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CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights

No 01 (69) 2009

table of contents:

burning issues

UN: General Assembly Addressed Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. In a powerful victory for the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 66 nations at the UN General Assembly supported a groundbreaking statement confirming that international human rights protections include sexual orientation and gender identity. It is the first time that a statement condemning rights abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people has been presented in the General Assembly. The statement drew unprecedented support from five continents, including six African nations. Argentina read the statement before the General Assembly. A cross-regional group of states coordinated the drafting of the statement, also including Brazil, Croatia, France, Gabon, Japan, the Netherlands, and Norway. The 66 countries reaffirmed “the principle of non-discrimination, which requires that human rights apply equally to every human being regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.” They stated they are “deeply concerned by violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” and said that “violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatization and prejudice are directed against persons in all countries in the world because of sexual orientation or gender identity. ”The statement condemned killings, torture, arbitrary arrest, and “deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to health.” The participating countries urged all nations to “promote and protect human rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity,” and to end all criminal penalties against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

More information is available at the website of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission at: IGLHRC

Women Demand Bigger Say in the UN Climate Talks.From 1 to 13 December the 14th Conference of the Parties (COP14) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) took place in Poznan, Poland. Gender equity is neither mentioned in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) nor in the Kyoto Protocol. The UNFCCC’s debates are mostly economically or technologically driven, and a link to sustainability principles is missing. Although poor women in developing countries are affected most by climate change because of its impact on agriculture, food security and water management and are more likely to be killed in disasters caused by extreme weather (as girls in some cultures do not learn how to swim or climb trees), most of the debate on climate change at the U.N. level has been so far "gender-blind". It is only recently that some parties have got aware of the necessity to include gender equality into the debates. During the Poznan conference, Gender and Climate Change -- Women For Climate Justice (GenderCC), an international network of non-governmental organisations, called on governments to adopt a resolution on gender justice and set up a group that could make formal inputs into the negotiations. The programs directed at encouraging gender mainstreaming into the UNFCCC negotiations included a one-day international conference, several side-events and poster presentations, daily women's caucus meetings, an exhibition booth and a press conference. Female participants of the conference called for incorporation of women's concerns into negotiations on a new global pact. "Women are not just helpless victims -- they are powerful agents of change, and their leadership is critical," Lorena Aguilar (The International Union for Conservation of Nature) said.

For more information on the gender activities, photos and videostreams, please see the GenderCC website:GenderCC

regional updates

Poland: Towards ratification of the Council of Europe's bioethical convention. Jarosław Gowin, a deputy of the Civic Platform (PO), is handling the preparations for the Bioethics Convention ratification and working on the guidelines of a bill to regulate issues of in vitro fertilization. The draft of “bioethic bill”, prepared by commission appointed by the Prime Minister, includes regulations regarding generation and implantation of human embryos that hasn’t been regulated in Polish law at all. According to the draft, IVF procedures would be available only for sterile married couples. They would therefore be unavailable for women who can have a baby the usual way but are afraid it would inherit a genetic disorder and would like to have a healthy embryo implanted, neither for couples living together nor single parents. The proposed bill also stipulates, among many controversial provisions, a ban on preimplantation diagnostics and creating surplus embryos. The draft, that is considered extremely restrictive even by Gowin’s conservative party colleagues, will be put upon the vote by the Parliament in January.

To learn more visit:Federation for Women and Family Planning

Concessions on SRHR to re- launch the EU project.Last week the European Summit in Brussels managed to get to a crucial agreement over the ratification and implementation of the Lisbon Treaty. The Council was forced to meet all the concerns expressed by the Irish government including in relation to its Constitutional provisions on abortion and more in general on its concerns over EU interference on family issues and education. Although the practical implications of the Council conclusions are limited, it will be even more difficult to put SRHR in the EU agenda. On a positive note it should be underlined that the conclusions will not affect the plan of the European Commission in relation to the Sexual Health of Young People in Europe, an important component of the EU strategy on youth and health promotion.

To learn more visit:EUobserver

European Commission Acts Against Six Countries on Gender Equality Legislation.On 27 November 2008, the Commission sent reasoned opinions to six countries to fully implement EU rules prohibiting discrimination in employment and occupation on the grounds of sex. Austria, Lithuania, Slovenia, Hungary, Italy and Malta have two months to respond. If they fail to reply or if the response is unsatisfactory, the Commission can decide to take them to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The Commission will produce a report on the implementation of the Directive next year, as required by the legislation.

