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CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights

No 12 (68) 2008

table of contents:

burning issue

Human Rights for Women - Human Rights for All. UDHR60 is a theme of this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence action. The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international campaign originating from the first Women's Global Leadership Institute sponsored by the Center for Women's Global Leadership in 1991. Participants chose the dates, November 25, International Day Against Violence Against Women and December 10, International Human Rights Day, in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a violation of human rights. This 16-day period also highlights other significant dates including November 29, International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, December 1, World AIDS Day, and December 6, which marks the Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre. The 16 Days Campaign has been celebrated as an organizing strategy by individuals and groups around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women by: raising awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international levels, strengthening local work around violence against women, establishing a clear link between local and international work to end violence against women, providing a forum in which organizers can develop and share new and effective strategies, demonstrating the solidarity of women around the world organizing against violence against women, creating tools to pressure governments to implement promises made to eliminate violence against women. The choice of this years theme: Human Rights for Women - Human Rights for All-UDHR60 marks the adoption by the United Nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) – the landmark document which outlines the basic human rights guaranteed to all people. The UDHR60 campaign offers an opportunity to advocate for women’s rights and the quest to end gender inequality, and to create a world free from violence, discrimination and injustice, as critical to building a just, peaceful and sustainable world where human rights for all are respected. To pay tribute to all women risking their lives in defense of women’s rights, the International Coalition on Women Human Rights Defenders nominated 16 women human rights defenders who have endured all risks and dangers to pursue their activism. Each of them 16 women human rights defenders marks a day of activism against gender violence.

Check the list of the Women Human Rights Defenders at 16 Days' website at: 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence

regional updates

Czech Republic: Roma Czech Woman Sterilized Against Will Denied Compensation. Iveta Cervenakova, 32, was forcibly sterilized after the birth of her second daughter 11 years ago. Now, a Czech appeals court has ruled that the hospital which performed the unwanted procedure owes Iveta no compensation aside from an apology. Initially, the Ostrava Regional Court recognised her right to financial compensation of 500,000 crowns but the High Court said decided that the legal deadline for financial compensation expired in her case. Cervenakova said she disagreed with the verdict and intended to address the Supreme Court. Her case was one of several that have been taken up by the Sterilized Women’s Association (SZPS) which believes several hospitals have been forcing young women to go through the sterilization procedure. Ms. Cervenakova was among possibly as many as a quarter of a million Roma women sterilized against their will in the Czech Republic.

Source: The Prague Post:The Prague Post

Russia: Anti-choice: A week without abortions. Authorities of Novorossiysk, a city located in Southern Russia near the Black Sea, had the final say in the pro-choice vs. pro-life abortion debate. From the 24th to the 28th of November the city will conduct a "week without abortion". This means that doctors will not conduct termination operations, apart from "the most extreme cases".At the same time, Novorossiysk's maternity welfare centre will hold open days during which information seminars on family planning will take place and "educational" films will be shown. Psychologists and gynaecologists will work with pregnant women in order to fully prepare them for motherhood. The city's universities will screen films, demonstrating the detrimental effects abortions may have. A representative of the city's administration said that "doctors will do everything they can to stop women from doing the irreparable". A hotline will operate in Novorossiysk over the course of the week, intended for pregnant women. Using it, they will be able to easily get in touch with leading gynaecological experts in Novorossiysk. The "week without abortions" was specifically timed to coincide with the Russian Day of Motherhood, which happens on the last Sunday of November every year. The number of abortions in Russia is amongst the highest in the world. Nearly 70% of pregnancies are terminated. In 2004 the number of abortions in Russia surpassed the number of births by 100,000. According to the statistics published by the national centre of gynaecology and midwifery, around 10-15% of abortions in Russia have complications, leaving 7-8% of operated women sterile. In Western Europe there is, on average, 12 abortions per 1,000 women a year, UN statistics say. In Russia that number stands at 54. 2008 was declared to be the “Year of Family” by the Russian government, with the intention of improving the demographic situation in the country. The propaganda of abortions and their advertising has recently been banned in the Russian media. Other policies intended to boost childbirth in Russia have included welfare payments for childbirth, social advertisements and active improvements of the healthcare system. Some creative programmes organised by local authorities included a day specifically dedicated to "child making". The Novorossiysk city administration insured that people were let off work early on that day in order to give them more time to boost the demographic situation in the country. A similar event took place in Ulyanovsk, a city in Southwestern Russia. Here, the local authorities went as far as timing the day to be exactly 9 months before The Day of Russia, with the intention of having an influx of new patriots as a result. Recently, reports have been made that the government's policies have had little effect on increasing the country's population. According to some studies, the growing global financial crisis places people under stress, making them more reluctant to have children..

