logo ASTRY

CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights

No 07 (75) 2009

Table of contents:

burning issues

New composition of the European Parliament. Conservative/centre-right parties were the clear winners of the June European Parliament elections. The results signal a shift in favour of the centre-right parties in nearly all Member States with the exception of Denmark, Czech Rep., Greece and Malta where the centre-left parties were the winners. On the other hand, however, significant gains were made by Green parties across many Member States, for example in Germany, and most noteworthy in France and French-speaking Belgium where they doubled their score, earning them the rank of 3rd largest party in their country/electoral region. Liberal parties fared quite well, most notably in Germany, Sweden, The Netherlands, and centre-left socialist/social-democratic parties were the losers of the elections. The elections’ results signal a set of new dynamics between political parties in the European Union and reveal many important lessons for the ICPD agenda’s advocacy and more broadly for global health and women's rights would be wise to take note of. At a practical level, the new composition of the European Parliament will have a significant impact on how SRHR are handled at EU level, requiring building a new set of alliances across political parties. The centre-right European People's Party (EPP) will remain the largest group in the EP with 264 seats (36%) in the EP. The centre-left Party of European Socialists (PES) shrinks dramatically to only 161 MEPs, representing 21% of the EP (previously 27%), while remaining the second biggest group in the EP. The Liberals (80 seats) and Greens (53 seats) both maintain sizable groups in the EP, the Greens increasing in absolute numbers and therefore also relative strength in the European Parliament. Therefore, the traditional 'pro-SRHR' alliance of socialists-liberals-greens-left (44% in the EP, compared to 51% in the 2004-2009 period) have lost its absolute majority and will now depend to a greater extent on support from centre-right parties such as the EPP. While there are no clear party positions on SRHR within the EPP group, the largest constituent members of the EPP are the German CDU/CSU (42), Italian PdL/UDC (35), French UMP (30) and Polish PO/PSL (28) and can therefore be expected to take on a leadership role within the EPP. The German, Italian and Polish conservatives parties in the EPP have all shown on previous occasions a nearly unanimous voting record against SRHR. Populist and sometimes extremist parties made significant inroads in a number of countries, most noteworthy are the UK Independence Party (UKIP) winning 13 seats and the Party For Freedom (PVV) of the Netherlands headed by Geert Wilders who is known for his anti-Islamic views, both parties coming in as the second biggest party in their respective countries. Other parties of concern include ATAKA of Bulgaria, the British National Party and Austria's Freedom Party.

Source:The European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development (EPF) at : the EPF

Swedish Presidency. On 1 July 2009, Sweden is taking over the Presidency of the EU. This means that for six months, Sweden will lead the EU's work and be responsible for ensuring that progress is made on a number of important EU issues. In the work programme for its upcoming second EU Presidency term, the Swedish government identifies two main priorities: the global economic crisis and climate change. According to the Swedish Presidency Work Programme, international law, human rights, democracy and rule of law will permeate work under the EU common foreign and security policy, and the Presidency will also work for greater visibility for EU policy in the area of human rights. The postulates of "A more secure and open Europe" and "Full employment and good health" determine the lines along which the work of the ministers will be organized. The focus of the gender equality ministers’ work will be directed at the importance of gender equality for economic growth and employment. The presidency is to work for a decision to be taken on two draft directives that will create better opportunities to both reconcile work and family life and provide increased health and safety protection: equal treatment of self-employed women and men and measures to improve health and safety in the workplace for workers who are pregnant, have recently given birth or are breastfeeding. Moreover, the Swedish Presidency plans to ensure that decisions can be taken on the directive on the equal treatment of persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. Reproductive health is not on the Swedish agenda, although the Swedish government is to support initiatives countering men’s violence against women and following up the UN action plan for gender equality, the Beijing Platform for Action.

