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CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights

No 04 (72) 2009

table of contents:

burning issue

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 ongoing session of Commission on Population and Development. In 2005 the World Summit—a follow-up to the meetings that launched the Millennium Development Goals—reaffirmed the importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights by adding Target 5.B.: Achieve universal access to reproductive health by 2015 as part of MDG 5: Improving Maternal Health. Contraceptive prevalence rate and unmet need for family planning are indicators for monitoring progress towards this target. The current focus on the MDGs is a significant opportunity for reproductive rights advocates to press governments to comply with their human rights obligations. A draft outcome document of the ongoing CPD seeks to introduce family planning and reproductive health programs to combat poverty in least developed countries. Project Resource Mobilization and Awareness (Project RMA) is partnership between DSW, IPPF, and PAI that aims to create an environment conducive to political support of and secure increased financial resources for RH Supplies. Project RMA aims at placing Reproductive Health Supplies on the agenda of CPD, with a specific reference to RHS in the negotiated outcome document of the CPD. ASTRA Network joined this initiative with recommendations regarding access to sexual and reproductive health in our region. Making safe, legal abortion, modern contraceptives and sexual education accessible for all and opposing different fundamentalisms obstructing observance of sexual and reproductive rights were presented as main challenges for RH advocacy. ASTRA highlights the importance of focusing, during Millennium Development Goal (MDG) processes in 2010, on the key contribution that MDG target 5b (on universal access to reproductive health) makes to the achievement of not only MDG 5 but also goals pertaining to women’s empowerment, poverty, child health and the environment and emphasizes the need to re-invigorate the family planning agenda and to address unmet needs for family planning. Furthermore ASTRA’s recommendations listed also need to increase budget allocation for family planning services in all ASTRA member-countries (CEE and CIS) and difficulties in resource mobilization for sexual and reproductive health projects in our region. The final resolution, which is being debated this week, will be soon available at the website of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Population Division.

More: www.un.org

Reproductive Health Services at the CSW. From March 2nd to March 13th, the 53rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) took place in United Nations headquarters in New York. Its main theme was “the equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS”. At the very end of the session, after long and difficult negotiations and many compromises, the governments adopted “agreed conclusions”. During these negotiations, the United States, New-Zealand and Canada (supported by Switzerland, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, and Turkey) were the most fervent advocates of women’s rights. They claimed for an article on comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services to be included in the document, while the opponents to this proposal were mainly Syria, Yemen, Qatar and Iran, but also the Africa Group led by Egypt, and most surprisingly, the European Union. Thus, the United States proposed an explicit reference to “the provision of health care and health services, including comprehensive and reproductive health services”. But after even the Africa Group agreed on this article, the European Union was the first to oppose and block the inclusion of the word “services”, accepting this word only in reference to primary health care and services. The final agreed language has then been: “Strengthen education, health and social services and effectively utilize resources to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and ensure women’s and girls’ rights to education at all levels and the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, including sexual and reproductive health [suppressed: and services], as well as quality, affordable and universally accessible primary (added) health care and services, as well as sex education based on full and accurate information in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of girls and boys, and with appropriate direction and guidance”.

The Agreed Conclusions are fully available at: www.un.org

regional updates

The EU anti-discrimination directive.The European Parliament is holding its plenary vote on Wednesday 1 April on Kathalijne Buitenweg MEP’s Report on the proposed EU Directive on the principle of equal treatment for the grounds of age, disability, religion/belief and sexual orientation. The European Parliament’s Civil liberties Committee adopted report on the proposal for a new anti-discrimination directive presented by the European Commission in March. The directive aims to prohibit discrimination based on religion, disability, age or sexual orientation in public and private sectors such as in social protection systems, education and access to goods and services, including housing. The project constitutes a step forward in the fight against all forms of discrimination, and even more so taking into consideration the improvements the EP draft report proposes to the original text. The author of the report, Head of Unit Equality, Action against Discrimination, Ms Buitenweg managed to find a compromise between political groups to delete the exception clause in relation to reproductive rights. Moreover, multiple-discrimination, the existence of situations where people are discriminated on several grounds was included in the draft report. However, the articles relating to harassment, access to education, and the reference to marital status, which may question the application of the principles of equality and non-discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender in the EU remain problematic in the proposal in its current shape. The proposal still needs to be adopted by the European Parliament in Plenary session and by the EU Council which has the last word on the directive. Some MEPs wanted to keep the exception clause related to reproductive rights, and certain Member States will probably want to reintroduce it when the proposed directive will be negotiated in the Council. As the Lisbon Treaty and economic crisis are at the top of Czech Presidency, it is expected that the directive will be adopted only during the Belgian presidency (2010).

