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CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights

No 03 (71) 2009

table of contents:

burning issue

European Elections- It Is Your Choice! In 1908, commemorating the demonstration of 1857, New York women socialists demonstrated on March 8 for equal rights, better working conditions and voting rights. 99 years ago the Socialist International established a Women's Day to honour the movement for women's rights and to build support for achieving universal suffrage for women. Clara Zetkin’s proposal was greeted with unanimous approval by the conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, which included the first three women elected to the Finnish Parliament. This year, we are celebrating International Women’s Day as the beginning of a new challenging period, as we are preparing for the European Parliament's seventh elections. They will take place from 4 to 7 June 2009. Today the European Parliament has one of the highest proportions of women in Europe. However, gender parity is still a long way off. The proportion of female MEPs elected in 2004 was 30.2%, while in 1979 it was just 16.5%. Civil organizations join efforts to raise awareness about the European elections among voters and to engage in discussion with candidates. The EU Civil Society Contact Group launched the European Elections toolkit and the European Women Lobby prepared a model lobbying letter urging national political parties to ensure the equal representation and ranking of women on the candidate lists. Taking opportunity of the fact that our current issue should be with you shortly before the International Women's Day, let us call upon ourselves to take effective action and steps towards the achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment!

European Elections toolkit: www.act4europe.org/

Information on the EWL campaign: http://www.womenlobby.org/site/form_3.asp/

regional updates

Poland: Rallies instead of carnations. Bishop Is Not a God or the 10th Manifa.Over the past ten years, March 8 has seen the return of the Women's Day tradition in Poland as a time for women to unite in the fight for their rights, better working and living conditions and to discuss the role of women in society. Women's organizations such as March 8 Women's Alliance and the Federation for Women and Family Planning, organize what are called "Manifas" in Warsaw and other cities, events during which Polish women bring their demands out onto the streets. The most recurrent demands at the Manifas include access to contraceptives, universal sexual education, the right to abortion and better quality of reproductive health care. Participants also frequently mention homophobia and discrimination against women on the labor market and in politics. Last year's Manifa was attended by around 3,000 people and its goal was to raise awareness about women’s reproductive health as well as the situation of women employed in the health sector. The leading theme of this year’s Manifa is growing interference of Catholic Church in lawmaking regarding women’s reproductive health and gender equality.

More: www.porozumieniekobiet.home.pl

France: The government reduces budget allocation for marriage and family counseling.French organization Le Planning Familial launched an online petition to defend the right to information and sexual education for everyone after the government announced reducing by 42 % the 2009 budget allocation for marriage and family counselling. If this policy is confirmed, the immediate consequence will be the disappearance of one third of departmental associations, working intimately with the public concerned. The French Family Planning Movement, comprises 70 departmental associations in mainland France and overseas departments; 450,000 people are seen every year, with nearly 1,000 volunteers and 420 salaried staff. Marriage and family counseling has always been the ‘traditional’ activity of the French Family Planning Movement. ”Cutting off the resources of associations is a small and false economy for the government, but a major threat to information on sexual and reproductive rights”, read the press release of Le Planning Familial.

More: Le Planning Familial

Poland: The government launched report on anti-abortion legislation.According to governmental sources, there were 322 legal abortions in Poland in 2007. Under extremely restrictive legislation adopted in 1993, abortion is only allowed if a pregnancy is result of criminal assault, the pregnancy threatens her life or if the fetus is damaged. However, reports prepared by the Federation for Women and Family Planning show that the anti-abortion law is not observed and, moreover, it results in various abnormal phenomena, like the existence of illegal abortions performed by means of "abortion underground" and "abortion tourism". Despite of the UN Committee’s on the Rights of the Child concerns regarding the limited access of adolescents to reproductive health education and services and the concluding observations of the UN Human Rights Committee and other Treaty Monitoring Bodies which reviewed government’s reports on the implementation of the human rights conventions, sexual and reproductive rights (SRR) of women in Poland continue to be neglected and, at times, blatantly violated. Furthermore, restrictions to abortion affect also the quality of abortion services and access to modern technologies. In Poland old fashioned D&C method is still used in public hospitals. Vacuum aspiration is not introduced to the Polish healthcare system which cannot be not justified by medical nor financial constraints. The abortion pill is no registered which results in increased number of cases when women are offered unknown tablets outside of medical settings. The government has taken no measures to liberalize the abortion law or make it less restrictive for women in practice in the last decade. The effects abortion underground has on the situation of women and on their health has not been evaluated. Moreover, the current governmental report fails to address this issue as well as social consequences of the abortion law.