Source: Russia Today

UK: For Men Who Pay for Sex with Trafficked Women, Ignorance Is No Longer a Defense. Men who have sex with women who have been trafficked or forced into prostitution will face prosecution under a shake-up of vice laws unveiled on November 19th by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. Ms Smith said the tough new approach will mean there are “no more excuses” for men who use the country's estimated 80,000 sex workers. Under the changes, paying for sex with a woman “controlled for another's gain” will become a “strict liability offence” in England and Wales, meaning prosecutors will not have to prove that the man knew a sex worker was being exploited in order to charge him. Ignorance of the woman's circumstances will be no defense and those convicted will get a criminal record and a fine of up to L1,000. In cases where the man knows that the woman is selling sex against her will, he could be charged with rape, which carries a potential life jail sentence. Police will have greater powers to shut down brothels associated with sexual exploitation, without having to prove that they are linked to class A drug use or anti-social behaviour. Ms Smith said the Home Office considered banning payment for sex outright - as proposed by women's minister Harriet Harman - but found that there was no public support for it. The Government proposals will be debated by the House of Commons.

Source: Guardian

Growing numbers of domestic violence cases in Romania. Romania sees 25 percent more cases of women who were victims of domestic violence in the first nine months of this year, said Tuesday Mihaela Mostavi, head of the National Agency for Family Protection. Since 2004, Romania has registered 44,300 women who were victims of domestic violence and 633 cases where these victims died, Mostavi said at the start of a campaign against domestic violence. In the first three quarters of the year, 8,484 new cases have been reported, almost equal to the entire number of cases reported last year, namely 8,787. "We estimate a 25-percent increase in the number of victims. The real number however is much higher. A recent poll revealed nearly 800,000 such cases," Mostavi was quoted as saying by the local Mediafax news agency. Statistics showed in 2005 and 2006 the highest number of reported cases of domestic violence, namely 9,500 per year. In global level at least one of three women was beaten throughout her life, abused or forced to have sex, and a fifth of women were sexually abused before the age of 15, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). "Violence kills more women than road accidents and malaria together, and nearly 70 percent of the victims were killed by their own spouse," UNFPA informed.

Source: Xinhua General News Service (China), sent by Daniela Draghici


ASTRA at the AWID Forum. 2,200 delegates from 144 countries participated in the 11th International Forum on Women's Rights and Development, organised by the Association of Women in Development (AWID) in Cape Town. The conference theme, "The Power of Movements," was an expression of AWID's mission to advance women's rights worldwide by strengthening the impact and influence of women's organisations. ASTRA’s presence at the conference was marked by the panel held jointly by ASTRA and ASTRA Youth. The panel addressed rising religious fundamentalisms as a main obstacle to the realization of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of societies, especially for women and youth in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE); shared the strategies used to address these challenges, which include building youth movements and promoting positive attitudes towards SRHR through advocacy campaigns aimed at making policymakers accountable to women and youth; and facilitated lively discussion on long-term strategies of strengthening our movements with inspiring ideas.

More information available at: AWID

State of the World Population Report for 2008.The State of the World Population, an annual report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which this year is subtitled "Reaching Common Ground: Culture, Gender and Human Rights", marks the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). UNFPA's State of the World Population 2008 report focuses on culture, gender and human rights as studies show women continue bearing the brunt of decades-old cultural practices and beliefs that still prevail but which violate their rights as people. According to the report, Norway is the country closest to closing the gaps between men and women, and it also tops the Gender Gap Index (published by the World’s Economic Forum). Finland, Sweden and Iceland were the next ranking countries, according to both the World Population Report and the Gender Gap Index, with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Chad and Yemen listing at the bottom of the 130 countries surveyed. About 80 percent of countries ranked have made improvements since the index began in 2006. Previously higher ranking countries such as Lithuania (23), Belarus (33), Estonia (37) and Bulgaria (36) slipped down the Index but stayed in the top 40, while Latvia (10), Poland (49) and Kyrgyz Republic (41) made significant gains. The World Population Report and the Gender Gap Index provide an insight into the gaps between women and men in over 92% of the world’s population.

The WEF’s report:World Economic Forum

A copy of the UNFPA’s report may be downloaded from its website:UNFPA

United Nations: Breakthrough in access to justice for all rights. The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly's Third Committee in New York. The Optional Protocol introduced by Portugal and adopted by consensus was co-sponsored by 52 states from all regions of the world. It will next be presented for final adoption by the General Assembly in plenary session on 10 December, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Optional Protocol is an important tool for implementing the declaration made 15 years ago at the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights that “all human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated. The international community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing, and with the same emphasis”.