More: the Swedish Presidency

regional updates

EU Presidency calls for intensified efforts for SRHR services.At the UN Secretary-General’s “Forum on Advancing Global Health in the Face of Crisis”, the Czech Representative to the United Nations — representing the EU Presidency - issued a statement on behalf of all 27 EU Member States. He outlined three EU priority activities in order to reduce maternal mortality: family planning, skilled assistance and emergency obstetric care. Moreover, the EU Presidency called for intensified efforts for the development of effective programmes for services for women and girls, including those related to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

The whole EU Presidency statement can be accessed here: European Union

The reproductive and sexual health didn’t appear in the Czech Presidency work plan, and while the Presidency lasted Czech representatives refused to address SRHR. ASTRA Network correspondence with the Czech Presidency can be found at the ASTRA website: ASTRA Network

The Civic Project of the IVF regulation proposal in Polish Parliament.The Committee of Citizens launches the draft law regulating access to IVF. The Committee of Citizens coordinated by the Federation for Women and Family Planning gathering experts incl. lawyers, ethicists, biologists and doctors, as well as activists and politicians, launched the project regulating the issues of IVF fertility treatment. It is the fourth law drafted but the first which promotes full access to fertility treatment. The draft will be submitted to the Parliament in July. According to the draft, IVF procedures would be available for sterile persons (unlike in the drafts prepared by conservative MPs, that stipulate either the IVF’s accessibility exclusively for married couples or its total ban). The draft allows preimplantation diagnostics, cryopreservation of embryos and creating additional/SURPLUS? embryos. The issue of IVF fertility treatment has been hotly debated in Poland since Fall 2008.

Source: Federation for Women and Family Planning

New Legal Barriers To Abortion Condemned in Slovakia.Under the new abortion legislation that has been approved in the last week of June, women who want abortions will only be able to undergo the procedure two days after they have been given official advice on the 'risks and alternatives' by their doctor. Information about them, including an identity number given to every Slovak at birth, will also be sent to a state health information institute. The age at which adolescents have to gain their parents' informed consent for an abortion has also been raised from 16 to 18. The legislation continues to allow abortion on request up until 12 weeks of pregnancy and until 24 weeks if the foetus has a genetic defect or the woman's life or health is in danger. Christina Zampas, senior legal advisor for Europe at the Centre for Reproductive Rights, told IPS: "This is the first time that an EU member state has managed to create significant barriers to women accessing abortion”. The new law runs against a worldwide trend of liberalisation of abortion laws which reflect the fact that creating barriers to abortion does not reduce abortion numbers, it merely puts women's health and life at risk. According to Jana Debrecienova from the Citizen and Democracy Foundation in Bratislava, the new law creates a number of barriers to women's right to freely decide on abortion and limit women's access to this health care service. It also conflicts with the Slovak Constitution, international agreements Slovakia has signed, and the recommendations of the WHO.

Source: IPS

Lithuanian Parliament bans ‘propaganda of homosexuality and bisexuality’.On the 16th of June, the Lithuanian Parliament has passed a legislation banning any positive information, or “propaganda” as it was called, about homosexuals. The law was called “Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information” and Article 4 includes “propaganda of homosexuality” as one of the “Detrimental Effectors”. 67 out of 74 parliamentarians who checked-in for the voting voted in favour of the Law prohibiting any discussions regarding homosexuals at schools or in media that is accessible to children or teenagers. The passed amendment puts homosexuals into the same category with display of dead or cruelly mutilated body, information that causes fear or horror or encourages suicide. Delegates to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly called on Lithuanian President to veto homophobic law. Although the Law was finally vetoed by the Lithuanian President, it is important to raise awareness about recent xenophobic outbursts in Lithuania. This law has to be considered a part of a growing climate of intimidation and discrimination in Lithuania against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people.ASTRA Network is dismayed about such a discriminatory and backward move by Lithuanian parliament.