Source: www.womenlobby.org

ASTRA’s Letter to Ms Buitenweg: www.astra.org.pl

Serbian Parliament has finally adopted an all inclusive law against discrimination.The adoption came after several weeks of intensive debate, about both the law itself and the way in which the Government handled the legislative process. A draft of the Anti-Discrimination law was produced in 2008 by the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights in co-operation with the Coalition against Discrimination. The Government adopted the law in February 2009 and submitted it to the Parliament for adoption. However, on March 4, just 15 hours before the debate in the Parliament, the Government decided to withdraw the law, giving in to pressure from among others the Serbian Orthodox Church. This led to mass reactions and very intensive debates in media and in the society at large. Numerous NGOs, intellectuals, international organizations as well as some official representatives, protested about the fact that the Orthodox Church could influence the democratic process in this way, and urged the Government to promptly put the law back into Parliamentary procedure without changing the law. Although the adopted law does not meet high international standards, the adoption is a great step forward for the fight against discrimination in Serbia. It is a great result for all the local NGOs that have been pushing for the adoption of this law for years.

Source: Swedish Helsinki Committee

Bride kidnapping in the Kyrgyz Parliament.In 2003, women's NGOs urged the Government through a petition to take measures to protect basic women's human rights. As a result, laws on social and legal protection against domestic violence and State guarantees for gender equality were adopted. However, the most persistent problem remains bride kidnapping. A recent study showed that in some areas up to 80% of married women have been abducted, informed Orzubek Nazarov, a Member of the Kyrgyz Parliament and head of the Parliamentary Committee on Youth and Gender Policy, Physical Culture and Sport. A parliamentary hearing on the problem of bride kidnapping took place on the 3rd of March. “It is necessary to get rid of the habit to take bride kidnapping as tradition and began regarding it as crime,” Jyldyz Rahimdinova member of the parliament said. Although the Article 155 of the Kyrgyz Criminal Code stipulates fine or imprisonment up to three years for the case, the bride kidnappers are usually not afraid of punishment. A lot of women, on the other hand, often are not aware of their rights and crime responsibility for the forced marriage. “Besides, the girls are afraid of relatives and friends disgrace and live with kidnappers,” Rahimdinova said. Rahimdinova stated that it is necessary to intensify activities of the structures working with women on family, youth issues and propose amendments to the Kyrgyz legislation which will reduce the number of bride kidnappings.

More information: OSCE

Female Genital Mutilation discussed by European Parliament.A clear strategy for banning female genital mutilation on EU territory and the need to acknowledge the problem in EU immigration law and cooperation agreements are among the key points of a report adopted by the European Parliament aimed at stamping out this practice. Every year approximately 180 000 female emigrants in Europe undergo, or are in danger of undergoing, FGM. Since FGM is a violation of rights, it can constitute a legitimate reason for applying for refugee status, says the report.

Source:European Parliament

ASTRA’s input in shaping the European Community’s health strategy. Representatives from a range of organizations that work with young people joined DG SANCO Director General on 13th March to discuss how young people in the UE can be best supported to take responsibility for their own health and well being. ASTRA was invited to share experiences of best practice in Poland to promote sexual health. The Forum provided a valuable opportunity to consider sexual health in the UE. The presentations highlighted the findings of national research and the main drivers behind any policy that aims to promote sexual health. DG SANCO has also launched a consultation to collect views on how the European Union can contribute to reducing health inequalities both within and between Member States. ASTRA’s response will feed into the development of a Communication tabled in the Commission Legislative and Work Programme (EU) for 2009.