More information: Federation for Women and Family Planing

Prostitution is a multi-billion business in Czech Republic.Prostitution in Czech Republic has become a nine-billion-crown, or 400-million-US dollar business, accounting for 0.2 percent of the country’s GDP, a survey by the Czech Statistical Office revealed. However, the number of sex workers, estimated between 9,000 and 10,000, has not changed much in the last few years, according to the survey. The number of street sex workers has decreased rapidly as more and more of them are employed in nightclubs. The Czech Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is to undertake a comprehensive study on this area of enterprise; 2 million crowns has been earmarked to this end. The Czech law does not recognize prostitution; it is neither legal nor illegal to engage in commercial sex in the Czech Republic.


Bulgaria Fights to Halt Demographic Low-Down.With the perspective of progressive decrease in Bulgarian population, gynecologists have tabled a proposal that the state finances the in-vitro pregnancy, which would give a chance of having a baby to more than 200,000 sterile families in the country. This number makes up for nearly 10% sterility among 2,500,000 Bulgarian families. Health experts fought the idea that all sterile families receive free-of-charge access to the in-vitro methodology, now taking more than EUR 2,000 per treatment cycle. The government agreed to sponsor three cycles of in vitro treatment for sterile couples. Currently 200-300 babies are born from in-vitro fertilization annually in Bulgaria. Easier access to in vitro could raise that number up to 1,500 Bulgarian babies per year.

Source:Wirtualna Polska

Spain moves toward abortion law reform.According to Spanish legislation, abortion is considered a crime, though it is readily available under the current system, with women needing a doctor's certification that their health either physical or mental would be at risk if the pregnancy was allowed to proceed. In theory, such pregnancies can be terminated at any stage. The current law, which dates from 1985, also allows abortion in the first 12 weeks in case of rape, and 22 weeks in case of fetal malformation. According to governmental statistics more than 100, 000 abortions were performed in Spain in 2008. The group of Socialist MPs proposed a bill legalizing early stage abortions and allowing women to make their own reproductive decisions rather than forcing them to seek a doctor's approval. Last year more than 20 women and doctors were accused of falsifying doctors' certificates. The raids sparked a nationwide strike by the clinics, and forced the government to fast-track the new legislation. The proposal for new abortion legislation is another clash between Catholic hierarchy and the government of the Prime Minister Zapatero who has already pushed through legislation legalizing gay marriage, allowing for fast-track divorces and giving increased rights to transsexuals.


Abortion tourism in Sweden. Abortion was made legal in Sweden in 1975. Every year 30,000 women have abortions in the country of 9 million. For the first six months of 2008, around 19,000 women had abortions in Sweden. Swedish law allows gender-based abortions, which are illegal in most of the countries. According to Lars Hamberger, a gynecologist from Goteborg University, women from the countries where a male child is preferred over a female child travel to Sweden for abortion.


Rights Groups Urge Council of Europe Action on Coerced Sterilisation Matters. A coalition of human rights organizations sent a letter to the Council of Europe to voice its concern about the coerced sterilization of Romani women in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia. The letter, addressed to the Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg, was endorsed by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), Peacework Development Fund, Life Together, League of Human Rights, Center for Reproductive Rights and the Group of Women Harmed by Sterilisation. According to the letter, while coercive sterilization is usually considered a legacy of the Communist past, there is evidence that the practice is continuing to this day, with cases reported as recently as last year. For this reason, the governments concerned must officially acknowledge the problem, amend their laws and practices, and provide compensation to victims. The letter underlines that there is a pressing need for a general review in the Central European region of the persistence of this practice, and called on the Commissioner to take the lead in this review. The letter also asked the Commissioner to follow up directly with the three governments on recommendations already made by domestic bodies and international organizations that remain unimplemented.