More information available at :International Network for Economic, Social & Cultural Rights

Uruguay: Abortion to remain a crime in Uruguay after Congress vote. Lawmakers failed Thursday to muster enough votes for a measure that would have ended Uruguay's 70-year-old ban on abortion, meaning the procedure will remain a crime in this socially conservative country. After a heated debate, legislators here failed to overturn a presidential veto of a bill passed in Congress earlier this month decriminalizing abortion. Lawmakers said they were unable to reach the three-fifths quotient required in each chamber to override the veto, legislator Jaime Trobo said. The bill legalizing abortion -- passed by Congress earlier in November and hailed as a milestone -- would have allowed a woman to end a pregnancy within the first 12 weeks of gestation because of economic, family or age reasons. Abortion also would have been allowed for health, deformation or risk to the mother's life. The bill was vetoed by President Tabare Vazquez, after the Roman Catholic church expressed "deep discomfort" about the bill. Vazquez, also a doctor by profession, had announced that he would veto the Law of Sexual and Reproductive Health. Some ruling party lawmakers tried, but failed, to win Vazquez's support for the bill. They also failed to get his support in allowing Uruguayans to hold a referendum on the measure. A recent poll showed 57 percent of Uruguayans support access to abortion while 42 percent oppose it.

Source: Agence France Presse – English

Bolivia: Supreme Court Directs Courts to Implement Abortion Policy. The Supreme Court of Justice of Bolivia issued an order to all lower courts judges obligating them to implement Article 266 of the Penal Code, which allows abortion for the life and health of the women and for cases of rape and incest. According to Bolivia’s current Penal Code, which was adopted in 1973, abortion is permitted only when a pregnancy endangers a woman’s life or health and when no other measure can remove the potential danger. Article 266 of the Penal Code also permits abortion in cases of rape and incest. In both cases, the law stipulates that a judicial authorization must be obtained before a physician may terminate a pregnancy with the woman’s consent. To date there have only been six legal abortions in the Bolivia. Bolivia has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Latin America and complications from unsafe abortions account for approximately one-third of maternal deaths.

Source: IPAS Bolivia

Faith-Based Organizations from All Continents Create Global Network to Fight Maternal Death, AIDS and Poverty. More than 75 religious leaders and representatives of Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith-based organizations formed a global interfaith network to strengthen cooperation against the global urgencies of maternal death, AIDS and poverty. The interfaith network was formed in Istanbul at the conclusion of a two-day Global Forum of Faith-based Organizations, convened by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, which has partnerships with over 400 different faith-based organizations in more than 100 countries. The Interfaith Network on Population and Development was established after leaders of faith and of faith-based groups agreed on the principles of the network, which will also address violence against women and issues related to youth and migration. The leaders came from Africa, the Arab region, Asia and the Pacific, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Source: AIDS Portal

special contribution

UK: Amendment of Abortion Act. In early 2008, a bill to amend the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Act was drafted in the House of Commons, UK. At the time the 1990 HFE Act was being debated, there was also a debate about the upper time limit for a legal abortion. There was a decision supported by the Government and many in the pro-choice community to add an amendment to the 1990 HFE Act to reduce the abortion time limit to 24 weeks but to allow a number of exceptions after 24 weeks, e.g. in cases of severe fetal abnormality. This created a legal precedent, in that any future HFE amendment bill would be an appropriate vehicle for amendments to the abortion law. When the 2008 HFE bill was tabled earlier this year, an anti-abortion MP asked a procedural question: can amendments on abortion be tabled to the bill, given that the two issues were linked in 1990. The response was yes, even though the Government from that point on, did not want any amendments on abortion at all. Anti-abortion MPs tabled a number of amendments to reduce the abortion time limit once more -- to 12, 16, 20, and 22 weeks. A number of other restrictions on abortion were also tabled. Pro-choice MPs were asked to hold off tabling any amendments till a later stage in the passage of the bill. They agreed. The Government then took a public stance in support of no change in the abortion law time limit, and all the anti-abortion amendments were defeated. As the final reading of the bill approached, pro-choice MPs tabled seven amendments on abortion. These including making it unnecessary for two doctors to authorise every abortion, allowing suitably trained GPs and nurses to do early abortions, allowing abortions in clinical settings other than hospitals, making it possible for women having an early medical abortion to be able to take the misoprostol at home, and most controversially, extending the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland. Two other amendments were about truth in counselling women seeking abortion advice and rejecting conscientious objection in relation to contraceptive provision. All of these amendments are not controversial or radical; they were modernising amendments sanctioning practice that in most western countries is accepted and standard. Only the Northern Ireland amendment was controversial, because the majority voice in that part of the UK appears to be vociferously anti-abortion. However, 130,000 women from Northern Ireland have travelled to Britain for abortions since 1967, and have had to pay privately even though they are UK citizens. The UK Government is violating their rights to non-discriminatory treatment by denying them the same legal and health service rights as everyone else in the country. Anti-choice MPs also tabled amendments -- 23 or 24 of them. The HFE bill, updating policy on rapidly changing scientific research subjects was extraordinarily complicated. The Government was adamant that the bill needed time for debate, and that the abortion law was working well and did not need changing. The financial crisis hit. Time for debate of the HFE bill was drastically reduced, and a procedural motion was passed in spite of opposition from both pro-choice and anti-choice MPs to cut short the time allowed for the bill to such an extent that no amendments about abortion could be debated or voted upon. The biggest irony is that with the current configuration of MPs in the House of Commons and also in the House of Lords, most if not all of our amendments would have passed by a large majority, had they been voted on. We have had a Labour Government for 11 years now. They have never shown willing to modernise the law even though in 2007 the House of Commons Science & Technology Committee held hearings on the abortion law that heard all sides and came up with recommendations for changing the law, on which the seven amendments were based. Voice for Choice will be asking the Government to amend the law in its own right and will continue to campaign for the 1967 Abortion Act to be modernised and extended to Northern Ireland. We learned a hard lesson in this process, that you cannot shortcut the process of getting public and Government support for a change in the abortion law, even when the majority of both are pro-choice and even when you are trying simply to update one of the world's most liberal laws, which came into force 40 years ago this year.