Source:European Commission

Update on the work of the Sub-commission of Abortion in the Spanish Parliament.The Sub-Commission of Abortion works in Spanish Parliament in order to implement new legislation on abortion by March 2009 (the current legislation dates from 1985). On 3 December the hearings at the Sub-Commission of Abortion in the Spanish Parliament included the participation of Ms Isabel Serrano, President for the Spanish Federation of Family Planning (FPFE). Ms Serrano stated that the public health system rejects its responsibility for the practice of abortions although this medical practice is included in the official list of services provided by the institution (98% of abortions in Spain are carried out in private clinics). Ms Serrano criticized also the objection of conscience clause. The Sub-commission, that stated its hearings last September, 18th, is working hard to reach a set of agreed conclusions for a new legislation by end of December. The final recommendations from the Sub-commission on Abortion at the Spanish Parliament, will serve as the basis for the elaboration of the future legislation.

For more information go to:FPFE

Ukraine and Uzbekistan: reporting to CEDAW.Ukraine and Uzbekistan are the CEE/CIS countries scheduled to report to CEDAW Committee at the 45th CEDAW session to be held in January 2010. Since the NGOs have the opportunity to submit the alternative report or a list of critical issues they want to be raised with their respective governments, International Women Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific is currently looking an Ukrainian and Uzbek women’s group interested in engaging with the CEDAW review process. IWRAW Asia Pacific facilitates the participation of women in the CEDAW review through the programme “From Global to Local”.

To learn more about their work visit:IWRAW

The adoption of EU guidelines on combating discrimination against women.The French Presidency of the European Union’ commitment to fight against violence against women resulted in the adoption by the Council of the European Union of Guidelines on violence against women and girls and combating all forms of discrimination against them on 8 December. These guidelines should lay down the criteria for EU intervention in women's rights and specifically guide the work of mobilisation and vigilance of the European Commission delegations and the diplomatic network of all the EU Member States. They represent a very important achievement for European NGOs that advocated for a stronger focus on womens’ rights in external policy of the representative member state as well as of the EU. It is specially a good news for SRH community as far as the importance of “promoting women and girl’s access and right to information and health services, in particular as regards sexual and reproductive health“ as well as “affirming the EU’s support for the full implementation of the Cairo Action Programme“ are highligthed.

You can read more about at:European Union @ United Nations

Sweden Steps Up DNA Collection for Rape Cases.A simple cardboard box is one way Sweden, with its high rate of reported rape, is trying to address its low rate of convicting rapists. Inside there are cotton swabs; tape to capture foreign fibers and hairs; and paper, rather than plastic, envelopes to prevent samples of saliva, blood and semen going moldy before the rape case goes to court. It also contains tests for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. The new rape kit box was launched by the National Center for Knowledge on Men’s Violence Against Women on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Next year 2,000 boxes will be given to medical staff in five cities across Sweden along with a guide book explaining all tests needed to gather criminal evidence. The National Center for Knowledge on Men's Violence Against Women recommends that medical facilities store the box for two years, allowing police enough time to request it if the rape is formally reported to them. After Iceland, Sweden has the highest rate of reported rape among European Union countries, according to the 2003 European Sourcebook of Crime and Criminal Justice Statistics. Last year, the number of reported rapes almost doubled in Sweden to 52 per 100,000 people in 2007 from 29 per 100,000 in 2004. DNA has been analyzed and used in Swedish investigations and trials since the late 1980s.

You can read more about at:Women's News'

Two Hearings on Anti-Discrimination directive.On 8 and 10 December two hearings in the European Parliament addressed the draft proposal of the new directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. The first hearing was organized by Ms. Kathalijne Buitenveg, MEP of Dutch Greens and the second –organized by ILGA. Both hearings and the second specifically addressed the provision regarding reproductive rights. The directive as drafted would not include under protection any reproductive rights issues as they relate to marital and family status, which is problematic. Most participants of both hearings called for withdrawal of such provisions.

European Health Forum (EHF).The European Health Forum convened by the DG Sanco gathered several hundreds of European NGOs working on health issues, on 10-11 December. The main topics discussed at the forum were patients and their rights, healthy lifestyles for young people, inequalities in health care and new technologies in the context of the European health strategy. ASTRA participants specifically called the Commission to address the issue of conscience clause as increasing barrier to SRHR in Europe and the need to strengthen efforts leading to sexuality health education for young people.

Gender equality institute to be headed by a Lithuanian.The Vilnius-based European Institute for Gender Equality will be headed by Virginija Langbakk, a Lithuanian currently working at the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The institute will become the first EU agency based in Lithuania. According to Ms Langbakk, the establishment process may be launched in a few months.

