the official sources, the abortion rate is relatively low (as in comparison with neighboring Latvia or Estonia for example) amounting 14 terminations per 1,000 women aged 15 to 45. ASTRA member organization - Vilnius-based Family Planning and Sexual Health Association – is campaigning to reject criminalization of abortion in Lithuania. Together with pro-choice activists, the organization seeks to raise awareness about the bill and its impact as there is a fear that the law will be adopted in a rush and without a factual debate open for the society. Currently, the proposed act is being reviewed by the Health Parliamentary Committee that will present its conclusions and recommendations after new cabinet is established. During the election campaign the issue of abortion was not raised by any candidate nor was it mentioned in the programme of any political party. The study conducted by the Family Planning and Sexual Health Association indicates that 70 percent of the society believes that abortion is a matter of individual choice.

Source: Women's News

PORTUGAL: Act legalizing same sex marriages turned down.Portuguese Parliament has rejected the law that would allow homosexual couples to register relationships. The conservative opposition along with the majority of the ruling socialist party voted against the act. Liberal circles remain disappointed and regret that, in theory liberal, ruling party broke under the pressure of the Catholic Church. The law was proposed by the minority leftist parliamentary political parties, namely Bloco de Esquerda and the Green Party. Many commentators claim that the government of the José Sócratesa wanted to avoid the clash with the influential catholic authorities strongly opposing the proposed bill. Nevertheless, one year earlier a liberalization of the abortion law took place in spite of severe pressure exerted by the opposition.

Source: Lewica.pl

UKRAINE: Abortion destination for Polish women.Western part of Ukraine appears to become more and more popular destination of abortion tourism for women living in the Eastern Poland. Poland is known for its exceptionally restrictive anti-abortion law that allows terminations only under three circumstances: when the pregnancy is a result of criminal offence such as rape or incest; when the fetus is seriously and irreversibly damaged; and when pregnancy jeopardizes women’s health or life. Thus women seeking abortion need to risk their physical well-being in so called abortion underground. What appears to be safer is traveling to Ukraine to access legal abortion services – it is available on demand up to 22nd week of pregnancy. Abortion tourism is a covert phenomenon but it seems to develop well and works as if it were regular industry. It has been reported that there are special bus lines transporting women with unwanted pregnancies across the border to consult the doctor in Lviv and other cities. It is also to easy to google “abortion Lviv” to see references to appropriate services targeting Polish women who can not access safe and legal services in Poland. Richer women, who can afford that, travel west to terminate pregnancy. Those with lower income choose Ukraine or Belarus. Some of women also seek to acquire abortion pills via internet. While Polish doctors deny access to abortion even if women has a right to the service (for example when she was raped), Ukrainian doctors do not deny anyone their services, performing at least 200,000 abortions for Ukrainian women and possibly another few thousand for the Polish "tourists".

You can read more about at:Kyiv Post


The AWID International Forum on Women’s Rights and Development, November 14-17, 2008. From November 14-17, 2008, up to 1,500 women's rights leaders and activists from around the world will converge on Cape Town, South Africa at the 11th AWID (Association for Women's Rights in Development) International Forum to discuss the power of movements. The International Forum on Women's Rights and Development is both a conference and a call to action. The largest recurring event of its kind, the AWID Forum brings together women's rights leaders and activists from around the world every three years to strategize, network, celebrate, and learn in a highly charged atmosphere that fosters deep discussions and sustained personal and professional growth. The issues related to SRHR will be discussed at several panels held by representatives of ASTRA, Women on Waves, ICMA (International Consortium for Medical Abortion) during the forum. ASTRA and ASTRA Youth will host the session titled: “Building sexual and reproductive rights movement in Central and Eastern Europe as a response to the rise of religious fundamentalisms”.

More information available at: AWID

Proposal for a Council Directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. The proposal of the new Directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation is being discussed by the EP. Although ASTRA welcomes the EC’s announcement for a “horizontal” directive on anti-discrimination to extend legislation for age, disability, religion/belief and sexual orientation beyond the workplace as it is undoubtedly big step forward in the fight against discrimination in Europe, we are concerned with the exclusion of gender as a possible ground for discrimination, as well as with a negative reference to the issues of reproductive rights: “Issues such as the organization and content of education, recognition of marital or family status, adoption, reproductive rights and other similar questions are best decided at national level” included in the present for of the proposal. In order to achieve current antidiscriminatory policy intentions of the EU, it is necessary to include gender as a potential ground of discrimination and remove the provisions related to reproductive rights from the content of the planned directive.

The text of the directive:European Commission

Previous ASTRA statements related to the directive can be found at:ASTRA


Proposal for Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the application of patients’ rights in cross-border health care. The planned directive to facilitate the application of European patients' rights in relation to cross-border healthcare, as well as a Communication on improving co-operation between Member States in this area was discussed by the Council of Ministers and it is now in the first reading in the European Parliament. Despite several clear European Court of Justice rulings confirming that the EU Treaty gives individual patients the right to seek healthcare in other Member States and be reimbursed at home, uncertainty remains over how to apply the principles of this jurisprudence more generally. With this proposal the Commission aims to provide legal certainty on this issue. The proposal for directive strengthens the rights of patients seeking cross-border health services in Europe and clarifies the rules related to reimbursement. However, the directive’s effectiveness might be limited due to the clause reading that patients will be able to seek abroad health care services that they would have been provided at home and that they will bear the financial risk of any additional costs arising while they seek health services abroad. As reproductive health services are not fully accessible in some of the countries, the risk arises that persons unable to access services they are entitled to in their respective countries, will be forced to pay for these services while accessing them abroad. Overall, although ASTRA welcomes the concept of the new Directive, we would be concerned if the above mentioned concern was not taken into consideration.