The text of ASTRA’s response to the consultation call is available here:www.astra.org.pl

Northern Ireland abortion guidelines published.Following a public consultation and a vote by the Executive, the guidelines on abortion for health professionals in Northern Ireland were published, for the first time, by the Government. The Department of Health has issued the document for doctors, nurses and GPs, however the move will not alter the law, according to which abortion is only available in Northern Ireland where it can be proved that pregnancy would damage the physical or mental health of the woman. Nevertheless, medical professionals have not had any guidelines to work with when approached about terminating a pregnancy. The guidance changes nothing but does provide clarity for those working in health professions. The Family Planning Association, that has been campaigning for such a document to be published since 2001, has said it is a "historic step" towards the Government acknowledging that women in certain circumstances have the right to an abortion.

Source:Belfast Telegraph

Winners of the European Journalist Award for Excellence in Journalism. Corinna Arndt’s article “When children are not the future” was awarded the first prize in the competition open to journalists from The Netherlands, Poland, Germany, Spain and Austria who write about Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, and poverty alleviation in developing countries. This new European Journalist Award is a tribute to journalists who by their articles contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals related to health. It has been set up in the framework of the project ‘Reproductive Health for All’ in which NGOs from the above mentioned countries cooperate promoting Universal Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health as a key target to reaching the Millennium Development Goals. This is a three year campaign and lasts until 2011.


To read winning article in German:Die Zeit


Maternal Mortality addressed at the Human Rights Council. The 10th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) took place from March 2nd to March 27th, 2009 in Geneva. The Member States, UN entities and NGOs debated about building respect for human rights. This session brought some hope for women’s rights activists: after a laborious work of NGOs, the global problem of “maternal mortality” as a human right issue was finally tackled, thanks to the statement made by government representative of New Zealand on behalf of not less than 82 delegations. The statement points out the unacceptable number of women dying from pregnancy or childbirth each year (500.000), and leans on the different UN agreements which claim the necessary improvement of women’s situation to call on the Human Rights Council to act for reducing maternal mortality. It particularly asks the HRC to consider that not to have a complete access to healthcare or not to be given the possibility to decide freely on one’s pregnancy is a discrimination against women and a violation of their human rights. Then, it recommends HRC to promote the fight against maternal mortality and programmes to counter it within international dialogues, and to encourage States to include women in decision-making processes. The resolution about maternal mortality hopefully will be adopted at the next session of the HRC.

Source:Human Rights Council.

MEPs adopted a European Parliament resolution on an approach to "EC development assistance to health services in sub-Saharan Africa".During the plenary session held on 12 March 2009 in Strasbourg, MEPs adopted a non-binding resolution on an approach to "EC development assistance to health services in sub-Saharan Africa". The motion was initiated by Hon. Josep Borrell Fontelles MEP on behalf of the Committee on Development following the critical Court of Auditors Special Report No 10/2008 on “EC Development Assistance to Health Services in sub-Saharan Africa” aiming at assessing how effective EC assistance has been since 2000 in contributing to improving health services in sub-Saharan Africa in the context of the EC’s commitments to poverty reduction and the MDGs. The European Parliament resolution which was adopted with a very large majority (555 votes in favour, 8 votes against, and 11 abstentions), emphasizes the need for the EC to increase funding for health, and particularly health services in Sub-Saharan Africa. Among key recommendations, MEPs recalled the importance of strengthening health systems, ensuring sufficient health expertise, staff resources and capacity in EC Delegations in order to provide technical assistance support to the Global Fund at country level. MEPs also emphasized the need for a greater parliamentary scrutiny and oversight of development spending by bringing the EDF within the EU budget, and making a greater use of general and sectoral budget support for strengthening healthcare, using better monitoring tools and indicators. Finally, they stressed the importance of building capacity in the South, encouraging partner countries to select health as a focal sector and donor countries to implement a better division of labour.The full text is available at: European Parliament.

