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CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights

No 08 (76) 2009

Table of contents:

burning issues

New anti choice attempt to undermine SRHR funding in the EU budget. After its summer recess, the European Parliament will continue its work again this week. Members of European Parliament (MEP) will come together in Brussels in their respective committee formations during the week of August 31st to September 4th. On the 1st of September the Committee on Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality will discuss the 2010 budget of the European Union and will decide on previously presented amendments. ASTRA Network issued a letter to MEPs urging them to reject amendments undermining SRHR funding in the EU budget.

To read ASTRA Network’s letter to MEPs go to: ASTRA Network

SRHR in the newly elected European Parliament. The European Parliament elections outcome signals a set of new dynamics between political parties in the European Union and reveals many important lessons which advocates for the ICPD agenda 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. While the conservative/centre-right parties, despite some losses, were the clear winners in 21 out of the EU's 27 Member States, centre-left socialist/social-democratic parties are the clear losers of the elections. Where they are in government such as Spain and Portugal, they did not succeed in mobilizing their voters sufficiently resulting in centre-right victories. Where the centre-left is in opposition such as France and Italy, they failed to convince voters to support them. The centre-left party which suffered the most was the UK's Labour party coming in 3rd after the Conservatives and the Eurosceptic UK Independence Party. Significant gains are made by Green parties across many Member States and Liberal parties also fared very well. Unfortunately, populist and sometimes extremist parties made significant inroads in a number of countries, most noteworthy in the UK, the Netherlands, Bulgaria and Austria. Support in the EP for SRHR has traditionally come from well known sources and the pattern of support for SRHR required a socialist-liberal-green-left alliance, combined with an equally important division within the centre-right (EPP) and right. With the clear swing in favour of the centre-right, the traditional 'pro-SRHR' alliance of socialists-liberals-greens-left will have 44% in the EP, compared to 51% in the 2004-2009 period. Therefore, the traditional 'pro-SRHR' will have lost its absolute majority and will now depend to a greater extent on support from centre-right parties such as the EPP. For the first time, to win a simple majority vote in the EP on SRHR will require a defection to a pro-SRHR position by at least 44 members of the EPP (or other centre-right parties such as the UK Tories or others currently 'non-aligned'). With the departure of the UK Conservatives, the EPP is now perhaps a more 'homogenous' political group, raising questions about the possibility of generating significant defections from party positions. 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 conservative parties in the EPP have all shown on previous occasions a nearly unanimous voting record against SRHR.

Source:DSW at : nEUws

Composition of the European Parliament committees. During their first session, the newly composed committees of the European Parliament relevant to sexual and reproductive health – i.e. AFET (Foreign Affairs), DEVE (Development) and FEMM (Women’s rights and Gender Equality) - took up their work. Newly elected French Green MEP Ms. Eva Joly – a former investigating judge at the High Court of Paris - will be chairwoman of DEVE. Mr. Gabriele Albertini, member of the Italian conservative party which has shown a nearly unanimous voting against SRH issues on previous occasions, will chair AFET. Swedish MEP Ms. Eva-Britt Svensson of the European United Left will hold chairwomanship of FEMM, after she had previously been vice-chairwoman of the committee.

More information on the composition of the EP committees can be found here: European Parliament

Eva-Britt Svensson: appointed chair of the European Parliament Committee on Women's Rights. Swedish feminist from the Left group (GUE/NGL) has been appointed chair of the European Parliament's committee on women's rights. Some of the issues that Eva- Britt Svensson has already highlighted and that she will be working towards are the appointment of an EU Commissioner responsible for gender equality, the development of a new EU action plan on gender equality aimed at achieving the objectives set out in the UN Beijing Platform for Action developed to improve the lives of women across the world, EU policies to combat violence against women, and protecting women's sexual and reproductive rights. Svensson also highlights that the agenda on gender equality is a central element of any sustainable solution to some of the most important problems we are facing and to respond to the concerns raised by citizens across Europe.