You can access the Written Declaration from the Council of Europe condemning the discriminatory Lithuanian law here:Council of Europe

Czech Republic - Anti-Discrimination Act Finally Passed. More than one year after Czech President Klaus vetoed the Anti-Discrimination Act, the lower house has overturned his veto and passed it. 118 MPs supported the legislation, 16 opposed it. The Czech Republic could have been subjected to high EU fines had it failed to pass the law, which outlines the right to equal treatment and bans discrimination in access to employment, participation in enterprise, education and health care. The Czech Republic Anti-Discrimination Act bans unequal treatment on the basis of sex, age, disability, race, ethnic origin, nationality, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, faith or world-view. The law precisely details the situations in which protection against discrimination is to be provided, how, and to whom. The law bans unequal treatment on the basis of sex, age, disability, race, ethnic origin, nationality, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, faith or world-view. The law will not restrict anyone in their personal, public or political life. Its first priority is to strengthen the position of the individual. The law means the Office of the Public Defender of Rights (the ombudsman) will systematically assist discrimination victims by engaging 15 top lawyers. The office performs a similar function in most European countries, where the practice has brought about positive results. The regulations are also positive because the ombudsman, as opposed to the courts, enjoys much more social prestige and people will turn to that authority with much more confidence than they would to a court.


UN Expert on Trafficking in Persons Ends Visit to Poland.Ms Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children, issued the preliminary findings and recommendations at the end of her mission to Poland, which took place from 24th to 29th May 2009. The scale of trafficking in persons is not only serious in Poland but has been somewhat aggravated in the past five years by virtue of Poland joining the European Union and also acceding to the Schengen zone. These developments unarguably helped to transform Poland from being mainly a source country to clearly becoming a transit and a destination country combined. The endemic forms of trafficking include but are not limited to trafficking for labour exploitation, for prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation. The Special Rapporteur urges the Polish Government to elaborate on the definition of human trafficking in accordance with Polish government obligations under international and regional treaties signed and ratified by Poland and to establish an office of a National Rapporteur to coordinate and monitor all activities in relation to combating human trafficking. The Rapporteur noted that although victims of trafficking are being assisted by the Government there is still a huge shortfall between those needing assistance and the actual number benefiting from such government assisted programmes.


New Project: Gender and Development in New member States. The Karat Coalition. The Karat Coalition announced the start of a new 3 year EC co-funded project: Building Support in New Member States for Gender-sensitive and responsive European Development Co-operation. The project’s leading organization is One World Action – an international development agency based in London, UK. Activities are going to be implemented in partnership with Karat Coalition. The objective is to build the capacity of women’s rights NGOs to advocate for the full implementation of the EU gender equality policy in the government’s development assistance and initiation of the South- East -North cooperation on women’s rights in development.


The parliamentary hearings dedicated to the problems of the reproductive health of teenagers and young people were held in Yerevan, Armenia. As representative of Armenian Health Ministry Gayane Avakyan said, if compared with the year of 1990 birth rate twofold in Armenia. 5% out of the total number of women giving birth are teenagers, 75-80% - in an age from 19 to 30 years old and 15% - elder than 30 years old. Thus, 50 women giving birth out of 1000 are of the teenage age. This exceeds the European indices by more than 10 times. According to public opinion poll, 37% of the married women did abortion at least once. As for the level of the maternal mortality, there are 30 cases of mortality among 100thsd acts of delivery. This exceeds the European Union indices by 6 times. The problem of infertility among young people was mentioned among the problems which are still relevant today.

Source:ARMINFO News Agency (Armenia)


UN Human Rights Council 11th session’s resolutions related to gender. During the 11th session of Human Rights Council the report of the Secretary-General on the intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women (A/63/214) was adopted in order to accelerate efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women. The Council reiterating its concern at the high number of people, especially women and children, in particular from developing countries and countries with economies in transition, who are being trafficked to developed countries, as well as within and between regions and States, urged governments to take appropriate measures to address the root factors, including external factors, that encourage trafficking in persons, and to criminalize trafficking in persons in all its forms. The Council has also adopted resolution on the right to peace, the right to education and recognized maternal mortality as a pressing human rights concern. The resolution on maternal mortality is a milestone, marking shift from situating maternal mortality in the context of development aid to recognizing the right to reproductive health as a human right. The vote on the Resolution on “Traditional Values” was deferred until the upcoming session that will take place in September, 2009.