Source:European Parliamentary Forum Newsletter March 2009.

U.S. Government Releases $50 Million for UNFPA. The U.S. State Department announced a $50 million contribution to UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund in 2009, as provided by the omnibus bill. The omnibus bill, signed by president Obama in March, provides a total of $545 million for bilateral and multilateral family planning and reproductive health programs worldwide. This is $82 million over 2008 funding levels, an 18 percent increase, and a 66 percent increase over the Bush administration’s request. This decision highlights the Administration’s strong commitment to international family planning, women’s health, and global development. The resumption of U.S. funding will allow UNFPA to maintain ongoing global initiatives, such as training midwives to ensure safe deliveries, expanding access to family planning, delivering reproductive health supplies to clinics in remote areas, supporting the treatment of obstetric fistula, meeting the special needs of women in humanitarian emergencies, preventing HIV among young people, and ending violence against women. For UNFPA's statement go to: UNFPA.

The Paulo Longo Research Initiative: new directions in sex work research and policy.The Paulo Longo Research Initiative is a new consortium of scholars, policy analysts and sex workers that aims to develop and consolidate ethical, interdisciplinary scholarship on sex work to encourage policy that helps improve the lives of men, women and transgenders who sell or buy sex. The goal of PLRI is to further develop theoretical, cultural and empirical understandings of citizenship, gender and human rights and review the historical role of religious and philosophical streams of thought as they apply to, and shape, constructions of commercial and transactional sex.


upcoming events

“ICPD at 15 Global NGO Forum” conference. The Global NGO Forum will mark the 15th anniversary of ICPD. The goal of the conference is to strengthen NGOs working in partnership in order to secure political and financial investment in sexual and reproductive health and rights – for sustainable development in an uncertain interdependent world. It will be held from 2nd to 4th of September, in Berlin, Germany. All information about how to apply or speak at the conference will be posted on the website that is currently being developed in the next few weeks.

The email address of the Secretariat of the Steering Committee:ngo-forum-sec@gtz.de


Conscientious Objection: Protecting Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights.A new study on conscientious objection produced by Paul Hunt, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health and Judith Bueno de Mesquita and Louise Finer from University of Essex.

Link: Health Policy and Planning

Psychological and behavioral factors associated with sexual risk behavior among Slovak students. O. Kalina, A.M. Geckova, P. Jarcuska, O. Orosova, J.P. van Dijk, S.A. Reijneveld.The study aiming to assess the association of behavioral and psychological factors with three types of sexual risk behavior in adolescents in Central Europe.

Link: BMC Public Health

Newsletter of International Platform on Female Condoms.The International Platform on Female Condoms was launched in December of 2008 in order to broaden the support base for female condoms. In March the first issue of the Platform’s Newsletter was published and the new website, that will be available in April, is under construction: condoms4all.org

The Newsletter is available WPF


The Sexuality, Gender and Rights Institute: Exploring Theory and Practice Course in Istambul, Turkey, June 12-20, 2009.The Sexuality, Gender and Rights Institute is a week long residential course that focuses on a conceptual study of sexuality and examines the links between sexuality, rights, gender and health. The Institute is organized by CREA. Individuals who work on sexuality, rights, gender or health are eligible to apply.

The Newsletter is available CREA

Democracy and Diversity Summer Institute in Wrocław, 9-26 July, 2009.The eighteenth Democracy & Diversity Summer Institute, organized by the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies (TCDS) of The New School for Social Research, will take place in Wrocław, Poland, from July 9–26, 2009. TCDS will welcome forty junior scholars from the US, Europe, and other parts of the world for this intensive three-week program of study in society, culture and politics.

For further information, contact TCDS by phone at (1) 212 229-5580 ext. 3137, by e-mail tcds@newschool.edu, or see the website at www.newschool.edu/tcds