More information available at the website of the the European Roma Rights Centre

EU: Infringement procedures against Austria, Lithuania, Slovenia, Hungary, Italy and Malta. At the beginning of 2008 the European Commission sent letters of formal notice to 22 Member States (Austria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia and the United Kingdom) regarding implementation of EU law prohibiting discrimination in employment on the grounds of sex. After analysing the Member States' responses, the Commission found that Austria, Lithuania, Slovenia, Hungary, Italy and Malta have not implemented the Directive correctly. They can be taken to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) if they fail to respond or the response would not be satisfactory to the Commission. The analysis is still ongoing for other Member States. This year, the Commission will produce a report on the implementation of the Directive.


European Court Rules Portugal Violated Women On Waves' Right To Provide Abortion Services On Ship. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Portugal violated the article 10, that guarantees the freedom of expression, when it used a warship to bar the organization’s ship, Borndiep, from Portuguese waters back in 2004. The purpose of the ships visit to Portugal was to call attention to the consequences of illegal abortion, to give information and sexual health education and to catalyze change of the restrictive abortion law. Until 2007, when the law was liberalized, abortion was legal in Portugal only in cases in which the woman's life was in danger and a few other narrow circumstances. The abortion was legalized after the national referendum on abortion that took place in February 2007. The case with the ECHR was filed by Women on Waves and two Portuguese associations, Clube Safo and Nao te Prives.

More information available at the website of the European Court of Human Rights

Lawsuit before the European Court of Human Rights – Z. v. Moldova. On February 9, 2009, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Moldovan Institute for Human Rights filed a complaint on behalf of Z. against Moldova before the European Court of Human Rights. Z. was charged with intentional and premeditated murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison after she was detained while seeking medical assistance after an illegal abortion. While awaiting trial in prison and experiencing continuous bleeding, Z. was humiliated by male prison guards and denied appropriate post-abortion care. The prosecution and the courts, meanwhile, repeatedly made biased remarks against her based on gender stereotypes and anti-abortion attitudes. The complaint charges that Moldova violated a number of rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights: the rights to liberty, security, and a fair trial, as well as the right to be free from inhumane and degrading treatment, not to be convicted for a crime and punished with no basis in law, and not to be discriminated against based on sex. In addition to the release of Z., the case seeks to ensure that Moldovan law enforcement adheres to the country's abortion and criminal laws and does not treat women who undergo illegal abortions as criminals. Discrimination by law enforcement should be condemned and laws should be put in place to prevent and punish such acts. The case also aims to make post-abortion care an essential component of healthcare and ensure it is provided in all settings, including prisons.



Government Shuts Down Websites Distributing Abortion Drugs in Brazil. The Brazilian government has shut down 75 websites that sell abortifacient drugs since 2005. The illegal websites offer the drug Cytotec, an over-the-counter medication containing misoprostol, which is approved for treating gastric ulcers, and in big dosage it causes the uterus to contract violently, inducing miscarriage or premature birth. The use of misoprostol is restricted to hospitals in Brazil, and its use for causing an abortion has been explicitly prohibited since 2005 by the National Agency of Health Vigilance (ANVISA). Abortion is illegal in Brazil, although it is not penalized in cases of rape.


ACOG urges wider availability of misoprostol internationally to deduce maternal mortality.according to a new committee opinion, the american college of obstetricians and gynecologists (ACOG) misoprostol is recommended first-line method for providing immediate postabortion care services and reducing maternal mortality. The world health organization estimates that 67,000 women die each year from abortion or miscarriage-related complications, including retained tissue, hemorrhage, and infection. Postabortion care services, such as evacuation of the uterus, have traditionally involved procedures that require immediate availability of sterilized equipment, operating rooms, or physicians or other skilled personnel. Misoprostol, that can be safely administered by nurses and midwives in an outpatient setting, is a safe and cost-effective way to provide women with postabortion care services, especially in less developed countries where obstacles to timely health care remain and maternal mortality due to incomplete abortion and miscarriage is high, the american college of obstetricians and gynecologists (acog) informed. More information available here.