More: The European Parliament Committee on Women's Rights

regional updates

Anti-Discrimination Act Finally Passed in Czech Republic.More than one year after Czech President Klaus vetoed the Anti-Discrimination Act, the lower house has overturned his veto and passed 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 adoption is the first step towards establishing a specific legislative framework for cases of human rights violations. According to the new law, the ombudsman (the Office of the Public Defender of Rights) will analyze cases of discrimination. The new law bans unequal treatment on the basis of sex, age, disability, race, ethnic origin, nationality, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, faith or world-view, and it expressly anchors the principle of equal treatment for men and women in law. The law precisely details the situations in which protection against discrimination is to be provided, how, and to whom.

More: romea.cz

Croatia Condemned by European Social Rights Body for Homophobic School Text Books. The European Committee of Social Rights, which monitors state compliance with the European Social Charter, ruled that Croatia’s limited curriculum covering sex education discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation. The Committee affirmed that the state has an obligation to ensure that educational materials do not reinforce demeaning stereotypes and perpetuate forms of prejudice which contribute to social exclusion, embedded discrimination and denial of human dignity. The Committee noted that statements found in the curriculum “stigmatize homosexuals and are based upon negative, distorted, reprehensible and degrading stereotypes”. The case against Croatia was filed in 2007 by the with the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Center for Education, Counseling and Research (CESI; ASTRA’s member) in collaboration with the International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights. The complaint addressed the lack of a comprehensive mandatory sexuality education curriculum, as required by Article 11 of the European Social Charter, and alleged that one of the country’s state-sponsored sex education programmes violated young people’s basic rights to health and non-discrimination. In its decision, the Committee stated that governments that have signed the European Social Charter are obliged to provide scientifically-based and non-discriminatory sex education to young people that does not involve censoring, withholding or intentionally misrepresenting information such as on contraception. The Committee recommended that such education be provided throughout the entire period of schooling. It stated that sexual and reproductive health education should be aimed at developing the capacity of children and young people to understand their sexuality in its biological and cultural dimensions with the aim of enabling them to make responsible decisions with regard to sexual and reproductive health behaviour.

Source: International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights

The decision can be found at the European Committee of Social Rights website: Council of Europe

Poland: Can you get pregnant the first time you have sex?Can I put on weight if I take the pill? What do I tell my girlfriend if I'm not ready to have sex with her? For many teenagers the advice they receive about sex can come from the strangest places - Internet forums, friends or unfounded beliefs they have mustered up themselves and masked as grains of truth. Sexual educators from PONTON - volunteer group affiliated with Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning have set up summer hotline in order to get in touch with sexually conscious teens - text messages. Each year, PONTON volunteers receive an average of 5000 text messages from young people curious or concerned about sex.


EU News: European Union confirms its role as the world’s largest donor of Official Development Assistance (ODA).With the publication of the “Annual Report 2009 on the European Community's Development and External Assistance Policies and their Implementation in 2008”, the European Union (EU) has confirmed its rank as the largest donor of development aid for 2008. During that year, aid from the European Union represented 60% of global aid. The European Commission alone invested €12 billion, or one fifth of total European efforts worldwide. With regard to reproductive health funding, the European Commission contributed 0,9% or €107 Million of its total payments to population and reproductive health programmes and policies, representing an increase of €6 Million compared to 2007 (€101 Million).

The entire annual report can be downloaded here:European Cimmission

Uzbekistan adopts programme to strengthen reproductive health. Uzbekistan adopted a programme on further strengthening reproductive health of population, birth of healthy children, formation of physically and spiritually developed generation in 2009-2013. The programme envisages measures such as vaccination, organization of workshops, improvement skills of medical system's employees, improvement knowledge of population, media campaign, etc. The resolution said about 44.973 billion sums and $99US.968 million will be directed to realization of the programme in 2009-2013. The state budget will allocate 30.433 billion sums and $10US.813 million. Grants, credits and loans of international organizations and foreign countries will make up $88US.153 million. Programme executors and sponsors will issue 14.54 billion sums and $1US.001 million. The programme will be sponsored by UNFPA, UNECEF, European Union, ADB, and German government.