More on the 11th session:OHCHR.

Maternal mortality addressed at the UN Human rights Council’s 11th session.More than one woman dies every minute from preventable causes in childbirth, and for every woman who dies as many as 30 others are left with lifelong, debilitating complications. Moreover, when mothers die, children are at greater risk of dropping out of school, becoming malnourished, and simply not surviving. Not only is maternal mortality and morbidity a global health emergency, but it triggers and aggravates cycles of poverty that cause generations of suffering and despair. On March 16th 2009, 85 Governments in a joint statement delivered to the UN Human Rights Council reaffirmed their commitment to addressing maternal mortality as human rights issue and called upon the Human Rights Council to take decisive action to contribute to existing efforts to address maternal mortality. During the United Nations Human Rights Council's June session, governments proved that they value women's lives contributing to the existing efforts to address maternal mortality. The adopted resolution on ‘Preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights’ is the continuation of a process that lays the ground for further work of the Council and its mechanisms on this issue, and is the first of its kind at the UN Human Rights Council. In this resolution, governments express grave concern for the unacceptably high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity, acknowledge that this is a human rights issue and commit to enhance their efforts at the national and international level to protect the lives of women and girls worldwide.

Source:Preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights.

Italian Parliament increases ODA for maternal, newborn and child health. Developing countries need increased and more predictable international assistance in the areas of maternal, newborn and child health. Particularly in areas of maternal and newborn health, there have been made virtually no improvements since 1990, according to WHO. In June, the Italian Parliament has unanimously adopted a parliamentary resolution on 9 June, which aims at saving the lives of mothers and children in the countries with highest burden, by committing increased official development assistance (ODA) by its Government for maternal, newborn and child health. The resolution is a critical welcome sign by Italy, the host of the upcoming G8 Summit (8-9 July). The resolution, which was developed by a group of Italian women parliamentarians led by Senator Rossana Boldi, commits Italian Government's support to reproductive health and maternal, newborn and child health as a priority for international cooperation, promoting exchange and training of health professionals.

More:Resolution on increased ODA for reproductive health and maternal, newborn and child health.

G8 Parliamentarians’ Conference urges G8 Leaders not to reduce ODA levels in light of the economic crisis and to deliver on commitments in women’s and girl’s health.More than 100 Parliamentarians, representatives and experts of International Organisations and civil society organisation gathered for the fifth annual G8 Parliamentarians’ Conference, held in Rome, Italy from 22-23 June 2009. The discussions of the participants were focused on “Strategic Investments in Times of Crisis – The Rewards of Making Women’s Health a Priority”. The conference concluded with a very strong and forward-looking statement, entitled the "Parliamentary Appeal to G8 Heads of State and Government" which will be delivered to the G8 Heads of State and Government. The declaration amongst others calls upon the G8 Heads of State not to reduce ODA levels in light of the economic crisis and to reaffirm existing commitments to fund US$ 60 Billion through Official Development Assistance for addressing the health-related needs in development countries over five years including support for health systems strengthening and efforts to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and malaria based on concrete action plans and clear timetables, to invest in maternal and infant health as being the most cost-effective way to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and to promote gender equality by enacting development policies which protect young girls and their rights, educate young girls and boys, empower women and involve men in becoming active participants in the above.


Today’s girl, tomorrow’s woman.Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted resolution The rights of today’s girls – the rights of tomorrow’s women. The resolution emphasizes the need to eliminate all forms of discrimination against girls and to promote education in equality between women and men without stereotyping and at all levels of the education system. The Assembly calls on the Council of Europe member states to promote education in human rights taking account of the principle of gender equality and to introduce education in sexual and reproductive health for both girls and boys.