Source: Marge Berer, Chair,Voice For Choice, Editor,Reproductive Health Matters

Upcoming events

The European Health Forum. "Developing and Implementing Health in the European Union" is the theme of the upcoming EU Open Health Forum held on 10-11 December 2008 in Brussels. The objective of the Open Forum is to provide a platform for networking and exchange of ideas and views of different stakeholders of the European health community (health professionals’ organisations, public health NGOs, patient groups, and service providers and funders) with a view to optimising their contribution to the implementation of the EU Health Strategy.

More on the EU Health Strategy: “Together for Health: A Strategic Approach for the EU 2008-2013”

4th International Conference on HIV Treatment Adherence (5-7 April 2009). The goal of this conference is to provide an international forum for the presentation and discussion of state-of-the-science HIV treatment adherence research, as well as current behavioral and clinical perspectives in practicum. Our ultimate hope is that this dialogue translates into evidence-based implementation of approaches for real world clinical and community settings.

More info: IAPAC;


The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) European Network. launched this year’s edition of Choices, our annual publication focusing on issues surrounding sexual and reproductive health and rights in Europe. 2008 edition of Choices is fully dedicated to volunteering in Europe and in IPPF, recognizing the importance of volunteers for IPPF’s work, the development of its strategies and therefore its future.

You can access the electronic version at:IPPFEN

Equality for Women - A Handbook for NHRIs on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.The Asia-Pacific Gender Mainstreaming Programme and the Asia Regional Governance Programme of UNDP, and Equitas – International Centre for Human Rights Education have recently launched, during the 9th International Conference of NHRIs in Nairobi, a new publication designed to support the efforts of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) to ensure that gender equality is in the forefront of efforts to promote and protect economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights. The Handbook is divided into six modules: Positioning the Issues, Equality, Development, and Rights – Making the Connections, The Legal Framework, Organizing NHRIs to Achieve Women’s ESC Rights, The Protection Mandate – Complaints Handling, Investigation and Monitoring, The Promotion Mandate – Advice, Advocacy and Education.

Click here for more information on: UN

The newest issue of Insights. The Institute of Development Studies is happy to announce a new publication on Rethinking sexuality and policy. This edition of ID21 Insights includes articles on: sexual rights in Muslim societies, US trade policy and HIV treatment, sexual pleasure and safer sex, bodily integrity in Argentine law, China’s policies on sexuality, the World Bank’s failure to address sexuality.

You can access the electronic version at:Insights

Sexuality, Health and Human Rights by Sonia Correa, Rosalind Petchesky, Richard Parker, (Routledge, 2008). This new work surveys how rapid changes taking place at the start of the twenty-first century in social, cultural, political and economic domains impact on sexuality, health and human rights. What were once viewed as private matters have become public, and an array of new social movements – transgender, intersex, sex worker, people living with HIV – have come into the open. Offering a unique framework for understanding this new world, set in the context of the major theoretical debates of recent decades, this book will be of interest to professionals, advocates and policy researchers and is suitable for a wide range of courses covering areas such as gender studies, human sexuality, public health and social policy.

More information at:Routledge