Spain liberalizes teen abortion.After legalizing gay marriage and instituting fast-track divorce, Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has presented a proposal to let 16-year-olds get abortions without parental consent. Liberalizing teen abortion is part of a broader reform proposed for Spain's abortion law, the main thrust of which is to allow the procedure with no restrictions up to 14 weeks into a pregnancy. The government gave the bill preliminary approval in May and Parliament is expected to take it up in the fall. Zapatero probably has the votes to get it passed. Under the current law, Spanish women can in theory go to jail for getting an abortion outside certain strict limits up to week 12 in case of rape and week 22 if the fetus is malformed. But abortion is in effect widely available because women can assert mental distress as sole grounds for having an abortion, regardless of how late the pregnancy is.

Source:EL PAIS

RU486 to be allowed in Italy. Italy's health and drugs authorities have approved the use of the abortion drug RU486. The Italian Drug Agency ruled after a meeting that ended late Thursday that the drug cannot be sold in drug stores but can only be administered by doctors in a hospital. The pill can only be taken up to the seventh week of pregnancy. The RU486 was first introduced in France almost two decades ago and is available in several other European countries.

More:Corriere della Sera

Changes to Dutch abortion law. Following changes to the Dutch abortion law, the organization Women on Waves has decided to cancel all upcoming trips of its so-called abortion boat. For a decade, the Dutch organization has offered medical abortions in international waters to women from countries where abortion is illegal. Using ships registered in the Netherlands, they transport women offshore, where the laws of the country of registration apply onboard, and distribute the abortion pill at sea. Until now, Dutch law did not interfere with a pregnancy under 6 weeks. The recent update of the Pregnancy Termination Act places the regulation of terminating an early pregnancy under the criminal code and states the abortion pill can only be administered in specialized clinics licensed for the procedure. The updated law has dire implications for the activity of Women on Waves. Because the law requires that only licensed clinics can prescribe the abortion pill for early pregnancies, Women on Waves is no longer legally able to offer abortion medication on their campaigns.

Source:Women on Waves

ASTRA Youth campaign: Healthy youth – healthy future! On the occasion of the International Youth Day – 12th of August 2009, ASTRA Youth in Armenia, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, and Poland organized promotional campaigns. The goal of the campaigns was to draw public attention to lack of comprehensive sexuality education in ASTRA member countries. The street actions consisted of distributing leaflets and providing passers-by with information on contraceptive methods and HIV/Aids and other STIs. The volunteers reached hundreds of young people and attracted media attention.

Source:ASTRA Youth


UN Declaration on Global Public Health. The main task of the UN meeting on public health held in July was to assess the implementation of the so-called Millennium Development Goals, amongst them the objective to limit the high perinatal women’s mortality in the world, often associated with results of unsafe illegal abortions. The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) delegates adopted the Ministerial Declaration on "implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to global public health". The negotiations were tough as the US together with some EU member-states (Sweden, Finland, Norway, Netherlands, Estonia and France), collaborating with the international pro-choice lobby, attempted to include the phrase sexual and reproductive health services and rights in the declaration. Malta, Poland, Ireland and the Holy see, assisted by anti-choice experts, resisted the attempt and the final declaration contained no new pro-abortion rights language. The language regarding "reproductive rights" was removed from the text and the final declaration was adopted by consensus. While some language regarding sexual and reproductive health made it into the declaration, the reference was limited to the understanding reached at the Cairo Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Conference on Women, where it was agreed that no abortion rights were created and states made explicit reservations defining abortion out of the reproductive health and family planning provisions. ECOSOC plans on holding a follow-up meeting next year to gauge the impact of the declaration in changing public health systems.

More:The United Nations Office in Geneva.