More:Council of Europe.


ASTRA Network releases new report - Legal commitments to gender equality and SRHR issues in Albania, Macedonia, Georgia, Poland and Ukraine. The report was prepared by the ASTRA Network Secretariat under the auspices of Project Resource Mobilization and Awareness (RMA), a partnership between Population Action International (PAI), the German Foundation for World Population (DSW) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). The report provides data on the status regarding the implementation of international agreements into the national legal systems in five Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries, and identifies the legal challenges faced by reproductive health programs in CEE. It's main goal is to call for renewed attention to reproductive health supplies to avoid putting the health of millions of women at risk and strengthen national level advocacy on RH commodities supplies in five partner countries in the CEE.

The report is accessible at:ASTRA Network's website'

Resources: WHO Health Statistics 2009. This year’s edition of World Health Statistics contains data from the 193 WHO Member States, and features a summary of progress towards the health-related Millennium Development Goals and their targets. The analysis presents some encouraging signs of progress, particularly in child health, and highlights that efforts in the areas such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria need to be sustained. However, it also points to the areas where there has been little or no progress, especially in regards to maternal and newborn health. According to the WHO statistics, the global maternal mortality ratio has barely changed since 1990, with a continuously high number of 400 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births in 2005 – and more than double the ratio in Africa.

The full publication can be retrieved here:WHO

Making Abortion Safe, Legal and Accessible: A Toolkit for Action. The Center for Reproductive Rights’ publication is a valuable resource for abortion rights advocates and policymakers who are working to reform abortion laws in restrictive settings. The toolkit packages together the most compelling arguments for liberalizing laws regulating abortion. It consists of eight briefing papers on abortion, which cover human rights, public health, global laws,adolescents, and religious perspectives.

Accessible at:Center for Reproductive Rights

IGPN report on development cooperation in the Region. The International Gender Policy Network (IGPN) released an in-depth regional report on advocacy for development cooperation and gender for Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

The report is available at:IGPN

The Missing Link: Applied Budget Work as a Tool to Hold Governments Accountable for Maternal Mortality Reduction Commitments. The report published by the International Initiative on Maternal Mortality and Human Rights (IIMMHR) explores the relevance of civil society budget analysis and advocacy and its potential as a tool to hold governments accountable for their maternal mortality reduction commitments.

The report can be downloaded free of charge from :IIMMHR

Regional Mapping Studies for CIS. This EC/UN report provides an overview of the issues and trends that emerged from mapping studies on aid effectiveness, gender equality and women's empowerment in Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine. The studies reveal sad picture of deterioration of gender equality standards in both countries and point at strengthening the strategic planning capacities of government institutions and the policy-budget links are the priority actions to take.

The report is accessible at:EC/UN Partnership on Gender Equality for Development and Peace

upcoming events

11 July-World Population Day. This year’s World Population Day will be dedicated to the motto “Fight Poverty – Educate Girls”. In particular against the background of the economic crisis, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) calls for policy responses that build on women’s roles as economic agents and for investments in girls’ and women’s education and health.

More information on activities around World Population Day and on how to get involved can be found here:UNFPA

EuroNGOs Conference and AGM 2009. “Investing in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Times of Economic Crisis”, 7-8 September 2009, Riga. Latvia, Papardes Zieds - Latvia's Association for Family Planning and Sexual Health, the host of this year’s EuroNGOs conference and AGM, and the EuroNGOs secretariat are pleased to invite you to join the 2009 EuroNGOs conference which will deal with the possibilities and challenges of “Investing in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Times of Economic Crisis. Looking ahead and beyond the “final” landmark dates of both ICPD at 15 and the MDGs in 2015, the EuroNGOs platform will use these outcomes as a ground of discussion to develop an action plan for the years ahead.

For more information, a preliminary program and to register to the conference and AGM, please consult the documents attached and go to:EuroNGOs

action alert

European petition for free abortion seeks one million signatures. .