Source : Daily Press Review from Lithuania – 05/12/2008 - LTV (04/12/2008 Panorama 20:30)

UK: Girls Will Be Allowed To Buy Pill Without A Gp Check-Up.Teenagers will be able to buy the Pill over the counter from the chemist for the first time, without the need for a check-up by a GP. Two areas of London with among the country's highest rates of teenage pregnancy will pilot the scheme next year. The Pill will initially be available without a prescription only to those above the legal age of consent, but the scheme could be extended later to include those under the age of 16. Pharmacies across the country will start handing out the Pill if the pilots in Southwark and Lambeth primary care trusts are deemed a success, Pulse magazine reported last night. The plan was criticised by pro-life groups, which warned that women could be at risk of blood clots because pharmacists would not carry out the same health checks as doctors. The morning-after pill is already available at pharmacies without direct authorisation from a doctor. But, until now, the Government has held off from allowing chemists to sell the Pill over the counter. It has changed its mind following fears that women were stopping taking the Pill because they could not get an appointment with their GP to get a repeat prescription. Last year, Health Minister Lord Darzi insisted 'robust' standards would be put in place to ensure that staff were up to the job of handing out the Pill. A Department of Health spokesman said: 'Any woman who receives contraception from a pharmacy without a prescription can still expect a full consultation with a health professional such as a pharmacist or a nurse. 'We want to help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies without undermining patient safety.'

Source: DAILY MAIL (London, U.K.)

Ministry to map prostitution in Czech Republic next year.The Czech Labour and Social Affairs Ministry will for the first time map prostitution in the Czech Republic thoroughly in 2009, deputy minister Marian Hosek (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) informed. However, Hosek explained it would be no "mechanical counting of prostitutes" since the chance to obtain the exact figures was limited. The ministry rather wants to find out the groups involved in prostitution and their possible links to trafficking in people and organised crime, Hosek added. Ministry spokesman Jiri Sezemsky said that the project would map the forms of prostitution and their occurrence in various regions. "The aim is to collect data that could be later used to minimise the negative impacts (of prostitution) on the public," Sezemsky said. The ministry is now selecting a company to carry out the survey to be completed by the end of 2009. The ministry has earmarked 2 million crowns for the project. However, the Rozkos bez rizika (Bliss without Risk) organisation aiding prostitutes has criticised the ministry's plan. It points out that "the counting of prostitutes" is virtually impossible, and moreover it would be dangerous for the pollsters. The organisation has offered its data that it has collected in the past 16 years to the ministry. Its registry includes data on over 6000 people, but the ministry has allegedly not been interested in it. However, Sezemsky said the ministry did not reject the offered cooperation and would definitely use the organisation's information in this field.

Source: CTK National News Wire (Czech Republic)


Dignitas Personae -- Vatican Issues Instruction on Bioethics. The Vatican issued its most authoritative document on bioethical issues in more than 20 years, taking into account recent developments in biomedical technology and reinforcing the church’s opposition to in vitro fertilization, human cloning, genetic testing on embryos before implantation and embryonic stem cell research. It bans the morning-after pill, the intrauterine device and the pill RU-486, saying these can result in what amount to abortions. The 32-page instruction, titled “Dignitas Personae,” or “The Dignity of the Person,” was issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s doctrinal office, and carries the approval and the authority of Pope Benedict XVI. Under discussion for six years, it is a moral response to bioethical questions raised in the 21 years since the congregation last issued instructions. Experts said that there was little new in this document, but that it might still come as a surprise to many Catholics who were unaware of the church’s ban on in vitro fertilization.

Source: New York Times

Vatican stands up against further UN resolutions.The Roman Catholic Church opposed a French-sponsored decree that calls for an end to discrimination based on sexual or gender identity. The U.N. hopes to abolish summary executions, arbitrary arrests and "the deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights" of gays. The declaration is formally put before the General Assembly on 18 of December. The Vatican has also refused to sign a UN document last May on the rights of the disabled because it did not condemn abortion or assert the rights of foetuses with birth defects. The Vatican’s position was announce on the United Nations International Day of Disabled People: Archbishop Migliore said the Vatican supported the rights of the disabled, but could not accept a clause in the UN declaration affirming a right to "sexual health and reproduction" because "in some countries such rights include the right to abortion".

Source: The Times

upcoming events

Year for combating the poverty and social exclusion. The European Commission announced 2010 as a European Year for combating Poverty and Social Exclusion. Sixteen percent of the population in EU – majority of them women–is currently at risk of poverty. The initiative will have a budget of at least 26 million euro and will work towards recognizing the right of excluded people to play an active role in the society and reinforcing the commitment of all major political players for the more concrete actions.