The 20th World Population Day was celebrated on 11 July with focus on women and the economic crisis. The annual event raises awareness about global population issues and concerns. In 2000, the estimated world population was over 6 billion people. According to a 2008 press release by the US Census Bureau, the world population is expected to grow to 7 billion people in 2012. The theme for 2009 is “Responding to the Economic Crisis: Investing in Women is a Smart Choice” in order to build awareness of the importance of educating girls to a wide range of development issues, including poverty, human rights and gender equality. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid underscores that during these times of global economic crisis, decision-makers have to increase resources for reproductive health, including family planning.


Danger of Global Contraceptive Crisis. As the world focuses on the global economic crisis, one of the most trusted, most cost-effective and proven poverty-reduction interventions is in danger of marginalization and neglect, according to the new report of the International Planned Parenthood Federation: Contraceptives at a Crossroads: Averting a Global Contraceptive Crisis . According to the report, unless governments and donors act, the health and human rights benefits that family planning and contraception services have delivered over the years will be reversed, and global development efforts will not be achieved. The report recommends that donors and developing countries increase funding for reproductive health supplies to match demand. It says such supplies should be incorporated into national health plans and that governments should collaborate more with the private sector to ensure supply availability and to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights.


UNESCO’s International Guidelines on Sexual Education.A June report from the United Nations Economic, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) suggests children of all countries and cultures are entitled to sexual and reproductive education beginning at age five. The report, called International Guidelines on Sexual Education, was released in June in conjunction with the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA).In its rationale for creating the guidelines, the UNESCO report said it is “essential to recognize the need and entitlement of all young people to sexuality education.” An appendix backed that claim by pointing to a 2008 report from the International Planned Parenthood Federation that argued governments “are obligated to guarantee sexual rights,” and that “sexuality education is an integral component to human rights”. The guidelines are designed, according to the report, to be “age-appropriate” and break down the suggested curriculum into four age groups: 5- to 8-year-olds, 9- to 12-year-olds, 12- to 15-year-olds and 15- to 18-year-olds.


Council of Europe: Release of the Issue Paper 'Human rights and gender identity'.The paper focuses on the issue of transgender human rights. The publication intends to advance the debate on this matter and raise awareness on the problems encountered by transgender people. The document also points out that agreed international human rights standards, such as the right to life, physical integrity and the right to health care, apply equally to all people, including transgender persons. Likewise, they have the right to be protected against discrimination on the labour market. The Issue Paper provides some examples of good practice implemented in some countries and proposes a set of recommendations to prevent discrimination and intolerance.

The full version of the paper is available here:Equinet Europe.


Development and Gender for the Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia. 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 study points to the difficulties women´s rights advocates encounter in their efforts to advance gender equality within the frames of European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).

The report is accessible at:IGPN

Guide on Shadow Reporting: Using the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to Protect the Rights of LGBTI Persons. Global Rights' LGBTI Initiative just released a tool for groups who are interested in submitting reports to the UN Human Rights Committee.

You can download the document at:Global Rights

The Face of Global Sex 2009: Durex Releases Study on Young People in Eastern Europe. The study explores attitudes and knowledge about sex and relationships among Eastern European youth from Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia.

To read the text go to:DUREX

From Reproductive Choice to Reproductive Justice. R. J. Cook and B.M. Dickens; International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics 106 (2009):106-109. The paper discussing possible solution of the conflict between rights of resort to lawful reproductive health services and to conscientious objection to participation.

Full text is online:SSRN

upcomin events

World Health Summit. October 14th -18th, 2009. The annual meeting of researchers, physicians, politicians and stake holders within the healthcare system will take place in Berlin.

More at the Summit’s website:The World Health Summit'

International Conference on Roma Health, September 11th-12th, 2009. The conference organized by Slovakian Ministry of Health will take place in Kosice, Slovakia.

Program of the conference is available at the conferences website:Conference on Roma Health

film release

‘Discrimination and Denial: Abortion Law in Northern Ireland’the first ever short film about the plight of Northern Irish women needing an abortion was produced by the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) in partnership with the UK FPA (Family Planning Association).

The documentary directed by award winning journalist Nancy Platt can be watched online here: Discrimination and Denial