The text of the directive is accessible at:European Commission

Nobel Prize for HPV and HIV discoverers. 2008 Nobel Prize split between Germany's scientist Harald zur Hausen (discovered the role played by human papilloma viruses – HPV- in causing cervical cancer) and French researchers Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier (who discovered human immunodeficiency virus, HIV). At the end of the 70`s, German scientist Harakd zur Hausen challenged the commonly shared wisdom of the day and proved that HPV causes cervical cancer. Thanks to his discovery, scientists were able to create a vaccine preventing cervical cancer. “The other half” of the Prize went to French scientists Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier. They managed to identify HIV virus, causing acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Although there is no vaccine for AIDS yet, the discovery helps to create tests for HIV and retroviral drugs slowing AIDS development.

More information: European Commission

EU: Directive on maternity leave. European Commission is about to consider adoption of the new directive regulating the maternity leave on European level. EU member states will then have to take action to comply with this soft law. Current directive gives 14 weeks of paid maternity leave. The new one adds 4 weeks, making it 18 in total. Europeans Woman’s Lobby (EWL) claims that more than half of EU member states provide 16 to 25 weeks of maternity leave, and six of them provide for 25 weeks or more. In other words, 15 member states provide regulations above Commission’s new directive. EWL plans to extend the amount of weeks up to 24. According to EWL, this new directive enables self-employed and assisting spouses/life partners to avail of maternity leave protection. Ratifying the directive will enable women to enjoy the pregnancy period and first few months with their newly born baby having up to 6 months for returning to their workplace. Moreover their benefits will be calculated based on their monthly salary.

Source: NEWW

EU: Initiative to legalize same sex marriages in Europe. Homosexual activists within the European Parliament have this week tabled a declaration demanding that all member states recognize the same-sex "marriages" and civil partnerships of all other member states. The declaration was tabled today by British Liberal Democrat party Member of European Parliament (MEP) Sharon Bowles. It instructs, "Member States with existing same-sex partnership legislation to recognize the arrangements of other Member States that have also made provisions for same-sex partnerships," and for "guidelines for such mutual recognition by Member States with existing same-sex partnership legislation." If the declaration is signed by over half the MEPs, it will become a resolution which can then be formally adopted by the European Parliament and forwarded to the EU Commission, Council and Member State governments for consideration. Authors of this declaration are Sharon Bowles (Liberal Party, UK), Elspeth Attwooll (Liberal Party, UK), Martine Roure (Socialists, France), Caroline Lucas (Green, UK) and Anders Wijkman (Christian Democrats, Sweden). They have time to gather signatures until January 15th 2009. So far they collected 44 signatures. Currently same sex relationships are accepted in 15 out of 27 Member States.

Source: LifeSiteNews

Uganda stops female genital mutilation (FGM)? Girls in many places all over the world suffer from horrible practice of FGM. Government of Eastern Uganda officially banned performing female genital mutilation. Although this procedure is already illegal in 16 African countries some of Uganda’s districts allow mutilating young girls. Kepchorwa district officials announced that they are banning ancient tradition of female genital mutilation. Nelson Chelimo, district authority said that “our community has decided that genital mutilation is not necessary because women do not benefit from it in any way. The district council decided to forbid this practice.” Chemilo added that the project of an act was sent to the parliament to expand the ban on entire country.

Source: TVN


Sexuality education in school as a human right. The latest publication of the Center for Reproductive Rights is titled An International Human Right: Sexuality Education for Adolescents in Schools. It highlights what the United Nations Human Rights Treaty Monitoring Bodies have said regarding state obligations to ensure sexuality education in schools. It covers all of the major UN Human Rights Treaties, including CEDAW, the Children's Rights Convention and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These bodies have explicitly stated that the rights to life, health, education and non-discrimination require the sexuality education in schools to be mandatory, evidence-based and not censored, and should promote gender equality and eliminate gender stereotypes. The publication also includes the Treaty Bodies’ suggestion concerning the content of the sexuality education curricula.

You can access the electronic version at:Reproductive Rights

Reed Boland and Laura Katzive: Developments in Laws on Induced Abortion: 1998-2007. In the 10 years since the last global review of abortion policies, 16 countries have increased the number of grounds on which abortions may be legally performed, while two have eliminated all such grounds, according to a study released today. An additional 10 countries maintained their existing grounds for abortion, but adopted changes to increase access to abortion, including decentralizing the approval of facilities where abortions may be obtained, expanding the types of providers who may perform the procedures and increasing the range of available methods to include medication abortion. According to authors Reed Boland of the Harvard School of Public Health and Laura Katzive of the Center for Reproductive Rights, the legislative and regulatory changes in the countries included in both the 1998 and the 2008 review reflect a continuing global trend toward liberalization of abortion policies.

Click here for more information on: Facts on Induced Abortion Worldwide