To know more visit: European Commission

Through their eyes, Exhibition opening !The exhibition “Through Their Eyes” will take place 23rd of January 2009 in University of Warsaw Library. The exhibition will address the socio-economic situation of women from Central Europe, Balkans and Central Asia. It will consist of photographs taken by 22 women artist from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Serbia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. The exhibition is part of the project funded by the European Commission “Through Their Eyes, Through Ours” implemented by KARAT Coalition together with organizations from several countries from our region.

For more information visit the project site: KARAT

The 18. International AIDS Conference, 18-23 July, 2010, Vienna.The largest international meeting on HIV, where every two years 25,000 participants representing all stakeholders in the global response to HIV meet to assess progress and identify future priorities will be held in Vienna. AIDS2010 is being organised in a partnership between the International AIDS Society (IAS), as the convenor, the international community partners including the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities (CWC), the Global Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (GNP+) the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ICW), the International Council of AIDS Service Organizations (ICASO), the World Young Women’s Christian Association (World YWCA), the regional partners the East European and Central Asian Union PLWH (ECUO) and the European Commission, local Austrian partners, and UNAIDS and its co-sponsors.

More information is available at: AIDS2010

We’re “Universal,” Too LGBT Rights after 60 Years of Universal Rights.The roundtable discussion featuring activists for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people’s human rights from Argentina, Brazil, Burundi, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Peru. This month is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It also marks another milestone: on December 17, for the first time, the UN General Assembly will address rights abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Human Rights Watch will also present its new report, “This Alien Legacy: The British Colonial Origins of ‘Sodomy’ Laws,” showing how penalties for homosexual conduct date from colonial repression.

The Global Symposium on Engaging Men and Boys in Gender Equalitywill take place in Rio de Janeiro, March 30 – April 3, 2009. Participants from around the world will share their work in applied research, policy, and program development. Their work challenges rigid gender norms and engages men and boys in reducing violence against women and girls, promoting sexual and reproductive health, HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, and fatherhood and caregiving. The four day Symposium will promote exchange, debate, and planning for action. The Symposium will also develop a “Call to Action” for governments to implement policy that engages men and boys in gender equality. The final results of the Call to Action as well as key conclusions from the Symposium will be available after the event on the MenEngage website.

More information is available at: MenEngage


ASTRA’s report reveals unique data regarding RH Supplies in the CEE and CIS countries. Within the frames of RH Supplies PROject financed by Population Action International, ASTRA has prepared report on RH Supplies in Albania, Armenia, Azerbajian, Georgia, Macedonia, Poland, Russia and Ukraine. The detailed report shows that participating countries do not have specific laws regulating access to RH supplies or regarding SRHR in general. Relevant references to RH are only included in general public health or drug regulations, the existing legal limitations lead to many obstacles in receiving the proper access to the services guaranteed to all people by international documents.

This report is available at: ASTRA

Report on HIV/AIDS in the WHO.On World AIDS Day 2008, WHO EUROPE and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) launched their first joint surveillance report on HIV/AIDS in the WHO European Region. Although limited by incomplete reporting, it states that HIV infection is of major public health importance in Europe. In Western Europe, the predominant mode of transmission is sex between men. In Eastern Europe, injecting drug use. The highest HIV rates were reported from Estonia, Ukraine, Portugal and the Republic of Moldova. In EU/EFTA countries, the predominant mode of HIV transmission is sex between men, followed by heterosexual contact. The number of reported newly diagnosed cases of HIV infection in 2007 has increased. AIDS incidence has continued to increase in the East.

Read more: WHO

Gender Equality Strategy 2008-2011.UNDP Europe and CIS has launched Gender Equality Strategy for years 2008-2001. The report addresses the challenges of transition and development processes in the region that have been occurring without the full participation of women, weakening women’s position in political and socio-economic life. The report identifies and analyzes the reasons for women’s low political participation (such as electoral systems, stereotypes, historical legacy etc.). The report aims to mobilize local stakeholders and partners to collect information and support building of a broader Gender Community of Practice (CoP) consisting of policy makers, academics, NGO activists and UNDP Gender Focal Points in country offices of the region.

The publication titled Empowered and Equal is available here: UNDP

Human Rights Learning : A People’s Report.The People’s Decade of Human Rights Education (PDHRE) have launched a report on state of human rights education.

Direct Link to Publication:The People's Movement for Human Rights Learning