USA: No Glove No Love. National Condom Week has been celebrated for ten years by Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood.This year, between 7 and 14 of February, UHPP provided participating businesses with drink coasters that promoted either Planned Parenthood Proper Attire condoms or the UHPP Captain Condom character and the phrase No Glove No Love!. The back of the coasters provided information about where to call for testing appointments. At specific locations, a team of UHPP staff and young volunteers passed out safer sex kits and engaged patrons in games designed to test and increased knowledge about sexual health and responsibility. National Condom Week is a national effort, sponsored by over 100 health and youth-focus agencies and organizations. It’s primary purpose is to educate sexually active Americans about the signs and symptoms of sexually transmitted infections, the risks they pose if they are not detected and treated, and the best methods for prevention including proper use of condoms. For more information go to: Planned Parenthood Action.

upcoming events

The 42nd session of Commission on Population and Development. The contribution of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development to the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals is the theme of the session that will be held by the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division from 30, March till 3, April.

More: UN

The 53rd session of Commission on the Status of Women.The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women will consider the theme: "The equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS" at its 53rd session at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 2-13 March 2009. The work in the Commission will be guided by two reports of the Secretary-General on the theme: one will identify and discuss key issues in sharing of responsibilities between women and men and suggest policy recommendations; and a second will provide an overview of mainstreaming efforts related to sharing of responsibilities at national level.

More: UN

The Role Of Government And Ngos In Combating Major Health/Social Problems In Our Global Society Conference.The event will take place at the International Conference Center London from the 13th to 24th April 2009. It is organized by the Fidelity UK Foundation.

For detailed call for proposals visit: Fidelity UK Foundation


Poland: Report on 2008 Summer Hotline for Teenagers.PONTON, informal group of volunteer peer sex educators affiliated with Federation for Women and Family Planning organizes summer hotlines for mobile phone users. Lat summer PONTON received over 1000 text messages during just two months. PONTON’s report on activities of the hotline has been translated to English and is available at the organization’s website. The report shows clearly how vulnerable Polish adolescents are and how much they need access to comprehensive sexual education.

Link to the report: PONTON

New Report Shows Impact of Publicly Funded Family Planning in U.S.The Guttmacher Institute released a report today entitled "Leveraging the Potential of Medicaid and Title X in an Evolving Health Care System" that could bolster support for expansion of federal funding for family planning services. The report, (see PDF) found that currently 1.94 million unplanned pregnancies are prevented each year due to publicly funded family planning services. Without current funding, the report projects that unplanned pregnancy and abortion levels would be two-thirds higher and that, among poor women, unplanned pregnancies and abortions would be close to double current rates.

Link to the report: Guttmacher Institute

Albania: Project Newsletter.The Network Against Gender-Based Violence and Trafficking in Albania has published a newsletter Making it Real: Implementing the Law Against Domestic Violence in Albania, detailing progress toward the implementation of the law against domestic violence in the country.

The Newsletter is available here

Full Report Of The Un Special Rapporteur On Freedom Of Religion Or Belief To The United Nations 2009.The discriminatory and harmful practices against women, such as female genital mutilation, polygamy, discrimination related to inheritance, sacred prostitution, general preference to have boys, are often perpetrated by individuals or communities who perceive them as a religious obligation or as being part of their freedom to manifest their religion or belief. The newest report refers to discriminatory and harmful practices against women, including honour killings, polygamy, marriage of underage girls and prohibition or coercion to wear religious symbols and devotes particular attention to religion-based personal laws, in particular in the areas of divorce, inheritance, custody of children and transmission of citizenship.

Direct Link to Original Study UN Report in French: WUNRN


Vacancy at the Global Fund Board.Vacancy at the Communities Living with HIV, TB and affected by Malaria Delegation of the Global Fund Board. The deadline for the application is 16th March 2009. For more information please email application.cfp@gmail.com with the words “Application Form Request” as the subject line of your email. Please direct all enquiries or questions to application.cfp@gmail.com and not to this e-mail address.